Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Stone Throwers of Baltimore

Children in Baltimore throwing stones (bricks) to defend themselves against the police is universally recognized around the world as a symbol of resistance from the Palestinian struggle. However throwing stones is also seen by the police and media pundits as a form of "thuggery."

Police threw stones back at youth before being pelted with stones in Baltimore from Now This News

It's great see the mainstream media analyzing Baltimore's recent protests through historic context. Pop culture news rarely takes into account history's crucial role in the present and future especially if historical injustices and past crimes such as apartheid ie segregation in the United States facts into play. Baltimore is a run down to borrow an American saying. There are many abandoned buildings spread across the cities in both poor and middle class neighborhoods and a stone throw away from downtown and wealthier neighborhoods. Baltimore sits at the end of what was once the massive industrial region of the United States, now known as the Rust Belt.

A Brief History of the Rust Belt

Detriot is famous across the United States and around the world for being the motor city. Until the 1960s, Detroit was the home of American auto manufacturing. Ford, DuPoint and Chrystler churned out. an abandoned and half lived in city that resembles parts of Chernobyl or the ghost cities of China. Detriot is 8 hours plus away from Baltimore. It is also a border town along the U.S.-Canadian border regarded as one of the least non militaristic and peaceful borders in the world. One only wonders why.

Back to Baltimore. Like Detroit, Baltimore nicknamed "Charm City" used to be a point of reference for culture and trade in Maryland and along the Northeast region. Long before Mercedes Benz revolutionize transportation, most traders and peoples relied on trading ships and ferries to recieve products, goods and move people including slaves who were kidnapped, trafficked or managed to runway to freedom. Since the city's finding until the end of 19th century, Baltimore's harbor was one of many stopping hub for ships and peoples heading to New York, Boston, Detroit and south to DC. By the way, DC is less than an hour away from Baltimore. However the two cities are as different as night and day. It was in Baltimore where the U.S. national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. During the same war, British ships attempted to bombard and outright destroy the city describing it as a "nest full of pirates." Fort McHenry that sits near the city's harbor became a resistance post against the British forces. Eventually Baltimoreans defeated and drove the British out of the city while Washington, DC was burned by the fleeing British. In the 20th Century, the city became the home of the Baltimore Ravens (football) and Oriales (baseball). Both teams are well known around the country for the championships and players.

Benyamin Netanyahu on mowing lawns and the police by Bendib

History matters to everyone but the oppressive system

For over a 100 years and going back to 18th century, the city was segregated along ethnic lines with African Americans and Euro Americans living no different from the apartheid system put in place by the apartheid regime in South Africa. African Americans had always been in Baltimore throughout the city's history. When the 1920s Great Migration led to African Americans moving from the apartheid, Jim Crow Southern United States to the Northern states, the migrants were met with the same heavy handed racism and white supremacist system that they had left behind in the South. Racism might've been more subtle in the North but it was just as cruel and brutal in its treatment of African Americans. Police brutality and citywide curfews existed in Baltimore long before Freddie Gray. In 1968, Baltimore erupted into city wide protest over the assassination of Martin Luther King on April . The protest coincidentally occurred from April 6-14. If the children protesting and a few of the rioting adults yesterday realize remains to be seen. This is why the media keeps referencing the 1968 riots/protests but will not go into detail about it or won't show it on TV at least not on CNN nor heaven forbid on Fox News. The rest of the country followed suite as news spread about the King assassination. Many media pundits and politicians at the time feared the United States was headed toward a second civil war. What came out of the 1968 nationwide protests were the militant groups ie Black Panther and the Black Power movement who had stayed in the background or been ignored by white America. The FBI with its COINTELPRO and tough measures to calm and subdue strong African American organizations would put an end to the rising anger and militancy. Keep in mind the entire world was protesting and resisting military, police and government brutality from Mexico to France to Brazil.

Baltimore, Maryland riots 1968 in color

National Guard arrives again

Anyone who studies the old photos of American protesters in the 1960s or 1950s will noticed that the National Guard were used and deployed a lot by the national government to keep protesters at bay. It didn't matter if it was an anti-war protests about Vietnam or civil/human rights for African Americans. The National Guard often met protesters in the street or in front of the Pentagon among other places. Of course at this time, the United States didn't have the current SWAT team or militarized police guarding Baltimore's streets today. At the same time the militarized police are also breaking the spines, groins and beating the heads of ordinary Americans with and without criminal records. The National Guard have appeared to be from the old photos and currently quite level headed in dealing with the streets. 

