Live Stream Twitter Accounts from Besieged Aleppo

@AhmadAlkhtiib She survived, she run out from Death It's not a ghost, She's a woman survived from death #Aleppo today

It’s not a ghost, She’s a woman survived from death, Aleppo today. Photo source: @AhmadAlkhtiib

Blood pools, bodies in streets and hospitals full of the wounded, those few scenes prevailing in the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo as Syrian and Russian forces continue shelling the city with barrel bombs and missiles summing lives of thousands while leaving 250,000 others without medical care due to systematic attacks against hospitals.

Despite these difficult humanitarian conditions, citizen media are tweeting effectively to show the world what means to be in a war zone. Below are selected accounts who are still blogging from besieged Aleppo.

Bana Alabed 

@AlabedBana is a 7 years old girl, tweeting live – the account managed by her mother – from East Aleppo. This sky rocket account has joined 185K followers since its joining the twitter in Septmber 2016. It might be the innocent tweets that reflect the Bana’s suffering which she is facing daily, describing her home-life, hobbys, drawings, exchanging messages with other children outside Syria, but she shock us with the lose of her young friends and hits of rockets in the neighborhood where she lives. Among her last tweets she alerted a serious danger on her family’s lives.

The White Helmets

@SyriaCivilDef is the Twitter account of the infamous White Helmets, the soul savers, nearly 3000 volunteer who act as rescue workers from local communities, risking their lives to save others and bring hope. With 60.1K followers, they are seen as heroes in a war that has claimed more than 470,000 lives in five years, although they were not granted the Nobel Peace Prize they nominated for in 2016.

أَحمَد Primo

@PrimoAhmad with 18k followers, a Syrian journalist  from Aleppo and founder of  a portal which detecting the false news on Syrian conflict and shared online.

Aleppo Media Center

@AleppoAMC is a media organization based in Aleppo and provide the coverage of the most important political, social, cultural and sporting events. With its 33.9K followers, it publish photos and posts from conflict area in distinctive coverage of all what is happening in the city of Aleppo, Syria. AMC aims through its work to provide a realistic picture of what is happening in Syria in light of the events of the Syrian Revolution news, neutrally.

Aleppo’s besieged neighborhoods, today morning

The bitterness of being displaced with primitive transport…wounded, elderly, and children, were forced by the shelling to leave their homes in the besieged Aleppo.

The United Nations said that about 16 thousand people have been displaced from the eastern districts of Aleppo to other areas in the city. The International Organization warned of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation faced by the residents of the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo. This comes as the clashes and bombings continue in the region. And the killing of dozens of civilians, including women and children.

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Kudos Angel Soul, Omran will Stay in Syria

“Omran will stay” is a short film capturing the Syrian children suffering under daily jets bombing while the world ignorance is the master. But this film address the hope message saying that Syrian children are capable to build brighter future if we, “adults” of the world, embrace them.

Syrian people are highly adapted to tough circumstances, just they need to be acknowledged.

Omran will not remain silent …Deafened the whole world … and spoke …This is not his and his peers’ childhood end …Someday will remain to build this country …Building with pain …structuring with insistence …

Omran, Alan and all Syrian Children…Kudos to your angels’ souls.

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The White Helmets in Syria, The Humanity Savers soon in a Documentary

As much as I’m proud been Syrian, let’s say as a national who is gifted with thousands of years of genes development of civilization history, and although the present of my homeland is full of negative daily news, and despite the trouble reaction that the whole world is taking on 5-years raged bloody war and brutal killing in all inhumanity ways (but still from human), I’m overwhelmed by the courage of these men who sacrifice all to save what’s left good in Aleppo, Syria. What remains of possible future for Syrians.

Their voluntary mission to be written on the bright side of Syria 21th century and modern history in the dark ages and ashes of human greediness of power, mass indiscriminate killing, shedding blood, destroying, and dropping all manners to lowest level in test of good faith.

While rest of the world is watching them rescue lives whereas their own lives are under risk, we must not keep arms crossed, some emotional or appreciation support is the least to do!!

Lately, Netflix announced to feature the White Helmets, or the Syrian Civil Defense volunteers in a short documentary. Nevertheless, their work deserves a long documentary, but might this simple contribution generates a poke that other media portal to follow.

Earlier in 2014, I posted a Powerful Video Shows a Syrian Toddler’s ‘Rebirth’ From Under the Rubble of a Bombed Building, at the time White Helmets org was still young and not well covered by media. I coordinated with The Syrian Campaign, their project organizer in #WithSyria campaign to End the Indiscriminate Bombing of Syrian Civilians.

After 2 years, I extend my proud-hearted to contribute of spreading the message of humanity savers.


