Dear Syria: From One Refugee to Another – Ramzy Baroud repost from Dissident Voice

Ramzy Baroud often touches a nerve for me, his writing is thoughtful and always shows connectedness to his subject.

I have wanted to post on recent issues relating to the Australian Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 and its capacity for thoughtless personal impact through poor policy interpretation of an overly zealous law initiated under the cloud of ‘Terror Threats’ to Australia trumpeted by our government. The implementation of Policy in Australia means the fact that you are Palestinian, will never be forgotten (even if you become a citizen of this country and carry her passport) by security forces of Customs and Border etc and the various Police entities involved in working under this Act.

Double whammy if you are a Palestinian from Syria.

Triple whammy if your birthplace as a part of the diaspora post 1948 was Libya.

Quadruple whammy if you were once an asylum seeker to these shores.

Quintuple if you had to return to Syria for any valid reason over the past few years.

I am still debating whether it is timely to post my piece or if I should do further research and wait for the right moment to be more in tune with the universe and less fucking angry. (Takfiri outsiders in Al Yarmouk killed by multiple poorly aimed gunshots at least 3 men in recent street ‘court assassinations’ for swearing as I just did- Fuck them and their proxy war trainers, suppliers, financiers and supporters)

I want to THANK you Ramzy for this piece, for the 7 reminders and warnings and particularly for the reminder that some people really do understand why you think of your mother when you hear the word ‘refugee’ and why you say, “Dear Syria”……………….

Dear Syria: From One Refugee to Another

Whenever the word ‘refugee’ is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and ‘cleansing’ of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.

Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.

My grandmother Mariam, would venture out to the ‘death zone’ that bordered the separated and newly established state of Israel from Gaza’s refugee camps to collect figs and oranges. She faced death every day. Her children were all refugees, living in shatat – the Diaspora.

My mother lived to be 42. Her life was tremendously difficult. She married a refugee, my dad, and together they brought seven refugees into this world – my brothers, my sister and myself. One died as a toddler, for there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s clinic.

No matter where we are, in time and place, we carry our refugee ID cards, our undefinable nationalities, our precious status, our parents’ burden, our ancestors’ pain.

In fact, we have a name for it. It is called waja’ – ‘aching’ – a character that unifies millions of Palestinian refugees all across the globe. With our refugee population now dominated by second, third or even fourth generation refugees, it seems that our waja’ is what we hold in common most. Our geographies may differ, our languages, our political allegiances, our cultures, but ultimately, we meet around the painful experiences that we have internalized throughout generations.

My mother used to say – ihna yalfalastinieen damitna qaribeh – tears for us Palestinians are always close by. But our readiness to shed tears is not a sign of weakness, far from it. It is because throughout the years we managed to internalize our own exile, and its many ramifications, along with the exiles of everyone else’s. The emotional burden is just too great.

We mask the unbearable aching somehow, but it is always close to the surface. If we hear a single melody by Marcel Khalifeh or Sheikh Imam, or a few verses by Mahmoud Darwish, the wound is as fresh as ever.

Most of us no longer live in tents, but we are reminded of our refugee status every single day, by the Israeli occupation, by the Gaza siege and the internally-displaced Palestinians in Israel, by the Iraq war and the displacement of the already displaced Palestinians there, by the despicable living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East.

But for us, Syria has been our greatest waja’ in years. Aside from the fact that most of Syria’s half a million Palestinian refugees are on the run again, living the pain of displacement and loss for the second, third, or even fourth time. Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy, charting the early course of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948.

Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again.

I watched my grandparents die, followed by my parents and many of my peers. All of them died refugees, carrying the same status and the same lost hope of return. The most they ever received from the ‘international community’ was a few sacks of rice and cheap cooking oil. And, of course, numerous tents.

With time our refugee status morphed from being a ‘problem’ to an integral part of our identities. Being a ‘refugee’ at this stage means insisting on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as enshrined in international law. That status is no longer just a mere reference to physical displacement but also to a political, even a national identity.

Political division may, at times, dominate Palestinian society, but we will always be united by the fact that we are refugees with a common cause: going home. While for the Palestinians of Yarmouk near Damascus, being a refugee is a matter of life and death – often by starvation – for the larger Palestinian collective, the meaning of the word has become more involved: it has been etched onto our skin forever.

