How Peaceful Revolutionaries Turned into Relief Activists in Damascus

My second article for Arab Revolutions blog is now up!

A group of Syrians fleeing violence in their country, walk towards the Turkish border, near Reyhanli. (AP)

“With the start of a new academic year the regime has been emptying the schools from forced migrants. Where will those migrants who lost their homes go after regime shelled their cities and neighborhoods? You constantly feel helpless before these events.

There are families in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, living on 20USD a month, 20USD! Assad speaks of concessions, fine, these are Syrian citizens who are now homeless, isn’t this the state’s responsibility? The Syrian government has resigned all its responsibilities towards its citizens. Instead, the government is waging war against them.”

Ruba*, a relief NGO employee in Syria, explains how the urgency of the growing tragedy of forced migrants has forced many peaceful revolutionaries to work as relief activists:

“The regime is purposely creating a humanitarian crisis and forcing activists to deal with it.”

“We, the middle class, flourished during Assad’s era. We enjoyed new services, and we knew that our economic situation has gotten better, but only at the expense of the working class. The very people who are now leading the revolution are the ones who were neglected by the state. They lost their jobs and homes are scattered in gardens and schools depending on our aid: middle class aid. Our role in this revolution is completely different from theirs, we have privileges and a lot to lose; they don’t. We’re bunch of hypocrites.” Ruba leans her head back against the sofa and stares as water drops from the air-conditioning on her living room floor.

Read rest of the article here. Check the French translation of the article available here  and German translation here.

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SCM: Syrian Blogger Hussein Ghrer Referred to Court

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression’s statement today on friend and fellow blogger Hussein Ghrer:

Syrian blogger and activist Hussein Ghrer was transferred today Thursday, November 17, 2011 from the general security headquarters-branch 285-to the civil court in Damascus. He was brought before the public prosecuters in Damascus then transfered to the Zablatani branch.

However office hours ended before Ghrer’s questioning session began, as a result he was transferred to Central Prison in Adra. Now he is awaiting his trial scheduled on Saturday 19/11/2011.

Many human rights and free speech organizations have called on to free the detained Syrian blogger who was detained 24/10/2011 for unknown reasons.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression stresses the need to guarantee Hussein Ghrer a public and fair trial as stated in Syrian constitution and again urges immediate release of all detainees.

قولوا لرابطة السفر الدولية للمثليين والمثليات أن إسرائيل الفصل العنصري ليست مكاناً للاستجمام

الثامن من أيلول/سبتمبر 2009

صادر عن:

أحرار الجنس مناهضين للفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي، تورنتو

أحرار الجنس من أجل تقويض الإرهاب الإسرائيلي

الشبكة اليهودية الدولية المناهضة للصهيونية

أحرار الجنس الناشطون في حملة المقاطعة، وسحب الاستثمارات، والعقوبات على إسرائيل

تخطط رابطة شركات السفر الدولية للمثليين والمثليات IGLTA  لعقد مؤتمر سياحي في تل أبيب، وذلك في السادس عشر من شهر تشرين الأول/ أكتوبر من العام الجاري، من أجل تعزيز السياحة الترفيهية الخاصة بالمثليين والمثليات والثنائيين والثنائيات والمتحولين والمتحولات جنسياً (م.م.م.م.). من المتوقع أن يتألف جمهور المؤتمر من وكلاء السفر المختصين بالترويج للسياحة المتعلقة بال م.م.م.م. وستقدم منظمة IGLTA من خلال هذا المؤتمر، وبالتعاون مع منظمة إسرائيلية للمثليين Aguda، الدعم المالي والرمزي لدولة تستمر في احتلال وقمع وتجريد ملايين الفلسطينيين من حقوقهم، إضافة إلى قتل وسجن الآلاف منهم.

لذا نتوجه، نحن مجموعات وأحرار جنس ناشطين بنداء إلى كافة الم.م.م.م والأصدقاء حول العالم لمشاركتنا احتجاجنا في مواجهة ترويج IGLTA للسياحة الترفيهية في إسرائيل الفصل العنصري، ونطالبها بإلغاء المؤتمر المزمع عقده في إسرائيل وبوقف أي شكل من أشكال الترويج السياحي لهذا البلد.

