To Aylan Kurdi & Syria’s Children, I Am Sorry

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The most heartwarming story of recent days was when Abdul-Halim Attar had his entire future changed because of one picture. He was carrying his sleeping daughter on his back across the streets of Beirut as he tried to provide to her by selling BIC pens. His picture caught the world’s attention, but it was fleeting and momentary, like everything that catches the world’s attention these days.

Why Abdul-Halim Attar needed to go viral to make ends meet was never the issue. Viral pictures should not be how the Syrian refugee crisis gets handled, but this is how it’s becoming.

Abdul-Halim Attar Syrian Refugee BuyPens -

To Syria’s children, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed in pictures sleeping on your fathers’ shoulders for someone to care. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed dead at a beach for people to feel sorry.

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I’m sorry you were born Arab.

I’m sorry that you were born into a region that doesn’t remotely care about you outside of the necessary formalities, where countries chastise others for not taking you in as their quota of you is still a big round zero.

I’m sorry that you have to die because of the hypocrisy of those Muslims who cry in the name of Islam at useless cartoons but fail to apply their own religion when it’s absolutely needed, when you are dying at the shores of Libya, of Turkey, of Greece.

I’m sorry you were born in a sea of leaders who care more about having their vacation in the South of France cut short because their once-public-turned-private beach wasn’t available anymore, and who care more about their shopping in SoHo, than about you having food once a week, or sleeping one night not to the sounds of bombs, or having a smile on your face that is not because your parents gave you the illusion of safety.

I’m sorry you are born to a leader who’d rather see you dead than to abdicate his inherited throne, and that you were born at times where your lives don’t geopolitically matter and where this very same statement will have people shake their heads in disapproval.

AYlan Kurdi  Syria Refugees Arabs

I’m sorry Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are pre-occupied with always building bigger, brighter, flashier, but never in doing something actually worthwhile.

I’m sorry you are not financially important enough for Arabs to care.

I’m sorry little Aylan that there are Arabs who think your death is warranted because you’re Kurdi.

I’m sorry for Europe.

I’m sorry Europe views you as lesser than animals as it barricades its borders in walls to keep you at bay, in lands torn apart by war, where you await your turn to die, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

I’m sorry Europe is so xenophobic that that it doesn’t see you as innocent beings trying to live, but as social burdens who should be stopped at whatever cost.

I’m sorry Europe is so Islamophobic it sees you as nothing more than a growing infestation of a religious following that they deem foreign to their land, a presence that should be contained.

I’m sorry Europe’s own politicians and their policies that got you to where you are today are the same people making sure you die.

I’m sorry Europe doesn’t see you as people fighting for a life that is worth living.

I’m sorry that your skin just so happens not to be white enough to matter.

I’m sorry for the world.

I’m sorry you are not as important as Cecil the Lion or some whale stranded on a beach somewhere.

I’m sorry that news of Apple’s upcoming iPhone are more important than your death.

I’m sorry that Donald Trump’s racism is more relevant than our drowning.

I’m sorry for my country.

I’m sorry that we can’t do more.

I’m sorry that my country is so messed up that we can’t remotely provide the basics that any person should have. I’m sorry that my country can’t even provide for its own people.

I’m sorry for the racism, for the curfews, for the xenophobia, for the Islamophobia even at the hands of my country’s Muslims.

I’m sorry for my country’s politicians using you as fuel to spark sectarian hate, and then use the pictures of your dying children to spread fear on what could have been hadn’t they been in power.

Aylan Kurdi

I’m sorry that we can’t fully let go of how your political establishment treated us, that we can’t separate person and politics and that we can’t just see you as people trying to live.

I’m sorry that I can only be sorry, that I can only write a few words that verge on sentimentalism, trespass on sensationalism be it in empathy or in utter horror, words that are not actually meant to you but to those who can read them and who can understand them and who can hopefully do something so you don’t end up drowning, face down, in the sands of a beach in Turkey, so you can end up more than just a viral picture.

People are more than internet sensations. Humanitarian crises are worth more than viral pictures.

This is because people need to see themselves in those parents’ shoes and because those children, drowning on beaches and forever lost under water, can be their children too.

 

 

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Thoughts on the Newtown, Connecticut Shooting

Newton Connecticut Shooting Children School

Sandy Hook Elementary

Children are dying everywhere around this world. Be it in Syria where they die daily (NSFL pictures) or in any war zone. Those deaths though, however tragic and cruel, are a byproduct of a civil strife taking place in their country. 20 children of Newtown, CT had no idea that their school-day on Friday would be their last day of life. The parents who dropped off their children at school didn’t know that would be the last time they would see their son or daughter breathing.

This is the third shooting to take place in the United States in 2012. After each of those massacres, the same debate among Americans erupted before it died down when the mania subsided: gun control and mental health.

Some people believe that their guns should be off limits. Their right to bear arms in the face of a possible tyrant government, as protected by the 2nd amendment, is sacred. I wonder though: how many more innocent children need to die until some Americans realize that the current state of their gun legislation is unacceptable?