Somali writer on migration and Mediterreanaen graveyard

The article below was written by Igiaba Scego and originally published on Somali e-zine Keydmedia. Igiaba Scego, a Somali-Italian writer and journalist from Rome. The daughter of Somalia immigrants to Italy, Scego has been able to balance two identities at home while getting to know her parents' homeland Somalia. She grew up as many immigrant children do hearing about how and why her parents left their homeland for a new country. She laments the freedom of movement and the choice her own parents and other migrants enjoyed in the 1970s  during the Cold War. Politics aside, migrants from across Africa and Middle East especially Turkey and Eastern Europe were welcomed in Western Europe as laborers and guest workers to build Europe's post-World War II economy. European societies then showed solidarity with migrants and emphasized with the mammoth struggle the migrants' home countries faced in the aftermath of decolonization (still in process) and roller coast revolutions. At the time, none of the migrants would've foreseen how different the situation would be for their fellow countrymen back home just a few decades later. Migrants today have to twist their bodies in every direction just to travel from  Global South to the Global North as a Somali or citizen of another war shattered country. Scego recalls her parents' migration in another era to understand the indignados being left to drown in the Mediterranean Sea.  The article below was translated from the original Italian version to English. Enjoy. -Aan 

At Sea, Devo ured by Our Indifference

Roma (KON) - By Dr. Igiaba Scego.
 My father and mother came by plane to Italy. No run-down boat for them, they had the luxury of a regularly scheduled flight.

Last century, back in the seventies, people like my parents who came from the global South still had the possibility of traveling like any other human beings. No rickety boats, no human traffickers, no shipwrecks, no sharks ready to shred you to pieces.
In a day and a half my parents had lost everything they had. In 1969, the Siad Barre regime had taken control of Somalia. Without a second thought, my father and then my mother decided to seek refuge in Italy, in order to save their skins and start a new life there.
My father had been a wealthy man, with a successful political career behind him, but after the coup d’état he didn’t have even a single shilling to his name. They took everything from him. He had become poor.

Today my father would be forced to take a boat from Libya; if you’re not a member of the elite, there’s no other way to get to Europe from Africa. But last century, in the seventies, things were different. I remember my parents and relatives coming and going. I had some cousins that worked on an oil rig in Libya and one of my brothers, Ibrahim, studied in a country that was then called Czechoslovakia. I remember that Ibrahim would sometimes load up with jeans bought in local markets in Italy to sell under the counter in Prague, just to pay for his studies. Then he’d drop back by to see us in Rome. And when the university wasn't in session, he’d return to Somalia, where some of our family were still living, despite the dictatorship.

If I were to sketch out my brother’s travels on a piece of paper, I’d cover it with scribbling. Lines connecting Mogadishu with Prague, passing through Rome, and I’d have to add all sorts of other detours and curves. As it happened, my brother had an Iranian wife and they traveled together. And so Teheran was also within their orbit—along with so many other destinations that today I can’t even remember precisely.

