Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Report: Israeli Soldiers Killing Palestinians with Impunity.

Israeli forces are killing Palestinian civilians in the West Bank — including children — with “callous disregard for human life,” enjoying near impunity for likely war crimes, and should be immediately cut off from arms shipments by the international community, declares a damning report released by Amnesty International on Thursday.

According to U.N. data, 45 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013, including six children. The AI report highlights the murder of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, four of whom were children, and 14 of whom were killed at protests. In some of these cases, Amnesty found evidence of “willful killings, which would amount to war crimes,” according to the summary. Amnesty International researcher Saleh Hijazi described the group’s findings.

Saleh Hijazi: “Unfortunately, the main problem, as I said, is the impunity that they enjoy, and the impunity is because there is a lack of proper investigations that meets international standards. What we have in Israel and the Occupied Territories is that the military investigates itself, and this is not independent or impartial investigations.”

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Morocco, travel

Tangier, Morocco: Utter seductivness.

After the World War II, Tangier became an International Zone that attracted eccentric foreigners, artists, spies and hippies. Besides its fame as the birthplace of The Sheltering Sky and other classic literary works by writers like Paul Bowles and William Burroughs, it is renowned for the quality of its light, attracting artists from Delacroix to Matisse to Francis Bacon.

Tangier has long been romanticized by many of those artists, Beat poets, and writers who have arrived at its busy shores seeking adventure. It is indeed the gateway to Africa for many travelers.

Its seductive streets and mysterious nights are also a main aspect of Jarmusch’s new film Only lovers left alive, highly atmposheric and beautiful work of art. Tangier was a perfect choice for characters like Adam and Eve – artists, lovers.

To use William S. Burroughs: “Tangier is one of the few places left in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behavior, you can do exactly what you want.”

Here are some photos.

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Tangier, Morocco tourism destinations

Tangier, Morocco tourism destinations

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And here’s Yasmine Hamdan singing. It’s an Only lovers left alive scene. She captured the spirit of Tangier in this one performance. Utter beauty.

For more photos and info, go to:

rachidphoto

 

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Palestine, Syria

The tragedy of Yarmouk, Syria.

Yarmouk Camp is a district of the city of Damascus, populated by Palestinians. It is located 8 kilometres from the center of Damascus and inside the municipal boundaries but when established in 1957 was outside the surrounding city. Yarmouk is an “unofficial” refugee camp; it is home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. During the Syrian civil war, it became the scene of intense fighting between the rebel Free Syrian Army and its Palestinian ally Liwa al-Asifa on one hand, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) supported by Syrian Army government forces on the other. The situation in the camp is horrible past couple of months. Camp has been sealed since July 2013, resulting in acute and widespread deprivation, including severe malnutrition, while civilian residents are constantly exposed to the threat of death, injuries and trauma of the armed conflict.

Desperately needed, UNRWA humanitarian distributions in Yarmouk came to a standstill for over two weeks. Tenuous negotiations finally restored access on 24 February, bringing relief, assistance and a little bit of much-needed hope to camp residents. Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi was present and witnessed first-hand the immense suffering of Yarmouk residents. He was shocked by the condition of the Palestine refugees he spoke to and the extent of war damage done to homes.

“I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed today. The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatized by what they have lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment. What I have seen and heard today underlines the timeliness of the UN Security Council resolution 2139 on Humanitarian Access and the need for all sides to implement the resolution without fail. ”

Here are some of the UNRWA photos (their report on Syria crisis here).

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This really made my heart sink.

At the same time, I recently watched a video remembering better times in Yarmouk. Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian born and raised in Syria, posted footage of his moving one-man performance The Eternal Refugee, recorded at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland in October 2013. The show reflects on life in Yarmouk refugee camp, where, according to Hayatleh, “the scent of Galilean thyme mingled with Damascus jasmine” and Palestinians and Syrians lived side-by-side.

Maybe it can give us a little hope for the future life in Yarmouk.

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art of resistance, Iran

Humans of Tehran.

