art of resistance, Palestine, Syria

Zakaria Tamer, The Master of (Children’s) Stories.

Zakaria Tamer (born in 1931,Damascus, Syria) is an influential master of the Arabic-language short story. Tamer is one of the most important and widely read and translated short story writers in the Arab world, as well as being the foremost author of children’s stories in Arabic. He also works as a freelance journalist, writing satirical columns in newspapers Al-Quds Al-Arabi and Al Tawra.

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Tamer was forced to leave school at the age of thirteen in order to help provide for his family.He was apprenticed to a blacksmith as a locksmith in a factory in the Al-Basha district of Damascus. At the same time, as an autodidact, he spent many hours reading various books, became interested in politics and was encouraged by contact with intellectuals to continue his education at night school. He began his literary career in 1957, when he published some stories in Syrian journals. His first manuscript was noticed by Yusuf al-Khal, the poet, critic and editor of the magazine Shi’r (“Poetry”).

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Tamer’s volumes of short stories are often reminiscent of folktales, and are renowned for their relative simplicity on the one hand and the complexity of their many potential references on the other. They often have a sharp edge and are often a surrealistic protest against political or social oppression and exploitation. Most of his stories deal with people’s inhumanity to each other, the oppression of the poor by the rich and of the weak by the strong. The political and social problems of his own country, Syria, and of the Arab world, are reflected in the stories and sketches in the satirical style typical of his writing.

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Tamer’s first stories were published in 1957. Since then he has published eleven collections of short stories, two collections of satirical articles and numerous children’s books. His works have been translated into many languages, with two collections in English, Tigers on the Tenth Day and Other stories(translated by Denys Johnson-Davies) and Breaking Knees: Modern Arabic Short Stories from Syria, published in 2008.

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Tamer was also the editor of several cultural periodicals, including children’s magazine Usamah. In 1980s he left Syria and moved to London (he did so after being dismissed from editing the periodical al-Marifah, published by the Syrian Ministry of Culture, as a result of the publication of extracts from Abd al-Rahman al-kawakibi’s book, Tabai al istibadad – “The Characteristics of Despotism“, 1900 – in which the author denounced tyranny and called for freedom).

tumblr_l8ofa7LuwL1qd3smho1_1280 /all photos above are from the book The White Pigeon, written by Zakaria Tamer, illustrated by Adli Rizkallah, translated from Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davis, published by Dar al Fata al Arabi./

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/La Casa (“Home”) Italian translation of Tamer’s book. Written by Zakaria Tamer, illustrated by Mohieddin El Labbad, published by Dar al Fata al Arabi, 1979./

The text could be translated as:

The chicken has a home. The home of the chicken is called a chicken coop.

The rabbit has a home. The home of the rabbit is called a burrow.

The horse has a home. The home of the horse is the stall.

Even fish have a home. The home of the fish is the river, the lake and the sea.

The cat roams around day and night. But even he has a home that he can go to.

The bird has a home in the trees.

His home is called a nest. Everyone needs a home.

All humans need a home that is secure and peaceful.

Today, the Palestinians do not have a home.

The house and the place where the Palestinians live is not their home.

Where is the home of the Palestinians? Today, the Palestinians do not live in their homes. In their homes live their enemies. Who are the enemies of the Palestinian? Those who have occupied their homes.

How are the Palestinians going to retake their homes?

The Palestinians will fight an armed struggle to take back their homes. Someday the Palestinians will return to live in their own homes.”

For more on Zakaria Tamer and his works – visit Goodreads, and see Tamer’s facebook page The Spur (Al-Mihmaz).

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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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