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To Lebanese Only: Abolish Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code

The Gay-Straight Alliance in Lebanon is asking all Lebanese inside and in the diaspora to sign a petition that calls for an abolishment of the article 534 of the Lebanese penal code which criminalizes and illegalizes so called “sexual acts against nature”. If you’re Lebanese please help circulating this petition within your circles:

The Lebanese elections are coming up! Will the politicians listen to the real voices of their people? Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code criminalizes “sexual acts against nature” and is used to target homosexuals and promote a general public hatred towards LGBTs in Lebanon. It is high time we strongly demand that the government remove this article and ensure equality for all its population without discrimination.We are asking Lebanese people only (in Lebanon and abroad) to sign this petition so that we reach 10,000 citizens whose voices cannot be ignored in our country any longer. Gay or straight – it doesn’t matter. Our cause is about human dignity and the right to protection. It is time we all stood together and recognized that none of us are free until all of us are free.

Once this petition hits 10,000 people, we will send it to all 128 members of the Lebanese parliament (hopefully right after the elections in June), as well as to the parliamentary human rights committee, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Social Affairs.

Go to the petition to sign it here .

Organize for boycott Israel Global Day of Action on 30 March 2009

In December Israel is going to celebrate its colonial establishment on Palestine.  The Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee calls us all to unite our different capacities in a Global Day of Action in solidarity with the Palestinian people [and for the sake of justice] and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel on 30 March 2009:

The mobilization coincides with the Palestinian Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Galilee in struggle against massive land expropriation, and forms part of the Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March 28 to 4 April.

On 30 March BDS actions will particularly focus on:

* Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.
* Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.
* Cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) includes: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI); General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; and Palestinian Economic Monitor.

I Support Hampshire College SJP

I am going to send an email to the president’s office everyday =)

Via Pulse:

Ever since it announced to widespread applause its decision to divest from the Israeli occupation, Hampshire College administration is being hammered by the Israel lobby’s flak machine led by Zionist fanatic Alan Dershowitz (best known for his academic malpractices) who is threatening the institution with withdrawal of funding, unless, Inside Higher Ed reports, ‘Hampshire resolves any ambiguities and clearly states that it rejects student efforts to divest from the Jewish state. “What they have to do is make it impossible for the students to plausibly be able to declare victory,” said Dershowitz, whose son went to Hampshire.’ But Hampshire students are standing strong (here they are in their own words). They are calling on the institution’s administration to embrace the moment. They recognize that this is ‘bigger than Hampshire‘.(For full coverage check out the indispensalbe MondoWeiss)

Following is a call from  Hampshire students for support. This is a historical moment. Please take the time to apprise the administration of your views.

Dear Supporters,

Over the last 24 hours, there has been a huge response from students, parents, journalists, activists, public figures, political organizations, and individuals such as yourselves from across the country and the world congratulating us for our historic achievement this week.  We are impressed and heartened by your passion in supporting us in this exciting campaign.

There have been many developments since SJP went public with the divestment, so it might be hard to keep track of the flurry of updates that have been published all over the internet. Please visit our website for the most recent statements (http://www.hsjp.org/). Also, Phillip Weiss’s blog (http://www.philipweiss.org/) is a particularly good resource, as they’ve been following the events closely.

Your support so far has been so helpful, especially since we’ve been working non-stop since we broke the news. There’s so much more to be done, so we’ve come up with a few specific ways to demonstrate your solidarity with SJP and the movement.  Here they are:

1) E-mail the administration and the President to voice your concern over their refusal to own up to the divestment decision. Express your disappointment that President Hexter has done nothing to condemn Alan Dershowitz’s threatening phone calls to SJP’s spokespeople (see update on website). Forward your letters of congratulations that you sent to us to them too. Make sure they know that divestment is not just a college—it’s a movement!

A script is attached to the end of this e-mail (or the bottom of this message) as a guide if you would like to use it.