But what can one say by way of advice to the relatively new refugees of Syria, considering that we are yet to liberate ourselves from a status that we never sought?

There can be only reminders and a few warnings:

First, may your displacement end soon. May you never live the waja’ of displacement to the extent that you embrace it as a part of your identity, and pass it on from one generation to another. May it be a kind of fleeting pain or passing nightmare, but never a pervasive every day reality.

Second, you must be prepared for the worst. My grandparents left their new blankets in their village before they fled to the refugee camps because they feared they would have been ruined by the dust of the journey. Alas, the camps became home, and the blankets were confiscated as the rest of Palestine was. Please remain hopeful, but realistic.

Third, don’t believe the ‘international community’ when they make promises. They never deliver, and when they do, it is always for ulterior motives that might bring you more harm than good. In fact, the term itself is illusory, mostly used in reference to western countries which have wronged you as they have us.

Fourth, don’t trust Arab regimes. They lie. They feel not your pain. They hear not your pleas, nor do they care. They have invested so much in destroying your countries, and so little in redeeming their sins. They speak of aid that rarely arrives and political initiatives that constitute mostly press releases. But they will take every opportunity to remind you of their virtues. In fact, your victimhood becomes a platform for their greatness. They thrive at your expense, thus will invest to further your misery.

Fifth, preserve your dignity. I know, it is never easy to maintain your pride when you sleep in a barren street covered in cardboard boxes. A mother would do whatever she can to help her children pass into safety. No matter, you must never allow the wolves awaiting you at every border to exploit your desperation. You must never allow the Emir, or his children or some rich businessman or sympathetic celebrity to use you as a photo-op. Do not ever kneel. Don’t ever kiss a hand. Don’t give anyone the satisfaction to exploit your pain.

Sixth, remain united. There is strength in unity when one is a refugee. Don’t allow political squabbles to distract you from the greater battle at hand: surviving until the day you return home, and you will.

Seventh, love Syria. Yours is an unparalleled civilization. Your history is rife with triumphs that were ultimately of your own making. Even if you must leave to distant lands, keep Syria in your hearts. This too shall pass, and Syria shall redeem its glory, once the brutes vanquish. Only the spirit of the people shall survive. It is not wishful thinking. It is history.

Dear Syrian refugee, it has been 66 years and counting since my people’s dispossession began. We are yet to return, but that is a battle for my children, and their children to fight. I hope yours ends soon. Until then, please remember the tent is just a tent, and the gusts of cold wind are but of a passing storm.

And until you return home to Syria, don’t let the refugee become who you are, as you are so much more.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.

Ukrainian criminals move to israel

SALAM ALQUDS ALAYKUM - سلام القدس عليكم

Ukrainian Oligarch Fugitives Wanted by Interpol, Pay Bribes for Israeli Citizenship

 

yuri borisov

Ukrainian oligarch, Yuri Borisov, suspected of looting $40-million in U.S. foreign aid meant for Ukraine

Galey Tzahal (Army Radio) reported today that Israel welcomed with open arms two Ukrainian oligarchs wanted by Interpol for serious crimes.  The suspects, Yuri Borisov and Eduard Stavitsky, are suspected of embezzlement and money-laundering in Ukraine.  They flew into Ben Gurion airport and received Israeli entry visas.  Borisov’s visa was approved for the purposes of medical treatment, though it’s not clear what, if anything ails him except him criminal predicament. Borisov fled Israel immediately after the arrest of Yisrael Beitenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum, but stayed long enough (about a month) to get citizenship and passports for him and his entire family.

They were granted citizenship despite the fact that one of them isn’t Jewish and both are wanted fugitives and suspected criminals.  These matters should make them automatically…

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To think some people claim Israel is a democracy

SALAM ALQUDS ALAYKUM - سلام القدس عليكم

Jewish Israeli students receive 10 times higher funding than Arab Israelis

File photo of Israeli and Arab Israeli students at a protestFile photo of Israeli and Arab Israeli students at a protest

Israeli authorities used details of students’ religious and ethnic backgrounds to decide how much funding each pupil would receive, a report by Child Safety Council has said.