Iran is not THE devil of our planet and it’s definitely not all you read and hear about it in the (western) news. There are some great initiatives aiming to present a better (inside) view on everyday life in Iran. One of those is a facebook page Humans of Tehran. Believe it – Tehran is not as far away as you might think it is!

These are some of my favourite moments they captured. Be sure to check out their page for more.

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a project on the streets of Tehran

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“Sometimes I like to close my eyes and imagine that I’m in a beautiful village, surrounded by children, away from this photo exhibition, away from this cafe.”
Hanieh. Seen at Cafe Estinas.

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“I’ve been painting here for fifteen years, disability and all, I love what I do.”
Hossein. Artist.

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Ever since I saw the pictures of colorful stairs of Beirut and Istanbul, I wanted to do this in our neighborhood. A volunteer team of my friends have painted the longest public staircase in Shahrak-e Apadana. The stairs still exist and I hope it never gets back to their original grey color just to put a smile on people’s faces.
Tehran needs more incentives like this. Pick up your brush and come.

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– “What are your names?”

– “They call us David and the Red Gypsy.”

– “Ummm. Okay … [awkward pause]… Is there anything you’d like to tell Humans of Tehran fans?”

– David: “Yeah, ‘Don’t seek me in this world or the other. They have both disappeared in the world where I am’… it’s a poem by Rumi.”
– Red Gypsy: “I’m a creature who’s turned her back to the depressing everyday of this mundane world.”

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-“So I have this project called Humans of Tehran, and I was wondering if I can…”
-“Just cut to the chase. You want to take a picture, don’t you?
He turns to his friend.
“Give me those lights man!”

Siamak, selling tissues, light-up bows, and a secondhand (packaged) mobile phone near Parkway.

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-Good Morning! Can I take a photo of you?
-Sure! Just don’t show it to your grandma. She might fall in love with me.

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“My best friend’s name is Asal. I think I’m in love with her.”

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“Did you know dairy makes people live longer? True fact.”
Hossein. Dairy Shop Owner.

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 “My shop is frequented by hippies. They seem to like the whole desi-inspired theme I’ve got going on.”

Ali. Boutique Owner.

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“Where did you guys meet?”
“In the theatre. I’m a stage actor and she’s a fan of the performing arts.”
“What was the first play you saw together?”
“Storm – a foreign production that we got a chance to see at the Fajr Theatre. I hated it but I really liked the last thing we saw, “6&8″ by Nima Dehghan.”

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“The limit of our world depends on the quality of our thoughts… I’ve always believed in that.”

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Afghanistan, art of resistance

Shamsia Hassani: Graffiting a different Afghanistan.

Shamsia Hassani is Afghanistan’s first female street artist. She’s fighting for a better today, even dreams about graffiti, and her great wish is to work with Banksy. I knew that about her, but approached her for an interview for the Croatian news site Libela I am writing for. I wanted to hear more. She answered, very modest and kind, ready to share her story. Since many of you can’t read Croatian, here are the parts of her story in English combined with the photos of some of her beautiful work.

I’ve started to do art as everybody starts , when I was 3-4 or before that , which I can not remember , but as I mentioned, every child likes to do painting and drawing , but the important point is to stay artist in the future as well, throughout your life.

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I was born In Iran, it was not my country, but at the same time, I’ve never been in Afghanistan, and as an afghan person I have faced lots of limitations – like they didn’t let me study at the art department, only because of my nationality. So when I got back to Afghanistan with my family, things finally worked out. I started studying at the Faculty of fine arts of Kabul university in 2006 and then I started making contemporary art. I was where I wanted to be. 

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I started doing graffiti later, in 2010., after a graffiti workshop I attended. When it finished everybody stopped making graffiti, because of difficulties and other problems, but only I decided to continue graffiti. I was alone with lots of  ideas, full of energy to achieve my goals. By making graffiti I want to cover all the bad memories of war from people’s mind, paint them with different colors.  

Also, afghan people have no chance to visit some art gallery or museums, or they don’t want to go to some art exhibition, so if I do art like this everybody will enjoy it. After a longer time, slowly people will memorize it and it will be part of their life. It might make them (re)think things. There’s no ticket needed, and –  it is colorful and bringing some change into sad or boring everyday scenery.

