Guest Post by Jane Stillwater, Peace and justice activist, world traveler, grandmother and occasional actress who blogs at jpstillwater.blogspot.com. Jane is a great traveling companion, practical, determined and possessed of a dark sense of humor. We traveled together to Syria in 2014. Earlier this month Jane attended the “Global Campaign to Return to Palestine” Conference in Beirut.
“Why on earth are you going to Beirut?” asked my neighbor.
“I’ve been invited to attend The Global Campaign to Return to Palestine’s annual conference being held there,” I replied. This is going to be a really big deal — but only if I find a replacement babysitter for my ten-month-old granddaughter Sofia while I’m gone. Done!
On the plane flight over, I watched “Straight Outta Compton” — and all that police brutality onscreen got me right into the mood to talk about all that police brutality in real life that Israeli neo-colonialists inflict on poor Palestinians daily as they too are thrown to the ground, humiliated and jailed for no reason, just like Dr. Dre and Easy E. But I digress.
A guest post by Roland Micklem, initially published in the Scrap Paper #407.
The year was 1942. We had been at war with Japan and Germany for a few months, and every red-blooded American male was itching for a piece of the action.
I was a puny, underage 14 year-old, my first year in high school, but like all of my classmates and teachers, I was literally bubbling over with zeal for the Allied cause. Songs like You’re a Sap, Mister Jap and In Th’ Fuhrer’s Face were making the rounds, and our school—and indeed the entire nation—was awash in waves of patriotic furor.
Against this backdrop of such unabated Americanism, the school authorities engaged a speaker to address an assembly of the student body. The speaker was a woman who had spent many years in Japan, and she was there to tell us about the Japanese people.
Many innocent people have been ‘disappeared’ in the course of the United States Global War of Terror. Many innocent men have been swept from the Streets of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iraq and other places associated with U.S. wars. Here is Amina Masood Janjua telling her story. Her story is powerful because, before her husband’s abduction, her family was like most of ours, a middle class family with a comfortable life. Her husband was a business man who traveled, he was a Pakistani Muslim like so many others, almost everyone in that country, and he did not support any fanatical religious organizations or causes. He was just a guy.
I wasn’t following this story in real time, but when it came to my attention today, the irony was too poignant to ignore. A friend just sent me the content of an post from Journalist Casey Coombs on the First Look, Intercept website.on May 4. It is called “Stuck In Yemen: A Personal History“. In the article, Coombs describes being stranded in Sana’a during the Saudi bombing campaign because the United States decided not to rescue US nationals in the country.
On April 30, the U.S. State Department posted updated information for Americans in Yemen with this printed in bold: “There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. If you wish to depart Yemen, you should stay alert for other opportunities to leave the country.”
So there he is. Abandoned in a war zone. Fortunately, the locals are friendly, including the Houthis guarding a nearby outpost..
A month later, he is an American Hostage of the Houthis, freed by the Sultan of Oman.
This is another report from my friend, a long time resident of the west who went home to assist his ailing parents in Aleppo this spring.
This is an authentic report from an Aleppo resident whose identity is protected for their own security. They are living through the daily hardships of life in an externally created war zone. Water and electricity shortages, NATO & US backed terrorists embedded in multiple areas of the city creating random buffer zones where the risk of being sniped or shelled is a daily occurrence. I have retained as much as possible of the original report with minimal editing as its important to maintain the narrative as it is, raw and heartfelt, from someone who sees this ravaged city as home.
Nothing much took place in the city within the last week. “Normal” launching and shelling in the background. For the first time for me, I saw some mortars from the national army shelled at the terrorist areas at night, reddish slow mortars flying in the sky, then I wait for like 20 seconds after they disappeared from my sight, then the “booom” noise. People with experience in directions and areas would say right a way that this is against this or that nest of terrorists, but I don’t know. Those were definitely not a jet rocket nor the so-called “barrel bombs”. As i said, it’s pretty slow. The rockets launched from ground are way faster and much noisier. The ones from jets have a different voice as well. In general, it’s pretty”normal”, and relatively “calm”. .. . . . .
– electricity is off since almost a month, except for couple of hours yesterday, when we turned on our AC’s for the first time since ages in this summer, and partially the last 3 summers. .. . . . .
I reached Aleppo yesterday (Tuesday) safely after a long trip. I just wanted to tell you so, no need for worries.
My father’s health is not so good. . . .
On the way, we saw many liberated towns. However they were completely empty of people. The inhabitants had fled those areas after they were occupied by terrorists and never came back after they wre liberated In Aleppo destroyed buildings are a pity to sight and heart. But it’s busy with people around and close by. The closer I came to home, the more memories came back to me. People have found alternative solutions for almost everything.
If corruption was 2-fold prior to the crisis, it’s 200 fold today. Unfortunately this is a very bad personal experience and not a thing I’m proud of.
Sounds in the background of bombing, shelling, …etc. Not much, but they are at all times, day and night. All are from Syrian army against the others, as I’ve been told. It seems the terrorists carried out a big attack a few hours prior to my arriving, maybe a tunnel filled with explosives or something like that.
As I write I am looking out a bus window at a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and mountains. Everything is green, and the trees are budding. It is hard to know where to begin. In the past week, I have traveled hundreds of miles by bus and train in order to visit Iraqi refugees living here. Eskisehir, Ankara, Bolu, Mersin and now Cankiri. Some of the families are refugees twice over, having fled to Syria where we first met them some years ago. Others fled more recently after ISIS took Mosel last June and then the surrounding villages. Some of them I was meeting for the first time. Muslims, Christians and Palestinians, all from Iraq.
Last night Iraqi friends, refugees themselves, took me to a family I had not yet met. I thanked them for receiving me and explained how many people come with me on this trip wanting to know how he and his family are doing.
Last September I had hoped to travel to the village areas surrounding Mosel to hear their voices, so often neglected since the U.S.-led war on their country over a decade ago. And then as we know, in early June of 2014, ISIS took the city of Mosel. I write all of this to help explain the deep emotions that welled up in me as I entered one of the compounds for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Erbil just two days ago. The Sunday service had just ended and people were streaming out of the tent that serves as their church.
This compound, called Ozal city, in the Kasnizan area of Erbil in Kurdistan, houses approximately 900 Christian families, 400 Muslim families, and 35 Yazidi families. It is just one of many compounds in Erbil. Almost all of the Christians in this complex, if not all, come from the village of Qaraqosh, a Syriac Catholic enclave, outside of Mosel.
I am presently in Karbala which is housing approximately 70.000 refugees, the majority from Nineveh (Mosel) and Anbar. As I traveled by car two days ago from Najaf to Karbala, the road was lined with makeshift tent-like structures, pieces of cloth to provide some privacy and shelter
Last night I attended a local home-meeting of volunteers who are trying to attend to the needs of the refugees. I was allowed to sit in to hear about the work they are coordinating. The group had been informed that I was from the U.S. and involved in humanitarian work.