14,500 shekels(£3,675) annual budget given to an Israeli student

1,500 shekels($380) annual budget given to an Arab student

The findings of the report were published by Arab48 yesterday. The report showed that the budget of a Jewish Israeli student reaches 14,500 shekels per year ($3,675), while the budget of an Arab Israeli student is only 1,500 shekels per year ($380).

In addition to official school classes, Israeli students have access to a number of extracurricular activities such as enrichment lessons, preparations for exams, etc. while Arab students are unable to access these.

According to the report, which was issued by…

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American soldiers off to support the fascists in Kiev

Thanks for this post, should I say this seemed inevitable given the MSM reports on events in Ukraine they built a support base at home and say this is all about Putin but its all about their hegemony and financial interests. Thanks again will repost.

SALAM ALQUDS ALAYKUM - سلام القدس عليكم

US Announces Support of Neo-Nazis

American soldiers going to Ukraine

Pentagon officials confirmed last week that US troops will deploy to Ukraine in the spring to help build the Ukrainian National Guard. In addition to sending US troops, Washington has already sent heavy military equipment and has earmarked $19 million for Ukrainian forces.

In its announcement, the Pentagon failed to mention that the Ukrainian National Guard includes the Azov Battalion, a pronounced neo-Nazi group that has reportedly been involved in the recent violence in Ukraine.

The History of Azov

The Azov Battalion was formed in May 2014 as an all-volunteer paramilitary unit in response to the government’s struggle against separatists in the country’s east.

Funding for Azov comes from Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a man who offered a bounty of $10,000 for each captured Russian “saboteur,” as reported by Newsweek.

According to the BBC, Azov’s aims are stated in…

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Israel’s youngest Palestinian female prisoner – this occupation regime calls itself civilised?

 

Yesterday, Al Manaar, a Lebanese online news agency reported on 14 year old Malak al-Khatab ‘detained’ on her way home from school in Occupied Ramallah by the IOF on December 31st 2014. See here.

The report is also on WAFA the Palestinian News Agency here

“A 14-year-old Palestinian girl has become the youngest prisoner in Israeli jails after an Israeli court sentenced her to two months in jail and a fine of 6,000 Israeli shekels (roughly $1,500), a Palestinian NGO said Sunday.”

The Ramallah-based Ahrar Centre for Prisoners’ Studies and Human Rights reportedly advised Al-Manar news that  Malak was “the youngest of around 280 Palestinian children in Israeli jails.” (Al-Manar)

Her crime?

On Wednesday 21st Jan she was convicted, her father Ali  said of “throwing stones at occupation forces, blocking a main road in the West Bank and possessing a knife.” He said Malak was “brought to the court with her hands and feet in handcuffs” and “when the judge read out the verdict, I looked at Malak and she was wiping off her tears as she shivered from cold,”.

Malak’s detention was extended several times and she spent around 23 days awaiting her ruling. At the time, the lawyer defending her was trying to reduce the fine, Malak’s father earlier told WAFA. …. She is now serving her sentence in Hasharon detention centre with another three female prisoners who are, according to her father, taking care of Malak and emotionally supporting her.

Her prison?  Hasharon……

A human rights organization warned of the “catastrophic and unbearable” situation of Palestinian female prisoners in the Israeli Hasharon detention center. The Prisoners’ Center for Studies said the Israeli prison administration has been abusing the Palestinian female captives held in Hasharon. (see here )

For a look at the prison and Press TV video (October 2014) on treatment of female prisoners see here.

The ‘Civilised’ Israeli Occupation, detention of children and International law

1. Detention a last resort for minors

Lawyer Ayed Abu Qutesh – even though the International law allows the detention of minors, it should be always the last decision that any court or state takes. All concerned parties should try to find other alternatives to the detention and actual imprisonment of children, such as fines and suspended imprisonment.

Lawyer Jawad Bolous  – “the Israeli occupation’s policy of arresting minors contradicts with all international laws regarding minors. It starts at the very moment of arrest where soldiers forget that they are arresting a minor, treating the children in a very barbaric way. The minors go through detention until the ruling, while Israel ignores the grave consequences of this detention on their lives.”

2. Family Visitation

Malak’s family wasn’t able to visit her at the detention center, and only saw her at the court on January 11 for the first time after her arrest (on the 31st Dec) . Her father said then that she looked distressed and scared. This lack of access in Israeli gaols is commonplace, many detainees are illegally shipped outside the Occupied areas to prisons to prevent this access.