Those who can fathom the current gun laws in the United States are jumping on the mental health bandwagon: the mental health sector in the United States is horrendous. Stigma regarding mental health issues is so enrooted in American society that few seek help – and when people crack, they do what Adam Lanza did to the children of Newtown.

On the other hand, you have many Americans who want tighter gun regulations, if not banning of civilians getting access to firearms altogether.

But I am not American. I don’t believe I should get a substantial say about internal regulations of a country I’ve never visited. Personally, I believe it should be a combination of both: Everyone being able to buy guns as easily as chewing gum should not be allowed. Why not require a psychiatric evaluation of the person wanting to buy a weapon before they’re able to purchase one? 

Eventually, those who want to commit crimes and massacres will find a way. But at least don’t make it a walk in the park for them.

The question to be asked about Newtown’s shooting, however, is the following: wasn’t this shooting very similar to the Aurora shooting which took place in July? And wasn’t that Aurora shooting very similar to the one that took place at Virginia Tech? The list goes on.

And herein lies the real problem: the media – American and international.

News of a shooting at an American school or movie theatre immediately gets turned into a sensational story as news anchors are instructed to amp up their look of concern while their producers scramble on the phone to bring in advertisers who want to make profit off the ratings that networks will be making by hosting people from around the area of the shooting.

When the media craze subsides and the shooting becomes second degree news, what’s the only thing immortalized out of the entire event? The shooter.

Does anyone remember any of the names of those who died in Aurora? In Virgina Tech? In Newton?

Now ask yourself this: do you know the names of the three men who committed those separate massacres?

When it comes to these shooting massacres, there’s a need for a lockdown. The media should refrain from going on news frenzies about the shooting because minute-to-minute, second-to-second coverage is effectively telling those with biochemically imbalanced, mentally ill people that they can become instantly famous, instantly known, instantly feared by bringing a gun to a school and gunning down enough people to become the country’s “it” news. The idea of playing God, of controlling the fates of the people they’re about to kill, of controlling their own life that they’re about to take, is implanted in these people’s heads. And the idea is so irresistible that it brings them to the tipping point.

I honestly don’t know what’s the one and true reason that the United States has this many shootings taking place but I don’t think there’s one reason to explain it all. The situation is strange to say the least. I only need to look at my country, Lebanon, where guns are more numerous than people and people with mental health issues would total the entirety of the Lebanese population and where security is as fragile as breadcrumbs – and yet we’ve never had such mass shootings.

My thoughts go to the families who lost their children, to the heroic teachers Dawn Hochsprung, Victoria Soto and Mary Sherlash who died to save their students. I would say hopefully this doesn’t get repeated. But we all know better.

The Heroes of Sandy Hook Elementary

Connecticut shooting Heroes

Dawn Hochsprung (up), Victoria Soto (left) and Mary Sherlash (right)

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was the location of a massacre that took the lives of 26 people, 20 of which were children. Amid the tragedy is an untold story of heroism that gives hope despite the darkness from which it sprung.

Victoria Soto, a 27 year old first grade teacher, hid her students in closets and cabinets. When the shooter reached her classroom and asked her where her students were, she lied and told him she took them to the gym. He shot her on the spot and left. Her entire classroom survived.

Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal, and March Sherlach, the school’s psychologist, did not hide like everyone else did when they heard gunshots resonate among their school’s hallways. Instead of ducking under tables and hiding in offices, they ran towards the gunshots. They were both murdered execution-style as they confronted the murderer Adam Lanza.

These three women, who put their lives second in order to protect the children that they’ve come to love, are a true embodiment of heroism.

These three women, who lost their lives yesterday, give hope to millions today that there are people out there who are so selfless they would rather die than see innocent children fall to an act of terror.

In a few days’ time, as the media frenzy surrounding the Connecticut shooting subsides, the media will sadly forget these women’s names. They will forget what they did. They will forget all the students who are still alive because of these women’s sacrifices. They will forget that the students these women saved have families that will remain eternally grateful their children returned to them unharmed.

It’s unjustifiable and heart-breaking for children and people anywhere in the world to be ruthlessly killed like this. It’s even worse when those children’s lives are lost due to the lack of simple policies. How many more children need to die and how many more teachers need to lose their lives so American legislators see that the current gun and mental health policies of their country are unacceptable?

Children Fighters in Lebanon? Yes, Please.

The kevlar vest is strapped. The mask is on. The riffle is on his side. His voice hasn’t even cracked yet.

I never thought I’d see such a thing in Lebanon. I thought that, despite the poverty in some regions, such a thing was impossible to happen. I guess I was optimistic to the point of foolishness.

The boy stands tall, proud of what he’s doing. This is perhaps the most troubling thing about the events taking place in Tripoli.

Brainwashed? Yes.

Brain-fried? Yes.

Brain-dead? Yes.

Does this little boy have a future ahead? Perhaps. But his chances are decreasing with every bullet he fires out of the riffle. And with three people dead in Tripoli so far, I guess those chances are very slim now.

If this is not enough reason to quickly and overwhelmingly contain the extremists in Tripoli, I don’t know what is.