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Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”

21 Jul

Yezidis in Iraq: “This country is our grave”


Translated by Thora Brudal from ÊzîdîPress German

Dohuk – “Up to this point,” says Hewas and shows with his right, outer edge of the hand on his left forearm. “Up to this point, to the bone. It’s enough, we are at the end,” he continues. The 26-year-old Yezidi stands in the refugee camp Esiya near the Kurdish city of Duhok, where approximately 18,000 Yezidis from Shingal have found refuge. He is surrounded by children with worn clothes, worn shoes, some of them barefoot.

Since the genocide by the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) in August last year, which continues with the imprisonment of thousands of women and children, the Yezidi people is in a state of emergency. The terrorist militia hit in the midst of the heart of the Yezidi soul – Shingal, the main settlement area of the minority in northern Iraq. Defenseless civilians were overrun, massacred and kidnapped by the henchmen of the terrorist militia. The 8,000 Peshmergas in Shingal and another 3,000 stationed in the region fled even before the civilian population suspected that a genocide awaited them. When they woke up early in the morning, the Peshmerga had since long run away, and the black flag of the terrorists was approaching from three sides. Hundreds of thousands flee, tens of thousands looking for protection in the mountains, where they are eventually besieged for days and die of hunger and thirst. Everyone here speaks in whispers of treachery – even staunch supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Kurd. PDK) which is blamed for the disaster because they could have prevented it.

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Armenia’s moral duty: Recognizing the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramean Genocides (By Yeghig Tashjian)

23 Mar

Armenia’s moral duty: Recognizing the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramean Genocides

“Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each, the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian Christians of Turkey — will all this go unpunished?” Henry Morgenthau, “The Greatest Horror in History,” Red Cross Magazine, March 1918.

Many scholars believe that more than 350,000 Pontic Greeks and between 300,000-600,000 Assyrians, Syriacs and Chaldeans were exterminated by the Turkish troops and Kurdish militias during 1915-1923. Unfortunately, most historians highlight the Armenian Genocide and the remaining nations’ suffering has been almost forgotten for many reasons. Today their grandchildren are demanding justice, Greeks, Assyrians, Arameans (Syriacs) together with Armenians are lobbying, protesting and cooperating with each other to raise their unheard just voice. On the other hand, while the Greek-Assyrian-Aramean Diaspora is supporting Armenians on international courts and parliaments, the Armenian state still has not recognized the Greek-Pontic and Assyrian-Aramaean Genocides.

Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902-3 Trebizond.

Pontian Greek students and teachers of the Alumni Tuition 1902-3 Trebizond.

Pontus, the Hellenic heritage of the Black Sea is no more. Entire villages and cities in Pontus were burned, lands confiscated, while thousands were forced to flee to neighboring countries. The Genocide of the Pontic Greeks occurred in two phases, the first one during 1916-1918 and the second one from May 1919 to 1923 carried by the Kemalist forces.

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KAFA Protest Against Domestic Violence – Pictures (By Ellen Francis)

10 Mar

KAFA Protest Against Domestic Violence – Pictures


So many times I have been disappointed by Lebanon, but today was certainly not one of them. Today, with thousands of beautiful people flooding the streets of Beirut demanding a domestic violence law, was spectacular. The protest organized by the NGO KAFA began at 2 pm at the National Musuem where there was a short play before the immense turnout took off on an hour-long march towards the Ministry of Justice. Crowds walked in solidarity behind the victims’ families chanting for justice, and took a moment of silence at the final destination to mourn the passing of the victims. Pictures below, and for previous information on the law, click here.

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Lebanese women, fight for your rights ! (By Rania Khayat)

10 Mar

Lebanese women, fight for your rights 

She sat in the corner, her back against the wall, knees together, shaking, until she heard the door slammed shut. Breathing heavily and sobbing like a child, she dragged her seemingly heavy body across the room, in an attempt to reach the nightstand. The carpet will get stained, she kept thinking, how will I get the blood stains off before he returns home. Finally there, she reached for the mobile that was still on the nightstand, her wounds burning and stinging. She called her cousin to go pick up the kids from school, begging her with a shaky voice to keep them at her place for a few hours. She hung up before questions could be asked and called her next door neighbor. It took forever to reach the door, but she did and there was her neighbor, like countless times before, yet her eyes looked different this time. They were full of shock and fear. Then she heard her shouting, and a few more familiar faces gathered. Then all went dark.