3. Standards of due process

According to the Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), “Israel is the only state to automatically and systematically prosecute children in military courts that lack basic standards of due process.”

It said in a report on the arrest of minors by Israel that “Around 500 – 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year. The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones.’

While Palestinian children endure such conduct, no Israeli children come into contact with the military court system, proving the amount of discrimination in the Israeli system.

4. Institutionalised ill-treatment

WAFA quotes a UNICEF report that concludes- ill treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears ‘widespread, systematic and institutionalized’. “On average 700 Palestinian children a year, appear before Israel’s military court,” According to the report, children detainees are treated harshly in most cases. It mentions binding hands and eyes, signing documents in Hebrew, physical and verbal abuse, night arrests, threats, strip searches and solitary confinement to name a few.

5. Not harsh enough says Israeli cabinet

Israel’s cabinet’s recent decision to back a law change allowing harsher sentences of up to 20 years for stone throwers after the recent tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Ahmed Melhelm wrote for Al Monitor last year (see here) on Israeli torture of child prisoners…. he raised the following;

  • The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah)- request to Israel’s Attorney General to halt the physical and psychological abuse practiced against Palestinian children during arrest and interrogation, documenting dozens of cases of torture inside prisons.
  • Defense for Children International (DCI)- “The occupation forces arrest and try about 700 children annually. The monthly average of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention during 2013 was 199.”
  • Salah al-Hammouri, researcher with the Conscience Foundation for Human Rights in Jerusalem – “The psychological effects of the interrogation are clearly visible on the children that come out of prison, and this is reflected by the fact that they appear older than their true age. They react in unexpected ways — sometimes violently — and many of them refuse to go back to school.”
  • Khodr Rasras, clinical psychologist, Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, “There are immediate effects that are apparent on a child who has been detained, such as a sense of loneliness and isolation from his peers. [The child] seems older than his true age, and has a personality resembling that of an adult, in addition to fear and sadness inside the prison, because he is far from his parents. This creates a psychological state of unease and distress that accompanies [the child] for some time.”…A very small group [of these prisoners] are afflicted with mental illnesses such as depression.” and  “Erasing the psychological and physical effects of torture that appear on children after their release requires effort and time for psychological rehabilitation.”

In December 2014 Al Akhbar reported

“According to a report by The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, dozens of video recorded testimonies of children arrested during the first months of 2014, pointing out that 75 percent of the detained children are subjected to physical torture and 25 percent faced military trials.

Israeli forces detained at least four Palestinian children, aged 13 to 16, last month for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli cars, and attempted to detain two Palestinian children, a two-year-old and a nine-year old, on suspicion of throwing stones.”

We know this is wrong, numerous reports and representations fall on deaf ears, Israel continues to put on the mask of the civilised. Guess what Israel and your bastions of caring sensitive hasbara supporters………………WE DON”T BELIEVE YOU! boycott

 

 

Jonathan Cook – Heads and tails you lose

Occupier’s justice: heads and tails you lose………

 

I have so much respect for this journalist, please check his work if you aren’t already aware of it. His bio lists….

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.He is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006)Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008)Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008)He has also contributed chapters and essays to several edited volumes on Israel-Palestine. – See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/about/#sthash.1koELn5p.dpuf

Share from Jonathon Cook:    23 January 2015jonathan_250

Yesterday I had an idea for a short story to explain the unrelenting insanity of the occupation for ordinary Palestinians. Tell me what you think.

In my story, there is a Palestinian family, let’s call them the Jaabaris, and they live next to a Jewish settlement, let’s call it Kiryat Arba, close to Hebron deep in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

One day the settlers decide to build a synagogue on the family’s private land in an effort to force them off.

This family decide to stand their ground. Sadly, they have no way to stop the takeover of land that has been in their family for generations other than by appealing to the Israeli legal system. They petition the Israeli Supreme Court to order the synagogue demolished.

In the court room, the settlers argue that the land is not under Kiryat Arba’s control – it’s private Palestinian property – and therefore it is outside the court’s jurisdiction. The judges have no right to issue a ruling in this case, they claim.

