Friday, June 26, 2015

No time for political debates as ISIS claims countless lives daily

Justin Trudeau, leader of Canada’s Liberal Party announced yesterday that if he wins the upcoming election, his party will end the country’s involvement in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) group and restart diplomatic relations with Iran.
Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party, was quick to respond that Trudeau was playing “electoral politics.” His party pointed out that Trudeau made the statement on the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terror. 
In October this year Canadians will go to the polls to vote for the future government: the competition is between the Liberals, Conservatives, and the New Democratic Party (NDP) – which also opposes Canada’s involvement in the military action against ISIS.
On the same day that the Canadian politicians point fingers at each other and accuse one another of playing games, ISIS bombs Kobani, Syria, kills 75 civilians and militia and injures hundreds.
I was present at the House of Commons when the prime minister’s motion on expanding military intervention was presented and the opposition worried about the legality of stopping atrocities and worried that Bashar al-Assad might benefit from the military intervention. As the members of Parliament argued and debated, I noticed that my hands had become wet with my own tears.
Were these senior politicians fully aware how they were making decoctions on the fate of millions of persecuted and traumatized refugees? 
According to the United Nations’ latest estimation, nearly 60 million people are displaced at the moment. 
Approximately 30 million of the displaced are children and countless thousands of them die on a daily basis due to hunger, cold or heat, dehydration, disease and accidents.
Members of ISIL may have committed war crimes by perpetrating murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, taking of hostages, the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court,” states the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General.
“(ISIL has been) directing attacks against the civilian population, directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, historic monuments, pillaging a town or place, committing rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities, ordering the displacement of the civilian population, destroying or seizing the property of an adversary.” 
Countless thousand lives are lost and damaged on a daily basis and yet we stand by and ponder complexities and legalities.
A concern of the opponents of military action is whether or not the UN Security Council has granted permission for military intervention. As an activist friend pointed out, when was the last time that all five members of this council agreed that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the world? If China and Russia, two permanent members, had not vetoed the proposal for intervention in the Syrian crisis on May 22, 2014, thousands of lives would have been saved and Bashar al-Assad and ISIS couldn’t steep the entire region into blood.
Humanitarian aid is an urgency, as today most humanitarian agencies in the world are overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of globally displaced people. Disease is now killing more people in refugee camps than the ISIS militia, than the cholera outbreak, meningitis and other infectious diseases that are claiming lives. Many internally displaced people live in unfinished malls and under tents and in trailers without access to clean water and hygiene. 
Humanitarian aid is much needed and highly valuable, but is it not enough. We need to prevent more people from needing such aid, from falling victim to violence. More than 70 per cent of the refugee camp inhabitants are women and children, UNHCR reports.  The refugees’ problems don’t end even after they arrive at camps and receive food, clothing, and medication. The women are not safe from sexual assaults.
Military intervention, at this point, is not an imperialist scheme to take control of another state. This is a matter of taking part in combating one of the most brutal forces of our age. In this crisis, Canada and the international community is either part of the solution or it can simply turn a blind eye to the catastrophe.  
ISIS would indiscriminately murder and torture Canadians as well who are also considered “infidels.” Canada can stop more people -- abroad and at home -- from falling victim to the bloodthirsty ISIS. This group needs to be stopped immediately, and military intervention is the only way to fight the heavily armed barbarians.
In the face of such a massive catastrophe unfolding in the Middle East and other parts of the world, politicians can prove their true engagement with tragedies through responding effectively to the events and not worrying about status.

The article was originally published HERE

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Review of Silvered Water, Syria’s Self-Portrait

Director Wiam Simav Bedirxan (L) with producer Ossama Mohammed at Cannes Film Festival. Photo: AFP
TORONTO, Canada—A Kurdish activist is at the heart of a searing new documentary that uses over 1,000 clips of raw mobile phone footage to depict the brutality of the Syrian war.

 Silvered Water, Syria’s Self-Portrait is co-directed by Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a pacifist and amateur filmmaker who becomes the eyes of the conflict for a famous exiled Syrian director, Ossama Mohammed.

From France, where he collects footage of the war via social media sites that are used in the film, Mohammed relies on Bedirxan to film life in Syria as the country descended into violence and chaos.

In this powerful film using shots from 2011 to 2014, Bedirxan remains in her hometown of Homs during the three-year siege of the city and documents the destruction.

 Bedirxan stays even when most of her family is killed before her eyes, when she gets shot and when even revolutionaries in the siege are critical of her for not wearing the veil.

Like a Peshmerga, she faces the death: her camera her invincible weapon.

She gathers the homeless refugee kids and teaches them, gets them to laugh, and films them. The children become the only sparkle of hope in this otherwise graphic and horrifying film. The co-directors collaborated via social media and only first met in person when the film premiered in Cannes in May. It is being shown at several high-profile international film festivals, including in Toronto, where Silvered Water was screened last week.

 The film, which is named for Bedirxan (Simav is Kurdish for “silvered water”) is an insider’s perspective of Syria’s transformation from a place to live and love, into an unlivable, unimaginable ruin. Variety, the industry publication for Hollywood, called it “necessary and often unbearable” in its review.

 Defying Syria’s notorious snipers, Bardixan’s camera is hidden under her clothes as she walks through the ruins of Homs to bear witness to the atrocities. In Paris, Mohammed obsessively watches and re-watches the amateur footage posted on Youtube and Bedirxan’s images to connect to his homeland. As he encourages and guides the budding documentarian, she calls Mohammed -- her mentor, whom she has yet to meet in person -- “havalo” or Kurdish for friend.

In addition to Bedirxan’s images, corpses, scenes of torture and burnt and mutilated animals are among the 1,001 images taken on cell phones by Syrians who document the brutality in an effort to shame the world into action. Mohammed finds the footage on social media and integrates them into the film.

 The images become more gruesome as the movie unfolds and yet certain images are recurrent, including the one of a naked teenager, sodomized and humiliated into kissing a soldier’s boot and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s photo.

Ironically, the video was made and distributed by the victimizers to instill fear, unaware that it would backfire and put their atrocities on display for the world to watch. The film depicts unbearable cruelty; the binary of oppressed and oppressor is a theme in Silvered Water that shows the “tragedy” of seemingly heartless soldiers who kill whether they want to or not, and then are killed.

 “Move faster than your fears, Havalo,” Mohammed tells Bedirxan, who hides herself in a child’s closet to prepare herself to face the world the next day. She continuously films a happy child in the middle of chaos and annihilation who casually makes thought-provoking remarks.

An infant whose umbilical cord is cut becomes another recurrent image of the movie. The movie ends with the word “freedom” being painted in red streaks of blood on bright, white snow.

The article was originally published in Rudaw

Monday, June 8, 2015