Radio Hakaya https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/27086/all cached version 21/02/2019 17:41:14 en Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 3: Tony Abood - the mayor of Minyara https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-podcast-episode-3-tony-abood-mayor-of-minyara <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Episode 3 of a podcast series about the socio-political climate faced by Syrians and their host communities through their own eyes as the pressure rises for refugees to return to Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Illustration 3 Tony Abood.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Illustration 3 Tony Abood.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</span></span></span>Radio Hakaya is a community radio project started by <a href="https://brushandbow.com/radio-hakaya-%D8%AD%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7/">Brush&amp;Bow</a> in a refugee camp in North Lebanon. Radio Hakaya's podcasts feature individuals whose communities have been directly affected by the war in Syria and the displacement of Syrians to Lebanon. Each podcast presents a subjective opinion that, combined with the rest of the series, provides a mosaic of differing perspectives and experiences, exploring the reasons why people fled Syria, the living conditions in Lebanon and what the future might hold.</em></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong>All recordings are taken, translated and edited with the help from members of the local community.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Interviews and Editing by Roshan De Stone &amp; David L. Suber.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Editing and Translations by Fadi Haddad.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Illustrations by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</strong></p><p>This is the third podcast of an 8-part series. It is an interview with Tony Abood, the mayor of Minyara, a small predominantly Christian village in Akkar, the northern most province of Lebanon. Born in Minyara, Tony Abood has been the mayor of his town for more than 20 years. </p><p>His political career began when large parts of Lebanon were under Syrian occupation, an occupation that started during the Lebanese civil war, and lasted until the assassination of Lebanon's then prime minister Rafic Hariri in 2005.</p> <p>Remembering when half his village fled to Syria during the Lebanese Civil War, Abood reflects on the big-brother relationship Syria has with Lebanon and the paradox that, after having hosted Lebanese refugees, so many Syrians have now come to Lebanon to seek refuge from war in their country.</p> <p>Abood is known for his harsh policies toward Syrian refugees: enforcing a 6 pm<a href="https://data2.unhcr.org/ar/documents/download/61315"> </a><a href="https://data2.unhcr.org/ar/documents/download/61315"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">curfew</span></a>,<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/4/4/lebanon-displaces-syrian-refugees-forces-them-to-close-businesses"> </a><a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/4/4/lebanon-displaces-syrian-refugees-forces-them-to-close-businesses"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">evicti</span></a><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ng</span> families and being a public supporter of the return of refugees to Syria – despite Syria not yet being<a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/un-warns-against-mass-return-of-syrian-refugees-from-lebanon/4737514.html"> </a><a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/un-warns-against-mass-return-of-syrian-refugees-from-lebanon/4737514.html"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">safe</span></a> for refugees to return.</p> <p>Abood points to how Lebanon is not equipped with sustaining Syrian refugees any further, and that between the<a href="https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/strengthen_integrity_of_aid_response_in_lebanon_to_ensure_it_reaches_syrian"> </a><a href="https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/strengthen_integrity_of_aid_response_in_lebanon_to_ensure_it_reaches_syrian"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">corruption</span></a> and mismanagement of aid money by public office and agencies, a lot of international support has gone to waste. However, he is prone to overestimate numbers and statistics, doubling both the population of Syria and the number of Syrians in Lebanon.</p> <p>Despite the crudeness of his opinions, it is important to hear what he says as it reflects a<a href="https://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/aoun-says-syrian-refugees-lebanon-must-return-homeland-regardless-end-crisis-1132046"> </a><a href="https://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/aoun-says-syrian-refugees-lebanon-must-return-homeland-regardless-end-crisis-1132046"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">growing trend</span></a> amongst politicians and public officials in Lebanon, who believe - despite recurring<a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/arrests-and-torture-of-syrian-refugees-returning-home-reported-1.3429762"> </a><a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/arrests-and-torture-of-syrian-refugees-returning-home-reported-1.3429762"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">reports</span></a> of arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and forced conscription - that Syria is safe for Syrians to return to, and that Lebanon has done enough for Syrian refugees.</p> <p>Just as important to listen to what Abood has to say, it is crucial to note what he omits. He fails to consider that 'Lebanese hospitality' is also based on widespread and systematic exploitation of Syrians, and that where competition is getting harder for Lebanese workers, the reason predominantly lies with business owners in Lebanon who are profiting from the crisis, setting lower wages and often preferring to hire irregular Syrian workers for little to nothing than Lebanese regular workers.