Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Pakistan

The world cannot turn a blind eye to America’s drone attacks in Pakistan.

Author: Robert Fisk/ The Independent

Karim Khan is a lucky man. When you’re picked up by 20 armed thugs, some in police uniform – aka the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – you can be “disappeared” forever. A mass grave in Balochistan, in the south-west of the country, has just been found, filled with the “missing” from previous arrests. But eight days after he was lifted and – by his own testimony, that of his lawyer Shasad Akbar and the marks still visible on his body – tortured, Mr Khan is back at his Pakistani home. His crime: complaining about US drone attacks – American missiles fired by pilotless aircraft – on civilians inside Pakistan in President Obama’s Strangelove-style operation against al-Qa’ida.

There are, as the cops would say, several facts “pertaining” to Mr Khan’s kidnapping. Firstly, his son Hafiz Zaenullah, his brother Asif Iqbal and another man – a stonemason called Khaliq Dad – were killed by a drone attack on Mr Khan’s home in December 2009. Secondly, he had filed a legal case in Pakistan against the American drone strikes, arguing that they constituted murder under domestic law. And thirdly – perhaps Mr Khan’s most serious crime – he was about to leave for Brussels to address European Union parliamentarians on the dangers of American drone strikes in Pakistan.

In Madiha Tahir’s recent documentary film Wounds of Waziristan, Mr Khan had talked about his family loss. His son Hafiz was a security guard at a local girls’ school, and also studying for Grade 10. Asif, who had a Master’s in English, was a government employee. Karim Khan saw what was left of their bodies, “covered in wounds”. He found some of their fingers in the rubble of his home.

Thanks to constant reports of his kidnapping in the courageous Pakistani media and to the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court who ordered the Pakistani government to produce Karim Khan by next Thursday, the anti-drone campaigner is safe. For the moment.

But this is not going to set the world on fire. The “drone war”, as American journalists inevitably call it – after all, it’s not as if al-Qa’ida or the innocent victims are firing back with drones of their own – started under George W Bush, but most of the attacks, 384 of them since 2008, have been authorised by Mr Obama. The statistics of civilian deaths fluctuate wildly since most of the missiles are fired into the Pakistani frontier districts in which the government has little power. The minimum figure for civilian victims is almost 300 dead – some say almost 900 – out of a total of 2,500 killed. At least 50 people are believed to have been killed in follow-up strikes which slaughtered those going to the rescue of the wounded.

Of course, the drone syndrome has spread across the Middle East. The missiles rain down on al-Qa’ida and civilians alike in Yemen. The Israelis fired them into Lebanon in 2006; when a youth on a motorcycle fired at a night-time drone over Beirut, it fired back a missile that destroyed a downtown civilian apartment block. In Gaza, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported 825 deaths from Israeli drones during the 2008-09 war, a large percentage of them civilians.

Pakistani witnesses have told me that the missiles don’t just appear suddenly in the sky. The drones arrive in clusters – 10 or 12 at a time, circling villages for an hour or two – a looking for targets on behalf of their “pilots” in the United States. Until at least 2009, the Americans flew drones – the most impressive was called the Reaper – from air bases inside Pakistan. Hence the sensitivities of the boys from the ISI and their irritation with Karim Khan.

The ethical disgrace of the drone syndrome is not that Mr Obama – or some US officer near Las Vegas – decides on the basis of satellite pictures, mobile phone calls, numbers dialled and the speed of vehicles, who should live or die. The really shameful aspect is that the drone war has become normal. It has gone on so long – and been the subject of so much protest, so regularly – that it has become banal, boring, matter-of-fact.

It was just the same in the 1990s when the US and Brits went hunting for Iraqi targets over the so-called “no-fly zones” in Iraq. For years they bombed and missiled “military targets” that supposedly threatened them. In the eight months up to August 1999, US and British pilots had fired more than 1,100 missiles against 359 Iraqi targets, flying about two-thirds as many missions as Nato pilots conducted over Yugoslavia during the 78-day bombardment of the same year. As well as anti-aircraft batteries, oil pipelines were blown up, storage depots destroyed and dozens of civilians killed, including several in a Basra housing estate. But each air raid was merely “nibbed” in our newspapers – a nib is a single paragraph in an inside-page News in Brief column – so that an entire air campaign was effectively carried out behind the backs of the US and British public in the years before the 2003 invasion.