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How Refugees’ family members can find each other

Suche nach vermissten Angehörigen/Search for missing family members /recherche des personnes disparues / ٦. البحث عن المفقودين من أفراد الأسرة /جستجو برای افراد گمشده‌ی خانواده Suc…

Source: Missing Persons

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بينهم سوريون ومن جنوب السودان، تعرف على فريق اللاجئين للألعاب الأولمبية في البرازيل

 فريق اللاجئين المُشارك في الأولمبياد. المصدر: المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين_فيس بوك

فريق اللاجئين المُشارك في الأولمبياد. المصدر: صفحة المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين على فيسبوك

تم نشر المقال المترجم لكاتبه على موقع الأصوات العالمية

تبدأ دورة الألعاب الأولمبية هذا العام في مدينة ريو دي جانيرو في البرازيل، التي ستستضيف لأول مرة في تاريخ الألعاب فريق للاجئين مكوّن من ست لاعبين وأربع لاعبات تعود جنسياتهم إلى جنوب السودان وجمهورية كونغو الديمقراطية وسوريا وأثيوبيا. من المُقرر أن يدخل هذا الفريق إلى ملعب ماركانا في الحفل الافتتاحي تحت الراية الأولمبية.

عند صدور الإعلان عن تشكيل فريق اللاجئين، تنافس ثلاثة وأربعون شخصًا للفوز بهذه الفرصة. جاء الإعلان على لسان توماس باخ، رئيس اللجنة الأولمبية الدولية، خلال مؤتمر صحفي.

These refugee athletes have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium.

هؤلاء الرياضيون اللاجئون بلا وطن، بلا علم، بلا فريق وبلا نشيد وطني. سنؤمن لهم الإقامة في القرية الأولمبية مع الرياضيين من جميع أنحاء العالم. وسيُعزف نشيد اللجنة الأولمبية على شرفهم ويتقدّمهم العلم الأولمبي أثناء دخولهم لملعب الأولمبياد.

ونذكر لكم هنا بعضًا من قصصهم:

سبّاحان من سوريا

من سورية، يشارك في فريق اللاجئين كلًّا من السباحََين رامي أنيس، 25 عامًا، ويسرى مارديني، 18عامًا.

. YouTube.السبّاحة السورية يسرى مارديني _ منقول عن

السبّاحة السورية يسرى مارديني. الصورة من يوتيوب

غادرت يسرى وأختها مسقط رأسها مدينة دمشق إلى لبنان في أغسطس/آب 2015. ثم إلى تركيا، حيث دفعت للمهربين مقابل نقلهما إلى اليونان عبر بحر إيجة. هناك كان بإمكانهما تقديم طلب لجوء سياسي إلى أوروبا. وحسب الخبر الذي نشره الراديو الوطني العام NPR وهي مؤسسة أمريكية غير ربحية، أوشك القارب الذي كان ينقل الفتاتين على الغرق، مما دفع يسرى وأختها، السباحتان الماهرتان، لدفع القارب لمدة ثلاث ساعات ونصف انتهت بوصولهم إلى جزيرة لسبوس.

انتهى بهما المطاف في ألمانيا حيث سجّلت يسرى في نادي للسباحة، وبدأت التحضيرات استعدادًا للمشاركة في الأولمبياد.

في فيديو نشرته اللجنة الأولمبية الدولية، وصفت يسرى آخر أيام تدريبيها في سوريا: “بينما أسبح، كنت أرى السماء من الفتحات التي خلّفتها القذائف في سقف المسبح.”

للأسف، في نفس العام الذي تنطلق فيه الألعاب الأولمبية في ريودي جانيرو، هو نفسه الذي تدخل فيه الأزمة السورية عامها الخامس المظلم.

لاعبا الجودو من جمهورية كونغو الديمقراطية

. YouTube منقول عن .yolande Mabika اللاعبة

اللاعبة يولاند مابيكا. الصورة من يوتيوب

انتهز كل من بوبولي ميسنغا، 24 عامًا ويولاند مابيكا، 28 عامًا فرصة وجودهما في البرازيل للمشاركة في بطولة العالم للجودو في ريو دي جانيرو عام 2013، لتقديم طلبًا للجوء في البرازيل.

يرجع أصل هذين اللاعبَين إلى مدينة بوكافو، الواقعة في شرق جمهورية الكونغو الديمقراطية، التي ما تزال تعاني العنف وانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان حتى بعد انتهاء حرب الكونغو الثانية.

 .YouTube منقول عن _ Popole Misengaلاعب الجودو

اللاعب بوبولي ميسنغا. الصورة من يوتيوب

صرح اللاعبان أنهما “مع كل خسارة في أي منافسة يشاركان فيها، وفور عودتهما إلى كونغو، كانا يعانيان سوء المعاملة من قبل مدربهما، بحيث تصل إلى حجزهما لأيام يأكلان فيها القليل من الطعام“.

وبعد الحصول على حق اللجوء في البرازيل، أقاما في ريو دي جانيرو، وتلقيا عرض للتدريب في مدرسة للجودو التي أسسها لاعب الأولمبياد البرازيلي، الحائز على الميدالية البرونزية،  فلافيو كانتو.

لاعبو القوى من جنوب السودان

خلال 30 شهر من الحرب الأهلية التي اندلعت في جنوب السودان، أُجبر مئات الآلاف من السكان للنزوح واللجوء إلى الدول المجاورة. ولم يحالف الحظ إلا خمسة لاعبين رياضيين من جنوب السودان، يقيمون في كينيا حيث وقع عليهم الاختيار للانضمام إلى فريق اللاجئين.

