An Airstrike kills two Palestinians on the border of Gaza-Egypt.

On the morning of February 9th, an explosion killed two Palestinians and left five wounded on a smuggling tunnel between the Egypt-Gaza border. The origin of the airstrike is a question, Palestinian officials said that the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike, but the Israeli army denied any involvement in the incident.

Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra (also known as Ashraf al-Qedra), has pointed out that the aim of the attack was the tunnel that unifies the city of Gaza and Rafah. The tunnel is normally used as a way to pass products between Gaza and Egypt. It has become an important means for transports and exchange of armament and basic resources to survive. The huge tensions in the border have caused that more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are still living since 2014 under a military blockade.

Ashraf al-Qidra said that the two men were “martyred and five other people were wounded as a result of being targeted by the Israeli warplane along the Palestinian-Egyptian borders”. According to Al-Qidra, the Two Palestinian victims have been identified as Hossam Al-Sufi, 24, from the town of Rafah, and Mohammed al-Aqra, 38, resident of Gaza City.

Some witnesses said that they saw an Israeli airplane threw a missile against the entry of the tunnel on the bounder, but the Israeli army denied having carried on these attacks. The facts happened a few hours after the draw of several rockets on Wednesday night from the Sinai city, Egypt, that is between the border of the East side of Israel and Gaza, Palestine.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has expressed their concern that Israel could be starting a high-scale military offensive. Also, the non-governmental organization has prayed to the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” claiming that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

The idea of building the tunnels comes from Hamas, who decided to build this grid of tunnels in order to support the Gaza strip. They built two kinds of tunnels: on the one hand, the one used by the Gaza strip and another one used to infiltrate Israel. The first category allows the terrorists of Gaza to hide their weapons, their commander center and their launching rockets ramps underground. The second one was made in order to kidnap and kill civilians from Israel.

In the past years, Egypt has destroyed more than 2,000 tunnels that provides basic resources to more than 2 million Gaza citizens. Also, Tamer al-Rifai, the Egyptian army spokesman, stated that in the past two months the Egyptian army has destroyed and uncovered six tunnels at the border between Gaza and the North Sinai, Egypt.

Angela Cantero, Alejandra Torres and Marie Camacho. 

Omran Daqneesh, the face of suffering in Aleppo.

Omran Daqneesh, a five year old child, has become the symbol of 100,000 children that are currently suffering constant bombings and the subsequent loss of their homes and hopes for the future.

Pain is the first feeling that we can see through the children’s eyes. They have witnessed how their playgrounds have been reduced to ashes. This is just one of the consequences of the terrible bombings that are taking place in this country. Not only militaries, but also civilians have been affected by these attacks. The insurgents are the ones that are killing thousands of people by bombarding hospitals, homes, schools or even markets.

With regard to El Confidencial, people are leaving underground, save of shrapnel and of the collapse of buildings that have been attacked. They have created an atmosphere where children can feel safer than leaving outside.

More than one million people have seen the pictures of Omran Daqneesh, pictures that talk without words. In Aleppo, you can constantly hear the weeping of the children that is interrupted by the bombs. They have seen how everything has been destroyed: from hospitals to schools. And no one has been able to help them. They are captured in a city that is in ruins and is becoming a cemetery of dreams and hopes. Aleppo has stopped being the city that saw them born.

According to the executive director of Unicef Justin Forsyth “the children in Aleppo are trapped in a truly nightmare.” There are not enough doctors or medicines to attend all of the injured people, people are letting others die in the streets when they

cannot do anything more for them.

 As the Time sais, there are lots of NGOs that were created with the purpose of helping all the families affected by the war, like Save the Children that helps providing kids and their families warm clothes, water, protection and medical care. Another example is Hand in Hand for Syria that was created after the beginning of the war in Syria helping with the emergency appeal. Thirdly, International committee of the Red Cross acts as a neutral and impartial humanitarian intermediary.

