BEYOND BORDERS LONDON COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION
The Refugee Journalism Project was launched in March 2016 with the aim of supporting refugee and exiled journalists to re-start their careers in the UK. These journalists arrive in the UK with an impressive range of skills – many have been editors, correspondents and producers in their own countries – but face significant barriers when they attempt to continue with their journalism. Our participants come from a variety of regions including Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Yemen. All have successfully been through the asylum process and have confirmed refugee status. There continues to be mounting evidence that refugees, despite being qualified and experienced journalists, are unable to gain employment within the British media. In the first year of our project, our participants spoke of how their experiences of being qualified editors, news correspondents and reporters failed to translate into work opportunities in the UK – neither paid nor unpaid. There are challenges that are specific to this group, such as producing journalism in English when it might be a fourth or fifth language. But they also fall victim to the systemic lack of diversity within the sector. Numerous reports have evidenced that minority ethnic and religious groups are significantly underrepresented in the UK’s journalism workforce. The reasons for this are multifarious but they certainly include the influence of social capital.
professionals. The lack of access to a network has been frequently cited as a barrier to their progress. We have been fortunate to have recruited mentors who have worked for organisations like BBC, CNN, Vice, Channel 4 News, The Telegraph, New Statesman, Sky News, the Guardian, The Times, The Economist and Vanity Fair. There are a number of layers to our expectations for the project. From a journalistic perspective, we hope to help challenge the narrative around refugees and migrants. For those who are ’work ready’, we want them to be able to successfully compete for paid work. A number of our participants have already had success in this area, for example, Abdul is now a full time researcher with Airwars; Noori is getting regular freelance work with the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Isar has been offered a data researcher/reporter post with the Progressive Media Group; and Aziz has been offered a three-month contract with the same company. Over the year, we have learned that the project is not just about finding work and developing journalism skills. For some, there are more fundamental barriers that need to be tackled. The trauma of the last few years has left some in need of emotional healing. Others have complex challenges around housing and finance. So the project is also about practical support, rebuilding confidence and reducing feelings of isolation. Ultimately, it’s about aiding their broader integration into the UK. We want to help them thrive and settle in their new communities.
Our work focuses on helping these journalists to become better connected within the industry through mentoring; supporting them in updating their journalistic skills with workshops and placements; and assisting them in getting more of their voices published and broadcast within the mainstream press.
The Refugee Journalism Project is a collaboration between London College of Communication and the Migrants Resource Centre. The first year of the project has been funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
One of the central features of the project is the pairing of the refugees with established journalists and media
Vivienne Francis & Tessa Hughes The Refugee Journalism Project @refugeejourno For more information on the project, please visit: www.migrantjournalism.org
COVER ILLUSTRATION BY MAITE DIEZ
Any claims or views expressed in this magazine do not represent the views of UAL, its staff or management.
editorial comment BEYOND BORDERS brings together the work of some of those involved in the Refugee Journalism Project. It encompasses the writings of award-winning journalists, and those publishing in English for the first time. Our commissioning approach is not overly prescriptive and the final works are lightly edited. Although this tack is perhaps a little unconventional and goes against more orthodox journalistic practices, it is in keeping with the spirit of our project. We want to create a space where authentic voices and ideas are undiluted and unfettered by editorial conventions. Afghan-born journalist Zabihullah Noori opens with his experiences of trying to find work in the UK. Whilst his career in this country is starting to progress, Noori admits that it’s a difficult transition from being a high status journalist in his home country to a low status journalist in the UK. In his work as the former Migration Correspondent for the Guardian, Patrick Kingsley has travelled thousands of miles across Europe and the Middle East speaking to many of those seeking refuge. Yet, as he reveals in his article, mentoring journalists from Afghanistan and Syria has been both a humbling and insightful experience. The project has also given London College of Communication students a chance to work alongside refugee journalists. In his piece, 'Harnessing the Power of Others,' LCC BA (Hons) Journalism student James Cropper considers how the experience has enriched his understanding of diversity and professional values.
