Starvation and the Search for an Alternative Homeland

Zaiton Magazine

Issue 56
Abdul Razzak Alkanjo


Recently, the regime has been working on implementing a policy of siege and starvation inside the liberated or besieged areas as a form of humiliation and applying pressure on the residents left there, assuming this is going to help it in evacuating those areas and villages of their indigenous people and alternatively establishing new zones where it can alter the nature of demographic affiliations and relationships, and dismantle their societal interdependence which dates back hundreds of years.

Therefore, the regime relied on cutting off roads, erecting checkpoints, and restricting passage of humanitarian aid and food assistance provided by local organizations and openhanded citizens, who find it very difficult to witness their trapped brothers starving after the regime prohibited them from food, milk, medicine, and even dry bread; ultimately forcing them to eat cat meat and tree leaves.

For despicable sectarian purposes, the ruling regime’s goal was to displace the population and empty particular geographical areas, in pursuit of creating a demographic change in the region while evacuating its indigenous people in favor of a filthy project backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s mullahs.

The regime erected armed barriers and founded extreme difficulties against the passage and delivery of foreign aid arriving from donor countries; aid that has been recently flowing in very huge quantities to the extent that made ​​us question the motives behind such tremendous generosity! We might interpret that as being a subtle method of “encouraging” mass migration and building up for prolonged sustainability of such a catastrophic situation that might extend for a very long time without any end in sight.

Arabs have experienced this exodus back in 1948 after the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At that time they thought their journey to the local refugee camps or neighboring countries would be a temporary one, and that Arab armies will secure their return to their homeland after the first battle with the newly formed Zionist state’s army. However, several decades have passed while they still await that hope, a hope that have gone astray amid lots of conferences and negotiations, whereas the hope for desired solutions seems further away and much more complicated.

I was a child no older than six years when in 1948 Palestinian families got displaced and sought refuge in Syria.
One of those Palestinian displaced families lived in an abandoned house next to ours that wasn’t suitable for decent living due to shortage of most housing requirements. Of course, and because of the nature of our rural society, we used to visit this family carrying with us whatever we could of basic food needs. As a child I used to envy them for the few sardine cans stacked in the room’s corner; since it had no shelves. I could not take my eyes off the powder milk container, which wasn’t common in our society as our mothers still used to breastfeed their kids.
Back then I couldn’t find out how they managed to get this powder milk. I must have imagined they brought it with them from their countries after Jews expelled them from it. However, afterwards, I realized it was a form of free assistance distributed to them by some charity associations and international aid organizations.

The image of canned food and powder milk, which we used to controversially call “Palestinian Milk”, stuck to my memory for years to come, even after that family left to an anonymous place in Syria and their news got cut.
I used to listen to their story of displacement narrated by their crippled elderly grandmother while I watched her nonstop tears. She was certain they will soon return to their homeland when the conditions get better and souls calm down, and after “Arab armies” unite and liberate Palestine from the Jews. Those stories where not too different from the entertaining bedtime fairy tales our mothers used to tell use every night.

Time passed, we grew old and graduated from university, wasted our life in the job until retirement, more years went flying by; and yet the Palestinian refugees remain scattered of clan, family and relatives in diaspora. They still reside in hundreds of cities across all Arab and foreign countries. There is no single country on the face of this planet that has not been inhabited by Palestinian families. They managed to integrate with their new living environment to the extent of almost assimilating with it and losing their promised national Palestinian identity. The “International Community” granted them all sorts of food and living aid, as well as “tents” which eventually transformed into “camps” built of stone and concrete, until gradually developed into residential assemblies and living quarters.
They used to feel happy for giving Palestinian names to those assemblies and their narrow alleys. In addition, they got them supplied with various educational facilities offered to them for free by the UNORWA, a United Nations humanitarian organization whose buildings fly the blue flag. Meanwhile the Palestinians went on dreaming of seeing their own flag flying over their own land.

