Sisters Cities and Salvage


Today my thoughts are on people close to me, family is as relevant as climate change (more so) in these days of turning back boats, ‘assisting’ people to move to Cambodia, locking up people because they dare to get away from situations of oppression, fear and troubles. One little comparison to help you get there……

The streets of Melbourne city have come of age, cosmopolitan, thriving. Lanes and alleyways of cafe’s shoes and restaurants. bold, crazy and sometimes confronting graffiti splashed methodically in a city that has owned art and in an enlightened environment prefers to call these works ‘dynamic’ rather than delinquent. The city centre is no longer a drab dead heart but a throbbing hub of activity in both day and night. A place where people come to enjoy the company of friends and strangers. People no longer stand out in a crowd because of ethnicity, questions to others appear to come out of genuine interest in that person rather than because they look different or ‘other’. (I hope my rainbow of friends and family would agree as I have some doubt that stares remain as do bowed heads in silence of those who fail to acknowledge anyone for fear of being spoken to).

This city is coming of age. 3.7 million people almost feel really safe and secure (aside from media stories of ‘one hit deaths’ of young men outside the music venues, but hey its not like the Sydney Cross.) The country has human rights issues primarily for the indigenous peoples, who die younger, are imprisoned more, have more preventable illness, greater unemployment, higher suicide rates….do I go on?

I am informed by the CIA world factbook that in 2008 the Australian adult obesity prevalence rate was on a par with that of Syria, my guess is we’re fatter now. The ancient city of Damascus has around 2.4 million people over half a million were Palestinian refugees living in Al Yarmouk (The Camp) once a safe thriving cosmopolitan metropolis. Hell my friend went to Damascus only three years ago for a fabulous holiday, took cool snaps and said she visited a group of Hezbullah somewhere in Syria for lunch!

The Syrian capital is known as ‘The Cradle of Civilisation’. Few people had interest in ever leaving- it was home, a place of family, cafe’s, coffee and community. No-one ever asked if you were Sunni or Shia, Alawite, Druze or even Christian. The city was (and still is) loved by many who felt lucky to be living there. Of course there were Syrian ‘human rights’ issues -the arrests of people like Tal Al Malohi the 19yo female blogger who posted poems about Palestine, was arrested and hasn’t been seen since she was sentenced to 5yrs prison in Dec. 2009. Political dissidents were in gaol, internet was blocked or difficult to access, corruption was endemic and as in many countries it was expected that if you wanted anything you paid a middle man some extra cash.

I remember being asked by a Syrian friend why, when fined for speeding in Australia, I did not offer the traffic cop $50 to not give me the $240 ticket! I am not saying all was well in the land of shisha’s, great coffee and great food, but only 3 years ago it was still a fabulous holiday destination with a proud and generous spirited people.

Interestingly today I read on a more sinister note in Lila Rajiva, “The CIA’s Rendition Flights to Secret Prisons: The Torture-Go-Round”, CounterPunch, 5 December 2005 that according to a former CIA case officer “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear—never to see them again—you send them to Egypt.” Particularly interesting given the events of destabilisation, war and devastation in Syria and Egypt and the US regional activities.

So shit happened, a whole load of it.

People took to the streets in Deraa a boy died in custody following torture by local police, the so called Arab spring was purported to have risen in the provinces, everything escalated fueled by Qatar and Saudi $, Al Quaida affiliations Chechens, Jihadi’s and Brotherhood memories. I lost my brother in law, my husband lost his brother and his taste for life, and no amount of shisha, coffee or Fairuz would fix the problem. In all of this Bashar Al Assad stayed and many have believed he was their only hope. During the last three years many of the American/Israeli undercover plays and deceptive lies have been exposed.

For the Palestinians in Syria the road has been frought, damned if you do damned if you don’t. They are now mostly double refugees with slim hope of finding a way to live the life they had before the ‘trouble’. Their homes demolished by foreign zealots their children traumatised by the ravages of war and their hopes in tatters as smugglers feed off their need for a safe haven for them and their families.

Syrian elections have been held as promised. How they could possibly be compared to our so-called democratic (privately funded through vested interest candidates) elections that come with a 200 year history of practice in making our not so perfect system is beyond me.

The political and media response here has been glib and trite merely calling this election a ‘farce’. But it is no farce for the majority of Syrian people.

What is the US/Israel and Gulf States logic on non acceptance…..

Why have so many Syrian refugees supported Assad from the refugee camps of Lebanon?

People want stability and peace they want to return to how it was…….They want their families and homes back or maybe they want to come to Melbourne?


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