My brother, although Somali, was free to travel. Like any young European man or woman. If I were to sketch the travels of some Marco living in Venice or some Charlotte living in Düsseldorf, I’d have to scribble even more densely than what I did for my brother Ibrahim. For them I’d have to sketch school field trips, or the time their favorite band had a concert in London, or the football matches of Manchester United, and then those Parisian holidays with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and the visits to a big brother who’d left home to work in Norway. And why not go at least once to see New York and the Empire State Building?
For Europeans, traveling is a constellation and the mode of transportation changes as needed: you take the train, planes, the car, or cruise ships, and some even decide to see Holland by bike. The possibilities are infinite. Just as they were for Ibrahim—even with the Iron Curtain—back in 1970. Of course he couldn’t go everywhere. But for him too there was the possibility of traveling under a visa system that didn’t treat a Somali passport like toilet paper.
Today, however, for people who come from the global South, travel is a straight line. A line that forces you to go forward, never back. As in rugby, you have to cross the goal line. There are no visas, and no human corridors, and if in your country there’s a war or a dictatorship, it’s your own damned business. Europe won’t even look you in the face, you’re just a nuisance. And so from Mogadishu, from Kabul, and from Damascus forward is the only possibility, step by step, inexorably, inevitably.
A straight line where—as we know by now—you’ll find the whole lot: smugglers, traffickers, corrupt police, terrorists, rapists. You’re at the mercy of an ominous fate that convicts you for geography, not for something you’ve done.
Travel is a right reserved for the North, for an Occident that is increasingly isolated and deaf. If you’re born on the wrong side of the globe you will be granted nothing. Today I was thinking about the latest slaughter in the Strait of Sicily—in this Mediterranean by now rotting from the surfeit of cadavers it contains—and I asked myself out loud when this nightmare began. Looking up at my friend, the journalist and writer Katia Ippaso, we asked why we hadn’t noticed when it began.
People have been dying like this in the Mediterranean since 1988. From that year on, women and men have been swallowed up by the waters. A year later in Berlin, the wall would fall: we were happy, and we were almost unaware of that other wall, rising up little by little from the waters of our sea.
It wasn't until 2003 that I myself understood what had been happening. I was working in a record store. Thirteen bodies had been found in the Strait of Sicily. Thirteen young Somali men that were escaping from a war that had broken out in 1990 and was eating the country alive. That number suddenly seemed to be a warning. I remember how Rome expressed its solidarity with the Somali community. That, in the piazza of Campidoglio, the mayor at the time, Walter Veltroni, held a secular funeral. On that day, a cloudy October day, a community once divided by clan hatred found itself united around those bodies. The Somalis who had hastened to that piazza were crying and the Roman people cried as well, the pain felt as their own.
Today everything is different.
All around today, there is only indifference.
I could simply leave it at that, but actually I fear something worse has devoured our soul.
I experienced it for myself this past summer in Hargeisa, a city in the north of Somalia.
There a very dignified signora confessed to me, almost ashamed, that her nephew had died while on the tahrib, the journey to Europe.
“The boat gulped him down,” she told me. The signora was inconsolable, continually repeating to me: “When the children leave, they don’t tell you anything. That evening, I’d made dinner for him. He never even ate it.” Ever since that day, I often dream about boats with teeth grabbing children by the ankles, devouring them, like Kronos eating his children. I dream about that boat, those great teeth, long as elephant tusks. I feel impotent. Worse, really: I feel like a murderer because Europe, the continent where I am a citizen, isn't lifting a finger to build a unified policy to confront these maritime tragedies in a systematic manner.
Even the word “tragedy” may well be out of place. By now, after twenty-five years, we should speak of reckless homicide, not tragedy—especially now, after the European Union has blocked the implementation of Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue operations. A calculated measure,  taken by our continent in deciding to control borders in total disregard for human lives.
None of us took to the streets to demand that Mare Nostrum be reinstated. We asked for no structural solution to the problem. We are just as guilty as our governments. It’s not by chance that Enrico Calamai, Italy’s former vice consul in Argentina during the years of dictatorship—a man who saved many from the clutches of the Videla regime—has said this about the migrants dying in the Mediterranean: “They are the new desaparecidos. This reference is neither rhetorical nor polemic. The term is technical and factual, because desaparición is a means of mass extermination, managed in such a way that public opinion doesn't become fully aware of it, or at least is able to say it doesn't know.” 
Once again the must read article can be enjoyed here

Monday, 27 April 2015

Tremors and Tears in Nepal

Nepal sandwiched between China and India has a unique culture and history tied to both countries and local area. 

The Ring of Fire aka Pacific Ocean region shows no signs of stopping. The fault lines that crisscross the coastal regions and four continents along with the dormant volcanoes have caused long standing anxiety to over billions of people who call the Pacific Rim their home. Earthquakes are still difficult to predict despite the advances in predicting climatic change or early warning systems for hurricanes. Earthquakes seem to elude all forms of Earth based and satellite technologies. Mother Nature has been cruel to humanity. When the earthquake struck picturesque capital Kathmandu, including its historical and cultural buildings were reduced to rubble and debris. Residents and visitors woke up to horror. Some 4,000 are confirmed dead while 5,000 people are injured. Many people, men, women and children are still being pulled from the debris. Climbers are being airlifted from the base of Mt. Everest after racing against an avalanche. It will take months if not years to clean up the 7.8 terrormoto destruction. Bringing back normalcy in Kathmandu will take a gigantic effort. The aftershocks are still coming and can be felt in India, China, Tibet and Bangladesh.

A Nepalese village surrounded by the Himalayas with Mt Everest in the background.

Nepal is famous around the world for its culture and beauty. It is the birthplace of Siddhartha aka Lord Buddha or "the" Buddha. It's where Buddhism and Hinduism melt into a unique mixed of Indian, Chinese and Tibetan to form the Nepalese people, Nepali Language and its unique culture. The Himalaya Mountains cradles Nepal and its capital in valleys and ridges. It has given the country its trademark . Kathmandu is one of many high altitude national capitals built and developed along mountain ranges that have served as security and as a threat thanks to Mother Nature. Its in Nepal where the majority of Mt Everest is located. It can also be seen from Tibet.