To understand the situation that Aleppo is facing we have to go back to 2012. Back then, the regime of Bashar Al Assad took place in Aleppo, Syria´s martyr city. Aleppo has been four years fighting against this regime when it became a battlefield where the insurgents attacked to try to get the governmental forces out and gain power over the North of Syria.

 In relation with the Courrier International, the president of Syria was looking for the legitimacy of the war arguing that all the enemies are terrorists and showing the military operations as liberation of war. However, we can’t talk about liberation when thousands of children have had to escape because of the offensive.

Moreover, how can we talk about liberation when the most important part of the city has become a big open sky cemetery?

So is there a solution to bring hope to the children of Aleppo?

The end of the conflict might seem quite far but we need to prevent the future. Not only humanitarian help is needed but strong agreements between countries to stop the conflict. After all, if kids are born in this hostile environment they will not grow as strong and educated adults and we will have to face a lost generation. However, as agreements between countries are very arduous, NGOs must support the most vulnerable group: kids.

 

Angela Cantero, Marie Camacho and Alejandra Torres.

The Islamic Culture As A Bias Point Of View

MADRID – Arabic translators, whose mother tongue is Spanish, are not plentiful at present. For this reason, I decided to make contact with one for granting me an interview about his work and the current problems related with the Middle East.

Rafael Mayor is a sworn translator, an interpreter and an expert in the Islamic culture. In addition, he translates texts and books about literary criticism and history. He decided to study sworn translation due to the fact that he previously had studied a degree in Law (which he has never finished), so he had knowledge about these affairs. He has been working as sworn translator since 2007 and he works with the Spanish Police at present.

Many years ago, when he started studying translation, he never thought he would become an Arabic translator, but his Arabic professor Milagros Nuin, who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now, made him being interested in this language. He admitted that “learn Arabic is difficult and it takes a long time, but it is amazing”.  However, the main problem he has to face daily is the lack of specialized dictionaries, which would make his labour easier. When I asked him about his colleagues he points out that “anyone who knows Arabic and studies in Spain, is an Arabic translator, thus, it affects the quality of work done”. However, there are few of them who have the appropriate studies in order to be a sworn translator.

Regarding to his facet as islamologist, Rafael emphasised the importance of being an expert of Islam when you are a translator because “there are a lot of aspects of Arabian world that you cannot understand if you do not have knowledge about Islam due to the fact that the Islamic and Arabian world is constantly doing references to the Coran”. In his opinion, the Arabian world is misunderstood without the pertinent knowledge about the past and the present of this ancient culture.

This drove me to ask him about the causes of the radicalization of young men. “There are a lot of reasons”, he answered. Referring us to France, he argued that: “In France, for example, the problem is that these young men feel uprooted because they are not considered by the State as French persons, but as Moroccan persons, even they do not know how to speak Arabic”.

This identity problem added to a broken home is the equation whose result is to join Daesh and fight for a cause that they did not support before, but it makes them feel part of a community. For him, they are “radical young people who find a justification for doing something in a part of Islam”.

Moreover, for him, the “Islamic radicalism is a phenomenon which belongs to the Western world”. He supported his statement by saying that “Middle East is not exporting terrorists, otherwise it is importing them from Europe”.

Nevertheless, he thinks that the last terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have not woken up the dormant racism in Europe. The responsibility of this belongs to “the French government, which adopted wrong solutions”. He alluded to the protocol taken in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo attack, whose purpose was to identify the Islamic radicalism at schools. “The protocol stated that if a child stops listening to music, it was a sign of radicalism and it is not true, it depends on other factors”, he said as an example. “To stop listening to music is a normal behaviour on Muslims, so the protocol categorized all Muslims as terrorists”.

If we talk about looking for a solution, he finds out that the main point is starting in the education field. He determined that “if these jihadist terrorists were taught about what is really Islam, they probably would have not committed those atrocities”. In the Western countries, the problem is the lack of institutions where people can study Islamic religion so “people turn to their families (who often do not have enough information), to mosques (which frequently are managed by not seasoned professionals) and to Internet (which has only information about Wahhabism)”.

