art of resistance, Iraq, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria

The world(s) of refugee(s).

Yesterday was World Refugee Day. Observed on 20th of June every year, it is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. There are over 44 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world at the moment.

Refugees stories should be more present in media all the time, not just on this day. However – it is good to have them in the headlines and in focus atleast one day of the year.

I’ve assembled some photos, searched my way through great Magnum‘s collections, so here are refugee stories from all over the world, captured by Magnum’s photographers.

LON141140KENYA. Kakuma. Residents from Kakuma Refugee Camp watch evening screenings in the camp set up by FilmAid. 2012 (© Olivia Arthur/Magnum)

PAR447870LEBANON. Saida, 2013. Ein El Helwe palestinian refugee camp. Since 2012 Premiere Urgence NGO has built new infrastructures for drinking water and sewage in Hai El Sahon area. The camp is divided in 15 sectors. Each one is leaded by a popular comitee. Abu Icham at home with his family. (© Jerome Sessini/Magnum)

mijanmarMYANMAR. 2014. SITTWE. Rakhine State. Local area where a number of camps have been set up for the Internally Displaced People – all Muslim, who were attacked by the local Arakan people who do not want them living in Myanmar. These are Muslim children from the host Muslim population where the IDP’s have been put in camps. Fishing for small fish in a pond. (© Chris Steele-Perkins/ Magnum)

NYC144348CONGO. Dungu, Haut-Uele District. April 11, 2013. Father Benoit Kinalegu runs an orphanage for child victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). These drawings were made by the child victims of the LRA. Haut-Uele District, located in Orientale Province, is one of the areas in which the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) operates. (© Michael Christopher Brown/ Magnum)

NYC136190LEBANON. Bar-elias, Bekaa Valley, 2013. A young Syrian refugee stands behind barbwire at a small lake next to a spring where refugees collect drinking water on the outskirts of the Al-Jarrah tent settlement in the Bekaa Valley. (© Moises Saman/ Magnum)

NYC149729NORWAY. Vesteraalen. 2012. Melbu school yard. Some levels in the school have more than 50% immigrant children. In Melbu, about 200 of the town’s 2000 inhabitants are asylum seekers. In addition about 200 are permanently settled refugees. (© Jonas Bendiksen/ Magnum)

michael cristopherCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC. BANGUI. March 21, 2014. At the M’Poko IDP camp, a mostly Christian camp located at the Bangui International Airport, children play on the runway. Anti-Balaka fighters mingle freely with the civilians there. (© Michael Christopher Brown/ Magnum)

NYC135138GERMANY,  2013. A painting in the home of Ashgar Hassanzadeh, 34, an Afghan refugee who had three fingers chopped off and 22 bones broken by Taliban threatening him for working with coalition forces. He fled with his family to Europe and was detained in Bavaria. They are now in a refugee camp in Wurzburg, Bavaria. It is the largest camp in Bavaria and refugees usually spend years there before their status is resolved and they are granted residency, or they are deported back to their home country. The refugees are housed in a barracks from the Nazi era and receive a small subsidy from the German government. There is widespread frustration and depression in the camp, including a recent suicide by an Iranian refugee and a hunger strike by another group. (© Peter van Agtmael/ Magnum)

PAR415257Somalia, Mogadishu, 2012. A young girl sweeps infront of her tent inside a over populated internally displaced camp in Mogadishu. Many IDP’s have fled into Mogadishu since it has become more safe after the African Union troops along side the Transitional Government Forces have managed to push Al-Shabaab out of the city. (© Dominic Nahr/ Magnum)

NYC136217JORDAN. Amman. June 12, 2013. Syrian refugee children living in a rented apartment in the Wadi Haddad district of East Amman. (© Moises Saman/ Magnum)

LON155227Jordan. 2013. Zaatari Refugee camp. Children drawing. One image by a 6 year old boy depicts a man being hanged. (© Stuart Franklin/ Magnum)

NYC141670IRAQ. Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan. July 29, 2013. Young Syrian refugees atop the rubble of a former Iraqi Army barracks next to the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees on the outskirts of Dohuk. (© Moises Saman/ Magnum)

And here’s a little bit more  -this is an excerpt from Brothers in hope: The story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, written by Mary Williams, and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. It is a children’s book describing a story of a young boy who unites with thousands of other orphaned boys to walk to safety in a refugee camp in another country (first in Ethiopia, then in Kenya), after war destroys their villages in southern Sudan.

