Talk through Photography

Be the Citizen Journalist, report and reveal the truths.

Voting is a Duty

Practice Democracy and Get Involved

Peace In Peace Out

Peace starts within ourseleves

Speak Out Tunisia

Tunisian and Proud of it

Child of Today is Man of Tomorrow

Life is not worth living without the Smile of a child

Monday, September 8, 2014

Youth are the Resource not the Problem #YouthPolicies #Tunisia

In order to address the future of youth policies in North Africa, it has become necessary to look at the system before and after the ongoing revolutions and political change in the region. Among many indicators to assess youth policies, I would like to explore two crucial ones: youth legislation and youth participation. I will take Tunisia as an example and explore its youth policy based on those indicators.

The role of Tunisian youth in the revolution was fundamental because they have been the most affected and marginalized by the previous regime’s inability to live up to their demands. The uprising itself is known as a “youth uprising” and the post-revolutionary state has adopted this language only as a defense of the revolution. However, following Tunisia’s first freely elected parliament in place, many of the problems facing Tunisia’s youth remain - namely jobs and opportunities for Tunisia’s highly educated and most important demographic, as over 51% of the population is under 30. In fact, following the revolution, Tunisia’s overall unemployment rate spiked by 6%, up from 13% to 19%. For highly skilled youth, aged 15-29, the unemployment rate exceeds 44 %.

There is a growing frustration among youth that the current leadership is not listening to their aspirations but viewing them only as numbers at the voting box. Issues such as drafting a constitution and establishing a democracy have taken precedence over social-equality demands. This is why we need to look at the different indicators that play a major role in advancing youth agendas to understand the failure of fulfilling the goals of the revolution led by young people.

In respect to youth legislation, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Women and Families is responsible for the implementation of youth policies. Services to young people are delivered through centralized administrative units and a network of youth centers. Amongst its many responsibilities, the ministry focuses mainly on the sport sector while youth centers focus on the cultural programs for youth. There is an issue of decentralization and a lack of coordination of services across the agencies to effectively address youth issues, leading instead to fragmented coverage, ambiguity and overlap in roles.

Tunisia had the Higher Youth Council, which was a government forum of consultation on youth issues, totally aligned with the ruling political party Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique (RCD), whose regime was toppled in 2011. Now, we do not really have a National Youth Council or national youth organization, besides a few attempts by civil society to organize programs such as the Youth Parliament and Model UN. This decreases our representation in Africa. The association of youth work with political parties, such as the former regime in Tunisia, is a major problem in Africa, which detract institutionalized bodies from youth work activities. Youth workers should recognize the importance of being independent actors, serving youth and not the state. 

In regards to youth participation, especially in politics, young Tunisians have been excluded from its political process. The date, 23 October 2011, marked the first transparent elections, registering only 17% of youth participation (18 to 25-year olds) and electing only 10% of young people out of the 217 deputies. Tunisian youth have been active participants in the campaign period, both as members of political parties, and in drafting the constitution, frequently protesting for the inclusion of youth rights within the new constitution. Nevertheless, the numbers of youth actually entering the system is still marginal. 

To some extend, the Tunisian government offers a range of services as employment, training opportunities, civic participation, and recreational activities. However, there is not enough concrete involvement and political inclusion of young people to get them to leadership positions. The tremendous increase in the number of civil society organizations (CSOs) that are youth-led and youth targeting, alone, will not take youth to decision-making positions if they remain only to be used as volunteers, campaigners and voters.

Politics is still restricted to elite circles and political parties are outmoded. Again, there is no political will to engage youth. Recent registration for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November, shows that young people’s motivation has decreased since the revolution because of deception and exclusion. 

Looking to the future, Tunisian and African bureaucrats in general have to act upon the understanding that:
1. Young people are the resource not the problem: young people are always associated with problems, mainly unemployment. However, youth are an immersive resource for every nation’s development. We will not move forward until our leaders change their problem-oriented approach.

2. Young people should be part of the process not the result: The absolute majority of Tunisians either have never heard or known about the African Youth Charter or, if known, haven’t read it. This is partly because they have not been part of the process of its drafting and consultation.

3. There is tension between the will and the expectations of young people, and the will expressed in policies designed to target their needs. It is more accurate in Tunisia’s case, to speak of plural strategies concerning youth rather than a single youth policy. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Future of MENA -Part I

Day after day, our region (Middle East and North Africa) is portrayed as the most dangerous and desperate in the world because of the ongoing political change and uprisings.