Other pieces in BEYOND BORDERS take on a more reflective, polemical approach, focusing on the journalists’ individual experiences and views on oppression, conflict, free speech and democracy. They reveal how the interplay of these forces has helped shape the writers’ journalism practice. Sudanese photojournalist Anwar Elsamani in 'Journalism as a Healer of Divisions' discusses how having access to free channels of communication is crucial for the exercising of democratic principles and holding powers to account. Palestinian activist and journalist Shahd Abusalama offers her unique perspective on the unfolding American immigration policy and how it bears similarities to what she has witnessed in Gaza. Project mentor and freelance journalist Sally Hayden reflects on the risks women face on the migration trail, and shares her own experience of being threatened with rape by a smuggler. The publishing of BEYOND BORDERS comes at a time when many of us are still trying to make sense of the actions of those who seek to erect physical and ideological barriers that will increasingly polarise communities. In these uncertain times, brave, factual journalism must play its role. By integrating those who can offer different perspectives due to their varying histories, ideologies and ethnicities, the impact of journalism will be all the more powerful.
From high stAtus to low status and back again AWARD-WINNING PRODUCER ZABIHULLAH NOORI REVEALS HOW BEING INVOLVED IN THE REFUGEE JOURNALISM PROJECT HAS HELPED RESTORE CONFIDENCE IN HIS PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY As I stepped into the UK in 2011 my priority was applying for asylum and getting legal status in the country. After claiming asylum, I waited over a year for the Home Office to decide on my claim. Due to the UK’s immigration rules, I was not allowed to seek paid employment. Being jobless and sitting idle was not in my nature. I found it really hard passing my time doing nothing.
IMAGES BY SARA FURLANETTO
The Home Office had dispersed me to Brinnington, Stockport. It was a community where very few refugees were living. In fact, my wife and I were the only two refugees there for quite some time. The residents in the area were predominantly British so to interact with them and to get to know them better I approached Stockport Council with an idea to set up a community newsletter. This was very well received and soon we formed a team of volunteers to establish the first community newsletter in the area, called Your Brinnington. It helped me interact with residents on a deeper level, get to know the new environment, its history, and most of all provided me with an opportunity to do some journalism. By the time the Home Office granted me refugee status, I had fully integrated into the community. It offered me everything, except one thing that I needed the most — a job that would pay my bills. I therefore moved to London and applied for jobs in journalism. I registered with multiple recruitment agencies. At times, I would apply for more than three jobs in one day. Having a strong background in television news management and video reporting, I started applying for TV jobs. I tailored my CV as best as I could and went for jobs at news channels, production companies and news agencies. Initially I applied
for managerial to mid-level positions. I eagerly tracked my applications, counting the days to the interview dates, hoping that I would be called for an interview. Sadly I did not hear back from any potential employers. Eventually I lowered my expectations and went from mid-level positions to entry-level jobs. By this time the number of applications had passed the two-digit figure and I had lost track of them. Getting no feedback from potential employers, I became very upset and I lost my confidence. I decided to look for jobs in other industries in order to pay the bills and make a living. Thanks to my legal solicitor, I gained work as a freelance interpreter at her firm. I expanded my network and became very busy interpreting and translating. Soon I was translating at Britain’s famous Old Bailey and Royal Courts of Justice. Through my interpreting network I was introduced to the Refugee Journalism Project. I immediately agreed to take part, and from the first day have taken all the advice and guidance I was offered. My sincere commitment and passion for my profession is starting to pay off. Through the project I got introduced to leading figures in the field, managed to start building contacts with established UK journalists, and penned my first articles for some of the country’s leading news organizations - Reuters and The Huffington Post. My ultimate ambition is to secure a full time job in the news and current affairs department of one of the UK's leading broadcasters, like Channel 4 News or ITV News, Sky News or BBC World Service. I am optimistic about achieving my goals, but I accept that they are still a long way off.