CCTV footage of earthquake hitting Nepalese restaurant EuroNews

For a 100+ years, many restless climbers have rushed to Nepal to get their opportunity to do a once in a lifetime accomplishment, reach the summit of Mt. Everest. It is the tallest mountain in the world and has long been regarded as the Mecca of hiking and climbing. Sherpas have taken hundreds of people to the base and only a few have reached the summit. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Armenian Genocide is relevant today

The truth by Spennberg from Cartoon Movement

The 100th anniversary of the 20th century's first Holocaust against the Armenians in the shadows of World War I. What is currently happening in Syria and across the Levant, with migrants in the Mediterranean and in Libya,  is not lost on anyone who is observing the events especially the Armenian people who live across the region. What Armenians experienced 100 years ago at the hands of a nationalistic Young Turk government in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire is still being felt today. Ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, purposely bombing and burning up civilians are constitute war crimes. Media and societal dehumanization and demonization of a scapegoated group are important tactics preceding wars. All methods have been used in genocide. The survivors and their descendants of 1915-1922 genocide are still denied justice. With the exception of Talat Pasha, every Ottoman official and soldiers involved in carrying out the killings of men, women and children escaped punishment and prosecution for their crimes. Some 1.5 million Armenians out of population of 2 million were lost. Turkey has used a policy of out of sight, out of mind approach when the Armenian Genocide is even mention let alone taught or memorialized. Armenian Genocide predated the United Nations and League of Nations. It also occurred decades before the legal terms and definitions for international policies against genocide existed. But its legacy and horrors have been kept alive by Armenia and Armenian Diaspora who refuse to let anyone including Turkey (nationalists, government) forget or deny the greatest tragedy of the early 20th century.

There were many witnesses to the horrors. American ambassador Henry Morgenthau was one prominent official who reported back to the United State what was happening to the Armenians. Morgenthau served as US Ambassador to Ottoman Empire. However, Iranian author Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh on his travel from his office in Baghdad to Istanbul wrote on his personal encounter with Armenians who barely survived the long marches of Armenian civilians (who were citizens of the Ottoman Empire) from their hometowns in Eastern Turkey then part of a historical Armenian homeland to their deaths in the Syrian Desert through starvation and exhaustion under military patrol.  

Turkey's Out of Sight, Out of mind policy on the 1915 genocide.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ethiopia: Pain of Lost

Men who were loved: Families of two Ethiopian men murdered by ISIS in Libya. Image is from VOA Voice of America


As migrants from Ethiopia are recuperating after being rescued by the Costiera Guardia in Sicily ie Italy, back home in Ethiopia, the nation is in mourning. Less than a week ago, ISIS Takfiri terrorists killed 30 Ethiopian Christians on the beach in Libya. Mimicking the earlier deaths of Coptic Egyptians, Ethiopian Christians were shown in orange jumpsuits in online videos kneeling in front of masked men and later had their faces pushed into the sandy beach as they said their final prayers. The families in Addis Ababa and elsewhere are in undescribable grief that won't end even after the burials of their love ones. Ethiopia is home to both Christians and Muslims who have lived side by side for centuries. Despite all the chaos and wars in neighboring countries, Ethiopians of both religions have treated each other with respect and understanding. Both religious groups are equally condemning and coming together to aid the nation in aftermath of national tragedy. The Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world and in Africa. Ethiopians played an early role in Christianity's early years. Ethiopia also gets honorable mentions in first years of Islam. Grief has slowly transformed into anger as mourners protest against the national government's nonchalant approach to Ethiopian citizens being caught up in tragedy in Libya and on the high seas.

PS: Ethiopian women and men also make up a small minority of migrant workers in United Arab Emirates. Thousand workers have sent remittances back to family in Ethiopia.