Regarding to Spain, he told me that “in 1992, the government signed an agreement that allowed to teach Islam at school, but it has never been introduced.” The agreement that he mentioned is the “Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado con la Comisión Islámica de España” included in the Law 26/1992.

Finally, to conclude, I asked him about a short-term resolution to the conflicts in the Middle East and Rafael answered that “these political conflicts will resolve within time period of five years”. I insisted on the end of the jihadist organization but “Daesh is not the problem, is only a sign”, he stated. “Daesh will be eradicated but the phenomenon will be repeated as far as they deal with the underlying problem”.

Rafael Mayor, interviewed by Macarena Dueñas.

The challenges to a female journalist in the Middle East

Silje R. Kampsæter is a journalist working for the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. She is the newspaper’s correspondent in the Middle East region, and reports from all the different events happening there.

Ms. Kampsæter graduated as a journalist in 2014 and started her carrier working independently, but quite different than most journalist in their early carrier. She moved to the Middle East. She spent eight months living in Bethlehem, then one month in Iraq. After this, she settled in Turkey while covering the elections that happen there. This was also at the time she got offered the correspondent job at Aftenposten.

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Photo: Espen Egil Hansen, Source: Aftenposten

Ms. Kampsæter started working for Aftenposten last summer, located in Istanbul, but her application for a permanent press accreditation was rejected. That implied that a residence permit would also be impossible to receive. She said that it was a surreal situation, even though she had a bad feeling for a long time up until she received the final decision via a phone call.
The situation in Turkey for journalist in general are very bad, and Ms. Kampsæter expressed that her Turkish colleagues are in much worse situation than she ever was. They are being fired, arrested and being attacked personally by the president.

“Even though I was only rejected a press accreditation, the events that have happen after my case shows very clearly which direction Turkey is moving towards.”

Nowadays Ms. Kampsæter is living in Amman, Jordan. The city is a lot quieter and safer than Turkey was. She even admits that she likes Amman better than Istanbul, not only because of the events that happened in Turkey, but also because she’s located in the middle of the Arab world. The infrastructure and flight connections are better here than other places in this region. Ms. Kampsæter is reporting from all over the Middle East, and she consider it as important to experience and live in the culture and the daily life of Arabs.

The thing I was most curious about, was how it is for a female journalist working and reporting from the Middle East. Mainly because I might one day consider working there myself, but also because of the stereotypes and overgeneralization we learn about the gender inequality in this region.
Ms. Kampsæter responded that there are both advantages and disadvantages. She feels that there are more advantages for the female journalists.
Female journalists have a larger selection of sources, because they can be alone in the same room as the women living there. At the same time female journalists can be less threatening to authoritative men that do not like to get challenged on their own position of power.

“My experience is that female journalists in the Middle East in some cases can become kind of gender neutral. We can sit with the dinner table listening to the men gossiping, and then afterwards get the perspective from the women while washing dishes.”

Ms. Kampsæter stressed that there are a lot of challenges as a female as well. Women in general are more vulnerable to harassment than to their male colleagues. As a woman she always has to think about how she’s perceived by male sources, as well as interpreters, drivers and more. She said that she always has to consider when it’s safe to travel and not. Further on she stressed that it was not necessarily because of common threats one often associate with the Middle east, but more because she will not set herself in a situation where she can risk being raped.
“The safety assessment that are made at the daily life level are numerous and constant, although much of it eventually becomes a habit.”

It’s interesting to see how even though there are many daily threats, the advantages are seen as better because that’s something Ms. Kampsæter can imply in her research, cases and articles. And that’s when I asked her about which article she was most satisfied with herself.
According to her, every case is rewarding in different ways. Once she worked on an article about Saudi Arabia that was very exiting because of the amount of research that had to be done, the opportunity to get in touch with a lot of experts on that topic and being able to make an enlightening article.

Ms. Kampsæter admits that fieldwork is the place she thrives in the most, when she’s able to interact with people, hear their stories, perspectives, opinions and analysis.