The court disagrees and says the land is under Kiryat Arba’s control – ie the judges treat it as part of Israel – and therefore the court can issue a ruling. The judges’ verdict is a triumph for justice: the synagogue should be demolished.

However, now that the settlers have a piece of paper with the court’s decision stating that the land belongs to Kiryat Arba, they can bill the Palestinian family for years of arrears on property taxes amounting to $22,000 – more than the family earns in several years. If they don’t pay, the settlers will seize the land and sell it.

Heads the Jaabaris lose; tails they lose too. That’s Israeli occupiers’ justice.

What do you think? Have I gone a bit too far? Too crazy to be credible.

Or have I simply plagiarised this story from the Times of Israel, where exactly this just happened to the Jaabari family.

www.timesofisrael.com/settlers-build-synagogue-on-palestinian-land-bill-owner/

– See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2015-01-23/occupiers-justice-heads-and-tails-you-lose/#sthash.SkbuKF8c.dpuf

And a little extra from the Electronic Intifada last year…… Full article here

During a visit to Israeli settlers on 30 September in the occupied West Bank, Rabbi Dov Lior said that Israel “must strive to cleanse the entire country” of Palestinians, ostensibly referring to present-day Israel, the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. Lior, who is the chief rabbi for Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron and in the Kiryat Arba settlement, was speaking at an event at Givat Oz Vgaon, an “outpost” colony recently established in the Etzion bloc of settlements in the central West Bank.

From the time it occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in 1967, Israel has recognized 125 Jewish-only settlements that today harbor a population of an estimated 550,000 Israeli Jews, according to the human rights group B’Tselem.”

 

The Tel Aviv stabbings: What the media left out

Repost from the site ‘If American’s Knew’

They introduce the post as a “response to the slanted media coverage on the recent Tel Aviv stabbings that contains statistics and facts that we think you may wish to share with others.” I heard an interview with a Palestinian busdriver who was talking about the brief strike they had after a colleague was stabbed to death by ‘settlers’, I prefer to call them ‘unsettlers’ (and that’s when I’m being generous). He spoke of having to work to feed his family and being spat on and abused daily by these doyens of diplomacy in Jerusalem.

I must be getting lazy again I was in the middle of posting and found this in my inbox so will work on something else, also just wondering why Americans are so America-centric, it’s certainly not just Americans who need to know this.

The Tel Aviv stabbings: What the media left out.

My next post is a repost of the recent Jonathon Cook article which addresses the complete madness confronted everyday by Palestinians under occupation…stay tuned.

3dflagsdotcom_isrpa_2fawl

First Dog on the Moon- Handy Guide to ‘anachronistic display of hereditary priviledge’ on Orstraylia Day.

Says it all………………………..

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/first-dog-on-the-moon

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/23/for-services-to-having-lots-of-money-australia-day-honours-list-announced?CMP=ema_632

First Dog on the Moon - Australia Invasion Day

Snapshot of a Young Palestinian Syrian Refugee Mother’s Life

Since January 2011 the Syrian Arab Republic, a sovereign state with 18 million people, has been under attack. Hundreds of thousands have died; three million have fled the country; half the nation’s population has been displaced..”.  James Ryan (ICC Submission Report Oct 2014 here)

It is January 22nd 2015, four years after Bashar Al Assad was berated by the West for suggesting his country was under ‘terrorist attack’ from foreign fighters intent on bringing Syria to her knees.

This is what I know of one families story. I will call the young mother ‘She’.

She’s family are Palestinians who have been in Damascus since her mother and father fled as children with their parents families when the Israelis took their country by force in 1948 Nakba. The original family home of her father 1948 is believed to now be an Israeli Military Museum or Police Station.

The families home was the Palestinian village of Lubya. The village and its surrounds are now known as South African Park. The whole village, (with history dating well before Saladin who camped nearby during the war against the Crusaders in 1187), was erased by Zionist terrorists in 1948. The park was created as part of the JNF Zionist masterplan to erase Palestine’s Arab history and was created using South African Jewish donations to the JNF (Jewish National Fund). http://www.jalili48.com/pub/xENShowGallery.aspx?sub=What_Remained_of_the_destroyed&sub2=Lubyeh&Cid=259

Many years have passed since that time, 66 to be precise……………. She has never seen Lubya, nor is She allowed to ever return there, to live or to visit.