Ancient Ethiopian architecture, religion and culture

Monday, 20 April 2015

Migrants racing towards Italy and Europe

Refugees and internally displaced peoples pour out of Iraq, Libya and Syria now Yemen and long time refugees in these countries find themselves being shuffled around to escape ISIS and continual war. Migrants from across Africa and Middle East are racing (non metaphorically) to Italy and other parts of Europe particularly Greece and France in hopes of finding safety from the geopolitical chaos. Human migration has been going on for centuries. It is well documented. Push and pull factors have made many societies and peoples migrate to new lands not necessarily to conquer the new tierra but to search for new opportunities. The human created chaos, sanctions and brutal wars in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and the Levant will create more frustrated people.  In turn the frustrated will migrate as anyone would do under crushing circumstances. The North American/European policy of fighting terrorism in certain Levant/African countries by proxy rebel groups, militias or puppet allies and arming both sides does have lasting consequences. By international law and the laws of the sea, everyone has the right to free movement and go where they please or need to go. Now that Western countries are only starting to see a clear picture that they do not like since it puts countries such as Italy and Greece in the hot seat. Right wing ministers and political parties, feeding off citizens' anger over austerity measures have declared all migrants and asylum seekers as existential threats to Europe and Western Civilization. The European Union has looked at the 200,000+ migrants who managed to cross the Mediterranean as a local problem tied to Libya or Italy instead of regional problem in need of concrete actions and policies. The only resounding outcry for thousands of migrants' deaths over the past two years has come from the pope while politicians have given a cold shoulder to thousands of lost souls.

RT News Lampedusa boat disaster: 700 migrants feared dead

Agricultural and technological products from around the world are allowed to crisscross borders and maritime routes. Raw materials are hauled out of Africa and Asia for the benefits of the Western countries and the BRICS at the expense of ordinary African and Asian peoples especially in South Asia ie Cambodia. However, when people from the same continents with a wealth of resources attempt to cross the same routes as the goods, the people are stopped by a barrage of legal barriers concerning national sovereignty. If its not legality than its strict immigration policies, the receiving country's indifference to suffering, invisible walls, populist right wing politicians and groups, xenophobia, cries about ghettozation or migrants being a burden on society. The lives of migrants don't seem matter for politicians and media pundits both conservative and liberal who view migration not as a legal basis but as a security issue on the heels of terrorism. Its not just young men who are risking their lives on overcrowded dinghies and extortion from human traffickers, families and unaccompanied children from babies to teenagers are also fleeing to Italy from North Africa. Some 1,000 migrants have drowned attempting to cross from war torn Libya to Italy. Some migrants have gone by land from Somalia to Libya. Other overland trips are France to UK via Turkey to Greece and further overland on foot through the Balkans. Even Spain has been receiving few migrants from Morocco to Canary Islands. Fighting dangerous journeys, many people continue to go by boat not only in the Mediterranean but from Yemen to Djibouti, from Somalia to Yemen until recently and from Turkey. Granted, some migrants are aware of the current economic conditions in Europe from news and stories from former migrants who returned home voluntary or were deported. Throughout the journey there is always the trepidation and anxiety with what awaits across the sea.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino on the cities of the world as told to Kublai Khan by Marco Polo

Saturday, 18 April 2015

South Africa migrants xenophobic violence a break down

Afrisynergy News breaks down the social factors and geopolitics behind the recent xenophobic violence against African immigrants in South Africa. Millions of immigrants from across the continent from West to East Africa and neighboring Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique have been migrating to South Africa for decades. Many non South Africans worked in the former diamond and coal mines during Apartheid era. Renown South African singer Hugh Masakela's song Stimela tells the story of African migrants driven to work in the mines for no pay despite harsh living and working conditions. Some 5 million diverse African immigrants have lived in S.A. for decades, have raised families there and know no other homeland. Many have been welcomed with opened arms. It was a political leader's inflammatory remarks that sparked the rise in violence.

Afrisynergy News: Charity Starts at Home, The South Africans Killing of Black Immigrants

Hugh Masekela Stimela the Coal Train

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Eduardo Galeano: The Story of Everyone

Uruguay and the larger Americas have lost a great author and lifelong activist. Eduado Galeano, the author of the Veinas Abiertas de Latinoamerica passed on to join his colleagues at the age of 74 on Monday April 14, 2015. Galeano was known for his leftist leanings when it came to politics and justice in society. However, when he wrote about the society, culture, heritage and history of the Americas, but also the Global South he wrote universal stories and characters than transcended physical and linguistic borders. His characters and stories centered around the ordinary people and the everyday as in his latest novel Mirrors: the story of almost everyone. His last and final book Children of the Days recalls human history in diverse societies. Also a journalist, Galeano witnessed and wrote of the disastrous Cold War policies, US backed dictators/rebel groups across the Americas and revival of Latin American societies throughout the centuries. He was imprisoned during Uruguay's right wing dictatorship in 1970s and eventually left his birth country. In each of his story, he crisscrossed time and space, culture and combined poetry and critique of the world system. Going beyond the usual journalistic "unbiased" observations, Galeano wrote on the social movements for people's rights, human suffering and joy. Inspired by Uruguayan folk history, Galeano took up writing early in life and continued to write books and for magazines. He understood first hand the need to hear the stories/perspectives of all humanity not just a select few, to reclaim and decolonize world's memory and implement real justice for the marginalized and forgotten peoples.