One case was very special for her earlier this year. She went back to South-East Turkey in Cizre, right after the curfew was lifted. There was a lot of challenges regarding safety for everyone in her team, especially since this was her second time in Turkey since her rejection of the press accreditation. To cover a conflict that’s ongoing and very irritated is very challenging because you want to cover as many perspectives of it as possible, but Ms. Kampsæter expressed that it was a good exercise to be rational and effective.

– Follow Silje R. Kampsæter on Facebook to see more of her daily life and work.

By Julie Nordmo

Europe, you are not doing it properly

In the last few months, people all over the world wonder if Europe is doing enough in order to overwhelm ISIS and its organization. Every week, some Heads of State meet and, in their agenda, there are always ISIS, the Syrian civil war, refugees and other hot topics. Although ISIS is one of the up-to-date issues about which leaders discuss, is European Union really doing its best to crush ISIS? Definitely not.

For the first months of ISIS’ existence, Europe has maintained a passive attitude towards the jihadist organization, just looking from far the place where millions of people were cruelly killed. European leaders reacted when threats started to be addressed against the society around them. In other words, their attitude changed when Paris became one of the main targets of the jihadist organization as in the attacks in January and November 2015.

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France vs ISIS. Cartoon by Latuff. PoliticalCartoons.

“An eye for an eye: you bomb us, we bomb you”. That is what we suppose the French President, François Hollande, thought when he commanded to launch a massive airstrike on ISIS stronghold of Raqqa after the Paris attacks in November. It is about a series of raids throughout months that has killed jihadists, of course, but innocent people too. In our point of view, trying to put an end to violence with more violence is not the solution. People may die but ideals will survive.

One of the most striking aspects of this issue is the fact that the European Union has only focused on the Middle East and not inside its own borders, where there is a real big problem. In fact, European leaders should delve into the causes that have led and still lead hundreds of young people who live in this continent to join the terrorist groups. Europe is doubtlessly ill-equipped to deal with the problem of young people travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State because not enough work has been done to comprehend why they leave. It is vital to understand why young people want to head off to jihad. We know that it is not easy. To be honest, it is something very complex to discover.

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Refugees. Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic and Kleine Zeitrung. PoliticalCartoons.

Instead of that, Europe blames Syrian people with any reason and closes its borders. Europe is afraid, so it does not want to offer refugees a shelter because people think that among refugees there could be terrorists. Nevertheless, up to the present days ISIS followers who have attacked Europe, in particular Paris and Brussels, are European citizens with Muslim origins, and they have lived their entire lives here in Europe. To sum up, why do European countries deny a safer life to people who escape from ISIS? Europe and refugees are at the same side, both are victims of this war of terror.

In conclusion, we think that the current European strategy against terrorism is not enough to face what ISIS represents. Since it has been a new kind of terrorism, it requires extraordinary measures. ISIS is winning the battles, but Europe and Middle East countries will win the war if they start to work together.

The World Humanitarian Aid by the UN isn’t good enough

Turkey is as many other countries directly involved in the refugee crisis, which is at the top of the list of problems the World Humanitarian Summit hopes to resolve this week. Turkey needs the help of the United Nations and European Union to end this crisis. However, these international organizations are not helping with enough humanitarian aid and supplies for the people that are suffering.

The United Nations’ main goals are to maintain international peace and security, also to promote the respect of human rights, in which they’re not doing a really good job currently. In countries neighbouring Syria, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) supports host communities to cope with the influx of refugees by improving infrastructure, and improving local economic and employment opportunities focusing especially on vulnerable groups engaging the local population in its projects.

Speaking in Geneva the UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said that the Syrian government had in fact disregarded ‘countless’ efforts for aid to be allowed in, residents of the town last received aid in November 2012. Although the UN conducted a needs assessment which they came to the conclusion that resources which are in urgent need include medicine, food along with shortages in drinking water due to supplies being destroyed. While the UN’s announcements have been helpful in condemning Assad’s regime actions, it has not taken enough action to help those who need their assistance most.

