Victims, Not Threats: The Massacred In Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Yemen Are Not Terrorists For Hateful Rhetoric

Meet Adel Al-Jaf. He also calls himself Adel Euro, so you might know him by that. He was a rapper, a dancer and a man who tried to do the best that he could with what he had in his country. Last year, Adel said he was lucky enough to narrowly escape an explosion in Baghdad so he could dance again. This time, Adel was not as lucky.

Adel Euro Adel Al-Jaf

He is one of the 200 people in Iraq who, instead of buying Eid gifts these days as Eid el Fitr comes tomorrow, are buying coffins for their loved ones.

In the blink of an eye, an explosives-ridden van detonated itself through a busy shopping mall in Baghdad. Two hundred families, as a result, lay shattered, maimed, beyond repair, beyond the ability to heal.

It’s become way too easy to dismiss the deaths of those two hundred innocent people as just another thing that happens in *those* parts of the world, in a country (like Iraq) where suicide bombs are an every day occurrence.

But it’s not. And even if it is, the normalization of their tragedy makes the brutality of reality even more horrific. These were people, just like a regular American or European – because we all know your worth is higher the whiter your skin is – who could have been going to the Mall to buy their children and loved ones Christmas gifts.

And yet today, the Eiffel tower didn’t light up to remember them as it did yesterday to commemorate France’s victory in a football game. Even Burj el Arab, which remembered the victims of Brussels and Paris, while failing to remember the massacred of Beirut and Istanbul, couldn’t care less about the brutality of what took place less than 2 hours away. I guess keeping up with the westernized value of human lives is more befit of the image Dubai wants to give itself, so who are we to judge?

Today, those two hundred people that were brutally massacred as they went about their daily lives in Iraq are considered terrorists to be by many. The forty that died in Beirut almost 8 months ago are also considered as such. The hundreds of thousands that died and are dying in Syria are nothing but pests who have, thankfully, not encroached on the holiness of Western values, and so are the people of Yemen.

Good riddance, Donald Trump and his supporters would say. They had it coming, the far right across the world would point its finger and blurt out. And to those people, at the wake of my region being burned once again partly because of the repercussions of the actions of their people, I can’t but say: the only terrorist is you.

Sarah Sadaka, an Arab living in the United States, was going to a Best Buy store today. She went into that store speaking on her phone in Arabic, only to be circled by a woman who made it clear that her presence, her skin, her language made her uncomfortable. No one came to Sarah’s defense: she was just another sand nigger, breathing that free American air on the fourth of July. She did not deserve to have her right as a human being not to be violated that way taken away, she is, after all, only Arab.

Sarah, today, is the living embodiment of what it is to be the victim of terrorism in the United States, except this time it’s the brand championed by the likes of Donald Trump and the people with whom his rhetoric resonates.

When Omar Mateen went to a gay night club in Orlando and killed fifty people, mainstream American media only saw his name Omar as enough reason to justify his actions. He was just another Muslim. He was just another Middle Eastern offended by “our” way of life. Except Omar Mateen did not do so in the name of Islam, he did it in the name of his own insecurities, the insecurities of a man who is afraid of his own sexuality and who is so deluded in his own belief that he’d support two politically opposed factions in Hezbollah and ISIS as vindications for his action.

Omar Mateen’s characterization, and the repercussions that follow it, are a direct result of the kind of terrorism that Arabs and Muslims have to endure at the hands of people like Donald Trump, the Far Right across the world, and the minds that listen to them.

My mother tongue has become synonymous in people’s minds with death. If I speak it on a plane, I become an automatic threat, forced to undergo security checks, apprehended by officials because the words I utter from lips only resonate with fear, even if it’s to say: peace be upon you.

Victims, not threats. The more we are silent towards our murder, our decimation, and our characterization as people who do not deserve to live, the more we perpetuate the notion that people who think of Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners and those that live in the area are worth nothing is true. The more we are subdued in not demanding our deaths be remembered, be proclaimed, be cared for, the more our inherent value slips even further, even less than it already is, down an abyss in which the least valuable lives on this planet are Arab lives.

I should not be living in a world where I need to convince a friend of mine not to name his son Abdul Rahman because the name is “too Muslim.” I should not be living in a world where I have to defend myself at my own funeral. I should not be living in a world where the deaths of two hundred Iraqis is considered as just another bleb on the evening news, as they are just a waste of space.

We are people too, and we are worthy of life, one in which two hundred of us do not die at a mall buying new clothes for their children. We are victims, not threats.

 

 

Advertisements

Omar Mohammad: The 17 Year Old Martyr Of Arab Free Thought and Speech

Omar Mohammed

In the vast chaos ravaging through the Middle East, these past few days have been especially detrimental to the already extremely weak freedom of thought and speech. Yesterday, Jordanian officials banned Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila from ever performing in Jordan simply because they were afraid of their progressive message.

A few hundred kilometers away from Amman, a 17 year old named Omar Mohammad was living his last hours before being killed by extremists in his country. His fault? They thought he was an atheist, and as such an apostate. He was, however, a firm believer in God and Islam, but not the Islam those terrorists wanted to propagate, and as such his words on Facebook and his way of life proved to be too much for them to handle.

Today, Omar Mohammad is no more, because he dared to speak up against the horrors that had become customary in the place he called home, Yemen. People like Omar should be memorialized for the courage they exhibit in challenging the status quo where they exist, in doing so with extreme modernity in a sea of backwardness.

Going through his Facebook profile, on which his words will now forever be imprinted, the only thing you can call Omar is a martyr for Arab free speech and thought. He may not have been safe in his last days, as he wrote “a country in which you don’t feel safe is not your home,” but he was brave enough to oppose, brave enough to stand up for himself, for what he believe to be true, for what he thought was wrong in his community and society.