“When I turned eight years old, I began to tend some small calves on my own. I cleaned them, nursed them when they were sick, and led them to the very best pastures and watering holes. I quickly grew to love these animals. Then one day everything in my life changed. “

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“Before war came, I had never seen so many people in one place. My village had only one hundred people. Now I was in a moving village with thousands of boys.  Like me, the other boys were away from their villages tending the cattle when war came.”

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I’ve said it already – refugee stories are to be shared and retold, so here are the excerpts from one more beautiful  book – The Lotus Seed  by Sherry Garland, illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi. It’s a story of a girl’s grandmother and the special significance of the lotus seed she carried with her when she escaped from Vietnam and made her way to a new country.

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“Nothing that grows in a pond

Surpasses the beauty of the lotus flower,

With its green leaves and silky yellow styles

Amidst milky white petals.

Though mired in mud, its silky yellow styles,

Its milky white petals and green leaves 

Do not smell of mud.”

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art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Jordan, Palestine

(Interview) Jehan Bseiso and The long way home.

Jehan Bseiso is a Palestinian poet (also a researcher and aid-worker) who grew up in Jordan.  She’s 31 and in her life so far she managed to collect passport stamps from all over the globe. Since the first time I read her work, it felt like I know her, although we never met.

I loved her poems and the way they float in the air when I read them (they find a way to melt with the space – in and outside me). Even when she is dealing with a specific topic, a certain “syrian thing”, or “palestinian thing”, she makes it an universal thing, a matter of truth, justice, love, compassion, bringing us to the fact – that fact that it all is an universal thing. And we all should be aware, and we should care.

271087_727033268612_81494163_nJehan Bseiso

Jehan currently lives in Cairo, and often writes for The Palestine Chronicle. Couple of weeks ago, I read her letter to Ghassan Kanafani on the 66th anniversary of Nakba, and it served as a trigger to finally ask her for an interview.

In the letter, she writes:

Dear Ghassan,

On our birthday this year I turned 31 and you turned 78. Even the dead grow old without a homeland.

Do you know that we live and die in diaspora now?  Do you know that Palestinian refugee camps are swollen with Iraqis and Syrians now?

Too many Jihadi songs end with the refrain “For Falasteen”, but Baba says terrorists can’t read maps.

The march to Jerusalem doesn’t start from Kunduz. And I definitely cannot see Haifa from Cairoya “Ansar Beit el Maqdis”.

Last week in Beirut I went to the races for the first time and bet 5$ on a horse named Thawra.

She lost.

But I met a little boy who said he was from Sabra.

In Jordan, Syrian children say they come from Zaatari and Azraq not anymore Homs or Hama.

Little boys shouldn’t come from refugee camps.

I contacted her, she answered my e-mail. We started talking. She said she likes my e-mail signature song – Tom Waits – The long way home.

Got a head full of lightning
A hat full of rain
And I know that I said
I’d never do it again
And I love you pretty baby but I always take the long way home

I thought to myself later – of course she likes it. If somebody knows how it is to take the long way home – it’s Jehan Bseiso, a Palestinian who visited Palestine for the first time when she was 29. But it’s not just that – it’s this whole life, life of wandering and wondering. It’s this ability to enjoy things, to experience, to see where the unkown will take us, to see how the moon shines under the ground…

Jehan was kind enough to engage in a lovely thoughts exchange with me, so let’s get to that.

Tell me something about Jehan Bseiso, something that defines you, something you can’t live without.

I’m so much happier near water. It takes whatever I’m carrying away from me, and I like that it’s as simple as float or sink. I’m convinced that memories are buoyant, and there is no place I would rather re-member, re-put things back together than by the sea.

 You’ve traveled the globe, lived all over the Middle East, Europe and USA. Where is home for you? Or what is home for you?

I think I have both a mobile and fixed sense of home. There are faces and smells that can take me home in one minute no matter where I am- Kabul or Cairo. Even if I am still moving around a lot, lately I also want to have a place all mine. Somewhere I can leave my books and shoes and hang things up on walls and try not to kill plants. Beyond the material trappings, home is my people, friends and family and they’re everywhere. There’s a line from one of my favorite poems by Stanley Kunitz, The Layers, where he says “I have made a tribe of my affections, and my tribe is scattered”.

Tata, my grandmother, would only tell the story in staccato:

“1948. Falasteen. Orange blossom fields. Salt. Blue Gaza waters. “

Tears in her long black lashes,

“And when my father died, his horse wept in the funeral”. 