In southern Lebanon, the Israelis controlled for 28 years a torture prison at Khiam for insurgents and their families – women as well as men – and electricity was frequently used on inmates by Israel’s “South Lebanon Army” thugs. Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross complained. But I will always remember the words of a Swiss Red Cross official when I asked him, within sight of Khiam, why the world did not condemn this dreadful place. “It has become normal,” he replied.

And that’s it. Kill or torture often enough, over a long enough time – not too many massacres, just a dribble of deaths over months and years – and you’ll get away with it. If you kill the bad guys, it’s OK. Pity about the rest. Just make sure that the war is sufficiently prosaic, and don’t listen to Karim Khan.

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Palestine, travel

A pinch of Nablus, Palestine.

I am already preparing for my palestinian  summer, so I am fiesting my eyes on many beautiful spots Palestine has to offer.

One of those is Nablus. It  is one of the oldest cities in the world, possibly first established 9000 years ago. It is placed between the two mountains Gerizim and Ebal, which will give you an amazing view when you are in the city.

The old town is particularly charming, full of flavours, sounds, fragrances, colors… Full of life.

Take a walk around those  winding narrow streets and – take it all in.

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For more Nablus impressions and photos, click here:

anamericaninpalestine

travelsofadam

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travel, Yemen

Sana’a, Yemen: A city to see.

Sana’a is one of the oldest cities in the world and Yemen’s largest city. According to popular legend, it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand 9–14 metres high, the old city contains more than 100 mosques, 12 hammams and 6,500 houses. Its multi-storey buildings decorated with geometric patterns get your attention right away, and during the night – it just might be one of the most romantic places in the world.

Just look at the photos.

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For more photos and info, visit:

traveladventureeverywhere

 

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Iran

The nuclear talks with Iran move to the next level. Here is the context you need.

Author: Sam Khanalari/ Your Middle East

A NUCLEAR IRAN? Thirty-six years ago, American and Iranian negotiators gathered in Vienna during a series of talks that would result in the comprehensive nuclear program the Shah had long coveted. Little did they know, the Pahlavi dynasty would fall within the next twelve months, declaring the agreement null and void. Today, the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran officially begin the first round of negotiations with a comprehensive nuclear agreement as their intended target. They are also meeting in Vienna.

American cooperation with Iran on its nuclear program first began in 1957 and there has since been international consensus that due to a variety of unique circumstances, the development of nuclear energy is required to satiate Iran’s growth. A study by the Stanford Research Institute in 1973 outlined Iran’s need for nuclear energy and “recommended the building of nuclear plants capable of generating 20,000 megawatts of electricity before 1994.”

The Shah took this recommendation to heart and, that same year, ordered Akbar Etemad, a trained nuclear physicist, to develop a master plan for a broad nuclear program. As Abbas Milani writes, “(l)ike every major policy decision in those days, it was a one-man act.”

“An IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons program for more than a decade had been erroneous”

Rapid population growth, environmental concerns such as shrinking water supplies, and finite reserves of natural resource constitute the greatest challenges to fulfilling domestic energy demands, and the nuclear option has been seen as a valid source of power to Iranians for over half a century.

The Ford administration famously supported Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear energy program and, in 1976, announced his backing for Iran’s ability to develop a complete domestic nuclear fuel cycle. However, documents declassified in 2009 from the Ford and Carter administrations reveal a somewhat similar discourse between the American leaders and the Shah as today’s ongoing negotiations. The documents reveal that just as the Shah’s “island of stability” began to collapse under popular revolt in the middle of 1978, Iranian and American negotiators had tentatively reached a comprehensive nuclear agreement that awaited President Carter’s signature.