وهم باولو أموتن 24 عامُا، يوش بير بيل 21 عامًا، روز ناثيك نيكوليون 23 عامًا، أنجلينا ناداي 21 عامًا، جيمس نيان شينكيك 28 عامًا حيث يقيم جميع هؤلاء الرياضيين القادمين من جنوب السودان في كينيا، ويخضعون فيها للتحضيرات والتدرريبات. من المقرر أن يشاركوا في مسابقات الجري للمسافات 800-1500 مترًا في الألعاب الأولمبية.

أشار اللاعب ييش في تصريح لراديو “تمازج” وهو راديو أخبار يومية يغطي جنوب السودان، إلى أنهم جميعًأ يتشاركون المعاناة ذاتها من هروب، وجوع، وصعوبات كونهم لاجئين.

In the refugee camp, we have no facilities – even shoes we don’t have. There is no gym. Even the weather does not favor training because from morning up to the evening it is so hot and sunny

في مخيم اللاجئين، عانينا نقص في الخدمات، وكنا حفاة لا نملك ما نلبسه. ليس لدينا نادي رياضي نتدرب فيه، حتى الطقس لم يكن ملائم للتدريب، فالطقس شديد الحرارة من الصباح وحتى المساء.

عدّاء الماراثون من إثيوبيا

 .YouTubeلقطة منقولة عن _ Yonas Kindeالعدّاء الأثيوبي

العداء الأثيوبي يونس كندي. الصورة من يوتيوب

ويضم فريق اللاجئين المشارك في أولمبياد ريو 2016، الرياضي يوناس كيند 36 عامًا، من  أثيوبيا. يقيم في مدينة لوكسمبورغ منذ خمس سنوات، ويداوم على حضور دروس لتعلم اللغة الفرنسية ، ويعمل كسائق تاكسي كسبًا للعيش.

وفي كلام له مع وكالة الأمم المتحدة لغوث وتشغيل اللاجئين حول وطنه قال فيه: ” بلدي لم يعد مكان آمن لأحيا فيه.”

يتدرب كيند مرتين يوميًا استعدادًا للأولمبياد. وفي لقاء مع مراسل تابع للموقع الرسمي للأولمبياد قال فيه: “سأشارك في الأولمبياد، وهذا الأمر يسعدني ويدعوني للفخر” كاشفًا أن الحديث عن أسباب مغادرته وطنه أثيوبيا ما يزال أمرًا صعبًا بالنسبة إليه.

In a Music Video, Refugees Say Thanks to Brazil for Welcoming Them.

فيديو كليب للاجئين يشكرون البرازيل لاستقبالهم.

ترحيب البلد المضيف

شهدت البرازيل خلال السنوات القليلة الماضية ارتفاعًا ملحوظًا ومفاجئًا في عدد طالبي اللجوء إليها. ففي عام 2012، بلغ عدد من طلب اللجوء إلى البرازيل أقل من ألف شخص، في حين تجاوز العدد 28 ألف طالب لجوء عام 2015.

حسب المعلومات الصادرة عن اللجنة الوطنية لشؤون اللاجئين في البرازيل (CONARE)، تستضيف البرازيل حاليًا 8863 لاجئ مُعترف بهم من 81 بلد (ما عدا اللاجئين المقيمين في البلد). أغلبهم من سوريا، وكولومبيا، وأنغولا، وجمهورية كونغو الديمقراطية.

وقد جاء هذا الترحيب من تبني دولة البرازيل سياسة الباب المفتوح فيما يتعلق بمسألة طالبي اللجوء. فقدمت لهم العديد من التسهيلات منها: توفير الإقامة، ومنحهم تصاريح بالعمل على أراضيها، إضافةً إلى تزويدهم بوثائق مؤقته تسمح لهم بالتنقل إلى حين تسلّمهم أوراقهم الرسمية الدائمة. وفي مقابل عدم تأمين اللاجئين أوطالبي اللجوء بأماكن إقامة أو مخصصات، سمحت لهم الدولة بحرية الحركة على الأراضي البرازيلية، والبحث عن عمل، إضافةً إلى الاستفادة من جميع الخدمات الصحية الحكومية.

ولكن لم تكن جميع القرارات الصادرة، في البرازيل، لصالح اللاجئين. فقد أعلنت الحكومة المؤقتة المسيّرة لأعمال الدولة، خلال عملية إقالة الرئيسة المنتخبة ديلما روسيف للمحاكمة الأخيرة لها بتهمة التلاعب بالأموال العامة، عن تعليق جميع المحادثات الجارية مع الاتحاد الأوروبي بشأن مسألة إعادة توطين اللاجئين في البلاد.

صرح السيد ماريو سايلنتي، مدير العلاقات العامة للقرية الأولمبية في ريو دي جانيرو واللجنة الأولمبية الوطنية:

It is fantastic news that the IOC has created a team of refugee athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Games. Alongside athletes from all corners of the globe, they will be received with open arms at the Olympic Village and by all of Rio 2016, and we are sure that Brazilians will also welcome them with the warmth for which they are renowned.