A Relationship of Reciprocity
IMAGE FROM CREATIVE COMMONS: REFUGEES WELCOME, BY DEANNA ZANDT
THROUGH MENTORING, THE REFUGEE JOURNALISM PROJECT CONNECTS ITS PARTICIPANTS WITH ESTABLISHED JOURNALISTS WHO ARE ABLE TO SHARE THEIR EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE. BUT AS PATRICK KINGSLEY DISCOVERED, THE MENTOR HAS JUST AS MUCH TO LEARN AS THE MENTEE On Christmas Day, I spent the afternoon in a small flat in Slough with an extraordinary man called Jamil Danish. Jamil is a former advisor to the Afghan government, a former journalist for the BBC, and a one-time spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency. Now he is a refugee himself, having escaped an assassination attempt in Afghanistan. Today he is trying to make it as a journalist in Britain. It’s through this context that I came to spend Christmas afternoon with Jamil and his two impeccably polite young sons, watching the Queen give her annual Christmas speech. Jamil is part of the Refugee Journalism Project at London College of Communication, which aims to get refugees into the media industry. I mentor two of the participants – Ziad Ghandour, a brilliant English graduate from Damascus, and Jamil. In theory, Jamil and Ziad are supposed to learn from me. I’m the Guardian’s former migration correspondent, and now a reporter for the New York Times. I’m meant to help Jamil and Ziad understand more about journalism, about writing, and about reporting. But in reality, over the course of our phone conversations and meetings, I expect I have learnt just as much from them as they have from me – if not more. And that Christmas afternoon gave a good sense of why. As his kids played with Lego, and as the television showed rolling clips of the royal family at church, Jamil told me about his life in Afghanistan, and about the country’s recent history. I learnt how a bomb strike hit his childhood home, forcing his family to move to Kabul. I learnt how he used a pair of shoes as a pillow, so cramped was their new home in the capital. I learnt about life under the
Taliban, and about the population’s little acts of everyday resistance to Taliban rule. (Jamil had a secret satellite dish, so that he could watch banned foreign movies.) I learnt about the day the Taliban fell. About how Jamil and his BBC colleagues then explored one of the Taliban’s abandoned houses – to find a secret stash of banned foreign movies. About what it was like to shave your beard for the first time since the end of extremist rule. About Jamil’s attempts to help build a better Afghanistan, working for the UN and the country’s development ministry. About the threats he received from powerful criminals, angry at his opposition to corruption. About the subsequent attempts to kill him. Above all, I learnt about the stresses and hardships of a refugee’s life in Britain. As a migration-focussed journalist, I have a good understanding of the epic journeys refugees undertake to reach the safety of Europe. But before I met Jamil and Ziad, I knew less about how hard it is to find stability, even once you’ve been granted asylum in a place like Britain. Over the past year, Jamil and Ziad have set me straight. Through them, I learnt how hard it is to get on with life when your family is either struggling to acclimatise to their new surroundings – or still stuck in a conflict zone thousands of miles away. About how hard it is to find friends, to find work, to find the deposit for a flat. About how hard it is to pursue a career in journalism – or even just to write an article – when your mind is scrambled by thoughts of your distant family, of how you’re going to make ends meet this week, or where you’re going to be sleeping next month. More happily, Jamil and Ziad have also taught me that
it’s possible to succeed even in these most difficult of circumstances. Jamil has had two brilliant articles published in the Guardian, drawing on his experiences in the Afghan government. Ziad has conducted important research on the Syrian war for the analysis group, Airwars. He’s also won a fortnight of work experience at the BBC, is working as a translator for a production company, and found a part-time position at a books website. While in that last job, Ziad interviewed me about my book about migration – but it occurred to me that really I should have been interviewing Ziad and Jamil, rather than the other
way around. They’re the real experts on migration, and whether they know it or not, they’ve taught me so much. As I left Slough last December, I realised that I’d learnt more about devotion and self-sacrifice in two hours’ talking with Jamil than I had in the bland Christmas church service I’d attended that morning. In short, both he and Ziad are an inspiration, and I can only hope to one day match their patience, fortitude, and grace under pressure. “This has been the best Christmas present,” said Jamil, as I left his flat. Jamil: the feeling was mutual.
