Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wishing Everyone A Revolutionary 2017 !

Migrants protest behind a fence against restrictions limiting passage at the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija, on December 1, 2015. Since last week, Macedonia has restricted passage to northern Europe to only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are considered war refugees. All other nationalities are deemed economic migrants and told to turn back. Macedonia on November 29 finished building a fence on its frontier with Greece becoming the latest country in Europe to build a border barrier aimed at checking the flow of migrants.

A woman listens to a rally with her mouth taped shut during the "Justice For All" march December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Thousands of people descended on Washington to demand justice Saturday for black men who have died at the hands of white police, the latest in weeks of demonstrations across the United States.

A woman sits in front of riot police blocking the road to protect protesters during the anti-government protest on April 24, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) went on a general strike in protest against the South Korean government's policy, including reformation of the labor market and public pension system. The rally was also joined by other civic groups in Seoul and families of Sewol accident victims.

Ethnic Uygur women grab a riot policemen as they protest in Urumqi in China's far west Xinjiang province on July 7, 2009. Police fired clouds of acrid tear gas to disperse thousands of Han Chinese protesters armed with makeshift weapons, as chaos gripped this flashpoint city riven by ethnic tensions. Thousands of heavily armed police deployed across Urumqi, the capital of China's remote northwest Xinjiang region, but tensions spiked dramatically following weekend rioting that claimed at least 156 lives.

Pakistani protesters from Lyari, an impoverished neighbourhood of the city, shout anti-government slogans to protest against an operation led by security agencies in their areas in Karachi on January 11, 2010. Thousands of people poured into the streets of Pakistan's financial capital Karachi on January 11 to protest security crackdowns following the deaths of dozens of people in a wave of political violence. Security officials say up to 48 political party workers have been killed in Karachi beginning January 7, when the headless body of a worker from the city's main political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was discovered.

Pakistani protesters from Lyari, an impoverished neighbourhood of the city, shout anti-government slogans to protest against an operation led by security agencies in their areas in Karachi on January 11, 2010. Thousands of people poured into the streets of Pakistan's financial capital Karachi on January 11 to protest security crackdowns following the deaths of dozens of people in a wave of political violence. Security officials say up to 48 political party workers have been killed in Karachi beginning January 7, when the headless body of a worker from the city's main political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was discovered.

Afghan demonstrators shout slogans during a rally in front of the Supreme Court in Kabul on March 24, 2015, held to protest the killing of Afghan resident Farkhunda. More than a thousand people protested in the Afghan capital to call for justice after a woman was brutally killed by a mob who falsely accused her of burning a copy of the Koran. The woman, 27 year-old Farkhunda, was beaten with sticks and stones and thrown from a roof before being run over by a car outside a mosque in Kabul on March 19. The mob then set her body ablaze and dumped it in Kabul river, while police allegedly looked on.
  • Semi-nude Indian Devadasi women shout anti-government slogans during a protest in Mumbai on August 15, 2010. The protest was to demand Indian Rupees 2000 (about USD 43) per month as a pension for life after their retirement. Devadasi is a Hindu religious practice in which girls are married and dedicated to a deity or temple.

Kurdish women hold portraits of their missing sons and daughters on May 18, 2011 during a demonstration in Istanbul against the recent killing of 12 Kurdish rebels by security forces. Turkish troops killed 12 Kurdish rebels in fighting in the southeast of the country and lost one of their own soldiers to a mine explosion. The clashes began on May 12 when fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) tried to cross into Turkey's Sirnak province near Uludere from bases in Iraq, security sources said. A second attempt was made on May 13, the sources said, adding that 12 rebels in total had been killed, four surrendered and numerous weapons seized.

A woman gestures to riot policemen during a protest organized by the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) in Algiers 02 July against a new law making Arabic the sole official language in Algeria amid continued tension over the murder of Berber singer Lounes Matoub. Around 1,000 people took part in the rally during which three policemen and one protester were injured when riot police prevented the marchers to advance on the residence of President Liamine Zeroual.