Maldicion de Malinche por Las Zucaras

The song tells the story of indigenous identity and life during and after Spanish colonialism. It laments the real life betrayal of La Malinche, a Nahua women (the Nahuatl People are one of many indigenous peoples of Mexico) who aided Hernan Cortes and the Spanish in conquering Aztec lands in Mexico. Maldicion de Malinche was originally song by famed Mexican folk singer Amparo Ochoa. However the song applies to many countries in the Americas and spans a universal theme of indigenous rights to land, identity lost and found. Los Zucara as a Uruguayan duo band known for its popular music and folkloric music from 1967-1995. Los Zucara performed during the era of dictatorships and death squads across the Americas often supported directly and indirectly by the United States and its European allies at the expense of indigenous and local peoples in the region fighting for their rights. A fight that Los Zucara and Galeano understood too well.

RT Espanol: En Memoria de Eduardo Galeano

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Heridas de la guerra

RT Espanol: Heridas de la guerra

Recordes, los civiles yemenis incluyen ninos, mujeres y viejos han trampadas por las bombas y dronas Sauditas. Sus casas y veccinos destruyeron hace dos semanas. 

RT English 500 killed in 2 weeks fighting

Monday, 13 April 2015

Leaving Yemen, suffer the people

Caspian Report: Origins of Crisis in Yemen

CR does a fantastic analysis of Yemen's chessboard like politics and players involved in the current war

#KefayaWar: Yemenis have started their own homegrown peace movement to put a final end to the war through the voices of ordinary people across the country. Its a combination in person, physical movement and through social media. 

Panoramic view of Aden, Yemen and its port on the edge of the Gulf of Aden

Before we get to the crisis, remember that Yemen is in a unique and strategic part of the world. Yemen is nearly attached at the hip to Djibouti and Eritera. It is located at the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The long coastline includes the Read Sea, Gulf of Aden and the ports of Aden, Hudaydah and Taiz as well as the Socotra Island closer to Somalia in the Arabian Sea bordering the Indian Ocean. To the West of the country is the Red Sea where the Suez Canal receives many of the world's products and crucial shipping tanks rely on for exports/imports to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. Even with the chaos in Somalia and Yemen, ships still pass up and down the Strait of Bab al Manab to the Suez Canal. The Suez is the lifeblood of Egypt other than the Mediterranean and the Nile. Yemen is considered to be the original homeland of the Arab people. It also home to the Yemeni Jews one of the oldest and unique Arab Jewish communities in the Middle East. South Arabian culture and peoples existed in Yemen prior to Islam and Arabization. For centuries, Yemen has been connected through trade, culture and intermarriage to its East African neighbors Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia. Ethiopian kingdoms and empires had traded and kept in contact with Yemen for hundreds of years. Ethiopia still keeps trade relations and people going back and forth to Yemen. Yemenis have settled in Djibouti for decades and are currently fleeing to Djibouti and Somaliland for safety. Somaliland in Northern Somalia is a defacto independent region with its own self government and has maintained a peaceful existence compared to the rest of Somalia and the capital Mogadishu. Somalis share some cultural ties with Yemenis and have been migrating to Yemen in hopes of better job opportunities. There are Yemenis of Somali and mixed Arab and African descendant living in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi and elsewhere on the Peninsula. Yemenis relationships also extend to Egypt, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Oman has been observing and offering humanitarian aid in the recent Saudi-US led offensive against the Houthi rebels. Oman has been cautious while Somalia, Djibouti and maybe Ethiopia braces for large amounts of Yemeni refugees in the coming weeks.

Yemen's place in the world. At the crossroads of a maritime superhighway.

My Beautiful Country Yemen by Ymnheart: The Yemen we never see on TV

Yemen is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its a mountainous country with diverse landscapes and vistas from green terrace fields, coffee and beaches. The first modern skyscrapers in the world were built at Shibam, a UNESCO heritage site in the 16th century. Sana'a is famous for its fantastically decorative ornate mud brick buildings and houses. The Socotra Archipelago has unique umbrella like trees aka Dragon Blood Trees not seen anywhere else in the world. Aden was the jewel of Yemeni ports for ships docking at it and passing through the Gulf and Bab Al Mandab. Yemenis from the Hadramaut region interacted with and migrated, East African coast, Saudi and Asia particularly Malaysia and Indonesia some 500 years ago. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and Yemen is one of the first place to drink coffee outside of Ethiopia. Both Yemeni and Ethiopian coffee are enjoyed across Bab al Manadab. If it wasn't for the current circumstances, Yemen would be a great place for tourism.

