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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Would You Be My Palestine?

We can buy Almaza and get to your uncle’s place while he’s having his Argileh with his friends outdoors.

We can buy some of the Armenian nuts you like.

We can sit next to each other on the Sofa.

We can get nervous.

We can allow silence to be so loud.

This is it.

We can turn Valentine into a sacred sin.

Would you break the law with me?

We can wait till we finish our first bottle.

We can forget about your tomorrow and mine.

You can let me start right here and now.

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كلنا ليلى في سوريا #KolenaLaila

فكرة “كلنا ليلى”

انطلقتْ فكرة “كلنا ليلى” عام 2006 بمبادرة مدوِّنة مصرية باسم “لستُ أدري” بالإضافة الى العديد من المدوّنين في العالم العربي. و تتلخص فكرتها في دعوة المدونين العرب إلى التعبير عن آرائهم ومشاهداتهم فيما يتعلق بوضع المرأة العربية بكل حرية وصراحة، خاصة في ظل التأثير المتصاعد للإعلام الجديد على مجتمعاتنا متمثلاً في المدونات. وقد رأينا ذلك الأثر في الأعوام الماضية حيث اهتمت صحف ووسائل إعلامية عدة بالمبادرة منها الجزيرة والبي بي سي وصحيفة المصري اليوم والدستور وغيرهم . هدفنا من هذه الحملة المساهمة في إثراء الحوار حول حياتنا الإجتماعية العربية وما يتخللها من نجاحات أو إخفاقات. ونؤكد أن الفكرة ليست للترويج لثقافة أو قيم بعينها، ولكنها دعوة لنقد ومراجعة سلوكياتنا اليومية برغبة حقيقية في التغيير. ندعوك للمشاركة معنا سواء كنت ممن يعتقدون أن مجتمعاتنا محافظة إلى حدٍّ كبير، وتُعطي الأفضلية للرجل وتقلل من شأن المرأة وحريتها، أو كنت ممن يؤمنون أن مجتمعاتنا منفتحة وأنها أعطت المرأة نصيبها من الحقوق بما يكفي.

“كلنا ليلى” اليوم

فى عامنا هذا تهتم “كلنا ليلى” بالكشف عن قصص التحدي والتغيير والمحاولة عاشتها ليلى. نهتم أن نعرف رحلة نجاح المرأة في بلادنا، مازاد عليها وما غاب وما نطمح أن تكون عليه أحلامها ومساحتها من الواقع.. ومحاولتها لمستقبل أفضل.

كيفية المشاركة:

المشاركة متاحة ومفتوحة للجميع نساءً ورجالاً، وللجميع مطلق الحرية في إبداء الرأي بأي من وسائل التعبير المتاحة: مقال، فكرة، صورة، تصميم، قصة ، أو أي شكل آخر. ويمكنك كذلك أن تختار بين النشر في مدونتك الخاصة أو النشر في المدونة الرئيسية للحملة. ليست هناك أية قيود سواء على الموضوعات أو الأفكار المطروحة، أو اللغة المستخدمة (رغم تفضيلنا للغة العربية لتكون اللغة الرسمية للمبادرة)، كما يمكن للمشاركة أن تكون مكتوبة أو مسموعة أو مرئية. كل ذلك مرحبٌ به ما دام صاحبه مؤمناً به ومسئولاً بشكل شخصي عن الدفاع عن آرائه أمام وجهات النظر المضادة ومستعداً كذلك لتغييرها إن اقتنع بأوجه القصور فيه.

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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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Global LGBT movement not inclusive of other rights issues-Rasha Moumneh

Excellent piece written by Rasha Moumneh, a researcher for the MENA region at Human Rights Watch and an LGTB activist in Lebanon. Read the whole article here.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to a gay European activist, a lovely, earnest, well meaning fellow who had this insight about Iran to share with me; he said: “you know, something has changed for the average person in your average Western democracy. We now see that people in Iran wear Chanel sunglasses and high heels and use mobile phones just like us, and that’s led to an amazing transformation. They’re like us, we can relate to them now, we can support them.” Of course he was making a point about how the media has the ability to shatter stereotypes, but that statement in itself is so incredibly loaded. Does that mean that if they didn’t possess the trappings of “modernization” then people from Europe would be less likely to support them? Or that “like us” amounts to having the latest mobile phone? Or that we need to start proving our credentials in order to earn European support?

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Shame on Homophobic Al Quds Al Arabi

Taken from Improvisations: Arab Woman Progressive

Shame on Homophobic Arab Media

Al Quds Al Arabi insists on calling gays being murdered in Iraq “sexual deviants.” It has that in the title and throughout the news report about how they are being hunted down and killed. By refusing to use the neutral word “Methli,” which is what Arab gays like to be called, and by insisting on the expression that denigrates homosexuality and cast it as a disease and a sin, Al Quds al Arabi, under the guise of neutral reporting, are cheering on the killers.