This could very well be your little daughter, in a few years from now, and that’s one of the reasons why KAFA called for a march on the 8th.

KAFA's protest against domestic abuse 8/3/2014

KAFA’s protest against domestic abuse 8/3/2014(bs why KAFA called for a march on March the 8th.

Holding pictures of their victimized daughters, sisters and friends, women in black lead the way, with faces washed in tears. Young women taken early seemed to be present, reminding the crowd that this gathering was well worth their time. The streets got colored in red and grey ink on simple protest signs. Each lady, man and child present voiced the same main concerns: protecting women from verbal, physical and sexual abuse. From smiling faces happy to move for a cause, to shouts of oppressed women who lost it all, the streets of Beirut echoed a single thought: Give Lebanese women the right every Lebanese man has always had, that of being a citizen and an individual.

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Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime Nor Against Nature (By Dan Littauer)

6 Mar

Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime nor Against Nature

Lebanese in a demonstration last year demanding greater LGBT rights

Lebanese in a demonstration last year demanding greater LGBT rights

A court in Lebanon has made a historic ruling stating same-sex relations are not “contradicting the laws of nature” and cannot therefore be considered a crime, said a statement only revealed today.

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Lebanese Jews in New York: Longing for Home (By Dalal Mawad)

28 Feb

Lebanese Jews in New York: Longing for Home

A general view shows the Magen Abraham Synagogue, currently undergoing restoration, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 19 October 2010. Located in the former Jewish quarter of Wadi Abu Jamil, the synagogue was abandoned during Lebanon's civil war. (Photo: AFP - Joseph Eid)

A general view shows the Magen Abraham Synagogue, currently undergoing restoration, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 19 October 2010. Located in the former Jewish quarter of Wadi Abu Jamil, the synagogue was abandoned during Lebanon’s civil war. (Photo: AFP – Joseph Eid)

As her brother drove her through the streets of downtown Beirut on a balmy January day, 76-year-old Suzette Sasson felt like a stranger in her own city. Captivated by the new places and unfamiliar faces, she failed to notice they had reached Wadi Abou Jamil, the neighborhood she had longed to return to for years. But when her brother stopped the car and pointed to a four-story building, Sasson was shaken out of her limbo. She stared, drowning in silence.

“Go up mama,” said her 40-year-old son Raymond, sitting behind her. “But what should I say?” she muttered nervously.

When a woman opened the door of the apartment on the third floor, Sasson told her in Arabic: “I grew up here, can I see the house?”

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A New Feminist Wave in Lebanon or the Path to Democratization (By Pamela Chrabieh)

24 Feb

A New Feminist Wave in Lebanon or the Path to Democratization

The study of Feminist/Women’s movements not only contributes to our understanding of women’s experiences of political and social change, but also helps to bridge the gaps between local activism and feminist theory. Feminist claims and organizations in Lebanon and most Western Asian countries are not new, and credit for the growth of new Feminisms must go to its pioneers, the women who first came to see their inferior status in society and to understand that such inferiority was not a divinely ordained fate that they were obliged to accept.

I have recently published a book in Arabic on women’s status, experiences and situations in Ancient Western Asia (‘Womanhood in Western Asia, A Journey to the Past’, Beirut, Dar el Machreq, 2013), proving the long-existence of Patriarchal systems and mentality, but also, gender equality ‘spaces’ within ancient cultures and religions. Still, feminisms as social-political movements arose at the end of the nineteenth century, coinciding with that of the reformist movement. What those pioneering women achieved was not negligible, even if they focused on charitable work – except for Egypt with its Women’s Educational Society founded in 1881, and the Instructive Women’s Union in 1910, raising public awareness of women’s rights as a key objective. A second wave could be identified during the 1940s, a period marked by the resistance of Arab societies under imperialism, with most of the claims focusing on issues such as polygamy and women’s right to education. In Lebanon, the Lebanese Women’s Council came into being in 1943 and the Committee of Lebanese Women’s Rights in 1947.