In January 2014, 5 months pregnant with her 3rd child, She left Damascus with her husband, 5 year old son, 7 month old daughter, brother’s Syrian wife and their 7 month old daughter. The six travelled together from Damascus to Beirut by taxi, lucky to secure someone brave or hungry enough to drive them. I say ‘hungry’ because we all know there are some who will brave these things for a price. Corruption extras always come into consideration when you are desperate particularly in times of war, the rich get out before it gets too bad and Palestinians know all about paying extras because of statelessness and lack of nationhood.  

The family had lived in Al Yarmouk Palestinian area (Al Yarmouk simply translates as ‘The Camp’). She had witnessed more than She will ever tell us.

In March 2012 her younger 24 yo brother died in a military hospital in Damascus, nine days after being shot in the neck. Details of his shooting remain unclear except to say it was a direct result of political ‘tensions’ fomenting  in Syria. He was in the final month of his compulsory military duty as a Palestinian in Syria. Before returning to complete his national service he was awarded a university degree in Journalism and it looked like he had everything in life to look forward to. His funeral was one of the last shaheed street funerals in Yarmouk as they had become too dangerous due to ‘opposition’ sniper attacks. It was a loud Palestinian affair and the street was filled with his friends, stunned and enraged by his death. He was loved in his community and they sent him off in style.

She had a home near her parents house in the centre of Yarmouk. At the time, and for some time afterwards  the family home was considered to be in the safer area of the camp.

Hani Abas Quarter Damascus The image is by a Palestinian from Al Yarmouk Syria, clever and poignant and I had to save it. I sincerely apologise for not having the information to credit the artist who also does not know how much this moved me.

Hani Abas Quarter Damascus
The image is by a Palestinian from Al Yarmouk Syria, clever and poignant and I had to save it. I sincerely apologise for not having the information to credit the artist who also does not know how much this moved me.

Basically the whole street is (or should I say was as so many are now dead or scattered refugees) related to She’s family and they stuck together. Incursions from outside were happening on a regular basis around the edges of the suburb with people coming through Jordan and Dara’a. Suicide car bombings  by ‘opposition’ fighters occurred at the road entrances to Yarmouk and local groups of young men  ‘manned’ the entries and exits in and out of Yarmouk to prevent further incursions from ‘outsiders’ who could not be trusted. Sniper attacks inside the camp area became more common, people disappeared, abductions for ransoms were commonplace, people died or were thrown when dead into the street. One of her cousins was shot dead through the eye, his brothers disappeared. Mortar attacks from surrounding suburbs to the south of Yarmouk and the city of Damascus began, again by an ‘opposition’ seeking to ‘involve the Palestinians’ further in the Syrian turmoil most had tried to avoid. The geographical placement of Yarmouk as closer to Damascus centre made it a worthy target for those seeking to remove Al Assad.

One morning She took her son and baby daughter to her parents home. When She returned to her home, it had been completely flattened by a mortar. Her husband’s father was a ‘person of interest’ to the ‘opposition’ and therefore his son, her husband, was one of their targets. Abductions were ongoing and ransoms and extortion more commonplace. Perhaps they knew where her husband lived and the mortar attack was targeted perhaps it was just another to destabilise a community. On another occasion he was driving a truck for work and stopped by a ‘random road block’, the men of no noticeable affiliation demanded he leave the truck, he managed to bribe them and was allowed to continue. The situation in Yarmouk became more and more dangerous. Her husband’s job was becoming untenable as it was too risky.

The family agreed She and her husband could build another apartment on the top of their home and they began to build. Permits were a thing of the past, the war meant you did what you needed to do, bureaucracy was busy. They rented another apartment while they built but it seemed like no time passed before this too was targeted and hit by a mortar in the downstairs area. She was home at the time, survived the bombing and scrambled with her child, a four year old boy downstairs over the shambles of concrete and dead people to the street below and on to her parents home.

Al Nusra had infiltrated the camp and fighters were targeting more people. These people were initially known to be Chechens, Libyans and others with a long history of fighting across Chechnya, Afghanistan, Libya Iraq and now Syria. The source of their funds was known in the camp to be foreign money channelled through Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. This was not a Civil Syrian War.