Bseiso, Tata’s Lovesong

Tell me something about your Poeticians experience. How was performing your poetry?  

I walked into a dimly lit café in Beirut, and I saw Hind Shoufani reading on stage. She was wearing something that was probably shiny, but I could only focus on the way her words jumped from the page to the stage. Those countless spoken word evenings around Beirut,and the people I met through Poeticians, changed the way I read and write.

The cemeteries are full –
 
In Lebanon, Jordan, Syria
 
We will soon bury Palestinians above ground.
 
Nowhere to live and now,
 
No quiet place to die, with dignity.
 
Raise high the beams – carpenters, death architects.
 
Soon, your walls will reach the sky.

Bseiso, Cemeteries in Palestinian camps short on space

You are currently working on a collection of poems “Conversations Continued”. What phase are you in at the moment? And can you describe the collection, its essence?

I think of “ Conversations Continued” as a collection of real, misremembered and misheard conversations. It’s divided into different topics like “Conversations Habeebi” which tries to talk about love and “Conversations Thawra” which looks at the Arab uprisings. Whether the topic is conceptual like love or happiness, or touching on a complex political reality like the situation in Syria, the pieces slip in and out of different moods and topics much like a conversation in real life.

For Abu Ali Mahdi, who
 
After 20 years in Israeli prisons
 
Died of heartbreak in his own bed,
 
In Beirut.
 
For Du’aa, and Ala’a and Mohammed,
 
Who spoke to the Al Jazeera reporters about
 
Mama dead and baba dead and no home
 
And no bread. Nobody to break the bread with.
 
And nights so long you forget there ever was light
 
Or day.
 
For all of you, who make me proud to be from
 
this land, and to have these words,
 
In this language,
 
Lodged in my throat like bricks.
 
For everyone who has ever said enough.
 
Enough.

Bseiso, from Conversations Homeland

How do you see Palestine today, compared with the Palestine of your childhood? And how about the “outsiders” perception of Palestine, from your experience?

The Palestine of my childhood is more a mental and emotional landscape than a physical place. Mama was born on the beach in Gaza and I was born in a hospital room in Los Angeles. Eventually, work took me to places as far as Afghanistan and Somali region, and I couldn’t explain to myself anymore why a place less than an hour from the capital of Jordan, where I was raised, felt so far away. So, I visited Palestine for the first time in 2012 and it was truly indescribable though I keep trying to find the words by writing about it.

Is there a (palestinian) poet/writer you feel inspired by particularly? You’ve written a letter to ‘Ghassan Kanafani, but is there another person you would dedicate your words to and why?

Mu’een Bseiso was a poet and friend of Mahmoud Darwish, he published throughout the sixties and seventies , wrote a lot about Palestine and died quietly in a hotel room in London a year after I was born. I never met him, but I often wish I had. Suheir Hammad is incredible. A few years ago, I had the pleasure to open for her when she read in Jordan and I spent a couple of days with her that continue to inspire me.

Dear Ghassan,

I feel the same way about the Nakba. Everyday Nakba.  Each year marks death, dispossession and occupation but also birth, and the celebration of memory and resistance.

Yours,

Jehan

 

For more of Jehan and her work – read The Palestine Chronicle, follow her @jehanbseiso or contact her at: Jehan.bseiso@gmail.com.

 

 

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Jordan, travel

Wadi Rum, Jordan: Faces and endless spaces.

This morning I traveled to Wadi Rum (Jordan) again. This time – through my photos. I always manage to find some new ones, since there was a lot of beautiful silence and moments being captured in it. It was a great journey.

These are the photos of faces and endless spaces. Faces in terms of welcoming strangers, touching your world with a single smile or “hello”. Endless spaces in terms of those moments when you are so tiny comparing with the great nature around you, and yet – you feel so big and honored just by being a part of something so magnicifent. 

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DSC08360all photos ©  Ivana Perić/Middle East Revised

 

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art of resistance, Jordan, travel

Women take to the pitch as female footballers wow Jordan.

Author: Raed Omari/ Al Arabiya

It is a conservative Arab state, yet football is increasingly popular among women, who do not see a contradiction between the world’s most popular sport and Islamic values. In Jordan, female footballers love to be referred to as “Nashmiyyat,” or the “brave ones.” That is the official name of the national women’s team.