Young people of the MENA -who have led the change- have different view!
They have a realistic view of the current turmoil which comes with optimism, hope and determination that ongoing grassroots movements are being established to move forward.

Check out what young activists from Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon think about the future of their countries!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Migration Dilemma in North Africa

The dramatic political changes and instability in North Africa following the civil war in Libya and the partition of Sudan, in addition to the conflicts in Syria and Mali, have created new waves of movements in the region. The crisis has two main faces; the sub region serves as either a transit or final destination for sizeable mixed migration movements from neighboring countries, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Despite the risk of arrest and detention, Libya continues to see the arrival of many refugees and asylum-seekers. According to UNHCR, over 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees are registered with their Tripoli and Benghazi officers, with Syrians making up the largest group (18,655), followed by Eritreans (4,673), Somalis (2,380) and Iraqis (3,105). In Egypt, there has been an increasing number of asylum-seekers from Syria and Sudan. In addition to Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps of Algeria, Algerian families along the border were hosting Malians who sought safety in Algeria in 2012. Early in the crisis, one effect of the Libyan civil war has been the migrant workers fleeing to Tunisia and Egypt. Morocco is also tripling in the number of asylum-seekers, with most coming from Côte d'Ivoire and Syria.

However, North African countries are experiencing huge gaps in existing mechanisms to grant temporary protection and asylum to persons in genuine need of protection. In Tunisia, for instance, the Palestinians of Syria are facing difficult socio-economic conditions because of a lack of tools to manage the type of migrants “trapped” in a third country. Many asylum-seekers live in precarious conditions, with lack of residence permits and little legal access to employment, having even further displaced by the current unrest in Libya.

Therefore, most of the countries receiving mixed migrants are already dealing with their own internal issues of political instability and terrorism, which doesn’t make them a safer place for the refugees.
The new waves of migration from other parts of Africa and the Middle East are seeking instead the “smuggling points” in Libya and Tunisia to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Spiraling numbers of both economic migrants and refugees are attempting perilous journeys across the Mediterranean, on unseaworthy vessels to Lampedusa, an Italian island used as an entrance to Europe. The high concentrations of overcrowded boat crossings brought the death toll from dangerous sea journeys to 1,500 people in 2011. Bodies from boat accidents are usually found in the waters off Italy, Turkey and Greece. While the conditions in North Africa continue to be desperate, large numbers of desperate migrants will attempt to make this trip. They are forced to resort to irregular ways of reaching a country where they are safe and where economical survival is possible.

The regime change and political circumstances leading to this situation in North Africa are turning into a long-term crisis. The continuing unrest in the region has had a negative impact on protection climate, with terrorist activity in the Sahel and Sinai regions, as well as Libya and Tunisia.  The increased arrests and detention of refugees and asylum-seekers, especially those from sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with Europe’s fear of migration, dampened the broader political and public response to the historic revolutions in the Southern Mediterranean.

While governments of different countries continue to deport migrants, increase surveillance and sign security pacts, there is an urgent need for a humanitarian response as well as legitimate legal avenues for migrants who are fleeing from instability and unemployment in their countries. By concentrating on the expulsion of migrants through the use of security measures, their very rights, freedom and humanitarian assistance have been denied. By reinforcing exclusionist policies, the realities of death tragedies and political and socio-economical turmoil triggered by the uprising in North Africa are being ignored and silenced, indeed.

Europe, in particular, accepts far less refugees than those welcomed by much poorer countries. Some of the European media and politicians portrayed these safety seekers and migrants as a serious threat to Europe, creating panic on immigration. European governments tend to implement harsher border control and militarisation policies, which unexpectedly increases illegal immigration and the number of deaths in the Mediterranean and in detention. This can be best described as “death by policy” caused by displacements and the lack of legal modes of travel. On the one hand, hundreds of millions of Euros have been invested in external border controls, and thousands of people have died as a result of this strategy, on the other hand. However, European Union member states are compelled by international law - the Dublin Convention - to host asylum seekers seeking international protection and to examine and evaluate their applications. While some European countries do not sift economic immigrants from refugees arriving together, other states that respect this process makes the migrants’ lives miserable, under inhumane detention conditions for prolonged periods of time, life on the streets without state support - many being under constant threat of deportation- or death facing extreme hardships.