Shame.

"Curing" Lesbians by Raping Them

An article published on the Guardian on Thursday 12 March reveals that one of the leading football female players has been raped and stabbed 25 times for being a Lesbian:

The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa’s best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema… Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call “corrective rape” committed by men behind the guise of trying to “cure” lesbians of their sexual orientation.

It is important to see that precisely because she’s open as a Lesbian and activist that she was subjected to this “corrective” criminal reaction in her society. Like in Lebanon, where gays and Lesbians have their NGOs, bars and night clubs mostly in Beirut and some are openly activists for their rights that we heard of  two gay couple had been subjected to similar criminal reaction only this time by those who were supposed to protect the law.

Societies will never change if things kept in the secret, if things remain within the “political correct” constructed formula. While it is very difficult to be open as a gay person, it is very important to do so in order for societies to process this radical change in its structure even if by doing so you’ll be under serious attack.

In Syria there has been a sexual abuse by Shahabandar police station where police officers were harassing and mocking a transsexual person, male body with female sexual organs. They took off his clothes and touched him sexually and took pictures and videos of him. This harassment has been documented and videoed via cellphone that was distributed all over Damascus via bluetooth. My father who works in the Shahabandar area told me that the shops’ owners neighboring the police station heard a female voice shouting for help from within the station and hence they all went there to stop what they assumed to be a rape taking place. When the shop owners found out that the female voice was actually coming from a male voice with a female sexual organs they all disappeared and left the person alone facing abuse by the police just because he is neither a woman, nor a man, hence not a human being with equal rights that abusing him wouldn’t be exactly as abusing a woman, or man. Wondering if these incidents will ever take place in the Syrian streets, hmm..

There is something about these so called “protectors of law” and LGTB community. It is not a secret that the Tripoli police officers in Lebanon made arresting gays a hobby for them. No wonder why Anarchists hate the police so much ;-)

The Feminist Collective Project Launched!

I am proud of these inspiring Lebanese women who’ve put some great efforts to make this project happen. I’ve met some of the founders of this project in Beirut the past year, they’re good people and I have high hopes for this project.

One thing I dont like about their website, however, is that it’s mostly in English, and English is just not our region’s language and we cannot make a change adopting other people’s languages. After all, language is about communication, even though I think it’s much more than that, but I do not believe that any change could happen addressing the English-speaking people when they’re are, perhaps, more familiar with feminism. Unlike a blog, a project that has goals to achieve in a certain region needs to address the regional people in their very language. God knows that the very reason that I am hated by some Syrian bloggers who write in Arabic for my posts on LGTB were written in Arabic, not in English.

In other words, it’s easier to write in English about a topic that is far from familiar to the Arab world. Not to say that I think the west supports LGTB rights, I mean, in the west, they’re all about “free talking”.

But I am sure they’ll be working on this issue in the near future. Anyways, back to my sisters over here, check their core of values:

– Domestic migrant workers are employees and should have all the rights of employment, starting with respect and equality.

– We have a responsibilty to be smart consumers since what we buy and where we buy from are political as well as personal choices that effect us all.

Here is a list of things they believe that need to be changed:

– We are supposed to be smart and educated, but only to a certain extent.

– We are supposed to go out into the world, but only if we are chaperoned by a male family member.

– Throughout our lives, we have to prove that we are good daughters and then good wives and then mothers.

– We are supposed to want to be wives and mothers.

– We are all supposed to be strictly heterosexual.

– We are expected to look desirable but not act on our desires.

– We are expected to look good but not too good because then we’d be looking for attention, harassment, and even rape.

– Our family is supposed to be our protector, but a huge number of us are abused, physically and/or orally, inside our homes, by members of our families, and there are no laws to protect us from familial violence.

– In a country where more than half of the population are women, we have only 6 women parliament members, and only one minister is a woman.

– We are required to go from our parents’ house straight to our husband’s house.

– We’re not really Lebanese citizens, we’re just the daughters of Lebanese men. Because if we really did possess a Lebanese citizenship, we’d be able to pass our nationality to our husbands and children; but we can’t.

– And even though we are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law, we are far, very far from being equal to men.

Their take on the argument that treats Arab feminist movements as westernized and imported:

Feminism is not an imported idea. Every time a woman stands up and refuses to be abused and exploited, every time she speaks up against her abusers, every time a woman believes in her capabilities and pursues her needs and ambitions, every time she resists being a victim or an object or an inferior being, she is being a feminist. And we don’t need any Western movement to teach us that — we’ve been doing it all along! And even though some of you may not call yourself a feminist, we’re sure you’ve been doing it too.

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And finally, on Women’s international day, they’re going to hit the streets of Beirut,  check their event on Facebook, their posts on their website, in EN and here in AR.