</p> <p>His experience represents only a fragment of the very complex puzzle of memories and positions Lebanese society holds on the hardships of hosting such a high number of refugees in such a small country. As such, it should be heard in relation to the contents expressed in the previous and forthcoming podcasts.</p><p><strong>Listen to the podcast in English or in Arabic below</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563430519&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe> <iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563427318&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong>Read the transcript:</strong></p><p>Podcast #3: Abood: Mayor of Minyara </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Introduction </strong></span> </p> <p>Welcome to Radio HAKAYA – حكايا the official podcast series of Brush and Bow. These podcasts report on stories and challenges of the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities in Lebanon. By focusing on individual stories, we hope to convey the complex realities of life here in Lebanon: people’s memories, present experiences and hopes for the</p> <p> future. We would like to remind you that the views published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush and Bow.</p> <p>Today’s podcast is an interview with Tony Abbod, the Mayor of Minyara. Minyara is a Christian village in Akkar, the northern most province of Lebanon and one of the poorest regions of the country. It is here, along with the Beqaa valley, that the majority of Syrians in Lebanon have found refuge, fleeing the 7-year civil war across the border. In this interview, Abbod tells us about his memories of the Lebanese civil war, and about the complex history that has turned Syrians from occupiers to refugees in Lebanon.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Interview</strong></span>:</p> <p>I have been the leader of the Shefet union of 12 municipalities for 9 years. And I have also been the mayor of Minyara since 1998.</p> <p>The Lebanese war of 1975 wasn’t a war between Muslims and Christians, but rather one between the Palestinian and the Lebanese.</p> <p>When the Syrian military arrived, they established offices and checkpoints everywhere. Soon they controlled the whole of Lebanon! Beirut, Zagharta, the south, the Bekka valley, everywhere.</p> <p>I’ll tell you something: our villages here in Akkar were not hugely affected by the civil war. Only a little. And that is because there was social harmony between Muslims and Christians in Akkar. But when orders were given to groups of thugs from outside to attack some villages, they would come to steal and kill.</p> <p>For example, these groups of thugs would come to Akkar with orders to attack this or that village, according to their sectarian population, and this was in order to make pressure or regulate contentions in another places. This kind of thing continued to happen until Hariri died and the Syrian military withdrew. </p> <p>And the result of this today is that all the different sects of Lebanese society cannot find any agreement. Not even between different Christian groups, or amongst the Druze, or amongst the Sunnis. The only exception are the Shia, as their parties of Hizbullah and the Amal movement have an agreement with each other. This is the state of the country today.</p> <p>---</p> <p>During the civil war some Lebanese from Akkar fled to Syria, whilst others remained here. It was mostly the Christians who left to Syria of course. But once the war was over they returned back to their homes in Lebanon. </p> <p>Syria is a country of 30 - 40 million people whereas Lebanon is a country of only 3 million. When we went to Syria, our numbers were insignificant. 4000, 5000, maybe even if 20,000 Lebanese went to Syria, that was nothing overall. But when 2 million Syrians come to live with 3 million Lebanese, that is nearly as much as our own population! </p> <p>---</p> <p>When the Syrians refugees came here everybody welcomed them at first. But soon the number of Syrians became too huge. Associations started to come and offer help to the Syrians but, trust me, three quarters of these associations are thieves. They keep 90% for themselves and only give 10% to the Syrians. </p> <p>The situation in Syria now is acceptable for return. There are some villages and areas where there is no fighting anymore. There are safe areas, but the Syrians are still here. We can’t ask all the Syrians to go back to Syria. If all the Syrians left, then we wouldn’t have anyone to work on land, or in the industrial labour markets. Do you understand my point?</p> <p>But the great numbers should go back to their country, to their villages. They are making political settlements for Syria to resolve the conflict. Those Syrians who are wanted by the regime, they should stay here, but those who don’t run any risks should go back to Syria! </p> <p>---</p> <p>Recently, a Syrian called me saying that there are about 3,500 people from Quaysir in Syria who want to go back to their home town. So I called an officer in the Lebanese General Security where an officer told me to wait half an hour. This officer called someone in Beirut and half an hour later I received a call from the department in Beirut confirming the political will to facilitate the process of return for these Syrians and provide whatever help they might need. The next day, we held a meeting here with the Syrians in presence of the General Security officers, but the Syrians were advised not to go back. Why? I don’t know.