The otherworldly Dragon Blood Trees of Socotra Island. See more pics here.

Americans Stuck in Yemen & BRICS citizens evacuated 

The United States has been slow to evacuate American citizens out of Yemen. Russia, China and India were among the first countries to not only evacuate their citizens but Yemenis with dual nationality and other foreign nationals unable to evacuate. The Chinese navy has been praised for evacuating 900+ people both Chinese and multinational citizens to safety. Russia has airlifted many Russians and other nationals, Westerners and Yemenis included to international acclaim for the quick response. have brought nationals to safety to neighboring countries. India is currently working to airlift 1,900 nationals back to India. Even Pakistan is evacuating its citizens due time. Ironically, Pakistan is also debating whether to join Saudi Arabia in bombing Yemeni rebels. Pakistan has been suffering drone strikes and low intensity warfare in its own backyard aka Warizstan and weekly terrorist attacks in mountainous regions and Karachi.

The United States has been shamed by its own citizens who have criticized the state department and even filed a lawsuit against it and defense departments. For neglect of its own citizens. Yemeni American citizen Jamal al Labani from Oakland, ca was killed during a rebel attack to the horror of his family in Oakland and Yemen. For Americans who have family and friends trapped in Yemen the emergency contact site StuckInYemen has been created by CAIR and Asian American Advancing Justice to aid stuck Americans to get in contact with stateside family and friends to finally be evacuated. A San Francisco man was able to flee Yemen back home to the US. He first traveled by speedboat to Africa than Amsterdam and finally to SFO. Many Yemeni Americans still remain trapped under the bombs.

A tainted reputation

Yemen's reputation has been one of war and conflict. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. It has no natural resources but sits next to one of the wealthiest and resource rich neighbors Saudi and UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. Yemenis have put up with corrupt governments for decades. The same complaints by Egyptians Bahrainis and Saudis can be found in Yemen. Yemenis condemned former President Abdel Salah not only for corruption but centralizing power (political and economic), concentrating wealth and prosperity in Sana'a at the expense of the rest of the country. Until 1990, Yemen was split into two countries the Democratic Republic of Yemen including Sana'a and South Yemen with Aden known for its Socialist politics and leanings. The two Yemens were played against one another in proxy wars and conflicts throughout the Cold War by the United States, Saudi and Soviet Union. Like Vietnam, far seeing Yemeni nationalists wanted to overcome separatism to unite Southern Yemen with the North. The flag of Southern Yemen Republic can be seen in Aden and other Eastern Yemen cities where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have their base. The South Yemen separatists have reemerged alongside the Houthis to fight against Al Qaeda in Yemen and government. The majority of Yemenis are fed up with the low intensity warfare carried out by the Saudi-US backed Yemeni government against Houthi rebels and by extension Al Qaeda in Yemen that left a hundred plus civilians dead over the past decade. Many Yemenis want to live in peace and not continue to be the center of an isolated designated pariah state scorned and ignored by the wider world. Yemeni history and culture says otherwise.

Language of division: Sectarianism cometh

Against the wishes of ordinary Yemenis, Saudi government and its allies are dragging the Sectarian poison and casting it upon Yemen. Saudi is battling Iran's influence in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where Shia minorities live. For decades now, Saudi has pushed a rigid "Sunni only" interpretation of religion that ignores Islam's diverse roots and dimensions of Shias, Sufis and Ismailis. Shias are said to make up 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's population and like many Saudis have been marginalized, face high unemployed, repressed, treated as an existential threat and condemned as terrorists by the government and live in the poorer towns and villages in Eastern Saudi Arabia. The euphoria of the 2011 Revolutions and feelings of marginalization, unemployment and corruption was the breaking point for many Saudis in Eastern Arabia were they make a sizable portion. In its foreign policy, Saudi Arabia has eyeballed Iraqi, Yemeni, Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian Shias as political threats to Sunnis in their respective countries or as a menace to Saudi regional influence in politics, culture or religion. Both Shia and Sunni have participated in government and human rights protests in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to fight against sectarianism and encourage national and religious unity. The fact that Iran inspired an Islamic Revolution and has supported Shia political movements that advocated for national unity or sovereignty, keeps the House of Saud on edge. The sectarian poison has reared its head in Yemen as Saudi and Western media coat the fight between Houthi, Al Qaeda and Presidents Hadi/Saleh and the political bickering between Saudi Arabia and Iran on issue of Yemen as Sunni vs Shia in a brutal proxy war between rebels and government bombers. Inspite, Yemenis are working to keep the country and people from sliding into a Pandora's box. While the United Nations, Pakistan and Iran ahve called for a Yemeni Peace Process.  