Contact:

Ralph Hexter (President): rhexter@hampshire.edu

President’s Office: +1 413-559-5521

2) Hampshire’s endowment is very small which means that most of the college’s year-to-year operating budget comes from tuition fees.For those who have donated, your contributions are greatly appreciated and important as the school is already in a troubled financial state. What we would like you to do for now is e-mail us every time you make a donation with the amount and your name so we can keep track of the funds and the support network.  If you haven’t donated already, here’s the link:

https://alumni.hampshire.edu/giving/waysToGive/giveOnline.aspx

3) Contribute to our video series, “Voices of Divestment.” We are trying to show the world that this isn’t about a small group of activists, but a wide range of people from all different walks of life. We would like you to make short 30-second to 1-minute clips and send them to us by uploading the video to YouTube and emailing us the link.

Keep them informal, but stay passionate! Improvise. We want to hear why you support divestment in your own words.

Check out existing videos here: http://www.hsjp.org/voices-of-divestment/

Or alternatively: http://voicesofdivestment.wordpress.com/

4) Build momentum! This isn’t just about us; we’ve been getting a lot of e-mails about help and advice for starting similar BDS campaigns at other schools, and this is one of the most important ways you can help. If the BDS movement spreads rapidly, it will become clear to the public and the media that this is not just a local administrative dispute, but that we have finally reached a critical threshold in the United States.

Many groups and individuals have contacted us asking about going on speaking tours and giving trainings for campus divestment movements. We are very excited about the prospects of helping to spread divestment to many campuses and are investigating the logistics of how to make this happen. For now if you are interested in hosting us for a speaking tour in some capacity, please email us at: HampshireSJP@gmail.com with the subject “SPEAKING”.

*****

The following is the script to guide you in e-mailing the president’s office:

Hello, my name is _____. I am calling/e-mailing to express my congratulations to Hampshire College for your historic decision to divest from the Israeli Occupation. This move should be an example to all institutions of higher learning across the world.

However, I am disappointed that the administration has been trying to distance itself from the decision and de-politicize the powerful statement that divestment sends. In your response to the Student’s public campaign, you have repeatedly insisted that the divestment decision had a “variety of reasons” for going through, and that it had no regional or political significance. However, the length & intensity of the campaign that the Students for Justice in Palestine have run makes it clear that it was their efforts that brought this divestment to the table. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your position on divestment and express your support for the students’ efforts in an official statement soon.

Lastly, your failure to condemn the threats Alan Dershowitz has made towards SJP’s spokespeople is deplorable. Dershowitz has called for a boycott on the College and you have still maintained your “neutral” position, hurting the students, the college, and yourself. I urge you to protect your students and their right to speak out on this monumental occasion.

Thank you.

http://www.hsjp.org

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=55085942212

The Only Occupiers I Will Ever Support

This post will be continually updated.

1-Edinburgh University Occupation for Gaza


Statement from the occupying students:

On the morning of Wednesday 11th February Edinburgh University students occupied the George Square Lecture Theatre. We have acted against the university because of its financial and commercial links to the apartheid state of Israel, in addition to its unacceptable silence in response to the Gaza conflict, described by the UN President of the General Assemby, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, as “genocide”. We will sit-in until the heads of the university agree to the following demands…

Broadly, we demand that our university demonstrate what should be its inherent opposition, as an educational institution, to Israel’s illegal and shameful behaviours.

Read their demands here.

2-King’s College Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza:

“The college has agreed to a series of measures to directly address the current crisis in Gaza, including the provision of scholarships for those directly affected by the crisis, and the donation of educational resources to institutions in Palestine”, said Mido Khan on behalf of the student protesters. “In addition, the college has acknowledged the scale of discontent that the award to Peres has generated among the student population, particularly considering the award in the context of what has happened recently in Gaza.” The students agreed to cease their occupation after college management agreed to publish a statement outlining the position of the College on these issues and the humanitarian measures undertaken in the wake of the occupation.

“This signals the reintroduction of student activism as a powerful agent for political change, and shows us that if we make a stand then we can make a difference”, said Hesham Yafai.

3-LSE Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza!

A spokesperson for the group said:

“Nothing we could have said or done would have been enough given the scale of the suffering inflicted on the people of Gaza by the Israeli military but we have achieved a huge victory for Palestinian students and for student activism. That we pressured LSE Director Howard Davies into issuing a public statement is a massive success but given the LSE’s history it shouldn’t have taken an occupation to achieve this. We look forward to meeting the new Palestinian students that our successes on application fees and scholarships will bring to the LSE.