Lack of aid might be the issue in the besieged areas in Syria, but that’s not the biggest problem. The quality of the humanitarian aid in the world today is not developed to where it should be, and it can be improved to a much higher level than it is. David Millband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, stated in a speech he held a month ago at Georgetown University, that the world humanitarian aid need to be reformed. Further on he expressed, “the scale and complexity of current humanitarian needs are increasingly out of step with the resources, policies and practices available to meet them.”

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Source:  The World Humanitarian Summit

 

The organisation that directs the World Humanitarian Summit is the United Nations. Examples the media covers every single week shows that this organisation is not the most efficient when it comes to humanitarian aid. Actually, one of the biggest and high-profiled international NGOs was absent. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had withdrawn from the event with the statement; “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.”

This week the World Humanitarian summit took place in Istanbul to revise and improve the structure of humanitarian aid. It only lasted two days, and as expected it was not enough time to improve the humanitarian aid in any way. The gathered world leaders did establish a core document with commitments, but it’s non-binding and therefore it becomes another declaration of intent, rather than action.

“It is shameful that rich countries are moaning, complaining, sending refugees back, cutting deals behind their backs… We want to see rich countries step up to the plate, absorb refugees and give them opportunities in their countries,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the aid group Oxfam International, told Al Jazeera after the summit closing.

Humanitarian action not only saves lives, it prepares communities to respond to disasters, protects hard-won development gains, and helps people get back on their feet after a crisis strikes. It is important that there soon will be taken some action rather than several conferences and summits that gather publicity for world leaders and organizations.
The United Nations is to bureaucratic and inefficient to handle the different crisis that are ongoing right now. The institutions should involve other NGOs to get action when it’s needed.

UNESCO evaluates the destruction of Palmyra

UNESCO values the damages, caused by ISIS during the past ten months, to the World Heritage site of Palmyra after its liberation by the Syrian army last March.

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Temple of Bel captured on 31st March 2016 and a photography of 14th March 2014. AFP/Joseph Eid

A team which belongs to UNESCO has been displaced to Palmyra in order to see and value the deterioration that the city has suffered. The city of Palmyra is an oasis in the Syrian Desert north-east of Damascus which contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. Because of these monuments, Palmyra is considered one of the World Heritage sites by UNESCO since 1980.

It goes without saying that Syria has been going through a brutal civil war for five years and that nobody knows when it will be over. According to Al Jazeera, the Syrian civil war is the deadliest conflict the 21st century has witnessed thus far. Thousands of people have lost their lives from the beginning of the war, but not only people are hit by conflicts’ violence. In fact, every time there is a war going on, it also has a strong impact on culture. In this case, the word culture is referred to many historic buildings and artifacts. The city of Palmyra is not an exception and its historic monuments have also suffered war consequences, which are added to the damages caused by terrorists.

Traditionally, the target of terrorists was focused on innocent humans. However, terrorists have found this new way to attack society. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) uses buildings’ destruction as part of a propaganda campaign in order to draw world’s attention by destroying cultural treasures. The city of Palmyra has been under Islamic State’s control for ten months and temples, shrines and monuments had been destroyed during that period.

After being released by Syrian army with the support of the Russian air last 27th March, UNESCO inspected both Palmyra’s museum and archaeological site, taking stock of “considerable damage to the museum”, UNESCO said in a press release 27th April.

“Palmyra is a pillar of Syrian identity, and a source of dignity for all Syrians”, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “UNESCO is determined to ensure the safeguarding of this and other sites with all partners as part of broader humanitarian and peacebuilding operations”, she added.

For this reason, UNESCO has announced that will adopt emergency safeguarding measures which include to document, evacuate, safeguard and restore whatever is possible, hence, the first works with statues have already begun.

From 2nd to 4th June, Berlin will host an international meeting of experts on the preservation of Syria’s heritage sites. In addition to this, on July a full official report on the site will be presented in occasion of the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session, in Istanbul.

It seems so unfair that a region full of testimonies of the first human civilizations is experiencing a cruel conflict. The violence of the war has destroyed some of history’s greatest monuments and peaceful people, as we are, have to deal with the cost of these invaluable losses.