The fragmented response from Europe is lacking conviction and vision to protect migrants and rethink its policy. There is a need for a political will from Europe and the international community to effectively respond to the migration dilemma in North Africa. Mechanisms related to migration, mobility, detention and asylum should be readdressed by assuming responsibility for developing asylum procedures. This should be done in conformity with international standards and by assessing the migration governance gaps that the current crisis exposed. As we reflect on new solutions for a more just and humane immigration system, we shall ask:

Are migrants and asylum seekers, dying in one of the best-monitored and yet deadliest seas in the world, the problem? Or does the serious problem lie behind in the countries they flee or forward in the countries they seek?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Talk at Stanford University "Changing Stereotypes through Alternative Media"

#Tunisia #USA #Education #Terrorism #Stereotypes #Blogging

My Talk at Stanford University about intercultural dialogue through the lens of my camera! don't be scared of Ben Laden's picture, it's just a small example of many stereotypes that need to be exposed and broken! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Do you Think Arabs are Terrorists?

I filmed this video during my stay in Georgia, USA!
Check out what Americans think about Arabs on questions of religion, terrorism and stereotypes!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Future lies in Africa #PanAfricanism

Africa is usually depicted as moving from the days of an independence era through four decades of neo-colonial exploitation, to recent waves of revolutions against domestic dictatorships and continuing poverty, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

However, we cannot shrink the future of Africa in accepting its reality. We need to acknowledge even the small meaningful changes and growth, in the hope of transforming it. 
In this quest for hope and transformation, North Africa needs to be integrated in the continent’s entire transformation. The rest of Africa should be aware of the transformation North Africa could bring to the continent politically, strategically and economically.

The origins of exchanges, interactions and ties, which we have gradually been losing between North Africa and the rest of the continent, date back to antiquity, including cultural, scientific, diplomatic, military and commercial movements. If we look back to independence movements when the Algerian revolution was embraced as part of the African revolution, there was no division between black Africa and Arab Africa. It was a strong connection as the Algerians were considered African heroes by most Africans and vice versa, the Algerians considered the liberation struggle in the rest of Africa as part of their struggle. , Muammar Gaddafi played a momentous role in supporting the anti-apartheid movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe and behaved generously to the rest of Africa based on his record of the last few years.

Therefore, as a starting point to revive the ties of history, North Africa is hoping to receive solidarity, unity and support from the rest of Africa in its ongoing political and social change.

On the other hand, North Africa has yet to realize that its future lies in Africa. It needs to use the changing economic and social conditions to positively affect its relations with the rest of Africa. Tunisia, unfortunately, continues to reinforce its close ties with Europe, both economically and politically, without balancing these partnerships with its African counterparts. The European Union has, in fact, decided to give Tunisia an overall budget of around €550 million including approximately €250 million in donations and €300 million in the form of macro-financial assistance to support economic and social development efforts in the country, during its democratic transition.

However, Morocco is making the strategic choice of "south-south cooperation," recognizing the enormous potential of some African states to become the highest growth economies in the world. Despite the limits of its economy, Morocco has managed to create and develop a substantial business within by increasing cooperation with its new continental partners.

In fact, North African countries need to assess Africa’s place in their foreign policies. The movement of populations in both directions across the Sahara was significant to the transformation of state, economy and society in the ancient times. Therefore, we need to regain mutual understanding and accommodation between North and South by creating conditions for fostering mutual acceptance and cooperation. The future of Africa lies in the mobilization of its resources, goods and capital within the continent and across the Sahara. This will also help to have a rapid response to our different crises across the continent as we:
  • Re-visit the history of relations between North Africa and the rest of the continent with a foresight vision to integration.
  • Reflect on the central factors, including religion, mobility and commerce that have helped to shape the history of intra-Africa’s relations.
  • Reflect on the sub-regional cooperation and integration promoted in North Africa and their connections.
  • Reflect on the impact of the struggle for national liberation in North Africa as well as the new uprisings on the continent.
  • Explore which skills are critical to implement the priorities after defining our common goals.
The ties between North Africa and the rest of the continent have been crucial to the definition of the role and place of the sub-region in the pan-Africanist vision. Now, attention should be drawn again to North Africa’s place and contribution to Africa’s future because it is not an option anymore, but an economic necessity. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