من الرائع ما قامت به اللجنة الأولمبية الدولية بتشيكل فريق رياضي من اللاجئين ليشارك في الألعاب الأولمبية التي تقام في مدينة ريو لعام 2016. سيحظى هذا الفريق بالترحيب والاستقبال ذاته الذي سيحظى به جميع اللاعبين القادمين من أنحاء العالم في مكان إقامتهم في القرية الأولمبية ومن قبل جميع المسؤولين في أولمبياد 2016. ونحن واثقون من أن الشعب البرازيلي يشاطرنا الاستقبال والترحيب بهم.

فيما يعلق رئيس اللجنة الأولمبية الدولية توماس باخ:

This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis.

“ما فعلناه سيكون بارقة أملٍ لجميع اللاجئين في عالمنا، وسيعمل على رفع درجة الوعي بنتائج هذه الأزمة.”

Posted in Arabic, Cartoon, Crises, Culture & Life, Econmoy & Business, Free Expression, History, Photos | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Uncertain Future of the Syrian Revolution

Fighters from the 101st Infantry Division. Picture used with permission from the Division's media office.

Fighters from the 101st Infantry Division. Picture used with permission from the Division’s media office.

This Post was originally translated  for Global Voices

The Syrian Regime is willing to remain in its current position for years, as long as it does not pay for this time with the blood of its own fighters, but rather with that of foreign militias and Syrian loyalists whose lives are worthless to the Regime. Most often, the Regime pushes forcefully enlisted fresh recruits to their front lines, as sacrificial lambs, while wearing down the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with daily shelling, killing its finest fighters and media activists who are the well-known targets on the front lines.

The Regime has no problem with continuing in the current situation, as long as the loyal coastal cities and the capital remain under its control, as every day its enemies turn into friends and allies. Washington has shifted its prompt calls for Assad’s overthrow to fighting terrorism, while its military operations moved to Pentagon to fight Daesh (ISIS) alone. The tactic is to fight and defeat FSA divisions one by one in order to create new units supported by the Pentagon to fight Daesh in Deir al-Zour and Northern rural areas of Syria. Other units seek to join the Pentagon program to receive extra funding in exchange for sending troops daily to fight Daesh, in what seems to be a failed strategy with no significant  advances on defeating the extremist organization for over a year now.

With the increasing influence of the Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces in the north and their attempts to take leadership of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan Province) by controlling the cities of Manbij and Jarabulus, there will be new fronts for FSA to defend against such attempts to appropriate Syrian territory. This pits the FSA against the Syrian Regime, Daesh and the Syrian Democratic Forces, not to mention the back-stabbing by Islamic battalions close by. So, what will the FSA do?

We no longer hear of great battles led by the FSA, but rather about limited clashes and attrition battles with the Islamist factions designed to protect and strengthen some areas, or to regain control over areas dominated by the Regime or Daesh. The battles for Hama and Aleppo have yet started. As for Al Raqqa’s, if that happens it will not be a piece of cake for the FSA, as such a battle will be under the US and Russia, with a possible participation by the Regime, which would give it a clear pathway towards Tabqa airport and Palmyra. Thus the Syrian Democratic Forces and Assad’s army (with coalition and Russian Air Force support) will be the key players.

The FSA maintained its positions in the north through some of its factions, which are now static, drowning in the swamp of external aid. Other factions are going about their business as they reinforce their control and power over their areas. They have begun to establish relief societies, schools and bakeries, thereby turning into yet another battalion working in relief and commerce without being able to reach the point of self-funding that would enable them to cut the cord of external support and achieve independence and triumph.

The FSA now enjoys relatively easy movement in northern Syria without being under siege, as is the case in Homs city or Eastern Ghouta in Damascus. However, despite this freedom of movement over large areas, the FSA is caged within the boundaries of international red lines which can’t be crossed. “Nubl and Al-Zahraa” is a red line. “Al-Fu’ah & Kafriya” is a red line. Coastal areas are a red line. People Protection Units areas are a red line. Crossing these lines could result in attacks, possibly from the very parties supporting the FSA.

In Southern Syria, in Daraa province, the FSA military operations have been on hold for nearly a year, except for several battles against Daesh divisions. The FSA lost its momentum in rural areas of Damascus and Ghouta. It is fighting alone and under siege against al-Qaeda, its eternal enemy, in addition to defending the large fronts with the Regime to prevent any advancement. And it is unable to break this siege whether in Darya, Ghouta or rural Homs as it has been left alone in these areas without any back-up or support.

The main purpose behind containing the opposition in the Geneva talks for eight months was to force the FSA to stop fighting and drain its support while continuously arming and fortifying Regime areas. The alleged truce is proof of this. It was imposed by Russia and the US on parties in Syria and included demands to constantly fight against Daesh and Al Nusra Front, while giving legitimacy to aerial bombardment closing in onto FSA controlled areas, and validity to the presence of Hezbollah, Iranian and Iraqi militias by including them as parties to the truce. The aim is to create dissent and send a threatening message to the FSA through the use of internationally prohibited weapons like phosphorus and cluster bombs, which gives the green light for Russia and Assad to wipe out any area they want while the US and Europe turn a blind eye.

