— Pope Francis during a visit to ‘Gift of Maria’ food kitchen in Vatican.
— Pope Francis during a visit to ‘Gift of Maria’ food kitchen in Vatican.
Jabhat al-Nusra rebels in Aleppo last December. ©Ahmed Jadallah/REUTERS)
The Syrian civil war is mutating by the week and the room for an answer that to put an end to the bloodshed is getting narrower. After de nerve gas Sarin issue and the Israeli attack on a convoy crossing Syria’s capital, Damascus, to Lebanon, now come reports that several Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels are defecting to Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of the Islamist group al-Qaeda fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s troops.
The Guardian quotes FSA commanders asserting that brigades are being partially or totally dismantled due to their members joining al-Nusra. The reasons being that the group being “better equipped, financed and motivated”. Ala’a al-Basha, commander of Sayyida Aisha brigade, recalls nearly 3,000 defections in the past few months. In reality, no one can measure the extent of these defections. Especially considering that the media reporting on Syria is under fire for associating the current status quo to the results of al-Nusra’s actions in the territory.
The group seems to be largely outnumbered comparing with the guerrillas fighting al-Assad’s defenders, but the unsettling changes on the Free Syrian Army commandership and the growth of Jabhat al-Nusra pose many challenges for the Western regimes weighing on aiding the rebels.
Contemplating the big picture, the FSA fighters are leaving the command mainly for lack of weapons. As the West remains undaunted and serene about the future of the conflict, people are dying. Hence, every fighter is looking to defend itself and the revolution even if that means joining an Islamist army - dubbed as a terrorist group by the Western regimes – with opposed values.
Many of these defectors, according to the commanders, don’t care about al-Nusra: they just want the revolution to keep going, while resisting the regime. Being FSA’s commanders the information providers, one has always to be cautious. Particularly after the blowout given by the U.S. President right after the news concerning the use of the chemical nerve agent Sarin by Bashar al-Assad’s troops during the two year long uprising. Barack Obama always underlined that the use of chemical weapons represents crossing a “red line”. But nothing happened after the first images and reports on the subject.
Thus, the commanders might as well be looking for reasons to push the West’s support – via weapons supply – to the brigades, through showcasing that West’s inaction is driving the fighters to the Islamic side of war.
As for the Syrian president the news couldn’t be better. Bashar al-Assad is the only one winning with the situation, as he observes what he has been preaching since the first pacific demonstrations: the Syrians aren’t the ones destabilising the country; it’s al-Qaeda.
As time goes by, the U.S., U.K. and France face even harder challenges: arming the rebels at this point might as well mean these will be deviated to the wrong hands; and fighting al-Qaeda in Syria instead of quashing the regime would be seen as turning their backs on people. The situation just got harder to address.
It might just be too late to aid the rebels with weapons, as these are likely to become West’s next most wanted men. The hope of the Syrian people – the biggest losers within the countries uncertainties – relies on political negotiations between the U.S. and Russia. Up until then, red-bloodied lines will continue to be drawn. At this point, they are almost 70,000, and counting.
This kind of marketing initiatives always have an ultimate objective: selling. Apart from that, marketing is also about creativity and finding new ways of communicating.
I’m not a fan of the field, but I have to hand it to Coca-Cola for this great idea. For me, it doesn’t matter the goal of this ad. I look beyond the money and see the possibility of two different cultures gather together, once again, in harmony.
Hope Sharif and Singh think the same.
Scaling Mt. Everest
Twenty-five-year-old Raha Moharrak is the first Saudi Arabian woman, and youngest Arab ever, to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. She accomplished the feat with the first Qatari and Palestinian men to ever reach the peak, and an Iranian man.
Image: Raha Moharrak on being “first”. Mt. Everest aerial view via Wikimedia Commons. Select to embiggen.
CEO of Berlin Stock Exchange Artur Fischer has told #newsnight most jobs will not be available in Greece, Greeks need to leave the country— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight)
This reminds me the day the Portuguese government told the youngsters to “leave the comfort zone and go beyond borders”.
It’s been a crazy week with the long awaited release of Daft Punk’s new album Random Access Memories. Magazines and newspapers went nuts with reviews labelling it the the best album of the year and publishing exclusive interviews with Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (this is an extremely Portuguese name!) and Thomas Bangalter.
I’ve been a huge fan of the French duo since I was a teenager, but I can’t help to be disappointed with this new album. It’s not Daft as I knew and cherish.
That’s why I cannot let pass the opportunity of going deep inside the Memories of all Daft-Punk-junkies around the web and share with them this amazing Medley by the Australian electronic group Pigeon. A true celebration of the good old French electronic legends.
Relive Daft Punk as you knew them. Unparalleled.
Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me. It’s as if they are saying to me, ‘we are not a number — not only cheap labour and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too.’
Taslima Akhter, Bangladeshi photographer and activist, on her daunting photo of a final embrace between a couple within the rubble of the building collapse in Savar, near Dakha, Bangladesh.
This is a definite Pulitzer. Check back on this by the end of the year.
The Reporters Without Borders’ latest campaign features the most threatening country leaders concerning to freedom of speech and information.
As it happens every year, the organisation launches public campaigns by the same time as it releases the World Press Freedom Index.
I do not believe that there was ever a time in my life in which I was thoroughly and truly apolitical.
I learnt the word “martyr” quite early in my life, stories I heard as a child were stories of wars and revolutions and oppression. I was not brainwashed, no, not at all; it was simply that I was born into it: I was born into a struggle.