At the time, American concerns were not directed, as they are today, towards Iran’s domestic enrichment capabilities. Instead, concerns were geared towards the reprocessing of spent fuel, a process that requires additional infrastructure the current Islamic Republic denies it has intentions of building.

“We do not have a reprocessing plant. We do not intend, although this is our right (under the NPT) and we will not forego our right, but we do not intend to build a reprocessing plant,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, last week.

But since Iran’s revolution of 1979, and despite an institutionalized resistance towards the use or procurement of weapons of mass destruction, much of the Western world has maintained a suspicion that the regime seeks to acquire a nuclear weapons program.

Earlier this month, investigative journalist Gareth Porter showed how intercepted messages from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms spurred initial Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear intentions in the 1990’s, but in 2008 an “IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons program for more than a decade had been erroneous.”

Contrary to Western fears, Iran has previously demonstrated an aversion to retaliating to chemical attacks in kind. Throughout Saddam Hussein’s war with Iran, sarin and other chemical agents used by Saddam killed thousands in western and southern Iran. Documents declassified in the last year revealed the United States provided Saddam with intelligence support prior to a sarin attack in 1988.

“The Iraqis never told us they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona told Foreign Policy.

Considering the fact that less than forty years ago, Western governments not only supported but actively vied to participate in developing nuclear energy in Iran, the rationale behind today’s objections lies more in enduring strategic alignments and political allegiances than in any viable security concerns regarding proliferation or otherwise.

Thirty-five years removed from the revolution that transformed the region’s geopolitical landscape, for many Iranians, the nuclear narrative has since evolved beyond a need for energy diversification into a generational struggle for political independence as well as the rights provided under international agreements such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

According to Gallup polls conducted this time last year, nearly two in three Iranians support the continuation of Iran’s nuclear program. The report concluded that, “(t)he majority of Iranians are so far seemingly willing to pay the high price of sanctions.” The ongoing isolation as a result of its domestic advancements has coalesced various elements of Iranian society in support the government’s unwavering stance.

The election of President Rouhani is representative of this growing sentiment that has manifested in the current path of diplomacy pursued by the Iranian government, rather than the sanctions regime that has spurred record inflation, shrunken the economy, and cut the Iranian society off from the international financial system. Seventy two percent of eligible voters turned to the ballot box last June and elected Hassan Rouhani, one of six candidates, on the first ballot with over half of the votes.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”

Previous governments have denied accusations of a secret weapons program and the current Rouhani administration has made resolving the nuclear issue its top priority. Last September, President Obama recognized a religious decree by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei vowing Iran will never develop weapons of mass destruction along with Iran’s right to a domestic, yet “mutually defined enrichment programme”, providing his Iranian counterpart with room to maneuver domestic opposition during talks.

Rouhani’s government has since come to two agreements with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) on November 11 and February 9, as well as the interim deal in Geneva with the P5+1 group. Top diplomats convened in Geneva last November to carefully craft the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement outlining mutually accepted confidence building measures and help set the scene for the comprehensive negotiations beginning today.

When it comes to a comprehensive nuclear agreement, as stated in the Joint Action Plan, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Palestinian Circus School: Always look on the bright side of life!

First time I ever heard about the Palestinian Circus School is when I saw the photo essay Palestinian Women by Samar Hazboun with (among others) this photo:

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The Palestinian circus is modest with basic equipment. Yet, two sisters Majd and Mays play a vital role in the company, expressing their freedom and rejection of occupation through various symbolic plays and dances reflecting hope and a rejection of oppression. The sisters have performed in many countries and have had great success not only as “entertainers” but as messengers and mediators of the Palestinian case.

After reading that, I went to their site to find out more.

The Palestinian Circus School dreams of a free Palestine in which Palestinians engage in a dynamic cultural and artistic life that embraces creativity, freedom of expression and diversity as the main pillars for a just and inclusive society.