Hardly a week goes by without a prominent activist, leader, commander or lead fighter being assassinated, as part of a systematic strategy to cause the failure of the revolution’s work. These incidents go unnoticed and their perpetrators are not held accountable as they occur far “away from home”. But what some FSA officials do not realize is that the day will come when it will be them, or one of their own, who is assassinated.

The Future of the Free Syrian Army

If the FSA continues on its current path, as the tool of forces with external agendas (whether or not these align with the FSA’s projects), it will enter into a maelstrom without a end. The FSA will be the party that causes Syria to be divided, and the Kurds to establish a state of their own in Syria. The FSA will help the restructuring of the Regime’s army, and the destruction of Syria under the pretext of the “war on terrorism”. Opposition activists will be placed under surveillance and scrutiny by the next regime, which will not include the FSA, nor revolution figures, and which will expel tens of thousands of families from the country, just like in 1982 after Hafez al-Assad’s war on the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama.

If the FSA does not act like an internationally powerful force with ownership of a leading project in Syria, it will be out of the equation and will lose its place to civil society organizations, with their dubious role in the Syrian revolution, and to fake opposition characters who are working to give Assad’s Regime a new look.

The FSA will be held accountable not only for what it has done, but also for what it should have done when the need arose. FSA leaders residing in Turkey, Jordan, and Europe are ready to give up certain of their battles, and even the basics and fundamentals of the revolution, in order to strengthen international relationships that support their current authority and give them hope for the future. If the FSA’s on-the-ground soldiers had dismissed their leaders, renounced external support and returned to the principles of the revolution as it was in 2012, when the FSA would self-arm from the gains of successful battles against the Regime, the situation would have been much better for the fighters, despite the fragmentation of loyalties.

The decision of the FSA’s 101st Infantry Division, operating in northern Syria, to abandon international support that came at the price of silence regarding the administrative and financial corruption of their allies, is a first step towards demonstrating the possibility of returning to the revolution’s independence. But are other divisions willing to follow the example, or will they just carry on?

Posted in Arab Spring, Crises, Culture & Life, English, History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Real Stories Behind World’s First Refugee Team to Rio Olympics 2016


The confirmed Refugee Olympic Athletes team. Source: UNHCR Facebook Page

This year, the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be the first ever to host a team comprised entirely of refugees. The team consists of six male and four female athletes who have fled South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Ethiopia. They will compete in the games as well as enter the opening ceremony in Maracana Stadium under the Olympics flag.

Forty-three people competed for a spot on the refugees team. The good news was announced by International Olympics Community (IOC) President Thomas Bach while revealing the team to press.

These refugee athletes have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium.

Here are some of their stories.

Swimmers from Syria

Rami Anis, 25, and Yusra Mardini, 18, are two swimmers from Syria who will compete in the refugees team.

Yusra, screenshot Youtube

Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini. Screenshot via YouTube.

Yusra and her sister fled her hometown of Damascus in August 2015, first reaching Lebanon and then Turkey, where she paid smugglers to cross the Aegean sea to Greece andseek asylum in Europe. According to a story by non-profit US radio broadcaster NPR, the dinghy that took them across started taking on water, so Yusra and her sister, both strong swimmers, jumped in the sea to give the half-sunk boat more buoyancy. After spending three and half hours in the water, she finally reached the island of Lesbos.

In Germany, where she finally settled, she connected with a swim club and started training for the Olympics.

In a video released by the IOC, Yusra describes her last training in Syria by “looking up at the roof over a pool and seeing the sky through holes blown by bombs.”

Sadly, whereas 2016 marks the opening of the Rio Olympics, it marks the fifth year of the war in Syria, with no end in sight.

Judokas from Congo

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Yolande Mabika. Screenshot via YouTube

Popole Misenga, 24, and Yolande Mabika, 28, applied for asylum in Brazil while visiting the country for the 2013 Rio World Judo Championship.

Both come from Bukavu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area where violence and human rights violations have persisted even after the end of the Second Congo War.

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Judoka Popole Misenga, Screenshot via YouTube

Both said that they suffered from mistreatment by their coach back in Congo each time they lost a competition. According to them, he would lock them up for days withlimited access to food.

After having asylum granted in Brazil they settled in Rio de Janeiro and were offered training in the judo school founded by Flavio Canto, a Brazilian Olympic bronze medalist.

Track athletes from South Sudan

For 30 months, the South Sudan Civil War has been pushing hundreds of thousands of refugees to neighboring countries. But five lucky Kenya-based South-Sudanese athletes were selected to join the refugee team.

They are Paulo Amotun Lokoro, 24, Yiech Pur Biel, 21, Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, 21, and James Nyang Chiengjiek, 28. All five South Sudanese athletes currently live and train in Kenya and will be competing in the 800-1,500 meter run in the Olympics.