4-Sheffield Hallam Free Gaza Movement

Following the actions of Sheffield Hallam students and workers from around the city who voted to occupy the tenth floor of the Owen building to make practical demands of the university in solidarity with Palestinians and to condemn the actions of the Israeli state, the Sheffield Free Gaza Movement was formed to build initiatives and campaigns and continue to put pressure on the university management to fulfil the demands of the occupation.

5-Oxford Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza!

OXFORD UNIVERSITY STUDENTS OCCUPY BUILDING IN SOLIDARITY WITH GAZA

In the first week of term, over 80 Oxford University students occupied the historic Bodleian building to demand that the university release a statement condemning the attack on Gaza and cancel the lecture series at Balliol College inaugurated by Shimon Peres.

Students organised the sit-in after attending an emergency meeting in Oxford organised to discuss the war on Gaza and the precarious ceasefire. Members of the University entered the Clarendon building and sat down at 1200, British time, on Thursday 22nd January. Their demands were presented to University officials, and by 7pm the same day they acheived victory, putting an end to the occupation after reaching a successful agreement with the university.

6-Queen Mary Occupation

We as students of Queen Mary are occupying lecture room FB 1.13 in the College to protest against the recognised war crimes in Gaza committed by the Israeli Government, and to show our solidarity with the oppressed peoples in the region. We are pursuing this course of action to maintain the momentum of other student protests in Universities across the U.K.
As students of this institution, we unreservedly object on moral grounds to the University’s failure to boycott goods supplied by companies who fund military operations in Gaza.
Furthermore, we have strong reasons to believe the University is financially involved with arms dealers GKN and Cobham. We find this morally unacceptable and ask for complete transparency on the part of the University regarding any investments in the arms trade. It will be our policy to seek to expose this issue and open it up for debate within the College.
We sincerely regret any inconvenience caused to either staff or students at our College; however, we have been motivated to act on the basis of our moral convictions.

Read their demands here.

7-Goldsmiths Occupation for Palestinian Scholarships

Goldsmiths will establish 4 scholarships, covering the cost of taught postgraduate tuition fees, to be awarded to students who come from all and any part of the world which is affected by oppression, persecution, political or military strife such that their human right to education is denied to them.
Goldsmiths will work with its students and other interested parties to establish a charitable trust to raise funds to support the costs of these students’ study – accommodation, travel and living expenses. In the early years of the charity’s operation, if it cannot raise sufficient funds to cover the costs, Goldsmiths will provide funds to enable the students to study at Goldsmiths.
Two of the four scholarships will, for the ten years from 2009-10 until 2018-19, be reserved for students from Palestine. Before the 2019-20 scholarships are advertised, there will be a review, which will include asking the student body (and making its assent a necessary condition) to determine whether and for how long the reservation of 2 scholarships for Palestinian students should continue.
Goldsmiths will work with Al-Quds Open University and Birzeit University, with which we already have strong academic links, in identifying suitable candidates. The selection panel to agree the criteria for the scholarships in the first instance, and to determine who receives the scholarships on an annual basis, shall comprise a student representative chosen by the students, an academic staff representative, and a Pro-Warden.

8-SUSSEX OCCUPATION

Over 80 University of Sussex Students have occupied a major lecture theatre in solidarity with Palestine under siege.

Motivated by the escalating crisis in Gaza, University of Sussex students have issued a set of demands to the University management calling for immediate action. The occupation is a response to recent Israeli military assault on Gaza. We stand in solidarity with the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics, King’s College London, Birmingham and Essex Universities. The occupied space will be used for education and dialogue until the following demands are met…

read them here.

9-SOAS students occupy university building

We, a coalition of SOAS students from many different backgrounds, have resolved to occupy the Brunei Gallery Suite. In line with Student Union motions, our aims are the following..

Read them here.

10-Leeds Uni Occupation

In response to our demands, the University made the following concessions:

On Monday, the Vice Chancellor issued a public statement in which he “expressed his dismay at the conflict and the loss of life in Gaza and Israel.” The University has declared that it is “agreeable in principle to facilitating schemes to provide surplus educational materials to Palestine…and that it will discuss with LUU (Leeds University Union) ways of extending opportunities for Palestinian students to study at Leeds.” The University has also stated that it will review its socially responsible investment policy and that it will accept a list of roughly a dozen companies which concern us most and they will inform us whether they do or do not invest in the aforementioned companies. We will actively pursue all of these concessions to ensure that they are followed through.