“If there has ever been an Islamic reason restricting women’s involvement in football, it’s no longer in place, with the international rule-making body FIFA lifting the ban on the use of hijab during football matches,” said Sama Zghayer, a professional footballer and former member of the national women’s team.

fe68c2a8-73df-4ce2-aebe-5137075dbcab_16x9_788x442© Al Arabiya/ Muath Freij

The level of women’s involvement in football has increased “immeasurably,” she told Al Arabiya News. “Here in Jordan, we have the under-15 and under-17 football teams, in addition to the first women’s team.”

Danielle Salton and Mary Harvey, former members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, visited the Jordanian capital last week. The U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Stuart E. Jones, told Al Arabiya News that the visit aimed to enhance women’s empowerment and involvement in sports.

Jones, who joined a workshop held by Salton and Harvey at Al-Hussein Youth City’s Polo Stadium, commended FIFA for lifting the ban on hijab: “Cultural differences have to always be respected and taken into consideration by all international governing bodies.”

The fact that Jordan is hosting the 2016 FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup is evidence of the sport’s growing popularity among females, the American footballers told Al Arabiya News. “In schools, they have passion for the game,” Harvey said. “In Jordan, the game is massively popular, with female footballers becoming national icons.”

The former international players also visited the kingdom to increase participation in the Jordan Football Association’s Prince Ali Centers, which comprise a new nationwide network of football clubs for adolescent girls, according to a U.S. embassy statement.

In cooperation with the Prince Ali Centers, Salton and Harvey led one workshop with coaches, and three workshops with several of the 15 Prince Ali Centers. The program culminated in a mini-tournament for all the Prince Ali Centers on Friday at the Polo Fields in Amman, with 375 Jordanian girls taking part, according to the U.S. embassy.

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Jordan, travel

The other side of Petra, Jordan.

I think there is no need to describe what Petra is, where it is, why it is special, etc.

It’s one of the top tourist destinations, and I think I’ve never met a person who doesn’t know about it.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t make it less impressive. When I was there, I was pretty much silent all day long. It was like the words were unworthy, unnecessary. I already mentioned in one post how I often associate music with places/buildings. For Petra I couldn’t get Cortez the killer out of my head.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them
To the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up
With their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

Here are some of my photos. There’s no Treasury and Monastery on them. Not to say those two are not amazing, but Petra is amazing for many other things too. (I personally adore the color of the sand, the subtle sky, images of tiny people sitting/walking by those great rocks).

Enjoy.

DSC08410Wadi Musa, on the way to Petra

DSC08421when this is one of the first sights… you know it’s going to be amazing.

DSC08433and soon.. the sunlight crawling and breaking out everywhere.

DSC08440men seem so tiny sitting by the rocks.

DSC08459and women too. rocks know no gender 🙂

DSC08443it’s a town. You usually see just photos of the Treasury or Monastery, but there’s a whole town waiting out there.

DSC08445and amazing gardens. with many stairs.

DSC08444and yeah – donkeys and horses. a lot of tourist use them, but I prefered to walk and just look at the animals (they’re lovely).

DSC08446endless redish rocks, and subtle blue sky.

DSC08462children playing. and small dogs. that’s always a nice sight.

DSC08451somewhere, among all those rocks and sand – a tree grows, green and healthy.

DSC08464I don’t know if it’s the light, or the sky, or just this idea that we’re just passing by and witnessing the (old) greatness.. but this is maybe the favorite moment I’ve captured.

DSC08480the sky again.

DSC08481And the sunset from Wadi Musa, on the way back. Petra in the distance.

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art of resistance, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, travel, Tunisia

Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan… All dancing, all happy.

Pharrell’s Happy is a global hit, no news there.

But, you might not know how popular it is all over the Middle East. You might not know that with more than 17 “Happy” versions, Tunisia belongs to the countries with the largest contribution to the worldwide Happy phenomenon.

Pharrell himself tweeted the Tunisian video “Happy – We are from Tatooine”, a version of his smash hit in Star Wars-style.

Egypt will surprise you. Young and old people, dancing, clapping, laughing. And this is not just about the dancing, when we talk about the Middle East.  It’s about re-conquering and re-structuring public space, which is often limited to a repressive ruling elite and social restrictions.

CaptureHappy Lebanon 

It’s about insisting on happiness, no matter what. Let’s clap along and celebrate these moments!

To finish the post, here’s a small snip I made from Happy Jordan video. Enjoy and be happy!

cap4 cap6 Capture2 capture3

 

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