They share horrifying stories of escape, hunger, and suffering as refugees. Yiech told Radio Tamazuj, a daily news service covering South Sudan:

In the refugee camp, we have no facilities – even shoes we don’t have. There is no gym. Even the weather does not favor training because from morning up to the evening it is so hot and sunny

A marathon runner from Ethiopia

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Ethiopian runner Yonas Kinde, Screenshot via YouTube

Marathon runner Yonas Kinde, 36, will also be on the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016, having fled Ethiopia. He has lived for five years in Luxembourg, taking French classes regularly and driving a taxi for a living.

“It’s impossible for me to live there… It’s very dangerous for my life,” he told the United Nations refugee agency about his home country.

He trains twice a day to prepare for the games. “I will go to participate in the Olympic Games. I will be proud. I will be happy,” Kinde said to a reporter from the official Olympics website. He still finds it difficult to talk about why he had to leave Ethiopia.

In a Music Video, Refugees Say Thanks to Brazil for Welcoming Them.

In a music video from 2015, refugees say thanks to Brazil for welcoming them.

A welcoming host

Brazil has seen a surge in the number of asylum seekers in the past few years. In 2010, less than a thousand people applied for asylum in Brazil. In 2015, it was more than 28,000.

Brazil is now home for 8,863 recognized refugees (excluding asylum seekers living in the country) from 81 nationalities, according to the Brazilian National Committee for Refugees (CONARE). Most of them are from Syria, Colombia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Brazil has had an open-door policy for asylum seekers — they are provided with residency, work permits and temporary travel documents while their refugee request is pending. Although the government does not provide special housing or allowance benefits for either refugees or asylum seekers, they are free to move and find a job in the Brazilian territory, as well as access public healthcare services.

But it hasn’t been all good news for refugees in Brazil. The Brazilian provisional government, acting while President elect Dilma Rousseff is waiting a final impeachment trial, has announced it is suspending all talks with the European Union over resettling refugees in the country.

However, only weeks away from the Olympics, Brazil welcomes the refugee team with open arms, Mario Cilenti, Rio 2016’s Olympic Village and National Olympics Committee relations director, said:

It is fantastic news that the IOC has created a team of refugee athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Games. Alongside athletes from all corners of the globe, they will be received with open arms at the Olympic Village and by all of Rio 2016, and we are sure that Brazilians will also welcome them with the warmth for which they are renowned.

While IOC President Thomas Bach commented:

This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis.


This Post was originally written for Global Voices under the headline: 10 Athletes From Four Countries Will Compete at the Olympics Under One Banner: Refugee

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Let’s Translate US Election 2016

Let’s translate social media during the US elections! Meedan‘s new collaboration with PRI Public Radio International and Global Voices

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“Mother, Don’t cry if they couldn’t find my body”. In Memory of 4000 Syrian refugees who drowned in the Sea


Image: “The Sea Cemetery” / Youtube

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

The humanitarian aid agency Support to Life is working to increase global awareness about the more than 4,000 refugees from Syria who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. As part of this effort, the organization has launched a film project called “The Sea Cemetery,” which features different depictions of the dead.

The 90-second video says the following:

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, 4.6 million Syrian people have left their homeland. Crossing the Mediterranean Sea became the last route to hope. And, the deadliest route of the 21st century.

More than 4,000 Syrian refugees, including many children, lost their lives at sea. Many of them couldn’t be identified, and couldn’t be found. Now the sea is their final resting place. The sea is their grave. The sea cemetery.

In Memory of thousands of Syrian refugees…

Internet users around the world have shared their reactions to the film, expressing their solidarity with the dead refugees. On Twitter, Emilie Hasrouty drew special attention to the floating tombstones in the film:

200 floating tombstones over the Mediterranean Sea which swallowed 4,000 souls, in honor of Syrian asylum victims. An influential work of art about unprecedented tragedy.

Despite dying in the attempt to flee, Tammy Kling felt the refugees did everything they could:

Support to Life’s film even drew the attention of Joseph Daul, a French politician and the president of the European People’s Party.

While “The Sea Cemetery” collects just some of the countless stories of people fleeing Syria, the supply of firsthand accounts unfortunately includes many unconfirmed and inaccurate stories, as Global Voices has reported previously.

The Syrian Civil War has raged for five years and displaced at least 10 million people, sending refugees around the world. In that time, Syrian activists have been busy on Facebook, scripting stories about refugees who died trying to reach safety abroad.

One story that’s gained popularity online is framed as a letter from a young Syrian man to his mother, written after the young man’s boat sank en route to Europe, killing hundreds of refugees onboard:

رسالة وداعية كتبها لاجئ سوري قبل غرقه في المتوسط : شكراً للبحر الذي استقبلنا بدون فيزا .. وشكراً للأسماك التي ستتقاسم لحمي ولن تسألني عن ديني ولا انتمائي السياسي

الأناضول-تداول ناشطون سوريون على شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي، نص رسالة قالوا إنها وجدت في جيب أحد اللاجئين السوريين الذين انتشلت جثثهم بعد غرق مركبهم الذي كان يحوي المئات من المهاجرين غير الشرعيين في البحر الأبيض المتوسط خلال رحلتهم للوصول إلى الشواطئ الأوروبية مطلع الأسبوع الجاري.
وفيما لم يبيّن الناشطون معلومات عن هوية صاحب الرسالة الوداعية الأخيرة التي كتبها فيما يبدو لدى استشعاره بقرب غرق المركب الذي كان يحمله، فإنهم أرفقوا مع النص الذي نشروه على صفحاتهم الشخصية عبارات مؤثرة من قبيل “هدية إلى العالم المتحضر.. هرب من الموت فاحتضنه البحر.. أنصحكم بالقراءة لكن لا تبكوا لأن الدموع جفت على أبناء سوريا”.