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I believe there are many who forget all the tragedy women face in Afghanistan, that is why I use my paintings, to remind the people. I want to highlight those issues in the society, with paintings reflecting women in burqas everywhere. And I try to show them bigger than what they are in reality, and in modern forms, shaped in happiness, movement , maybe stronger. I try to make people look at them differently. And, we have to remember that, first of all,  freedom is not to remove burqa, freedom is to have peace.

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I don’t want to talk only about negative points of their life, about their problems and difficulties. At the same time I want to talk about positive points and their happiness as well. It is true that about 90% of their lifes are problems, but …. Sometimes I really enjoy to talk about that 10% which is like a small light, it is shining between darkness, 10% is not too much , but there it is. A little light is enough to break the darkness, so let it be. 

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Sometimes it is difficult and sometimes easy , because of security problems – sometimes I am not feeling comfortable staying long time on the street, and facing with close minded people is another big problem . 

Following much difficulties such as war, different harsh eras, and political issues, Afghanistan is like a newborn, now starting again a new life, for which I put all my efforts – through arts – to support it. 

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You can follow Shamsia and her work on her facebook page.

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Egypt, travel

The little wonders of Alexandria, Egypt.

Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city, and  it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. As its name reveals it, it was founded by Alexander the Great. It’s an important melting pot, Egypt’s centre for trading business. Modern-day Alexandria is a unique fusion of its past and present.

As Yara Ahmed writes: Wandering along its streets, you can glimpse a picture of the old city designed by Dinocrates of Rhodes interwined with a modern beautiful mess pushing to break free from the old. Walk through a market, ride a tram or walk down a completely random street. I am sure that this is the only way you can enjoy a genuine Alexandrian experience.

Here are some photos to get you excited about Alexandria and its little wonders.

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For more photos and info, click on these:

A local guide on foot through Alexandria/Your Middle East

Alexandria Travel guide

 

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art of resistance, Jordan, travel

Middle East – The best of times, the worst of times.

Middle East is – a lot of beauty and happiness, and a lot of wars (inside and outside) and sadness, all in one. Of course, there are huge differences between the countries, but you can’t help but feel great joy and great heart breakes while traveling around there.

This is a photo I took in Petra, Jordan (Petra is out of this world place, really). It was such a beautiful moment.

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At the same time, wondering around Jordan, I’ve met so many refugees, people from Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, with their stories told with broken voices, wearing their necklaces full of goodbyes pearls. It reminded me of Neruda’s Adioses –

It’s well known that he who returns never left,
so I traced and retraced my life,
changing clothes and planets,
growing used to the company,
to the great whirl of exile,
to the great solitude of bells tolling.

It’s a great shizoprenic atmosphere I witnessed there. Maybe Dickens can describe it better (good old Charles is perfect to put that in words):

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

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Lebanon, travel

When in doubt – Lebanon!

Lebanon was always a crossroad of the Mediterranean and the Arabian hinterland, so the country has a rich history. The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, so the amount of the stories waiting for you there is – huge.

There are many places worth visiting, from the famous old town of Byblos, to vibrating Beirut’s donwtown and colorful vineyards of Bekaa Valley (just to name some). Also important to mention – Lebanese cuisine has been praised among the biggest food lovers all over the globe for a long time now, so that’s a reason more to take your piece of Lebanese cake(s). Just be careful when crossing the road, the country is also famous for its crazy cab drivers.

Here are some photos to get you excited about this diverse country!

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Qadisha

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For more info and photos, see:

zenscribbles

marcopolis

batw.org

yumsugar.com

 

 

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Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Hummus with a side of harmony.

Author: Leigh Cuen/Your Middle East

Out of dozens of popular restaurants in the Old City, Hendy Sohela of Sohel Hummus is the sole woman running her own business. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with Qur’anic verses, images of the Dome of the Rock and a mounted TV screen, which broadcasts footage from the Islamic holy sites in Mecca.