By creating and performing circus productions, they want to instill hope among the population, promote the freedom of expression and raise local and international awareness about Palestinian arts and the many challenges of the Palestinian society.

They did a lot of things throughout the years, and these are some of the photos I chose to present their work to you.

It’s lovely!

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Maftoul Festival 3

By offering trainings in circus arts to Palestinian children and youth, the Palestinian Circus School wants to develop a new art form in Palestine and strengthen the creative and physical potential of the Palestinians, seeking to engage and empower them to become constructive actors in society.

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Photo by Brendan Work_0

If you like it, share and support their work!

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Jordan, travel

Wadi Rum, Jordan: The Valley of the Moon

Some months ago, I was a little explorer in Jordan.

I discovered many wonders on my way, and one of them is a place where stars come so close to the ground, it seems they are going to break on it. The moon is the king, high above, sunsets are mild and and spreading all over the endless meadows of sand.

People are kind and welcoming, their hands rough and faces patterned by the years of sun and sand.

Breathing is easier out there. There is something particularly powerful about the desert scenery, it extends your horizon endlessly, and cleans your soul like a strong wind, deprives it of everything that’s not important.

There was a lot of magnificent silence while I took these photos.

Enjoy and be sure to put Wadi Rum on the list of your travel wishes.

484788_10202458749008618_1434548075_ncamel ride from the Wadi Rum village to the beduin camp

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our beduin guide at Lawrence’s house

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just one of the amazing sights

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the sand color is amazing – brown/redish

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old inscriptions

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one of many beautiful canyons

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a tent where you can have tea, or “beduin whiskey” as they call it , and some traditional sweets

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sun going down, leaving the sky to the moon

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little girl in Wadi Rum village

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tour jeeps on their way (the area is huge, and if you want to see it all in couple of days you need to use these)

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amazing nature – rocks, rocks, and more rocks, and then a tree, blossoming under the dry sun

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take it all in, I say.

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sand everywhere, so wear proper shoes. or just take them off!

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The tree of life

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our guide lost in translation

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children love their camels, Wadi Rum village

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and yeah – there are so many great (free) climbing spots.

P.S. unfortunately, I do not own a good camera, so the photos are not giving this beauty all the credit it deserves.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Mahmoud Darwish and the broken Palestinian hopes.

This post is a combination of Darwish’s poetry and photos from Time’s photo essay (and documentary) Broken hopes, Oslo’s Legacy, made by Cédric Gerbehaye.

It just seemed like a good match to me. The new peace talks, unfortunately, seem a lot like Oslo and scepticism is roaming all around  Palestine, combined with eternal whishes for peace and independence, so often portrayed in the poems of Mahmoud Darwish.

Gaza : Summer Rains

 …Write down! 

I am an Arab 
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors 
And the land which I cultivated 
Along with my children 
And you left nothing for us 
Except for these rocks.. 
So will the State take them 
As it has been said?! 
.
Therefore! 
Write down on the top of the first page: 
I do not hate poeple 
Nor do I encroach 
But if I become hungry 
The usurper’s flesh will be my food 

Darwish, Identity Card

Broken hopes - Oslo’s legacy

I have a seat in the abandoned theater
in Beirut. I might forget, and I might recall
the final act without longing… not because of anything
other than that the play was not written
skillfully…
Chaos
as in the war days of those in despair, and an autobiography
of the spectators’ impulse. The actors were tearing up their scripts
and searching for the author among us, we the witnesses
sitting in our seats…

Darwish,  I have a seat in the abandoned theater

Broken hopes - Oslo's legacy

I am the lover and the land is the beloved. 
The archaeologist is busy analyzing stones. 
In the rubble of legends he searches for his own eyes 
to show 
that I am a sightless vagrant on the road 
with not one letter in civilization’s alphabet. 
Meanwhile in my own time I plant my trees. 
I sing of my love. 
It is time for me to exchange the word for the deed 
Time to prove my love for the land and for the nightingale: 
For in this age the weapon devours the guitar 
And in the mirror I have been fading more and more 
Since at my back a tree began to grow. 