</p> <p>Fear of being imprisoned by the regime!? No, it’s not about prison. There is an agreement between the Lebanese General Security and the Syrian government. Whoever wants to go back Syria will have their name sent to the Syrian government to check if they are wanted or not. Those who are wanted will be informed and will have to fix their situation with the regime before going back. And if they are not wanted, then the Syrians will be free to return to Syria. For example, if someone is wanted for compulsory military service, they will inform them and give them 6 months’ grace to get their affairs in order. Only then will they be forced to join the military – as the military service in Syria is compulsory. You must serve or pay a lot of money not to serve. </p> <p>No one will be forced to return. Nobody! If they are fearful of return, they can stay in Lebanon, and no one would force them to go back. Only if they say, “I want to return,” then the Lebanese authorities would facilitate their return. But no one would force them. Ever.</p> <p>---&nbsp; </p><p>Most of the Syrian refugees who came at the beginning were self-employed. Syrians took many jobs from the Lebanese, working in gold shops, in sweet shops, they are driving the buses, the trucks…. </p> <p>The Lebanese work in restaurants and services, and only a few of them in agriculture. But when the Syrians came here they took not only jobs in agriculture but in almost everything. Today, almost all restaurants workers are Syrians. Some Syrians even hired shops and opened their own restaurants! And they can buy stocks from Syria at cheaper prices than we can find here in Lebanon. </p> <p>---</p> <p>Lebanon! Ah Lebanon… when the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed, Lebanon was divided into several sects. This was what caused the sickness of this country. It means that today, if you want to grant citizenship to a Muslim, the Christians would refuse and vice versa. Do you understand? So giving citizenship in our country is a very difficult issue. Today, if someone travels to Australia, Brazil, Canada, they might get citizenship. But in this country, even in you have a Lebanese mother, you won’t get Lebanese citizenship.&nbsp; </p><p>Lebanon is not like in all the other countries. This is a country where every decision is made outside, by others. Nothing its decided by its people. Never. Everything is linked to larger powers outside the country. For example, Saad Al Hariri is linked to Saudi Arabia, Hizbullah to Iran. Do you get me? </p> <p>We have every political group linked to a different country. The decisions are taken by those countries, and here we can’t decide nothing for ourselves. Never. Here, the people don’t decide anything. The people, in Lebanon, don’t decide anything.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-episode-1-um-saleh-life-under-isis">Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 1: Um Saleh - life under ISIS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-podcast-episode-2-abu-mohammed-from-revolution-to-w">Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 2: Abu Mohammed - from revolution to war</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Syria Civil society podcasts refugees Radio Hakaya Thu, 21 Feb 2019 07:00:01 +0000 Radio Hakaya 121755 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 2: Abu Mohammed - from revolution to war https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-podcast-episode-2-abu-mohammed-from-revolution-to-w <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Episode 2 of a podcast series about the socio-political climate faced by Syrians and their host communities through their own eyes as the pressure rises for refugees to return to Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western" style="text-align: left;" lang="it-IT"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Image 2 Abu Mohammed.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Image 2 Abu Mohammed.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="355" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</span></span></span>Radio Hakaya is a community radio project started by <a href="https://brushandbow.com/radio-hakaya-%D8%AD%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7/">Brush&amp;Bow</a> in a refugee camp in North Lebanon. Radio Hakaya's podcasts feature individuals whose communities have been directly affected by the war in Syria and the displacement of Syrians to Lebanon. Each podcast presents a subjective opinion that, combined with the rest of the series, provides a mosaic of differing perspectives and experiences, exploring the reasons why people fled Syria, the living conditions in Lebanon and what the future might hold.</em></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong>All recordings are taken, translated and edited with the help from members of the local community.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Interviews and Editing by Roshan De Stone &amp; David L. Suber.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Editing and Translations by Fadi Haddad.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Illustrations by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</strong></p><p class="western">This is the second podcast of an 8-part series. It is an interview with Abu Mohammed, a former policeman from the city of Homs, in Syria. Abu Mohammed fled to Lebanon with his family early on in the conflict, to avoid being involved with the regime’s repression after having witnessed its brutality. In this interview, taken in a refugee camp on the Lebanese-Syrian border, Abu Mohammed shares some general reflections on the impact of the war on the Syrian people, and of the responsibilities the regime holds at the roots of the conflict. </p> <p class="western">Being in his mid-40s Abu Mohammed is from the generation who lived the transition between the rule of president Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar. Hafez had been in power 29 years when his death paved the way for his second eldest son Bashar to become president of Syria in 2000. Bashar inherited a police-state, one in which arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture were all justified measures against the threat of political opposition and destabilization. </p> <p class="western" lang="it-IT">Abu Mohammed recalls when, following a spate of high-profile assassinations against members of the ruling elite in 1982, Hafez al-Assad sieged and bombed the city of Hama, stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition, killing what international observers have estimated as over <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20130522172157/http://www.shrc.org/data/aspx/d5/2535.aspx">25,000</a></span> civilians in the name of national security.