نداء لدعم فلسطينيي سوريا في تونس نشر في نواة 

فيما يقيم العالم هذا الشهر ذكرى يوم اللاجئ العالمي، تكرم تونس في الأشهر الأخيرة  الفلسطينين وخاصة القادمين من سوريا بحجزهم أو ترحيلهم
آخر هذه الخروقات الجسيمة يتمثل في قصة ثلاثين لاجىء فلسطيني قدموا من سوريا متوجهين إلى
 ليبيا عبر مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف شهر أيار الماضي، إلا أن الاشتباكات الأخيرة في ليبيا عموماً وبنغازي خصوصاً جعلتهم حبيسي مطار قرطاج لخمسة ليال طوال، إذ لا يحق للفلسطيني القادم من سوريا دخول تونس دون تأشيرة !!! ليفرج عنهم بعد ضغط إعلامي كبير من هيئات وأفراد المجتمع المدني التونسي، إذ منحتهم الحكومة التونسية تأشيرة لمدة شهر انتهت في 21 حزيران الجاري، فيما حجزت السفارة الفلسطينية أوراقهم وأودعتهم وزارة السياحة التونسية في مدرسة 
داخلية "مركز كركوان السياحي في الحمامات" منذ شهر

لمعرفة مستجدات هذه القضية على وجه التحديد، هنا روابط بيانات الرابطة الفلسطينية لحقوق الانسان/سوريا، وهي منظمة حقوقية سورية مسجلة في السويد تتابع عن كثب قضية العالقين الثلاثين

إلا أن إعلان دخول اللاجئين الثلاثين إلى تونس ومنحهم التأشيرة التي انتهت منذ أيام لم يؤدي إلى انتهاء معانتهم، بل على العكس، فإن الحالة الضبابية لما سيحمله لهم المستقبل أشد وطأة عليهم من الشهر المنصرم، مطالبهم واضحة في البيان الأخير للرابطة الفلسطينية والمعنون
تونس: بعد حل أزمة مطار قرطاج، الغموض يكتنفمصير ثلاثين فلسطيني من سوريا

إن ما أنوي فعله في معرض هذا النص هو أن أحمل الأطراف المعنية جميعها المسؤوليات الواقعة على عاتقها، إذ أن ما يجري في سوريا اليوم من موت ودمار يومي ينبغي أن يدفعنا لأن نقلل خسائر هؤلاء الذين أصبحوا خارج حدود البلاد

بداية إلى الحكومة العزيزة

في ظل قطعكم للعلاقات الدبلوماسية مع سوريا وطرد سفير بشار الأسد من تونس وسحب الاعتراف بنظامه، اعتقدتم أنكم قمتم بالواجب وأنكم اتهذتم خطوات شجاعة وجريئة في المنطقة ولكن ما الذي تلى هذه الاجراءات وما الهدف الذي صبوتم إليه؟ فإذا كنا نريد دعم الثورة السورية والاعتراف بحق الشعب السوري بتقرير مصيره، فقد كان من الأجد بنا أن نرحب بهذا الشعب الذي أتى لاجىء إلى تونس، خاصة فلسطينيته. أما أنها مجرد تصريحات رمزية من حكومة تونس "مهد الثورات"

إذا كانت حكومتنا تعتقد أن اتخاذ الاجراءات الدبلوماسية آنفة الذكر قد دعمت الشعب السوري وحفظت كرامته، ينبغى أن تعلم ايضاً أن حفظ كرامة السوري والفلسطيني السوري تكون أيضاً بحمايتهم قانونياً على أراضيها، خاصة بحسب ما ينص عليه الدستور الجديد الذي يقر بحق اللجوء في الفصل خمسة وعشرين منه، وذلك وفقاً للمعاهدات والمواثيق الدولية التي صادقت عليها تونس.
ولكن قبل النصوص القانونية يأتي التزام أخلاقي قامت به تونس لدعم الشعب السوري وعلى أساسه تتحمل الحكومة أيضاً مسؤولية حماية اللاجئين القادمين من سوريا إلى أراضيها سواء كانوا سوريين، فلسطينين من سوريا أو من أي بلد آخر