When accused of atheism he replied: “They accuse me of atheism! Oh you people, I see God in the flowers,
And you see Him in the graveyards, that is the difference between me and you.”

On extremists groups he wrote: “How do we await peace from those whose emblem is death?”

On the use of religion to pass ulterior agendas, he said: “You can force your will onto other people. Just call what you want to do the will of God, for that is what men of the cloak do.”

On the current status of the Middle East, he wrote: “We need a moral revolution before everything else, one that brings us back to our humanity, one that wakes us up from our coma. Our situation has become disastrous.”

On the sexual repression culture of the Arab world, Omar said: “Our societies have become purely sexual, and that is because of the repression that our youth live. The simplest example to that is sermons that call for heaven affixed with beautiful women. I challenge a man of the cloak to mention heaven without associating it with women.”

With the murder of Omar, the Arab world has lost a youth that promised a better future, that promised hope that one day this region would amount to something again. May his family find solace in him being remembered by millions of those who didn’t know him, his words propagated forevermore.

World Press Photo of the Year – Samuel Aranda

Samuel Aranda just won the World Press Photo of the Year for a shot he took back in October 2011 while working in Yemen for the New York Times.

This is the photo:

Jurors said the photo captured multiple facets of the “Arab Spring” uprisings across the Middle East last year. It was taken at a field hospital inside a mosque in Sanaa on October 15 and depicts a veiled woman cradling a relative of hers after a demonstration.

Jury chair Aidan Sullivan said:

“The winning photo shows a poignant, compassionate moment, the human consequence of an enormous event, an event that is still going on. We might never know who this woman is, cradling an injured relative, but together they become a living image of the courage of ordinary people that helped create an important chapter in the history of the Middle East.”

Aranda, a Spanish photographer, hopes this picture would help the people of Yemen, a country he thinks is often forgotten.

As for me, I decided to blog about this simply because the picture is that powerful.

The Nakba

Gebran Khalil Gebran wrote in “The Prophet”:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Imagine this quote being applied to something more concrete than a human soul… imagine this quote being applied to your land.

Your land is not your land. It does not belong to you.

There is nothing harder than having no home – only a transient house, or even a tent, where you sleep the night, worrying what the following day brings.

Some people have been worrying about that issue precisely – where to sleep – for more than sixty years. I am not appealing to any political reason, only humanitarian common sense. There’s a people who has had their land swept away from beneath their feet on the premise that this land does not belong to them, whose homes got ripped to shreds because they were built on a land that was not “theirs” and who are in limbo just because they were the victims of wrong place, wrong time circumstances.

The Palestinian people, and I do not mean its political figures (because those are as rubbish as garbage goes), are a collection of human beings whose lives have been torn apart by years of them being in the middle of a conflict they chose not to be part of.

I shall not go into the history of how they lost their land. After all, the history is well known (Balfour promise, etc…). But the sad thing is how this people is portrayed today: a collection of terrorists voting terrorists to fight those who are good, aka, Israelis.

Sure, the Palestinians have had their share of mistakes. They sought out a country where a country was already built and they have constantly failed to get themselves represented in the best possible way. Arafat? Abbas? Seriously?

But there’s more to the conflict than what ABC, CBS and Fox share with their viewers. There are people who are the victims of massacres against them on daily basis, whose children are used as bullet pillows and whose souls are being hammered with missiles. I firmly believe the holocaust has happened. Whether the number of Jews who died is ten million or one million, it doesn’t mean they were not ruthlessly exterminated at one point. But you’d think going through that ordeal would deter you from wanting to inflict it on another people. Not true, obviously.

I do not advocate equaling the holocaust with what’s happening in Palestine today. But I feel the human life has become of so little value in some areas of the world, it’s sickening.

However, the Arab Nakba (which translates as catastrophe) does not stop with Palestine. Arab countries are infested with dictators who kill their people ruthlessly without caring and who limit freedom, in spite of protests demanding for their basic right to speak.

The Arab Spring, which is also the name analysts have called the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, is slowly turned into another Nakba. Why? Sectarian clashes in Egypt against the Coptic population, just for them wanting to remain Christian in their country. Copts face daily discrimination, having to ask state permission to build churches and must indicate their religious affiliation on their ID cards.  Their schools were nationalized by the government in the 1950’s and over the last several decades they have witnessed terrible massacres. This past weekend witnessed two churches being burned and several dead. And yet, people in the Arab world have turned a blind eye on them and their suffering mean while constantly bemoaning about discrimination against Arabs. Not to mention what has happened to Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq, half of whom have fled for their own safety. And no it was not American troops who drove them out.

Add to that rioting in Tunisia that is knowing no end. The Libyan revolution dying a painful and agonizing death amidst an international silence that knows no limit. A Syrian revolution attempt that is the victim of people simply not caring anymore and a Yemeni revolution that’s the victim of them being so geographically distant that they have become also distant from attention.

It doesn’t help as well that the population in the Gulf suddenly got preoccupied with watching Star Academy and counting their oil millions again.

Yes, the Arab Nakba doesn’t stop with Palestine, although they are the bigger victims in it. It’s the story of a whole region of the world that allows itself to be degraded with time by incompetent rulers, indulgent people and hypocrisy without limit. The next time you protest against Israel ask yourself. Do I believe in equality in my own home? Have I treated one of my own citizens differently based on ethnicity or sect? Are people in my own state suffering because they are religiously or ethnically different? Next time you march or protest ask yourself these questions.

And quoting Gebran Khalil Gebran again,

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
[…]
Pity the nation divided into into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.
PS: Thanks to Paul Gadalla for his input in this post.