</p> <p class="western">Eight years of war have shown that Hafez's son Bashar is capable of the same ruthlessness. When the wave of protests and uprisings across the Arab world reached Syria in 2011, the regime responded with violent clampdowns, paving the way for peaceful protests to escalate into an armed struggle leading to outright civil war. </p> <p class="western" lang="it-IT">Now, as the war burns to an end, the regime is encouraging Syrian refugees to return to Syria, promising <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/09/syrias-assad-offers-amnesty-military-defectors-dodgers-encourage/">amnesty</a></span> for deserters and army dodgers, engaging in a bid to re-gain international legitimacy and funds for the reconstruction of the country. However, widespread <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/30/we-cant-go-back-syrias-refugees-fear-for-their-future-after-war">reports</a></span> of arbitrary arrest, disappearances and torture from Syrian refugees who have returned to Syria leave many refugees mistrustful of the regime's promises. </p> <p class="western">From his tent in the north of Lebanon, Abu Mohammed is adamant about the need for Bashar al-Assad to leave the presidency if any real solution to the war is to be found. In his eyes, a Syria without Bashar al-Assad is the starting condition to guarantee some safety to refugees wanting to return home.</p> <p class="western">His experience represents only a fragment of the very complex puzzle of memories and positions Syrian civilians hold on the uprisings and the war that is tearing apart Syria, and should therefore be heard in relation to the contents expressed in the previous and forthcoming podcasts.</p><p><strong>Listen to the podcast in English or in Arabic below</strong></p><iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563422641&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe><p>&nbsp;</p><iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563424570&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe><p><br />*Please note that all names have been changed to protect the anonymity of participants who, despite living in Lebanon, still fear for their lives. The views and opinions published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush&amp;Bow. </p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong>Read the transcript:</strong></p><p>Podcast #2 Abu Mohammed: From Revolution to War</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Introduction</span></p> <p>Welcome to Radio HAKAYA – حكايا the official podcast series of Brush and Bow. These podcasts report on stories and challenges of the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities in Lebanon. By focusing on individual stories, we hope to convey the complex realities of life here in Lebanon: people’s memories, present experiences and hopes for the future. We would like to remind you that the views published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush and Bow.&nbsp; </p><p>Today’s podcast is an interview with Abu Mohammed, a former policeman from the city of Homs. Having fled to Lebanon in 2014, Abu Mohammed gives testimony to the fear and distrust that many Syrians in Lebanon have of returning home. In this interview, Abu Mohammed reflects on the recent political history of Syria under the rule of the Asad family and on the escalation of Syria’s uprisings into civil war.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Interview</span></p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: What did you think when the revolution broke out?</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: We were calm and sure that it was just a matter of a couple months before the regime would fall. But the reality was that the regime has been mobilizing for 40 years; accumulating weapons from Russia and Iraq not to fight any outer enemy, but their own people. The regime held a grudge against the Syrian people. </p> <p>We Sunnis, Shias, Alawites, and Christians all lived together in the same neighbourhoods. We studied, ate, and shopped together with no problems at all. Sectarian discrimination was the regime’s invention.</p> <p>Among the Alawites there are opposers to the regime itself. The regime’s game was to create difference and hate amongst sects, so that these differences would keep us divided, one against the other, and leave the regime free to do what it wants. Because if we were together, we would be a danger for the regime.</p> <p>The regime stirred up the Alawites against the Sunnis and the Sunnis against the Alawites, they did the same with the Christians, growing sectarianism so people kill each other while the regime sits and watches.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: What’s your opinion on the future of Syria? Would you go back some day?</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: Inshallah if there would be better conditions, a new president, a new constitution... However, we don’t trust anyone anymore. We heard the same promises of new constitution and a new government from the beginning, yet nothing ever changed. The whole world lined up with Assad’s regime.