power Harnessing the oF otherness For current journalism students, our time at university has been dominated by the refugee crisis. The now common sight of journalists covering people’s escape from conflict areas has become not just a topic confined to newsrooms but one that’s studied by journalism students in great detail. However, while the correspondents wired back stories and students analysed the impact of their effect on public discourse, it may not have dawned on journalism as a whole that they were missing something. This was simply that some of the very people who were being reported on shared the same journalistic passion that shapes our industry’s DNA. In a sense, these journalists became the subject of a story that they could tell best. The stories of these journalists didn’t stop when they arrived in Britain. With their arrival they’ve brought knowledge and skills that provide insight into issues British journalists can only analyse with observers’ eyes. In Britain, the journalism industry is still dealing with a diversity problem, which was highlighted by a 2012 National Union of Journalists (NUJ) report which discovered 94 per cent of journalists are white while 65 per cent come from affluent backgrounds. For a young working class student, this poses enough of a challenge. However, when attending the Refugee Journalism Project’s first session I was struck by the immense difficulty these experienced journalists were having in finding their feet within Britain’s industry. In the session, journalists from over ten countries brought their stories, experiences and hopes into one shared space. Stories of being forced out by extremist groups
who feared their work, oppressive governments that opposed a free press, and injustices driving others into the profession were all banded together by shared journalistic DNA. My initial thought was that these experiences were reminiscent of what UK correspondents receive plaudits and awards for. However, by having little experience or qualifications in British journalism they were left in a similar place to myself, a fresh-faced student at the bottom of the journalistic ladder. As the project and relationships developed through a series of workshops, I discovered that each participant had their own perceptions of British journalism. This was intriguing; by looking at our country through their eyes, it shed light on how our industry is perceived in countries that correspondents have so often reported from. The general consensus among participants was that British journalism is held in high regard across the world, which they mostly attributed to its history of free speech and autonomy. Working alongside the project’s participants, it became clear that possessing the freedom to produce stories without fear of persecution was a trait to be valued by journalists.
For a young journalism student, the chance to collaborate with such a diverse group of people has been an invaluable experience. With each participant came a slightly different style of journalism influenced by the culture that they brought to Britain. For example, in September 2016, I teamed up with Fardous Bahbouh to cover a Refugees Welcome march in London. As an aspiring video journalist I stayed behind the camera while Fardous, originally from Syria, used her natural charisma to present an on-screen
FINAL YEAR LCC JOURNALISM STUDENT JAMES CROPPER CALLS ON THE MEDIA INDUSTRY TO DROP THE LABELS AND LET THE DIVERSE TALENT SHINE THROUGH report. Although Fardous and myself hadn’t worked together, we formed an effective team, which, fronted by her strong journalistic confidence, really brought the report to life. If I mentioned someone who would be great to interview, Fardous was already there introducing herself. This was a cameraman’s dream and it was through her confidence that we managed to interview a number of notable names, the actress Juliet Stevenson being a great example. During this march, another participant, Aziz Rahman from Afghanistan, also got involved in filming by presenting on screen links about why people had gathered in central London. This day represents one of many moments throughout the project that reminded me of why I’m pursuing a career in journalism. Watching both Fardous and Aziz slip back into their element so naturally, almost as if someone had flicked a journalistic switch in their heads, was a truly inspiring moment. I have also been fortunate enough to work with Temesghen Debesai, an Eritrean television journalist who features in a documentary that myself and other student volunteers have been producing throughout the project. Temesghen is an incredibly experienced journalist, who despite experiencing a long journey back into journalism, has brought with him an extremely commendable positive attitude. By embracing every opportunity provided by the project, which even involved working with students 20 years his junior, it has made me realise the importance of patience when trying to get my break. I have great respect for how Temesghen approaches journalism, and that’s not just because he put up with me filming him outside in Canary Wharf for an afternoon.