What started as outsiders with agendas that targeted Palestinians to further their own cause was clearly a well considered military strategy reliant on foreign interests and logistical support and internal collaboration within Syria and indeed Yarmouk. It only takes a few people to ‘align’ with these outsiders to set the ball rolling.  Early mortar activities demolished bakeries the main food source, the mosque was targeted. Friday prayer was the time the men met outside the Mosque to discuss strategies and resistance to the outsiders. Nusra now held stronger power, and attacked the Mosque, Western reports said it was Assads forces but the people in the Camp knew different. The attackers were careful not to damage the building their attack was designed to scare people away and to target their opposition.

photo of street in Al Yarmouk taken 2014 apologies site and photographer unknown but street identified by reliable source.

photo of street in Al Yarmouk taken 2014 apologies site and photographer unknown but street identified by reliable source.

She moved outside the camp to a safer area of Damascus and rented a home near her Syrian sister-in-law, who’s husband (her brother) had been working in the UAE.

Her mother moved in November 2012 to safety to stay with another daughter, in Sharja, UAE. The family was particularly relieved to have their mother safe for the brief time her papers would allow, as she had maintained a vigil at her martyred son’s grave in Yarmouk. The graveyard had been selectively desecrated and had become a sniper and mortar target where mourners were being picked off one by one. An old woman visiting her dead son’s grave was a target. This old woman did not want to leave.

In May, 2013, She and her Syrian sister in law had their babies in the main hospital in Damascus on the same day, two girls.

Her father left to be with his wife in the Emirates in August 2013 with the clear intention of them returning to their Damascus home when the fighting ceased and Yarmouk was safe once more. He did not want to leave either.

With all  her immediate family in Damascus now gone, She, pregnant again with a third child left for Beirut. Their intention to go by land to Beirut then use their air travel tickets from Beirut to Bangkok via Dubai. In May that year the same border was closed to Palestinians.

Lebanon then introduced further entry restrictions on Palestinians fleeing Syria. Dalia Aranki, an aid worker with the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “For them, the border has effectively been closed since May 2014.” see here

Few taxi drivers were prepared to undertake the route from Damascus to the Lebanese Border but they found one who would drive for a price. At the Lebanese border corruption was in full sway, people who were used to their money buying the assistance of those in positions of influence were not surprised or offended by this and they paid the extra $500 US requested for them to get through. Beirut airport had the same ‘system’ Palestinians are used to having to pay more than others and despite their tickets being legal and in their hands they were asked to pay more money, another $2500 in order to board the plane to Dubai.

In Dubai, her brother boarded the same flight to Bangkok. They were now seven, two young families. When they arrived in Bangkok there were few problems, passports and visa’s were all legitimate and despite being thoroughly grilled about their intentions were allowed to enter. That was 12 months ago exactly.

Within the first week of arriving in Bangkok in Jan 2014 both families approached the UNHCR. They were clearly refugees, (already as Palestinians they are registered with UNRWA but the lack of coordination and transparency between the two UN agencies meant they were unable to process anything at the time.) additionally, the Syrian sister-in-law and the Syrian Palestinians obviously left because of the dangers of the war and had papers verifying their status.

What I am now going to tell you makes no sense to me whatsoever- the UNHCR gave both families an appointment to register as refugees for July 2015, in 18 months time! Perhaps they were waiting for them to move with smugglers and die at sea, or be locked up in Thai or Cambodian Immigration gaols, or just starve!  

In January 2015 there are believed to be 900 Palestinian Asylum Seekers currently in Thailand. 645400 people are on UNHCR books, 506200 being declared ‘stateless’. see source here UNHCR  None are understood to have returned or left Thailand since arrival (as of July 2014). On the last trip to the Cambodian border to renew a perfectly valid Thai Visa, the families were told if they entered Cambodia they could not get back into Thailand due to their travel documents being Syrian Palestinian. They chose to remain, overstay their visa and live illegally in Thailand with no other reasonable option at their disposal.

LUCKY, they are not sitting freezing in a refugee camp on the Turkish border,

There has been a lot happen in the past year…… her son cannot start school, her third child was born without papers (millions of children across the globe are considered by authorities not to exist as they have no documentation, particularly stateless peoples), her brother has been hospitalised for stomach surgery. Her father is struggling with a recent heart attack in UAE and without finances will not get appropriate treatment. Financial support from a family member who provides this for 10 family members who are unsupported refugees has managed to keep them safe thus far but is becoming an impossible burden. These people are not terrorists, they just want ‘normal lives’, they are not ‘economic refugees’, they are ready to work, ready to contribute, ready to sleep safely.