</p> <p>The Syrian regime has recently announced an act of amnesty for military reserve dropouts. They want people to return back in order to accumulate troops to invade Idlib. Some people already went back; yesterday buses full of young men came straight from Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but one bus was stopped and all passengers were arrested at Nasib border point, they were told they were the undesirables and the authorities arrested them all. </p> <p>Everyday there are people heading back, the day before yesterday 10 buses drove back, but also on the buses some passengers were taken by the regime and led to unknown place, who knows where. They took the bus drivers, the boys, all of them.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: What happens to those arrested by the regime? </p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: Some people are jailed, some can pay and get free, whilst others are taken to the military, and others simply disappear. When their families call to ask where their boys are, officials reply telling them never to call that number again, because they themselves don’t even know where they are. </p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: We read in Syrian newspapers that the refugees should come back now that the war is about to be over…</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: no, this is only a lie to help Assad maintain his position; for unless the refugees come back, he lacks legitimacy to the eyes of the Western and Gulf countries. However, the bait was inviting people back to their homeland, to siege Idlib, bomb it and regain control of the whole of Syria. But so far he’s got no legitimacy from outside countries. Until refugees go back, he won’t have any legitimacy. Foreign countries see there are thousands of people outside Syria, in Lebanon, in Jordan. And they say that until those people return to Syria, he won’t be the rightful president. </p> <p>What is he saying now? That there is no conscription, there is no danger. People have to come back. And as soon as people go back he has them on a list, and if they are on the list he takes them either to prison or to the army. Do you understand? The regime said it removed more than 80,000 names of people from the lists of wanted people. As an act of de-escalation from the regime. But this is a lie, made up by the regime to make people go back.</p> <p>Living outside of Syria we can’t assess the situation there, only those who are inside can, and act accordingly. However, having reached this stage I hope they continue fighting until they take full control over Syria. If not we’ll have spent 7 years in exile for what? Away from our country, away from our houses…for what? We will have lost everything, our lives, our property, our families… </p> <p>My brother 35 years old was martyred leaving 7 little kids orphaned, his death would be wasted. When he died his son was 13 years old, now is now 17 and lost his leg. He spends the whole day locked up at home, he can’t work or move around, his life is wasted. Who will compensate his father’s life or his leg? and how will he continue his life?</p> <p> ---- </p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: could you tell us about Homs city before the war?</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: Homs was beautiful. We called it the “Mother of the poor”. Even those who earned 200 Syrian Lira, that is $4 - 5 a day, could have a life in Homs. This was not an achievement of the government, but of the people that used to provide for all, a generosity of the Homsy people.</p> <p>Everything was so cheap in Homs, that the Lebanese used to come and buy vegetables, food, and gas, and also to consult doctors and receive medical treatment. And all that was the people’s achievement, not the government.</p> <p>We deserved much better than this. We deserved free medication, free education, and even salaries for the people who lived deprived of what should have been accessible to all Syrians, of what belonged to all Syrians. </p> <p>Syria was self-sufficient, do you know what that means? It means we don’t need to import anything from outside. We had sugar factories, oil, fat, the best livestock worldwide. Syria was self-sufficient.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: But don’t you think this was achieved thanks to the regime? The Syrian State?</p> <p> <strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: No, it was the people that achieved it all, the regime only monopolized it for the favor of greedy families like the Makhlouf’s and others. For example, our sugar companies manufacture the best sugar quality which the regime exports, leaving the trash quality for local market consumption.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: Do you remember how the situation changed with Bashar in power, compared to his father Hafez’?</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed:</strong> yes, there was a slight change. Bashar brought technology to Syria, like cellphones and internet, which we didn’t have in Hafez’ time. But in return he took other things from us. If Hafez was a thief, Bashar was even more.</p> <p>Bashar doesn’t know how to think like his father. Hafez was a senior politician, he was skilled in dealing with people.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: But also there are people that say that when Bashar arrived, the political situation changed…</p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: Yes, it did open a bit. Bashar slightly granted access to political life. But at the same time kept people under strict control.</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: And do you think this was the reason why the protests were possible? </p> <p><strong>Abu Mohammed</strong>: No, no. It wasn’t for this. It was because the generations have changed. With Bashar there was a new generation. It was the youth that revolted against Bashar al Asad. The old generation that lived under Hafez’ regime was afraid to try and stop him. It was the youth who ignited the revolution.