Archive | August 2013

International Intervention and International Indecision

With the United States leading the way for an offense against Syria, a lot needs to be said. First, the facts:

1. This is will be an international effort, not just an American effort

2. The strikes are intended to be limited

3. The strikes will be happening due to the use of chemical weapons

4. There are over 100,000 dead, 6 million displaced, 1 million child refugees, and over 11 billion dollars in infrastructural damage, and 3 generations of people likely have some form of PTSD.

That said, why now, and what now, are we really intervening for? And if Assad has caused all of this damage, why didn’t anyone get involved earlier? Excellent questions. Unfortunately, I am not writing to provide the answers. I am writing to discuss crime, the crimes of Assad and the crimes of the world.

First, using chemical weapons is a war crime and violates international law. However, killing people is also a crime, and there are over 100,000 dead. So what does that mean? Well, it means that Assad is a war criminal who has committed crimes against humanity due to an uncessary war he started. Not only is Assad a war criminal, he is a war criminal who works with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, and Iran, a country with a crazy wacky government, and not good wacky. Assad is also being propped up by Russia who blocks any UN Security Council measure that would affect Syria in any way.

On the other side of the same token, the US has not attempted all of its options, England backed down, and Obama is still trying to figure out whether or not the offense should take place anyway.

So, where is the crime?

Well, the crime comes from all sides unfortunately. Assad is killing- that’s a crime. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah are helping Assad by providing munitions, troops, and funding, blocking anything that would allow for the violence to stop, and threatening any parties that try to act against them, this would be the United States.

But how is the rest of the world guilty? Well, the rest of the world has let all of this happen for the last two and a half years, and it isn’t because they were not aware of the situation. The White House and others have provided condemnations left and right, but has never chosen to act. So the US and other powers are guilty of 1. Watching everything happen and doing nothing. 2. Having the power to do so, and refusing to act anyway.

But this isn’t the biggest crime. The biggest crime these powers can commit is getting involved in the conflict and not removing Assad from power. The White House has written enough condemnations to know that Assad isn’t the best leader there is. But, if the world responds with punitive attacks and nothing more, they will be essentially giving Assad permission to kill with everything except chemical weapons. Well, 1600 people died from chemical weapons, but 100,000+ have died by other means. 

This means that if the world gets involved and allows Assad to stay in power after these punitive strikes, he will be more empowered to kill however be pleases, and most likely continue to use chemical weapons- but just be sneaky about it.

It is a crime for us to finally respond to Syria, but not do enough to truly give the Syrian people peace. It will also be a shame.

Syria is going to be here no matter what, even if every Syrian in Syria is killed. The land will still be there, the rubble from the conflict will still be there, and the memory will still be there. So now, we should ask ourselves, do you want to look back and know that we have done everything in our power to guaranteee the freedom and safety of a people, or do we want to look back at a country that has become a graveyard?

The question is yours.

We will never truly know the Syrian people if we abandon them with a death sentence. Image

The True Meaning of Massacre

Over 1500 people in Syria were killed within minutes on Wednesday. Minutes.

I think the saddest thing about the chemical massacre in Syria is that we will all, eventually, move on. Probably soon, hopefully not, we will have another massacre on our hands that we will raise awareness for and address. But the lives lost will still be lost.

Think about it, at this very moment, people are being bombed on while we sit in the comfort of our own homes. To some degree, we’ve already moved on as we use Facebook, enjoy morning coffee, and go back to our lives as though nothing happened.

I don’t think the human mind is capable of comprehending tragedy. Think about your life, and all that you’ve lived through and still have yet to see. Multiply that by 1500. All that was lost within minutes on Wednesday. Now multiply that by ~100 times, thats all that has been lost in the past 2.5 years.

Worse, those numbers don’t include the millions who have PTSD, lost their homes, limbs, family members, hope, happiness, childhood, and everything they and their families have worked for all of their lives.

That’s the true meaning of massacre. That’s the true meaning of tragedy. That all that life was lost, all that life will never be the same, all that life never had a fair chance, and the consquences, as large as they are, escape us.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2398691/Syrias-darkest-hour-Hundreds-childrens-bodies-piled-high-nerve-gas-attack-near-Damascus-leaves-1-300-dead.html

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But Nothing Good is Happening?