إلى السفارة الفلسطينية في تونس
سعادة السفير الفلسطيني في تونس

أكتب إليكم اليوم وأنا أشعر بحاجة ملحة لأفهم الدور الذي لعبتموه في الآونة الأخيرة للمساهمة في حل ما يتعرض له اللاجئين الفلسطينيين القادمين من سوريا إلى أو عبر تونس
سعادة السفير، لقد تعبنا من الوقفات الاحتجاجية التي لا تغير في مجريات الأحداث المصيرية مما يدفعني لتساؤل عن دور السفارة الفلسطينية اتجاه فلسطيني سوريا في تونس والتي تبدو وكأنها قد استقالت من مسؤولياتها التاريخية

أليس من المخزي يا سيادة السفير أن تستقبل وزارة السياحة التونسية ضيوفك بدلاً من سفارة بلادهم في تونس؟ وأليس من المخزي أيضاً أن تخبر المحتجزين الثلاثين في مطار قرطاج أن حل قضيتهم يكمن في ترحيلهم إلى لبنان؟ بكل ما يعنيه هذا الترحيل من مخاطر أمنية وإعادة قسرية محتملة إلى سوريا؟ ثم يدخل المحتجزون البلاد بعد يومين، أي تخل عن المسؤوليات هذا؟
من الجدير بالذكر أيضاً حادثة سابقة في معرض العام الجاري تم على إثرها ترحيل 13 لاجىء فلسطيني من
 سوريا باتجاه الجزائر بعد عدم مساعدة سفارتكم لهم
إلا أن الأكثر فداحة، معالي السفير، هو أنكم لم تزورا ضيوفكم العالقين في الحمامات وقد مضى شهر على تخبطهم في المجهول
أرجو أن تلقى هذا الرسالة بالاً من قبلكم

إلى مفوضية الأمم المتحدة العليا للاجئين في تونس

أكتب إليكم اليوم إثر استغرابي لعدم استجابتكم لمأساة فلسطينيي سوريا القادمين إلى والعالقين في تونس، وعلى وجه الخصوص أولئك الذين أمضوا خمس ليال في مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف الشهر الماضي قبل أن تمنحهم السلطات التونسية تأشيرة دخول لمدة شهر واحد

لطالما كان الشعب التونسي سباقاً في التضامن مع اللاجئين من أينما أتوا. إذ لازلت أذكر بوضوح دعم التونسيون للاجئين الليبين إثر اندلاع الحرب الليبية، عندما فتحوا منازلهم لإخوانهم الفارين من ليبيا وتحرك المجتمع المدني التونسي، ذلك قبل أن يتحرك الجيش التونسي للمساعدة وقبل أن تتدخل المفوضية العليا لتقديم الخدمات المنوطة بها، هذه المعلومة التي خبرتها بأم عيني في مخيمات رأس جدير وشوشة أثناء ايصالي للمعونات

إن عدم متابعتنا كمجتمع مدني تونسي لأداء المفوضية في متابعة عدة قضايا سابقة أدى إلى ما حصل اليوم من 
عدم استجابة من قبلكم لمعانة فلسطينيي سوريا في تونس، إذ أنكم لم تتكلفوا عناء زيارتهم في مكان اقامتهم في منطقة الحمامات السياحية حيث لا يملكون أية أوراق ثبوتية ليتمكنوا من التحرك بحرية، هذا كان أقل ما يمكن للمفوضية فعله، أو على الأقل توجيه النصح والمعونة بمخاطبة السلطات المسؤولة في حال عدم قدرتكم على العون المباشر

إلى منظمات المجتمع المدني التونسي
"صورة من الحمامات" 

لقد استطعنا القيام بالكثير سابقاً ولكن اليوم دورنا أكبر وأكثر الحاحاً وعليه ينبغي على منظمات المجتمع المدني التونسي أن تسارع لدعم العالقين الثلاثين في منطقة الحمامات خاصة بعد توارد أخبار من مصادر ضمن المجموعة عن توقف تزويدهم بالطعام من قبل وزارة السياحة وعدم وضوح الجهة المسؤولة عن اطعامهم في الوقت الراهن
إلا أن الضغوطات يجب ألا تكون آنية ومطلبية فقط، حيث من واجبنا أن نحث الحكومة على انهاء هذه المعانة المستمر منذ قرابة شهر لمجموعة بينها ثلاثة أطفال وسيدة مسنة والكثير من القصص الحزينة، الضغط يجب أن يكون باتجاه ايجاد حل مستدام للعالقين ولمن سيأتي لاحقاً في ظل اشتداد وتيرة العنف في سوريا