</p> <p>People thought that because it was a peaceful movement, the regime would refrain from killing, especially today that the media covers everything, not like in the 1980s during Hafez’ and Rafaat Assad’s time when they shelled Hama into ruins because there was no media or cameras to report it. Back then it took people in Syria 3 months to find out what had happened in Hama. But today we have internet, cameras, and social media.</p> <p>People thought that because Bashar was monitored by foreign countries he wouldn’t dare to commit such crimes. But the fact is that he doesn’t care or fear neither the U.S nor any other country as far as he is backed up by Russia and Iran. </p> <p>ISIS was the regime’s invention. It’s the Syrian intelligence in Islamic disguise. Its rise was favoured in order to intimidate Western countries and public opinion, to distract them so as to prioritize eliminating Islamic terrorism, leaving the opportunity to the regime to slaughter its people.</p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-episode-1-um-saleh-life-under-isis">Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 1: Um Saleh - life under ISIS</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Syria refugees podcasts Radio Hakaya Thu, 14 Feb 2019 07:00:00 +0000 Radio Hakaya 121677 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radio Hakaya Podcast, episode 1: Um Saleh - life under ISIS https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/radio-hakaya/radio-hakaya-episode-1-um-saleh-life-under-isis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first episode of a podcast series about the socio-political climate faced by Syrians and their host communities through their own eyes as the pressure rises for refugees to return to Syria.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/Illustration-UmSaleh.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/Illustration-UmSaleh.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</span></span></span></p><p><em>Since September 2018 <a href="https://brushandbow.com/radio-hakaya-%D8%AD%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7/">Brush&amp;Bow</a> has been working with communities in the region of Akkar and beyond, to produce podcasts on stories of life and displacement amongst the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities there. </em></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><em>This podcast series is made of 8 episodes, each including an interview reflecting the current socio-political climate faced by Syrians and their host communities, as the pressure rises for refugees to return to Syria. In this series, Radio Hakaya presents a mosaic of testimonies and experiences on the life of different communities in Lebanon. The diversity of characters in the series gives voice to the discordant and contrasting opinions present on the ground, reflecting the complexity of the overall picture and its multi-layered reality.</em></p><p><em> </em></p><p class="western"><em> Each podcast presents a subjective opinion of individuals whose communities have been directly effected by the war in Syria and the displacement of Syrians to Lebanon. The series provides a mosaic of differing experiences and perspectives of the reasons that people fled from Syria, of the living conditions in Lebanon and of the hopes and fears about what the future might hold.</em></p> <p class="western" lang="it-IT"> <strong>All recordings are taken, translated and edited with the help from members of the local community.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Interviews and Editing by Roshan De Stone &amp; David L. Suber.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Editing and Translations by Fadi Haddad.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong> Illustrations by Hannah Kirmes-Daly.</strong></p><p>This is the first podcast of the 8-part series. It is an interview with Um Saleh, a woman who fled the city of Deir Ezzor with her family in 2013. Sitting on the banks of the Euphrates and located in the oil-rich desert bordering Iraq, Deir Ezzor is the largest city in north-east Syria, and has been of strategic importance to all contenders throughout the Syrian civil war. Initially held as a bastion of regime forces for the first years of the war, opposition forces took most of the city and province of Deir Ezzor in 2013. During the next two years, Daesh (ISIS) quickly came to dominate opposition held territory, putting pro-regime areas under a crippling siege. The presence of Daesh turned Deir Ezzor and its surrounding region into a target of heavy air-strikes from the international coalition fighting Daesh. </p><p class="western">The civilians that remained in Daesh-held territory faced a double fire: living under daily bombardment, whilst under the rule of a fundamentalist version of Sharia Law. Daesh militants needed civilians to live amongst so as to limit the intensification of air-strikes from the international coalition, whilst seeking popular legitimacy in the creation of the new Caliphate. </p> <p class="western">Nonetheless, thousands of people attempted to flee the city. For those who managed to escape, the risks were high, with few places where to seek for safety. Whilst going to Turkey or to Kurdish-held territories would have been the closest option for civilians in Deir Ezzor, the Turkish border remained shut to those who could not afford being smuggled in, whilst the Kurds often also denied free passage, fearing the presence of terrorists amongst the Arab refugees who had lived in Daesh-controlled areas.