Darwish, Diary of a Palestinian wound

Broken hopes - Oslo’s legacy

Give me a break, he replied.
I dream of white lilies, streets of song, a house of light.
I need a kind heart, not a bullet.
I need a bright day, not a mad, fascist moment of triumph.
I need a child to cherish a day of laughter, not a weapon of war.
I came to live for rising suns, not to witness their setting.
He said goodbye and went looking for white lilies,
a bird welcoming the dawn on an olive branch.
He understands things only as he senses and smells them.
Homeland for him, he said, is to drink my mother’s coffee, to return safely, at nightfall. 

Darwish, A soldier dreams of white lillies

Broken hopes - Oslo’s legacy

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Lebanon, travel

Humans of Lebanon.

When in wars, when facing stereotypes and packed stories every day, it’s important to use all the tools given to show the other side of the story, or to look for the other side of the story (there’s always more stories in one story). That is one of the main reasons for the existence of this blog and today I present you a really nice initative from Lebanon.

Humans of Lebanon is a great facebook page to feel and smell the daily life in Lebanon today, and this is a small collection of the photos/stories I really like. If you like this, be sure to check out  their page for more!

76years old barber

Georges Haddad is a 76 year-old barber from Mousaytbeh, Beirut, who runs his own barber shop in Gemmayzeh.
“Although I’ve set a fixed fee, I still find a way to make all my customers happy, even those who can’t afford something as simple and cheap as a haircut” he says.

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Beirut’s “green man”

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“I’m just pruning the vines”, Bekaa Valley

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This young Syrian teenager cheerfully worked despite the cold temperatures removing dead vines after pruning in the Beqaa Valley. 

beirut hersh festival

Spotted at the Yearly Beirut Hersh Festival. 

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I posted this poster around Beirut 1 year ago and it felt wonderful, I wanted to share with you all today, last day of 2012. Let’s spread the positivity and if you can do the similar in your area, please do.

fireworks are cheap and fun

“fireworks are cheap and fun”

going to play backgammon with my gradnpa

Hello. Where are you going? 

Hello, going to play backgammon with my grandpa.

Mr Cotillon, selling them every day

Here’s Mr. Cotillon.
Although they were usually (still are?) sold on New year’s eve, this man spends 365 days selling them. He hangs around Souk el Ahad. You’ll instantly recognize him by his.. 

my home, my protection, my stories

“My home, my protection, my stories”

painting it up

painting it up

saida sweet shop

Here’s the father of the actual owner of this tiny but exceptional Saida sweet shop.

say cheese, scholl in tripoli

Say cheese, school in Tripoli

spotted in jbeil

spotted in Jbeil

syrian refugees

“We are refugees.
نحن لاجئون”
Syrian refugees at Ammik, Bekaa. 

were enjoying the sunset

We’re enjoying the sunset

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travel, Yemen

Socotra Island, Yemen: Incredible world of Avatar

Socotra Island is  an isolated and alien-esque Yemeni island located in the Indian Ocean. One third of the flora and fauna on this island, administered by Yemen government, can be found only here. The umbrella-shaped “blood tree,” the cucumber tree, giant succulent tree, different kinds of birds, spiders, bats and cats have the only habitat there.

Another plant that is remarkable on the island of Socotra is the Desert Rose, Adenium obesum, that blooms in April and offers panoramic view of huge pink flowers. Is actually a tree that reaches a height of 5 meters and can have a diameter of up to 3 meters.  Ancient Egyptians used to import substances from here for traditional religious ceremonies and embalming rituals.

Yemen is a real travel jewel in general, but Socotra is the one place you cannot miss, if you had to choose only one.

I’ll leave you with some amazing photos to prove that point.

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Socotra Island, Yemen-M

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Socotra Island in Yemen-Beautiful landscape tourism destinations

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Socotra Island in Yemen-Socotra beaches tourism destinations

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For more photos and info, see:

besttourism.com

wanderingearl.com

 

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