A member of the "Women in Black", an international peace network, lays on the ground wrapped in a plastic bag, as a sign of protest in downtown Novi Sad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005. The movement marked Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, with a performance, stressing issues such as rights of minorities in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

7 Real Things You Can Do Right Now About The Catastrophe In Aleppo...

The humanitarian disaster, which has been ongoing for months, has gotten far worse in the past few days, with terrified residents, caught between government forces, Russian airstrikes, and rebel forces tweeting desperate pleas for help and final messages to loved ones.Reports of women committing suicide to avoid being raped and civilians being executed by regime forces have begun to filter out of the city.
Meanwhile, the once-thriving region has been reduced to rubble and chaos over the course of the past several months. Russia has announced an end to the military operation, claiming victory, and reports of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces have been issued, but both have yet to be confirmed by the United Nations at the time of this writing. 50,000 civilians are still believed to be in the eastern part of the city.
It's easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed and want to turn away from a story like this. The news is bleak — and likely to get bleaker. But those of us with the good fortune to live in safety have a responsibility to do what we can to help. And there are ways to help.
Most involve donating to organizations that are on the ground in or around Aleppo. We know not everyone has money to spare, but if you can make it work, providing much needed funds to these organizations is the most efficient way to assist at a crucial moment like this.
Check out these ways you can assist:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

As Death Rains Down On Aleppo, Why Are Western Countries So Reluctant To Act?