إلى الإعلام التونسي
مازال إعلامنا يختار المواضيع التي يشاء أن يغطيها دون غيرها، إعلام في أعظميته يحب "البلبلة" فقط، أما في القضايا المصيرية فلا إعلام ليغطي؟
لقد مضت مع الأسف تلك الفترة التي ظننت أننا تحررنا خلالها من ديكتاتورية  رؤوساء التحرير، "باعث القناة"، والإعلام الموجه... لصالح الصحفيين المستقليين والصحافة الاحترافية والاستقصائية وما إلى ذلك، إلا أن العودة إلى المدونة تبدو ضرورة لا غنى عنها لنكتب ما لا تكتبه الصحافة.
إن تجاهل القضايا التي ينبغي أن تعالجها السلطة الرابعة لا يثمر في حل على حد تعبير الصحفي طارق الغوراني الذي ساهم بفعالية في تسليط الضوء على معاناة الثلاثين فلسطيني سوري الذين كانوا عالقين في مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف شهر أيار الماضي أثناء عبورهم الأراضي التونسية باتجاه ليبيا.
لم يعلم بهم في البداية أحد، أو بالأحرى لم يرغب أحد في أن يعلم، هل سيتحرك الإعلام نحو العالقين في منطقة الحمامات الآن؟ هنا يكمن السؤال المفصلي

أيها التونسيون: مواطنون، حكومة، إعلاماً ومنظمات حقوقية
!!!!إن مهزلة احتجاز فلسطيني سوريا في تونس يجب أن تنتهي
مطالبهم معقولة: "إقامة مؤقتة واستعادة لجوازات سفرهم التي تحفظت عليها السفارة الفلسطينية"، يضاف إلى ذلك ضرورة فتح مكتب أو توفير جهة رسمية لتسيير أعمال السوريين والفلسطينين السوريين اللاجئين في تونس، فهذه حالة من عشرات الحالات التي لا نعلم بها.
!!!!علينا التحرك الآن

Friday, June 20, 2014

From Syria to Sweden: The story of Stateless Syrian Palestinian in search for Identity

Published on Your Middle East and OpenDemocracy                   #WorldRefugeeDay 

More than 2.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave their country so far. The vast majority of them remaining in neighboring countries, such as Turkey (764,000), Lebanon (1,093,069) and Jordan (597,328), according to the UN Refugee Agency. They are often living in dire conditions because countries like Lebanon and Jordan are already under extreme economic and political strain. Few others went seeking refuge in Europe. However, Europe has only granted asylum to 89,000 people. Though Europe is failing refugees from Syria , Sweden is one of the few European countries to offer permanent residence to Syrians arriving at its borders.

Salim Salamah, found refuge in Sweden after fleeing Syria to Lebanon. I met Salim few weeks ago in Malmo, the most densely populated area in Scandinavia, but he wasn’t a mere Syrian refugee. While he was introducing himself, he was not sure if he should say a “Syrian-Palestinian”, “Palestinian from Syria”, “refugee in Sweden”, becoming “Swedish” or maybe just a human being! As I was confidently introducing myself as a Tunisian African and explaining more about my Africanism, he smiled and replied: “I like that you clearly know who you are because I am still in search for my identity”.  

This complex identity of him dates back to his family’s displacement in 1948 following the Nakba that expelled Palestinians from their homes. He was then born 1989 and raised in Yarmouk refugee camp, a historical Palestinian neighborhood established in Damascus during the 50s. At the age of 24, Salim found himself a refugee “again” and as he says “the journey continues…”

Images and dates have been engraved in his memory because of their atrocities… “28th October 2013 I left Syria…Taking that decision wasn’t easy! Because there will be no soon return to Damascus”. Getting into severe depression during his last few weeks in Syria, he was afraid of loosing himself by “not doing any good” for himself or his country.

A decision has been made because of the suffocation of a peaceful movement yearned for freedom. “From March to September, the movement was pacifist then the security became so tight that we couldn’t move around anymore…people had to fire back and when that happened, I couldn’t have a place for myself there! because I didn’t want to die or kill”.