I was born into a family who had to live with the fear of police banging on their door in the middle of night. Police could come in the middle of a night and kidnap my parents and I would never see them again - this was very much a possibility in my childhood. We knew people who experienced these. Torture was not something I had the luxury to learn in a textbook, later in life; no, it was the thing my parents would whisper to each other about regarding a beloved friend or aspired figure. It was the thing the woman, whom my sister was named after, had to endure for weeks. War was not something I would learn by seeing it in the films; it was the reason why those “foreign” kids - children of the refugees - had come to our country and now were staying at a friend’s house until they could find their own place to live.
I never had the luxury of being apolitical. Never.
I was five years old and the local police station was quite close to our house. I still remember distinctly how my heart would race every time we had to walk in front of it with my mother while going out somewhere; if I was alone, I would definitely avoid it and change my route, out of fear.
Surely it was partially a surreal fear; they would not arrest a five years old because her parents were Islamists but I knew children whose parents were arrested. Just a few years later I would also learn that those parents would sometimes be threatened with the rape of their children by police… to make them “talk”. I had all the reason to be afraid then and yet at the same time no reason, maybe? It was complicated. I was afraid.
I can’t help but still feel afraid. Things have changed, they will not arrest me in the street because my parents had books of Shariati or Qutb in our bookcases - it’s not that decade anymore. I can actually state publicly that my parents were and are indeed Islamist - a simple statement that could get them arrested a little over a decade ago, in Turkey. Things have changed but I still feel afraid; the monsters of my childhood may have left my conscious mind but still roam the unconscious… I feel sweat in my palms and my heart still races every time I walk in front of a police station. Regardless of the country I am in.
As I saw photographs of police brutality from around the globe today - Police acting as they always have, the dogs of the Establishment, of the Elite - I realised that most of my friends and colleagues of middle class in North America could not understand the terrifying feeling I get just looking at these photographs. It was horrifying to them too but rather too surreal. It was a passing moment too; they simply moved on freely the next minute. They don’t necessarily feel scared of walking in front of police stations. Some even feel safe. They are not alone either; surely in lesser numbers but I still have met people like them in Turkey, too: the White Turks. The Kemalist Elite.
And… and I do not feel envy towards these people, but I feel despair.
Why? Because I learnt long, long ago that those who have the luxury of being apolitical, those who have the luxury of naively innocent childhoods, those who have the luxury of not being afraid of the state apparatus and “security forces” are, consciously or unconsciously, the arteries that feed and sustain the status quo.
Their serenity is not by grace, but a result of the distress of others.
My fears of the State and its Police and its Army, my inevitably political childhood, my parents’ worry over the survival of their children, my constant fear of being persecuted for my ideas or beliefs or simply the ideas of my parents… I am, the price tag of their serenity, their prosperity, their authority.
And they do not even know it. They do not even understand it.
Modern education and youth unemployment are important factors at the core of grievances between societies and governments in the last few years. From U.S. to Europe, from North Africa to Chile, from Middle East to Asia, youngsters claim for better, cheaper education and afterwards opportunities to show their knowledge. This is the time in which highly educated people’s numbers will skyrocket and opportunities will scarce. At least, for this decade.
This is also the moment where different mindsets come forward to present their views on how education and society should acknowledge each other. This came to me this week after confronting the revolutionary message of British rapper Suli Brakes in his single “I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate” and the predefined stance of The Economist in its latest issue dedicated to youth unemployment.
Putting the record straight, Suli Brakes’ premises are all in for education. However, they are all out for society’s self-imposed equal education. What he means is that everyone is different from each other, from life experiences, self-knowledge and motivations and even skills. Hence, education policies can not rule how good one is based on his abilities at a particular moment - the exams - and determine his fate from A do D. These are just mere formalities. Things, he supports, can’t just work that way, posing a dangerous threat to a person’s psycho-social development.
School life should be about gaining working habits, practical skills, learn by experience and interaction, putting the hands in the dirt. This would give the opportunity for different people to evolve different skills, depending on their preferences and proficiency.
Suli Brakes statement is certainly arguable. Nonetheless, there’s one thing that cannot be unacknowledged by zealots from both sides of the subject: that there is a narrower space for a self-learned skilled person to jump aboard a company. These demand certified, educated people, like if it proved any sort of special expertise just because they were tested on several (often unnecessary) subjects. The problem is that bureaucracy stalls potential bright people from reaching stardom just because they decided to stop studying. Take for example arts: this subject can’t be taught, it is something natural, born with a person.
Creativity and self-learned skills don’t have room in a company. Well, at least for themselves, as diplomas certify that a person have the “right” aptitude to perform a job. This means that people might be driven to a path far away from their dreams. This is exactly what The Economist proposed in its last issue to tackle the escalating numbers of youth unemployment. Says the prestigious British journal that “this means expanding study of science and technology”. Basically, it is calling people to embrace just certain careers if they want to have a job, leaving their potential dreams for some other life.
If education is a social element that is already formatted to be applied with a certain address, obeying to determined rules, imposing a privilege on certain fields - like the suggested science and technologies - is to land hurdles on freedom to choose a career path. The liberty will always exist, but, in the end, one will be stuck far behind on the employment race because he opted for a different profession.
Both visions have their pros and cons, but The Economist’s view on education, society, human skills and life itself went narrow this time. Everyone has a different array of abilities and those cannot be avoided just because it is a matter of money and statistics.