The heroic resistance inside the besieged walls of eastern Aleppo is coming from the Syrian people themselves, and not foreign fighters as is often portrayed in the Western media, says a journalist trapped inside the most dangerous place on earth. New Yorker Bilal Abdul Karim went inside Aleppo four months ago during a short break in the siege but his three day assignment has now extended to four months; it is impossible to leave unless he walks from the rebel-held city and into the hands of Syrian government forces.
“I’m a black man with a beard,” he told me. “I don’t think I would last very long in the hands of the regime.” Abdul Karim pointed to UN reports that hundreds of men went missing last week after crossing into government territory.
The journalist was quite blunt about the future. In an exclusive interview marking Human Rights Day, he admitted, “We’re living on borrowed time here but there are still opportunities for good to prevail.”
Although the situation looks bleak now that Syrian regime forces have seized around 85 per cent of the eastern parts of the city from rebels in recent weeks, Abdul Karim said that it is vital for people around the world not to be misled about what is happening on the ground in Aleppo. There are still nearly 300,000 Syrians trapped there, he explained, but out of those only 10,500 chose to leave during a humanitarian pause last Thursday. The number of those leaving last week has been confirmed by all sides, including Russian officials and UN observers; estimates of those left behind, though, vary from 100,000 to 300,000.
“If so many people chose to remain in a siege situation without food and comfort and would prefer to face barrel bombs and bunker busters, shells and missiles,” he asked, “what does that tell you about the Bashar Al-Assad regime?” Nobody, he insisted, was forced to stay. “The fact is, of those who left, hundreds of the men have disappeared. That speaks volumes about the activities of the Syrian government forces.”
Another myth that Abdul Karim is keen to dismiss is the presence of foreign fighters. “I’ve met three Egyptians and one from Uzbekistan but the rest of the men who stand between Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and the people of Aleppo are local men from Aleppo as well as Syrians from the Free Syrian Army.”Abdul Karim’s fears for the safety of the men who left rebel-controlled Aleppo echo those by Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights: “Given the terrible record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances by the Syrian government, we are of course deeply concerned about the fate of these individuals.” Colville has received reports that men aged between 30 and 50 were separated from their families while other displaced people reported being taken in for questioning and having their identity cards confiscated.
He acknowledged that he hasn’t spoken to everyone on the ground, but he knows lots of people and the rebels are local men. “When I’ve interviewed them they point out their homes or the streets where they lived. There is a narrative put out that the rebels are foreign fighters and that all the fighters are terrorists; it’s simply not true. The only terrorists in Syria are Daesh and they do not have a presence in Aleppo.”
When Russia joined in the war last year, Putin announced that it was to get rid of Daesh, Abdul Karim reminded me. “If that’s the case, why are the Russians bombing the men, women and children of Aleppo?” The US, he believes, has also played its part in misinformation and he thinks that it is quite clear that Washington is using Daesh to have a presence in the region. “How easy would it be for British and US war planes to drop food and medicine in Aleppo instead?” he asked. “If they can drop bombs on Daesh they can bombard us with humanitarian aid.”
During the interview, news filtered through about human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell disrupting a speech being made in London by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. As Corbyn started speaking about human rights, demonstrators stood in front of the podium and held up posters calling for immediate air drops of food aid in Syria. Tatchell has been critical of the leader of the opposition as well as Britain’s anti-war movement for failing to speak out loudly enough against Russia, which is propping up Assad’s brutal dictatorship.
As the other protestors stood silently in front of Corbyn, Tatchell shouted: “What is happening in Aleppo is a modern day Guernica. We haven’t heard the leader of the Labour Party speak out enough to demand UK air drops to besieged civilians who are dying in their thousands.”
News of the protest was welcomed in Aleppo, said Abdul Karim. “I really applaud his efforts and I am so glad he did not remain silent on Human Rights Day about what is happening in Syria. I do not agree with everything he does and says but I think people who have the courage to stand up for the oppressed across the board deserve to be applauded.
“I would ask those on the left and in the anti-war movements this: How can you be a champion of human rights if you remain silent when Russia flies war planes dropping bombs and you then oppose the dropping of medicine and food parcels from other forces and oppose the introduction of no fly zones?”
He then urged other peace activists around the globe to stand up for the people of Aleppo and Syria by holding protests and rallies outside Syrian, Russian and Chinese embassies and putting pressure on their own governments for support and action for the people of Aleppo.
“China may not have a presence on the ground but it is blocking attempts to impose UN sanctions and other useful, meaningful initiatives. I would urge people to start boycotting Chinese products and goods. Let the chorus of voices come together and raise the volume for the people of Aleppo, Idlib and other areas in Syria.”
The New York-based journalist dismissed peace talks between Moscow and Washington: “Who is negotiating on behalf of the Syrian people? If the Syrians are not willing to accept a ceasefire alone does that not tell you how they feel towards Assad remaining in power? In Aleppo they are starving; they are without food and water and live daily under the fear of barrel bombs, rockets and even chemical attacks and yet they would prefer to remain than leave the rebel-controlled areas.”
Although the imminent arrival of Donald Trump in the White House does not inspire confidence in the possibility of finding a solution, he concluded, no one was enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton either. “They were regarded as Bad and Badder.”
Just as the interview with Bilal Abdul Karim came to a close, news also came in of an initiative from Turkey involving a land convoy led by Humanitarian Relief Foundation, known by its Turkish acronym of IHH. The convoy is planning to set off at 11am on 14 December from Istanbul with participation from every area of Turkey, including Sakarya, Ankara, Konya, Kayseri and Kahramanmaraş. There will also be some overseas involvement. On its way to Syria, explained IHH, the convoy will encourage local protests against the bombing of Aleppo.
It is clear from the international make-up of this convoy and the massive opposition to what’s happening to their fellow human beings in Aleppo across social media that ordinary people around the world want their governments to act now in order to save innocent Syrians from further death and destruction. The big question is, why are those governments — particularly in the US and Europe — so reluctant to act?
* Bilal Abdul Karim is one of the founders of On the Ground News an independent news gathering operator based in Syria.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Praying for Freedom: Why Is Israel Silencing the Call for Prayer in Jerusalem?