وهذا نص الرسالة الذي تنشره وكالة “الأناضول” بحسب ما تداوله الناشطون:

“أنا آسف يا أمي لأن السفينة غرقت بنا ولم أستطع الوصول إلى هناك (يقصد أوروبا)، كما لن أتمكن من إرسال المبالغ التي استدنتها لكي أدفع أجر الرحلة (يتراوح أجر الرحلة البحرية للوصول إلى أوروبا بطريقة غير شرعية ما بين ألف إلى 5 آلاف يورو بحسب دولة الانطلاق وعوامل أخرى مثل صلاحية المركب وعدد الوسطاء وغيرها).
لاتحزني يا أمي إن لم يجدوا جثتي، فماذا ستفيدك الآن إلا تكاليف نقل وشحن ودفن وعزاء.
أنا آسف يا أمي لأن الحرب حلّت، وكان لا بد لي أن أسافر كغيري من البشر، مع العلم أن أحلامي لم تكن كبيرة كالآخرين، كما تعلمين كل أحلامي كانت بحجم علبة دواء للكولون لك، وثمن تصليح أسنانك.
بالمناسبة لون أسناني الآن أخضر بسبب الطحالب العالقة فيه، ومع ذلك هي أجمل من أسنان الديكتاتور (في إشارة إلى بشار الأسد).
أنا آسف يا حبيبتي لأنني بنيت لك بيتاً من الوهم، كوخاً خشبياً جميلاً كما كنا نشاهده في الأفلام، كوخاً فقيراً بعيداً عن البراميل المتفجرة وبعيداً عن الطائفية والانتماءات العرقية وشائعات الجيران عنا.
أنا آسف يا أخي لأنني لن أستطيع إرسال الخمسين يورو التي وعدتك بإرسالها لك شهرياً لترفه عن نفسك قبل التخرج.
أنا آسف يا أختي لأنني لن أرسل لك الهاتف الحديث الذي يحوي “الواي فاي”(خدمة الانترنت اللاسلكي) أسوة بصديقتك ميسورة الحال.
أنا آسف يا منزلي الجميل لأنني لن أعلق معطفي خلف الباب.
أنا آسف أيها الغواصون والباحثون عن المفقودين، فأنا لا أعرف اسم البحر الذي غرقت فيه..
اطمئني يا دائرة اللجوء فأنا لن أكون حملاً ثقيلاً عليك.
شكراً لك أيها البحر الذي استقبلتنا بدون فيزا ولا جواز سفر، شكراً للأسماك التي ستتقاسم لحمي ولن تسألني عن ديني ولا انتمائي السياسي.
شكراً لقنوات الأخبار التي ستتناقل خبر موتنا لمدة خمس دقائق كل ساعة لمدة يومين..
شكراً لكم لأنكم ستحزنون علينا عندما ستسمعون الخبر.
أنا آسف لأني غرقت..”.

I’m sorry, mother, because the boat sank and I could not get there, and will not be able to send the loan I took out to pay for the trip.

Don’t cry if they couldn’t find my body. It would just cost [more] money for shipping and burial. I’m sorry, mother, because the war raged, and it was necessary for me to travel like other human beings, though my dreams were not great as the others’. As you know, all my dreams were limited to buying you medicine and artificial teeth. The color of my teeth now is green because of sea algae, but, they’re still prettier than the dictator’s teeth. I’m sorry, my dear, because I built you a house of illusions—a beautiful wooden home like the ones we used to watch in movies, poor and away from the explosive barrels, and far away from the sectarian and ethnic affiliations and rumors that surrounded us.

I’m sorry, my brother, because I can not send the 50 euros I promised you to have some fun before you graduate. I’m sorry, my sister, because I won’t send you a smartphone with “Wi-Fi” like your rich friend. I’m sorry, my sweet home, because I won’t I hang my coat behind your door. I’m sorry, dear divers and researchers, for going missing. I do not know where in the sea I drowned… but rest assured that I won’t bother the asylum department.

Thank you, sea, which welcomed us without a visa or passport. Thanks you, fish, which will share my flesh without asking me about my religion or political position. Thanks for the news channels which will broadcast the news of our death for five minutes every hour for two days…Thank you to anyone who mourns us, when they hear the news.

I’m sorry I sank…

Posted in Arab Spring, Arabic, Crises, Culture & Life, Econmoy & Business, English, Eudcation & Human Rights, Photos, Video | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Helping Refugees in Europe Get Connected to the Internet

Phone shop at Za’atari’s Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Source: Zaa’tari Refugee Camp Facebook page.