Ancient Egyptians first mentioned the city of Acre in hieroglyphic carvings. In 66 CE, it was a base for the Romans when they crushed the Jewish revolt. Muslims conquered the city in 638, followed by Crusaders in 1104. Napoleon laid siege to it in 1799, but could not conquer it. Today, Acre still harbours religious diversity similar to that of Jerusalem. Yet Acre has its own unique social climate. People of all backgrounds enjoy equal opportunities in the city’s flourishing culinary scene.

Sohela inherited the restaurant from her father, Abo Sohel, in 1993. “It was hard to be the first woman running a hummus restaurant in the Old City. Hummus is a tradition in Acre. At first my family was against it,” said Sohela. “But my siblings supported me. After my father passed away, my mother became ill and one of my siblings went blind. It was up to me to uphold our family’s recipe.” In 2005, Sohela won first prize in a national competition hosted by Israeli celebrity chefs Oren Giron and Moshe Segev. She was awarded a plaque with a golden pita and her hummus was deemed best in Israel.

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“Living side-by-side, working and eating together, this is how each generation learns to get along”

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, almost all of Acre’s Old City residents are Arab, around 20 per cent of the whole city’s population. On weekends the neighbourhood is packed with people from across the north, evenly split between Arabs and Jews. They flock to restaurants in the Old City, from hip new venues to traditional, family-owned places.

David Harari, an official responsible for tourism in Acre, says the city annually attracts 100,000 tourists from all over the world. It’s home to numerous holy sites, including the Bahá’í Gardens at Bahjí, Saint George’s Church, the Jezzar Pasha Mosque and Or Torah, a Tunisian synagogue covered in art mosaics.

Sohela’s hummus restaurant is now a multicultural watering hole for northerners and tourists alike, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druze. “My hummus is like a flower,” she says. “I am a Muslim woman, but a flower is not only the petals. The local farmers who supply ingredients and the customers I feed come from every community in Israel. When people eat good hummus together, they don’t argue. They shut up and eat happily.”

Today, Sohela says she enjoys equality with all the city’s businessmen, that now the only problem is finding parking near their busy restaurants. “I can’t say if I have the same rights as Jewish business owners. I’ve never been Jewish,” she says. “But I don’t feel any discrimination. Only politicians separate us into categories. In Acre, we are simply neighbours.”

Across the street, fellow hummus chef Issa Makhol, a Maronite Christian, agrees Acre’s culinary scene fosters peaceful coexistence. Makhol inherited his hummus restaurant from his grandfather who first opened the business in 1950. “This atmosphere could never happen in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv,” he says. “It is unique. Our diverse communities are equal and have a great relationship.”

Makhol believes routine non-threatening interaction fosters Acre’s unique climate of tolerance. “Regardless of history,” he says, “living side-by-side, working and eating together, this is how each generation learns to get along.”

A lot has changed since Sohela first took over her father’s restaurant across the street. Today, Makhol’s wife and mother also work at his family restaurant. He feels comfortable leaving the business under their control when he is away; it feels perfectly natural.

Acre’s economy thrives off of independent gourmet businesses, overwhelmingly owned by minorities. Sohela argues there isn’t any universal formula for replicating this economic empowerment. “Every woman must decide her own success. Maybe one wants a restaurant and the other wants to stay home with the children,” she says. “Success is not the number of women owning restaurants. It is that each exercises the right to choose for herself.”

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Jordan, travel

The subtle vibrance of Amman, Jordan.

Three months ago, I was lucky enough to spend some days in Amman. I explored all the small streets seeming to lead nowhere, and realised that there’s no street or road leading nowhere, something’s always waiting out there. Some of the surprises I encountered are on these photos – like the painting in the abandoned building. I found it while walking an alternative route to Amman’s Citadel (a great place, especially if you like history combined with great views).

Amman’s downtown smells like spices and fresh juices (I recommend Palestine juice, close to King Abdullah Mosque – father and a son run the small stand, very kind and welcoming, offering fresh fruit and great juices  for 1JD). The cars are beeping, somebody is randomly selling chickens or pigeons by the road, and man are carrying around falafels and hummus for breakfast (if you want to try the best one – go to Hashem, an iconic downtown restaurant, locals eat there, food is cheap and yummy).

For the rest – I’ll leave you with the photos.
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