As I was growing up, I was always reassured by the sound of the ‘Muadhin’ making the call for prayer in our refugee camp’s main mosque in Gaza. Whenever I heard the call very early in the morning, announcing in a melodic voice that the time for the ‘Fajr’ (dawn) prayer was upon us, I knew it was safe to go to sleep.
Of course, the call for prayer in Islam, like the sound of church bells ringing, carries a deep religious and spiritual meaning, as it has, five times a day, for the last 15 centuries, uninterrupted. But, in Palestine, such religious traditions also carry a deep, symbolic meaning.
For the refugees in my camp, the dawn prayer meant that the Israeli army had departed the camp, ending their terrifying and violent nightly raids, leaving the refugees behind, either mourning their dead, wounded or detained, and freeing the ‘Muadhin’ to open the mosque’s old, rusty doors, and announce to the faithful that a new day had arrived.
It was almost impossible to go to sleep during those days of the First Palestinian Uprising, when collective punishment of Palestinian communities throughout the Occupied Territories crossed every tolerable line.
That was before the mosque in our camp – the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza Strip – was raided, along with other mosques, and the Imam was arrested. When the mosque’s doors were sealed shut by orders from the army, ordinary people climbed to the roofs of their homes during the military curfew and announced the call for prayer, anyway.
Even our ‘communist’ neighbor did – a man, we were told, who had never stepped foot inside a mosque all of his life!
It was no longer just a religious matter but an act of collective defiance, proving that even orders from the army would not silence the voice of the people.
The call for prayer meant continuity; survival; rebirth; hope and layer-upon-layer of meanings that was never truly understood, but always feared by the Israeli army.
The onslaught on the mosques never ended.
According to government and media reports, a third of Gaza’s mosques were destroyed in the 2014 Israeli war on the Strip. 73 mosques were entirely destroyed by missiles and bombs and 205 were partially demolished. This includes Al-Omari Mosque in Gaza, which dates back to 649 AD.
It also includes the main mosque of Nuseirat, where the call for prayer throughout my childhood gave me enough peace and calm to go to sleep.
Now, Israel is trying to ban the call for prayer in various Palestinian communities, starting in Occupied East Jerusalem.
The ban came only a few weeks after the United Nations culture and education organization, UNESCO, had passed two resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal practices in the occupied Arab city.
UNESCO demanded that Israel ceases such practices, which violate international law and attempt to alter the status quo of a city that is central to all monotheistic religions.
After staging an unsuccessful campaign to counter the UN’s effort, going as far as accusing the international institution of anti-Semitism, Israeli officials are now carrying out punitive measures: collectively punishing the non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem for UNESCO’s verdicts.
This includes the construction of yet more illegal Jewish homes, the threat to demolish thousands of Arab homes, and, as of late, restricting the call for prayer in various mosques.
It all began on November 3, when a small crowd of settlers from the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev gathered in front of the home of Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat. They demanded that the government ends the ‘noise pollution’, emanating from the city’s mosques.
The ‘noise pollution’- referred to as such by mostly European settlers who arrived in Palestine only recently – are the calls for prayer that have been made in that city since 637 AD, when Caliph Umar entered the city and ordered the respect of all of its inhabitants, regardless of their religious beliefs.
The Israeli mayor readily and immediately obliged. Wasting no time, Israeli soldiers began raiding mosques, including al-Rahman, al-Taybeh and al-Jamia Mosques in the Jerusalem town of Abu Dis.
“Military officials arrived before dawn to inform the muezzins, the men responsible for the call to prayer through the mosques’ public announcement speakers, of the ban and barred local Muslims from reaching the places of worship,” reported International Business Times, citing Ma’an and other media.
Praying five times a day is the second of the five main pillar in Islam, and the call for prayer is the summoning of Muslims to fulfill such a duty. It is also an essential part of Jerusalem’s intrinsic identity where church bells and mosques’ call to prayer often interweave into a harmonic reminder that coexistence is a real possibility.
But no such coexistence is possible with the Israeli army, government and mayor of the city treating Occupied Jerusalem as a platform for political vengeance and collective punishment.
Banning the call for prayer is merely a reminder of Israel’s domination over the wounded Holy City, and a message that Israel’s control exceeds that of tangible existence, into every other sphere.
Israel’s version of settler colonialism is almost unprecedented. It does not simply seek control, but complete supremacy.
When the mosque in my former refugee camp was destroyed, and soon after a few bodies were pulled out from underneath the wreckage to be buried, the camp’s residents prayed atop and around the rubble. This practice was replicated elsewhere in Gaza, not just during the last war, but the previous ones as well.
In Jerusalem, when Palestinians are prevented from reaching their holy places, they often amass behind Israeli army checkpoints and pray. That, too, has been a practice witnessed for nearly fifty years, since Jerusalem fell to the Israeli army.
No amount of coercion and court orders is likely to ever reverse this.
While Israel has the power to detain imams, demolish mosques and prevent calls for prayer, Palestinian faith has displayed far more impressive strength, for, somehow, Jerusalem never ceased calling upon its faithful, and the latter never ceased praying. For freedom, and for peace.