</p> <p class="western">For many families there was no other option but to attempt to flee to other areas inside Syria, or to further bordering Arab countries such as Iraq, Jordan or Lebanon. The story of Um Saleh, collected in November 2017 in a refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekka Valley, is the perspective of an average Syrian family from the outskirts of Deir Ezzor, who regrets the 2011 uprisings as having allowed such an escalation of violence and destruction in Syria. </p> <p class="western">Her experience represents only a fragment of the very complex puzzle of memories and positions Syrian civilians hold on the uprisings and the war that is tearing apart Syria, and should therefore be heard in relation to the contents expressed in the next forthcoming podcasts. </p> <p><strong>Listen to the podcast in English or in Arabic below</strong></p> <iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563413983&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe> <iframe width="100%" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/563419845&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"></iframe> <p>&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="it-IT">*Please note that all names have been changed to protect the anonymity of participants who, despite living in Lebanon, still fear for their lives. The views and opinions published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush&amp;Bow. </p><p class="western" lang="it-IT"><strong>Read the transcript:</strong></p><p> Podcast #1 Um Saleh – Life under ISIS</p> <p> <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Introduction: </span> </p> <p> <em>Welcome to Radio HAKAYA – </em><em>حكايا </em><em>the official podcast series of Brush and Bow. These podcasts report on stories and challenges of the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities in Lebanon. By focusing on individual stories, we hope to convey the complex realities of life here in Lebanon: people’s memories, present experiences and hopes for the future. We would like to remind you that the views published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush and Bow.</em></p> <p> <em>Today’s podcast is an interview with Um Saleh, a Syrian woman from Deir Ezzor. Deir Ezzor is the largest city in Eastern Syria. Sitting on the shores of the Euphrates, close to the Iraqi border, it is a region known to be rich in oil. Um Saleh witnessed her city falling under the rule of ISIS in 2014, before attempting to flee to Kurdish held areas. Turned away on multiple occasions, she had no other choice but to flee with her family to Lebanon. In this interview, Um Saleh gives testimony to life under the self-proclaimed Islamic State, to the dangers of escaping their rule, and to the impossibility of return to her home. </em> </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Interview</span>:</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: we come from Der Al Zor city in Syria</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: how was it in Der Al Zor?</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: Life was simple, nice…secure. We had schools and access to a good education. Every morning students attended their schools and people went to their jobs. Everything was available, I owned a nice house with a garden where I planted flowers and vegetables.</p> <p>We didn’t even need to have water tanks or barrels, like in Lebanon, since water was available straight from the taps.</p> <p>We had hot water, cold water, and water heaters, everything was available. The opposite of the life we live now. We could never have imagined what we live now, even in our worst nightmares.</p> <p>--</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: The oil is definitely what gave Deir Ezzor its importance. Der Al Zor is the richest Syrian city in terms of oil as it has many wells. This was the reason the city was besieged by ISIS. When ISIS seized the city of Der Al Zor, they took control of all the oil wells, I lived and witnessed all of it. </p> <p>ISIS besieged the city as the city was held by regime forces. Many civilians ran out of food – no sugar, no bread – the city was choked by ISIS. A bag of sugar was worth so much it could be traded for a car.</p> <p>Military planes used to deliver food provisions to be distributed, first to the besieged soldiers, then to civilians. The soldiers would distribute provisions only once in a while. These food provisions consisted of a parcel containing 2 kilos of potatoes and a tomato paste jar, in order to get the parcel, you needed to stand in line or maybe sleep in the street for 2 to 3 days as priority was given to the soldiers and for the civilians it didn’t really matter whether we got the parcel or not. Back then 1 cucumber was sold at 1500 Syrian Liras.</p> <p>People became more like skeletons... If you wanted to flee you’d get killed!</p> <p>--</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: There were 4 major players in Deir Al Zor; the regime, the Iranian militias, the Kurds (Democratic Syria Forces), and ISIS, none can deny that fact. ISIS once cracked into the Kurdish camp taking about 125 Syrian families as hostages.</p> <p>ISIS are not all foreigners. The majority are locals recruited via money; They target young males around 14-15 years old, from the uneducated population which form the majority of the people, especially among the Bedouins living in the desert who have spent their life raising sheep and never attended any school. ISIS could control them easily, giving about 50.000 - 60.000 Syrian Lira salaries, a uniform, a car, and a gun after training them how to use it. Such privileges gave the naïve adolescents authority.</p> <p>They also put the boys they had recruited through a 1-month course in order to educate them about jihad for the cause of Allah. They would tell them that if you got killed fighting jihad you would go to heavens where there would be virgins waiting for you. The boys would get brainwashed, and then even their parents can’t stop them from believing in what ISIS had told them. </p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: But where does ISIS get their money from? </p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: Definitely, the wealth of ISIS is the outcome of the oil wells they captured immediately after seizing control of the city. They dealt in USD which they weigh in scales rather than count. ISIS transferred money to Iraq in exchange for weapons. </p> <p>However, when a crisis took place in Der Al Zor and militias got divided, people tended to follow whoever they believed to be stronger. For example: if I belonged to Jabhat Al Nosra, whilst ISIS was becoming dominant, then I’d leave Al Nosra and join ISIS. Likewise, if the Kurds were dominant, I’d leave ISIS to join the Kurds, all according to who pays more.