While Egypt is in turmoil and 35,000 refugees have fled Syria in less than a week, it is really easy to look at it all and feel discouraged. It is even easier to contemplate giving up on both situations entirely. While it looks like nothing good is happening, I would like to let you know that many good things are happening. Not to say that we should stop paying attention to the bad things, but we should give some of our attention to the good things. They do deserve our attention as well. I love lists, so here’s a list:

1. The revolutions we think are dying today, are more alive than ever.

While everything looks pretty grim, all that has gone on recently shows that these revolutions will not die out easily. 100,000+ Syrians have died, and the Syrian people are still at it. The Egyptian people have endured massacres, moved forward, backward, up, and down, and they are still not giving up on freedom. Our revolutions have not only withstood the test of time, they have persevered through the extreme hardship, death, destruction, and so on. Even more beautiful, our revolutionaries still smile. Despite all that they have seen and experienced, they still have enough hope, joy, and strength to smile.

2. The children of the revolution are not lost.

Of all those who do suffer because of the revolutions, children probably take the biggest hit. Children cannot go back to school, have lost their homes, parents, family members, and their childhood. However, these children have not lost their innocence, hope, and strength. The children of our revolution continue on. They still play together, work together, smile together, have fun with each other, and they still have hopes and dreams for the future. Furthermore, according to statistics, 255 babies are born every minute all over the world. A new generation of gems is coming. What we do today, will be who they are tomorrow. Things may look dim now, but we are not working for the now, we are working for the later. A later that belongs to them.

3. Our revolutions are one of the biggest acts of love ever.

Our revolutions challenge the current world order, not to change today, but to change tomorrow. We all knew the revolution was not going to be easy. The 1982 Hama Massacre, 40 years of oppression, and disappearance of relatives who spoke out against the regimes was a strong indication of that. Yet, we embarked on the revolution anyway. We did so beacause we love our countries, our people, our family, and the new generation, so much so, that we sacrifice our comfort and our entire lives to fight for them and provide freedom for them. Take a minute to think about that type of love, that level of love, and what that love and dedication means. Internalize it.

So while we can focus exclusively on those lost, detained, and tortured, to our own detriment, it would behoove us to pay attention to what we are fighting for, who we are fighting for. While the lack of response from the international community, division of people, and bickering among people is outrageous and discouraging, think about all the people you’ve met because of the revolution, all the good you’ve done since the revolution started, how you’ve changed since the revolution started. I don’t know about you, but I do know that I needed saving, and Syria saved me. Not only did Syria save me, Syria propelled me. Syria made me stronger, better, smarter, wiser, and happier.

Maybe Syria did the same for you. That alone, that personal impact that so many people have experienced, is enough reason to keep going.

Staying positive is hard when you’re surrounded by death, destruction, and devastation with no end in sight. But, remember that when you smile and hold hope, despite all that pain, the revolution lives on. Because the revolution we see today takes place in the countries of Syria, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East, but its heart and soul lives within you.

Photo courtesy of http://p4.img.cctvpic.com/program/newshour/20120823/images/1345701349695_1345701349695_r.jpg

Photo courtesy of http://p4.img.cctvpic.com/

I am Activism and So Can You

Let’s talk activism.

Definition: The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring out political or social change.

If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard, “No matter what I do, it will never be enough to change the situation in Syria”, I’d be a billionaire. Yup, billionaire.

I don’t know who keeps asking people to come up with a one shot solution to Syria and carry it out on their own, but I’d really wish they’d stop putting the idea that you’ve only helped if you’ve fixed all of Syria. If everyone had this mentality, then no one would have done, or would ever do, anything. The millions of dollars that have been raised for Syria, awareness campaigns, conferences, think tanks, and policy changes would have never been collected, established, or happened. Syrians would be dying, losing their homes, family members, and their entire lives, and no one would even know.

But even beyond large scale activism, a lot of good work gets done.

On a smaller scale, that sweater you gave away that one time six months ago would have never kept that ten year old girl in a refugee camp warm during the winter. That pair of shoes would never have made it to that boy who loves to run around, his only source of happiness, and protected him from getting blisters, or worse, on his feet. Those ten dollars you don’t really remember donating would not have provided that starving family with a meal for the day.