Life in Damascus has become a nightmare for him with the checkpoints…“Day after day, moving within and outside Yarmouk has become difficult as between two checkpoints, there is another one, so you will never know who will stop you and when you will be arrested! It was just like jumping into the fire”.

The regime then operated an organized process to get rid of activists like Salim, by arresting, torturing or constantly threatening them.   “It was a slow death of the civil resistance and peaceful social movement, I was at risk as everybody was!” Beside demonstrating, campaigning, and being part of political gatherings, Salim’s special crime was blogging and telling jokes about the Syrian army. His poem “A day in Damascus”, says “passing by the checkpoint, I spit on it to return some of my dignity” and that was accused by the Syrian authorities as undermining the “prestige of the state”.  

Once moved to Beirut for almost four months, Salim tried to recover from war trauma and reconnect again… “breathe again” by writing poetry. Despite dealing with his own healing process, Salim was managing a project with Al Ghawth organization in Syria. “Unfortunately the project ended after few months because we didn’t get the needed funding as international donors and NGOs were not interested in finding partners to respond to the urgent need of Syrian communities and kids under war but more interested to enslave organizations for their own agendas”

Travelled for the first time in his entire life outside Syria and Lebanon, he finally arrived to Sweden on 14th February 2012. “When I arrived, I was surprised with the snow and the dark short days”. It took sometime for him to adopt with the new weather, language, space, currency, lifestyle and to understand  “the strange situation” in order to find his way in the new place. Despite the terrible situation in Syria, there is an ongoing debate about the legitimacy of the choice of activists who fled the country to seek refuge in the United States and Scandinavia. Salim has clearly made this choice as an “individual salvation”… “I claimed political asylum because I can’t basically go anywhere as Palestinian from Syria but I made it to Sweden because I was just lucky!”

It is indeed a special case for the Palestinians from Syria. When the UN adopted the Refugee Convention and established the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, it excluded those falling within the UNRWA mandate from coverage under UNHCR's mandate. “Outside UNRWA-mandate area, which is Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we are without protection”. A concrete example of Salim’s frustration is the recent case of the four Palestinian Syrian activists detained in Sri Lanka few weeks ago. “UNHCR Sri Lanka refused to give a statement on the issue. Husam, Muhammad, Ali and Baha are now at Buddha military prison where they have been badly treated psychologically and physically”. Recently, Palestinians fleeing Syria are denied help even in Lebanon.   Sadly, the tragic cases of Palestinian-Syrian refugees continue, not only in the global north, but even in the Arab region and especially in countries that sparked the revolutions in the region such as Tunisia, Egypt among other countries.. “in Damascus, we were celebrating the day Ben Ali fled Tunisia, today when Syrian Palestinians arrived to Tunis, they remained stuck in Carthage airport with no support”...     

As the spokesman of the Human Rights Palestinian League, Salim closely follows these cases and releases statements to support Syrian Palestinians without national or international protection. Having the advantage to understand better such situation, Salim found himself working with refugees though he aims to work more with youth and children. Beside joining the executive board of the Human Rights Palestinian League earlier this year, he helps a Swedish organization in group development of coming refugees, especially in terms of communication with Arabic and French speaking refugees from Syria and African countries.

“I’m still sad, frustrated… because of this ongoing war that is rewarding to international community powers and Syrian regime rather than the Syrian people but working with people here is also rewarding …”
Partially recovered from the war trauma …  Salim regained his life, strength and energy back and that what keeps him moving forward in empowering himself and others.  

I contacted Salim again today to ask him of what today, the World Refugees Day, would mean to him as a refugee. He immediately answered “you know… once you are a refugee, you are a refugee forever, at least for myself”. He then took some silent moments and recalled the quotes of his friend Homi Bhabha “the globe shrinks for those who own it… but for the displaced or dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers” … then he continues “Today I achieved my few feet, and if I can make one more human being achieve those few feet, I will help!”

Having his family arrived to Sweden six months ago, Salim now feels more safe, something he hasn’t felt for a while. Still hard for him to be disconnected “twice” from where he belongs… then to be asked to belong somewhere else… “I don’t identify myself as a citizen of any place…” at least his confusion has gone since our first conversation a month ago and now he can confidently identity himself as human being or citizen of the world…

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