</p> <p>If you are a military officer general, brigadier general, or major and fled ISIS to the regime-dominated territory, ISIS won’t rob the house, but will use it.</p> <p>Living under ISIS you must stick by the laws; smoking is prohibited, and women must wear the niqab. I myself wore one, my daughter too, every woman had to wear a black niqab. High heels were prohibited, but we could use sneakers instead. There was no free will, you had to obey their laws. Violating the law meant that you would be punished. You might be arrested, jailed or lashed. And then put on a Shari’a, Islamic law course. </p> <p>Whoever was caught stealing was punished by having their hand cut off, if it was proved by 2 witnesses under oath, or if you were caught in the act. </p> <p>As for someone who is charged with dealing with the regime or any other party, the sentence was decapitation. Most of the beheaded bodies were not buried but rather thrown in a deep tunnel they had dug which I saw with my own eyes.</p> <p>--</p> <p><strong>Interviewer</strong>: How did you manage to escape? </p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: It was so risky, as it is impossible that ISIS would let you go. If they caught you trying to flee, they would ask ‘’you want to go to the land of the hypocrites and disbelievers?’’. If that was the case, you would be sentenced to death, you and all your family. The night we left, it was a dreadful night. We left under air raid strikes in the middle of the night. We fled through the orchids and trees in the outskirts of town. </p> <p>To reach the Kurdish border, we had to walk through a minefield as Isis planted mines throughout the countryside to separate themselves form the Kurds. So if you want to escape ISIS, you need a guide who knows how to safely walk routes on the minefields. Otherwise, a mine might explode killing or wounding you. These guides exchange their services for money. </p> <p>We walked for three days, only moving at night in total darkness. All lights were forbidden. And we formed a single line carefully following in the footsteps of our guide who kept telling us if we stepped a wrong foot and ended on a mine that would blow all of us up. </p> <p>Walking and resting, it took us 3 days in the desert to reach the Kurdish checkpoints. The kids and women were all crying. We were so tired and scared.</p> <p>--</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh</strong>: When we finally reached the Kurdish border, they asked us where we came from. When we said Deir Ezzor, they told us to turn around and go back where we came from.</p> <p>We told them: “we are civilians. We are not ISIS!” We were about 4 or 5 families, but they made all of us go back. </p> <p>--</p> <p><strong>Um Saleh:</strong> Before the revolution, we lived secure lives. Our children attended schools, men went to their work, and things worked perfectly. Now there is nothing left</p> <p>After the revolution, they sold everything, gangs came to rob and ruin our houses. This was terrorism, not a revolution. Imagine 20,000 fighters came to us, beheading, slaughtering, killing until blood filled the streets. Some of the bodies were eaten by dogs! What kind of revolution is that?! All the different brigades were fighting; fighters from Chechnya, Kazakhstan…even the Iranians and the Shia. All of them fought in Syria. </p> <p>It wasn’t only one side. It wasn’t regime vs. people. It wasn’t the people trying to topple the regime, but rather numerous combatants fighting. Killing civilians.</p> <p>Do you believe it was only the regime’s air raid strikes! There were also the Russian jets that slaughtered the civilians. Russia, Iran, and the regime strike targeting only the civilians among whom ISIS chose to stay, but where should the civilians escape to? The whole country was at war. </p> <p>We seek safety and security, not a new presidency. Only once we regain safety to return and rebuild our houses may the Syrian people return - whether the president is Assad or not. </p> <p>Bashar or not! This is not the people’s concern; the main concern is security and having a means of living - what more can a human being seek?</p> <p>---</p> <p><em>This Was Radio Hakaya. Thank you for listening.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/oral-culture-and-identity-in-syria-dossier">Oral culture and identity in Syria - Dossier</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/palestine-s-forgotten-refugees-in-lebanon">Palestine’s forgotten refugees in Lebanon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/anton-mukhamedov/forgotten-history-of-revolutionary-raqqa-and-its-deep-wounds">The forgotten history of revolutionary Raqqa, and its deep wounds</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Syria refugees podcasts Radio Hakaya Thu, 07 Feb 2019 07:00:20 +0000 Radio Hakaya 121558 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radio Hakaya https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/radio-hakaya <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Radio Hakaya </div> </div> </div> <p> Radio Hakaya is an online-radio community project started by <a href="https://brushandbow.com/radio-hakaya-%D8%AD%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A7/">Brush&amp;Bow</a> in northern Lebanon. To get in touch about the podcasts, email: brushandbowinfo[at]gmail.com</p> Radio Hakaya Mon, 04 Feb 2019 15:03:23 +0000 Radio Hakaya 121560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net