Monday, 6 April 2015

ISIS in Libya Gaddafi's prophecy comes to life

Misrata, Libya before 2011 war/Revolution

The takfiris under the banner of ISIS have come out of the woodwork in Libya. It comes as no surprise to people who know or are aware of the armed insurgencies that have been happening in North Africa that takfiris are taken full stage in Libya's relentless choas. Before ISIS sprang to the world's attention, Gadhaffi and Libya were already fighting against Takfiris in the form of the Islamic Salvation Front in Libya and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. Both groups had tried to cause the current choas and. Assassinate Gaddhafi in the mid 1999s. It failed and the group members were suppressed violently and placed under life imprisonment. These heavy handed tactics benefited Libya and adjacent North African countries Tunisia, Niger, Mali. At the height of NATO bombings and Libyan miltia wars in 2011, Gaddhafi prophesied  that if he was removed from power, Al Qaeda and its Takfiri cousins would spring up and come pouring into Libya from other conflict proned countries. Instead of heeding the warning, Western leaders, diplomats, mainstrea media and so called Libyan experts, dismissed Gadhaffi's foretelling revelation maniac rumblings or an exaggerated bluff to distract from his regime's final overthrow and the birth of democracy and liberation of Libyans. It's only now that some French and U.S. commentators realizes the prophecy is reality in Libya.

Libya today is damaged by the continual infighting among the hundreds of armed self serving militia groups that have split the country into two along political and regionsl lines. The small town of Tobruk and the capital Tripoli have their own desperate governments controlled by militiamen who have yet to disarm for the sake of their own families or wider country. Derna in the Cyrenaica region has a long history of resistance to both government rule from Tripoli and foreign intervention. Also Tobruk is known for it's equally heavy religiosity, which is why local Takfiri gtoups in the town and now ISIS had an easy time emerging within the town than moving on towards Benghazi and now Sirt, Gadhaffi's hometown. Tobruk's government regards itself as the legitimate government of the Libyan people and refuse to give up their power to Tripoli. Once regarded as an important rebel, Al Qaeda as well as Islamic warriors in Libya, Abdelhakim Belhaj is now the leader of ISIS in Sirt. The town is Gaddhafi's hometown where 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians were brutally murdered by ISIS terrorists.

No the Takfiris are not welcome 

Libya's equal large neighbor Algeria too battled Fis and other local Algerian Takfiris who built their support off of ordinary Algerians anger at the crumbling services and suppression by Bouteflika and the destruction from the brutal Algerian Civil war which also involved Islamic read Takfiri groups against the government. Both Bouteflika and Gadhafi are secularist and remain so to this day. While Bouteflika has been overlooked by Western countries save France, Gadhafi was continuously derided for his support for terrorist groups and liberation movements across Africa and the Middle East. Despite providing financial support to both secular and mild extreme groups throughout his rule, Gadhafi had no respect or sympathy for Al Qaeda or its Takfiri cousin Islamic front and would've possibly fought against ISIS as well. It's one of the sad ironies that secular governments in North Africa, Iraq, Iran and Syria that have been ostracized and regarded as enemies of the United Stated and the EU, have spent decades fighting Takfiris or the extremists of ISIS and Al Qaeda. Saddam Hussein too was against Al Qaeda while giving lip service to the importance of faith and piety kept his government from embracing the Takfiri and Wahhabi ideology and kept Iraq from sliding into it's own post 2003 invasion sectarian destruction. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday in Jerusalem and the World

Christians celebrate Good Friday in the place of Christianity's birth Jerusalem and wider Palestine/Israel

On This Holiest of Fridays the world reflects on the recent and past troubles affecting our world and looks forward to the future. Millions if not billions of Christians across the world will be celebrating Easter and Good Friday in Jerusalem, Rome, Abuja and Lagos, Nairobi, Jericho, Bethlehem and other places around the globe. Enjoy the rest Friday and Easter Celebrations

Palestinian Christians with an important message for the holiday and the world

En Vivo: El Papa Francis encabeza la celebracion en Viernes Santa en Roma por RT Espanol

Good Friday celebrations at the Esocs Wilderness Church in Lagos, Nigeria