The narrative presented in my country (Australia) on these issues is void of any reality on the ground. Even worse, nobody gives a shit or it’s all too hard. Charlie Hebdo, Freedom of Speech, Some lunatic fringe caftan in a café and now we’re a terror target?  Muslims don’t share our values. They don’t respect women. they blah blah dumb blah.

What is it with humans?

All this aside, today’s plan is insane.

She has decided to try to travel with her three children to Lebanon then into Idlib in Syria, from where she will travel north to Allepo and then onto the Turkish Border where she expects to be able to get into Turkey. Madness! She expects to then bring her husband.

I am desperately trying to understand why this insane move seems even possible to them.

  • ‘friends’ overseas in Lebanon and in Turkey have said it is possible?

  • She believes she is safer with her children with her?

  • She believes her children will be safe and will have a chance at a future in Europe?

  • She is so severely traumatised she can’t think straight?

  • She has no patience to wait for the UNHCR possibly a further 3 years after their registration interview in July, if that date is not moved back even further?

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and some wonderful new news will greet me. Aghhhhhhhhh Other links: http://electronicintifada.net/content/lebanon-hostile-refuge-palestinians-fleeing-war-syria/14171 http://www.brighteningglance.org/uploads/3/1/2/4/3124704/address_redacted_icc_criminal_complaint_criminal_carnage_in_syria_and_the_criminal_cabal_for_perpetual_war.pdf

Religion is not the Opium of the People it is the Crack- if it were opium we wouldn’t have to worry.

 “The figures looked more or less human. And they were engaged in religion. You could tell by the knives (it’s not murder if you do it for a god).”

— (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)

It has been said that two subjects should be off the agenda for conversation if you want it to be pleasant – Religion and Politics. The problem I have with that is that any subject you want to talk about includes potential aspects of one or the other or both, from climate change to entertainment to child rights.

These two ‘dangerous’ subjects Religion and Politics need de-constructing and not being put in the quiet corner. From the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition through the missionary zeal of Protestants in Hawaii, Zionists who use Judaism to justify atrocities and acts of war against Palestinians and paedophile priests who continue to act under the cloak of religious righteousness, we cannot ignore the narrative of religion and politics as weapons.

I was so happy when Science took on religion in the form of Richard Dawkins, until his fervour and obsession appeared equally pious. My delight in his quest came from the very human need to feel part of something, understood and even supported. My disinterest came when I felt his sense of superiority over those he challenged- I saw little difference in the attitudes held between him and his Noscience religious detractors.

I am not a scientist and like so many who espouse religion do not have the finer points under my belt. I do recognise the current wave of world fundamentalism in religion is not new, but the MSM thrust of ignorance towards the latest wave of people we are struggling to understand is unacceptable. I say understand NOT justify or cast as the ‘other’ and vilfy all those who fit some spurious descriptive narrative.

The fallacy that religion keeps us ‘in check’ disturbs me. I was once asked a question by a Muslim man who reclaimed his religion after he had ‘gone off the rails’ and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He asked how I could keep from breaking the law and doing whatever I wanted if I didn’t have religion. His question begs many more. Suffice to say I don’t need a religion to tell me how to live with others.

My call goes to those of you who have no religion nor need nor want one, not to call for “freedom’ or for ‘freedom of speech’ as these crazy catch cries are used by those who laud their financial and political power over us all. My call is for those who identify as part of the human race, to continue to do so. To know there is biologically no such thing as different race but that separation, breading, and raising young children are critical factors in determining who we are. Learn about and understand how we determine the ‘other’ and why we separate and refuse to see them as ourselves given another set of parents, another time and place to be born and to break down walls not put them up.

We fear what we don’t understand. Our history brought us here, learn and challenge the apathy, comfortability and arrogance that comes with it. Read the history of the ‘other’ not just that of the victors.

We cry when bullets and heads fly, be careful not to be selective about what you mourn and to notice and speak up when the ‘other’ is being abused by us.