11-Occupation Nottingham

We demand:
1 STATEMENT – That the University issue an official statement to the press condemning the recent and continuing atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip, acknowledging particularly the effect on educational institutions, such as the bombing of the Gaza Islamic University.We demand:
The University should officially denounce the attacks on civilians, the systematic obstruction of humanitarian aid and the targeting of academic institutions, hospitals, places of worship and international peace keeping facilities.  The University should encourage other universities to make such statements, as well as informing the UK and Israeli governments.

Read their full demands here.

12-FREE MAN MET: Students in Occupation for Gaza!

MMU Students are currently in occupation of the Geoffrey Manton building. We are occupying the building in solidarity with the people of Gaza and to stand up to imperialism in the Middle East. We have issued the following set of demands to the Vice-Chancellor because we believe in delivering concrete solidarity for the people of Palestine.

Read their demands here.

Boycott Israeli Goods: NESTLE

By Ayesha Niser

I challenge you to help free Palestine! In order to help with the Boycott I’ve chosen one company to focus our energy on. That company is Nestle.

Nestle is heavily invested in Israel and has “received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is the highest tribute ever awarded by the “State of Israel” in recognition of those individuals and organizations, that through their investments and trade relationships, have done the most to STRENGTHEN the Israeli economy”
Nestle is an easy company to boycott because of their wide range of products. And you usually see Nestle’s name on the front of everything.

So you’re thinking how am I not going to have a Kit Kat bar? Well good question, have you ever wondered how the caramel got into a Caramilk bar? Or, You can’t take away Nescafe, what are we going to drink? How about Maxwell house?

See you have choices. You can choose the children of Palestine or help their oppressors live the good life with full bellies, clean water, and electricity. It is your choice, to have power and strength or be weak and powerless.
I’m going to explain why it will take a few months for Nestle’s to respond to our boycott.

– Every month large companies look at how much money they made based on different products and different parts of the world. They compare these numbers to the last month, to the same month last year and what they budgeted. And this is where your efforts come in. When they see that all of a sudden they made less money this month they have to research why. And they actually have to write it down. And what will they have to write why they lost money, it will say BOYCOTT.

– So will they listen to us right away? Yes and no, they are going to try and convince us to come back to buy their products. They will do this by having their chocolate bars at 2 or 3 for a dollar. Who doesn’t love a bargain? We don’t love a bargain, we will not sell the souls of the children of Gaza for a dollar. This is the one time where I encourage you to spend more money. They will also have contests to buy their products. Like if you buy three boxes of Nestle cereal you can win a trip to Disney, Hawaii, etc. We don’t need these trips, we need Palestine to be FREE. Do not give into temptation. Remember for 60 years we have resisted their calls to destroy the Palestinian people. We can and will resist their marketing ploys.

– They will write on their website and have responses to say that they have operations in each country and that your product is not made in Israel. For example the might say Nestle products of the USA are made locally and do you want local people to lose their jobs in this economy. First the products usually are made locally, but the research of Nestle is done in Israel. So, the Israelis are telling you what tastes good. Are you going to let the Israelis tell us what to do? NO!! As for the jobs and the local economy, well if it means that Nestle has to lay off people that means that the money we spent on Kellogg, Cadbury, etc should increase the number of jobs at those companies so people can go work there. When you take your dollars from one company, you are giving it to another. So you are still helping the economy. Basically they are trying to trick you. But we are smarter and better than that.

Now for the challenge. I want all of you to boycott Nestle, all their products and find substitutes. Post this article on your Facebook walls, spread widely in emails, etc. We can help each other. Second everyone is to find three friends and convince them to join the challenge. Do not just forward this message, people ignore them, I know I do sometimes. And ask them to be honest if they are going to join or not. If 2 out of the three will join you need to find a third friend. And you have these friends convince at least 3 friends. Try to find friends around the world to join the boycott. The more people and countries involved the better.

Valentine’s Day and Easter is when companies make the most money from chocolate sales. They depend on this money for the rest of the year. The power is ours. Buy Cadbury Easter eggs, Caramilk bars, etc… Let’s win this challenge.