As Syrians, we didn’t feel this outpouring of humanity except after we ended up in their shoes.
Since the very first peaceful days of the Syrian revolution, the regime resisted it with arms, killings, and detention, forcing many of the residents to flee and migrate. The borders were left wide open to facilitate an “easy exit” and entry to neighboring countries without any sort of monitoring; borders of which before not a single “wild hare” could cross without permission. In a record time, areas were designated, tents erected, welcoming committees formed and “hot” meals distributed generously to the arrivals. In honor of the newcomers, they installed entertainment theatres for the children and equipped field hospitals and schools, amid bewilderment and astonishment of the surprised arrivals. This spurred the displaced to call their neighbors and encourage them to flee and move away from the danger zones and bombardment they were subjected to by the stupid bloodthirsty army of the regime, that threatened their lives day and night. Palestinians lived their catastrophe and it lasted for a long time… They dreamt of going back home, hoping that the recurring false promises of the international community will materialize, only to find out that the aim of all the promises was to pass time and devote coexistence with the status quo imposed by the pro-Zionist world. Three years have passed on our fellow Syrian refugees and they’re still dreaming of going back, spending most of their days searching for that humiliating “food basket”, which has become very hard to find lately, especially when they hear and see views of the devastated hungry cities and besieged areas, where barrel bombs are dropped on the heads of their residents.

In the past, the entire international community colluded against the Palestinians and Muslim Bosnians, and now, the same incident repeats in the Syrian land. The busy world preoccupies us with conferences and negotiations, passing the time that may only be felt by those displaced, had their houses destroyed or lost their families.

What makes us more and more doubtful and skeptical is the fact that some states are -thankfully- offering Syrians “political asylum” and facilitating transit across their lands to the borders of other countries. Now whatever the case may be, Syrian citizens still long to return to their homes and to their jobs in homeland, only because they haven’t departed as tourists, but fled from injustice that fell upon them and forced them to move away from the danger that threatens them on daily basis; be it by shelling, death from starvation, or vanishing behind bars.

We used to believe that possible solutions will be within reach and practice, and that our wounds will quickly heal. But we realize that the scenario is getting more complicated day after the other with a never ending cycle of violence and bloodshed, fueled by multi-facet international intervention which has planned to make the Syrian land a battleground for settling political conflicts, point scoring and exchanging interests and influence.

Syrians will not compromise their dignity in exchange of a target-unknown livelihood, and shall not accept permanent residence in alternative countries even if it was in the magnificent palaces of the West.

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He Who Justifies the Murder of a People is Killing the Human within Himself

Arab Intellect Azmi Bishara

1 May 2012

When a regime sends in tanks to shell its own people in their cities and residential neighbourhoods, the natural ‘instinct’ reaction expected from any ethical person is to stand with the people against the regime. In such a person’s opinion, the regime, whether it was democratic or not, becomes illegitimate if it finds it necessary to kill, repress, and torture people en mass in order to stay in power because the people no longer accept it or can no longer tolerate living under its rule.

There is a moral defect in a person that finds himself justifying killing as a mean to respond to a conspiracy or for the sake of a noble goal the regime is claiming to be working for forgetting the pain of an entire nation in the process. Such a person will lose his humanity and defame himself while he is ranting about conspiracies.

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Syria: Autopsy of a Regime

Nadia Aissaoui and Ziad Majed

21 March 2012

More than a year has passed since the start of the Syrian revolution demanding freedom, dignity and the departure of the Assad family. Over ten thousand dead, a hundred thousand injured and more than 40 thousand refugees fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordon as well as about a hundred and fifty thousand citizens who were arrested, twenty thousand of them are still in detention. All this in addition to damages to property and infrastructure and the systematic destruction of many regions.

The original article in French can be read here. An Arabic text is also available here.

Tens of reports have been published by various human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations Council for Human Rights, and Médecins Sans Frontières documenting verified cases and eye witness accounts. All these, as well as films and interviews conducted with doctors, activists, and defected soldiers ascertain that atrocities and violations are being carried out in Syria which can be classified as crimes against humanity.

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