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Why is female sexuality called a sickness in the Arab world? (By Joumana Haddad)

28 Jan

Why is female sexuality called a sickness in the Arab world?

Lebanese poet and activist Joumana Haddad on cowardice and double standards

There are countless names for the penis and the vagina in the Arabic language. You’d think our only problem is to decide which one to use. Well, think again. Our problem is that we don’t use any of them. So much so that the majority of these words have become obsolete.

Despite this, statistics tell us that Arab countries are the most popular area for sex searches online. So when no one is watching, virtuous Arab men are surfing western porn sites and masturbating their frustrations away. People have been told so frequently that Arabic is a holy language that they have come to think that Allah only speaks Arabic. No surprise there: we are a culture of duplicity. We constantly think about sex but dare not talk about it, under the mischievous spell of religious extremism and obscurantist/repressive political regimes that force us to fight for what should be our simple rights as human beings. 
We live in a Bermuda triangle of sex, religion and politics. Our fake prudishness has reached such levels that you’d think that most Arabs are ethereal and unearthly beings that, somehow, are born and grow up without sexual organs, needs, impulses or fantasies.


We are also a culture of cowardice and double standards. For in our dear old Arab world, notions of virtue and abstinence are considered synonyms when it comes to women, as are those of freedom and depravity. It is the Casanova-vs-the-whore syndrome. Many women are still expected to be virgins until they get married; the notion of honour is tied up with what’s between a woman’s legs, and women’s bodies are considered manly acquisitions. 
A “liberated” adult woman is often seen as a slut, not a person who rightfully decides what to do with her own body, whether that means sleeping with one guy, or five, or none.

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Yuda (Enough)! (By Tachfine Baida)

17 Jan

Yuda (Enough)!

Yuda (Enough)! This is the word that crowds of Amazigh people screamed in the streets of Agadir, on January 12, 2013, during the celebrations of the 2964th Amazigh year.

More than two years after the adoption of a new constitution recognizing Amazigh culture as part of the Moroccan cultural heritage, it would seem that very little efforts have been deployed to effectively rehabilitate Amazigh culture in the country. There are many things that could have been done to improve the situation since that time, but which Moroccan officials failed to implement.  Enough, is therefore the right word to express the exacerbation that an increasing number of Amazigh people is feeling.

Enough, from claiming that Tamazight is an official language when the state apparatus continues to function exclusively in Arabic. It is insufficient to transcribe few signs of public institutions into Tifinagh, the Amazigh alphabet, for a language which is considered official in the country’s supreme law. The recognition of Tamazight as an official language in Morocco’s constitution requires the incorporation of this language into every dimension of the state sector, including in such things as public signs, state documents, official bulletins, ministerial decrees, registry office certificates, ID cards, passports, and coins and banknotes. While this would perhaps take some time to implement, it could have been perfectly possible to take some actions in this respect.  However, even when Morocco’s central bank decided to manufacture new bank notes in July 2013, no consideration was made towards the incorporation of the Tifinagh alphabet into them.

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Tunisia, Feminist Paradise? (By Noah Feldman)

11 Jan

Tunisia, Feminist Paradise?  

A bit tattered, but flying proudly today.

A bit tattered, but flying proudly today.

I wouldn’t believe it if I weren’t sitting here in Tunisia’s parliament building. But I just watched the nation’s constituent assembly adopt, 116-40 with 32 abstentions, an amendment to its draft constitution requiring the government to create parity for women in all legislative assemblies in the country, national as well as local. After the vote, the assembly and audience stood up spontaneously and sang the national anthem. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — including mine.

This historic moment is embedded in another historic moment of still greater scope. For the first time in the history of an Arabic-speaking country, a freely elected assembly is publicly debating and finalizing a constitution without an occupying army, a king or a dictator anywhere. The Arab Spring has either struggled or failed everywhere else, but in Tunisia, a democratic constitutional victory is in view.

The process has been slow and not always steady. A draft text was painstakingly worked out in six committees, then released for comment in June 2013. Then there was a break for political crisis after the assassination of secularist assembly member Muhammad Brahmi. Gradually, politics returned, and a consensus committee — which never stopped meeting through the crisis — has been editing and proposing changes. The provision for gender parity came out of the consensus committee.

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