This Post was originally written for Global Voices

Smartphones have become a lifeline for refugees during their long journey for the relative safety of Europe, as they are used for communication and organization through social media and websites. However, a smartphone has its limitations because its battery can only last anywhere between 12-48 hours and it is subject to the national network coverage or available wifi hotspots.

Tyler Jump from the International Rescue Committee wrote in a recent Medium piece about a refugee’s first questions when they reach Europe. One of them, he said, is “Do you have WiFi?”

Connecting with family is a top priority for newly arrived refugees who want their loved ones to know they are safe.

Refugees rely heavily on access to the internet to communicate, but there are many hurdles in their way. Researcher Linda Leung defined some of the challenges facing refugees in her paper “Taking refuge in technology: communication practices in refugee camps and immigration detention.” Though the study was of refugees in Australia, refugees in Europe likely also face many of the same difficulties:

It was difficult to earn money in the camp to afford to communicate.

People who owned mobile phones rented them out.

Some people were worried that their family or friends were under surveillance by their enemies.

Refugees can feel distressed if there is no news.

In some places internet cafes are too expensive to use.

Sometimes refugees cannot access any technology whatsoever. Instead, many refugees resorted to traditional forms of communication through messengers, who were used to pass on news and hand-deliver letters to loved ones.

Disaster Tech Lab is a startup offering WiFi infrastructure building in disaster recovery areas and makeshift refugee camps. These were the signs being setup around the camp to indicate presence of internet connectivity. The map of hotspot locations is also visible. Mytilene, Moria camp, 29/12/2015. Source:

Disaster Tech Lab is a startup offering WiFi infrastructure building in disaster recovery areas and makeshift refugee camps. These were the signs being setup around the camp to indicate presence of internet connectivity. The map of hotspot locations is also visible. Mytilene, Moria camp, 29/12/2015. Photo by Chris Gioran and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

In addition to these challenges, many refugees may fall victim to those trying to profit off of these hardships. Leung found that a type of black market appeared to appear at many refugee camps:

Displaced people are at the mercy of those who can afford to own communication technology and who control access to it. The expense of using communication technology can markedly increase when the owners of mobile phones in refugee camps become corrupt or phone booths in town are controlled by the black market.

To address these challenges, some individuals are offering their help to the refugees seeking communication. Ilias Papadopoulos, a Greek electrical engineer, provided a free internet connection for everyone in Idomeni, a small Greek town located on the border with Macedonia.

This YouTube video describes how he created a set-up to offer this service for free:

He saw that most refugees had smartphones, but without SIM cards or any reliable connection, they had no real way to communicate. So he decided to help one way that could benefit most.

‘It requires a lot of improvisation’

Several startups and NGOs have also attempted to respond to the call for greater communication access for refugees. The organization The Disaster Tech Labbased in Ireland has been deploying wifi networks in the Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece. They note that over 400,000 refugees have utilized their network during their stay in the camps. They add:

In addition to the obvious benefits of being able to stay in contact with their friends and family there is also the requirement that asylum applications have to be made via a Skype call. In addition to this schools and learning centers are being set up now that the camps are semi-permanent and these of course all require internet access.

Other groups have made it priority to provide internet access at reception centers in Western Europe, since the government often does not budget for internet access in accommodations. The German organization Refugees Online e.V. first project was providing free wifi connectivity at the refugee reception unit at Fliegerhorst in Fuerstenfeldbruck, and now the project has expanded to 95 facilities across the country. In addition to the access, the organization also provided training and an online learning platform for asylum seekers.

And a start-up company is in the process of developing of what they call an “autonomous rugged wifi hotspot for outdoors and crisis areas.” The company, called MeshPoint, is working to raise the funds to build the prototype for launch where it is needed most.

In their blog, they highlight how the project started in late 2015 when an influx of refugees arrived at the Croatian border, where they were welcomed by the government. They describe how different groups arrived at the scene to provide assistance.

Among them were the volunteers of Osijek chapter of Otvorena Mreža(Open Network), an Open Source inspired movement that aims to provide free internet to everybody. They simply hacked a home router, installed OpenWRT, plugged in a USB 3G dongle, hooked the router to a battery, packed everything in a backpack, and went into the crowd with a “Free WiFi” sign on their backs, antennas sticking out.

Trying to scale and establish a fix hotspot proved to be more of a challenge for the group.

It requires a lot of improvisation, and takes more time that you would hope for. Sensitive networking equipment will often not work well with the petrol fired AC generators, as the choppy voltage will keep crashing it randomly, then there’s waterproofing stuff that doesn’t like to be wet, and then there are cables… Don’t get me started on cables.

Trying to find an acceptable solution for creating an easy-to-install wifi connection to support more than 100 users connected simultaneous was difficult to find. And that’s what led to the beginning of the MeshPoint project because they wanted to build the solution themselves.

More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe by sea in 2015, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. So far in 2016, more than 200,000 have arrived, the majority of them fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether it is to reach out to family and friends left behind or to make arrangements for a new life looking forward, access to wifi is vital for them. Hopefully, these individual and organizational efforts continue to help provide refugees this important lifeline.

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