Ya, your donation didn’t stop the war, prevent people from dying, or rebuild the city of Homs, BUT it helped someone who really needed it. Most importantly, it was done as a team effort. From the people who donated, to the people who transported and distributed the donations, it was all a collective effort. Because no one can do it all alone. But together, we can make a lot of good things happen. We can clothe those who fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, we can feed the hungry, we can heal the wounded. We just can’t do it alone.

Activism isn’t about saving Syria, or any other country. It’s also not coming up with and executing the one solution to fix it all, although that would be incredible. It’s about doing what you can, to effect change, however you can. Most importantly, and most overlooked, is that it’s about changing and positioning yourself in such a way that you can become a global citizen who effects positive change, no matter how small.

You can do activism, but you can also BE activism. Because activism is more than just fulfilling tasks. You become activism when making change becomes your purpose and your disposition becomes determination to make change- big or small. Every activist, humanitarian, and person has a role, it’s just a matter of figuring it out.

So go out and do something, big or small! Take a risk, try something new, and don’t be afraid to propose something that’s a little out there. You can raise millions of dollars, perform free surgeries, make a movie, start a blog, make yourself someone who can help when it’s time to rebuild, or whatever you want. You decide how you want to be an activist, and there is no wrong way to do it. When a people have nothing, they need everything, giving you the opportunity to help with anything. Do whatever you can, however you can, just make it happen.

If you would like to get active and don’t know how, need help with your ideas, or just want to give me some feedback, please feel free to email me at nshakfeh@gmail.com

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Today in Egypt

Recently, the Egyptian army overthrew the democratically elected Egyptian government. Regardless of political affiliation, targeting others because of their political views is a crime. While the Muslim Brotherhood is just as guilty of perpetuating civil unrest and terrorizing civilians as Egyptian forces, violence, from either side, is never justified. Protesters are just as guilty here for the violence, as they also had a hand in perpetuating it.

Here are ten things that have occurred in Egypt Today:

1. Killed 150 peaceful protestors: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/08/14/egypt-mohammed-morsi-sit-in.html

2. Security forces set fire to sleeping children’s tents: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/6906-security-forces-torched-sleeping-childrens-tents-in-rabaa-al-adawiya

3. Egypt declares a month long state of Emergency because security forces storm camps in Cairo- they did not punish the delinquint forces instead: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23700663

4. Egypt declares this law to continue to “allow security forces to detain people without warrants, circumvents traditional criminal courts to keep suspects detained for years, permits interceptions of communication and restricts gatherings such as protests.” : http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/14/what-it-means-that-egypt-is-entering-a-state-of-emergency/

5. Egyptian police throw rocks and use tear gas on protestors: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/13/20005052-egypt-clashes-morsi-supporters-hit-with-rocks-tear-gas?lite

6. A hospital was stormed: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/topic/egypt/makeshift-hospital-rabaa-al-adawiya-being-stormed-according-media-reports

7. Press freedom has been put at risk: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/08/14/press-freedom-at-risk-in-egypt-cpj/

8. Egyptian government appoints eleven new governors, all of whom are from the police and military: http://www.boston.com/news/world/middle-east/2013/08/13/egypt-rival-sides-upset-with-new-governors/5mGqCftKLjEMyjs2J6RwOK/story.html

9. Muslim Brotherhood supporters Attach Churches Around Egypt in Apparent Retaliation for Military Crackdown as 149 People Killed: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/08/14/muslim-brotherhood-supporters-attack-churches-around-egypt-in-apparent-retalliation-for-military-crackdown-as-149-people-killed/

10. Muslim Brother supporters Throw an Armored car off a Bridge and some protesters even carried guns themselves: http://www.nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/egyptian-protesters-throw-an-armored-car-off-a-bridge-and-other-incredible-images-from-cairo-20130814

An album of the all the chaos has been published. You can see it for yourself here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/mosaaberising/sets/72157635071774090/

So while you go about your day, please remember the people of Egypt, and all countries where people are dying for the right to live freely and pray for those who get caught in the violence.

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