These experiences, albeit only a small snippet of my time on the project, have added new dimensions into how my own journalism career will be formed in the future. For example, I’ve learnt from first-hand accounts of the conflicts that we often hear so much about but rarely engage with directly. This is something that I believe the Refugee Journalism Project should receive huge credit for achieving. By engaging with its participants as fellow journalists rather than view them simply under the label of being refugees, a major barrier to incorporating their work into journalism has been torn down. This, in my opinion, is what newsrooms should aim to structure themselves around as by increasing their diversity, editors could possess a far greater remit for understanding worldwide conflicts, issues and life. This isn’t just a utopian vision. As programmes like the Refugee Journalism Project show, there are talented journalists slipping under the radar of media outlets due to their label of being refugees. The stories that they bring are outward looking and bring passion into the industry through experiences that even hard line foreign correspondents can only cover with an outsider’s perspective. If we as journalists want to understand the world better in our attempts to provide society with accurate information, then newsroom diversity is absolutely paramount. While it won’t be an easy task, I hope that my journalistic journey will be lived alongside the people that I have met through this project. Today I am proud to call the project’s participants my journalistic colleagues. Refugee or not, we are all journalists.
what it means to be an
journalist TEMESGHEN DEBESAI ASFAHA REFLECTS ON HOW HIS CAREER HAS BEEN SHAPED BY A COUNTRY THAT SHUNNED INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR CENSORSHIP AND VIOLENCE As one who began his journey in the media industry back in Eritrea in East Africa, it’s important to shed light on what it means to be a journalist in Eritrea. In order to do that, I’ve had to do a bit of research to sum up the core principles of journalism. They are: __To provide accurate and honest information. __To make sure journalists are free from external pressures and censorship. __To make sure that the information made available remains fair and impartial. __To tell a story and remain accountable for your version of events. Since gaining independence from its larger neighbour Ethiopia in 1991, the small and new nation of Eritrea was envisaged as a beacon of hope and a new start for its people. Although it gradually embarked on the path to nation rebuilding and economic development, a border war with Ethiopia in 1997 saw the two countries draw their battle lines all over again. It was also around this time that the government of Eritrea began to allow the first private newspapers to begin circulation in the country. Until then, the only source of information came from the state-run TV, radio and papers. The advent of these private papers heralded a new era, allowing the country's citizens to have access to media outlets that weren't run by the government. While these papers were run independently and strived to produce accurate information, it must be noted that they weren’t completely free to write about and report
on whatever they deemed newsworthy. These papers had to go through extensive censorship by the country's Ministry of Information before they were given the green light to go to the printers. The idea behind the censorship was to make sure, at least according to the government, that they do not “jeopardise the country's national security”.
exact whereabouts of those jailed ministers or journalists. Prison wardens who have fled the country's authoritarian regime have given their accounts of what happened. According to them, most of those imprisoned have already died behind bars under harsh conditions. Some of them were tortured to death, and some committed suicide, unable to bear the treatment. In the years that followed, Eritrea began to feature continuously at the bottom of the France-based Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. In 2015, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also featured Eritrea at the bottom of the pile when it comes to press restrictions, beating North Korea. Eritrea is referred to by many political analysts and journalists around the world as the North Korea of Africa as a result. The country's president, Isaias Afwerki, worked so tirelessly over the years to crush independent journalism that even journalists working for the state-run news departments live in constant fear for their lives. There is zero tolerance for any “irresponsible" journalism, which is punishable by imprisonment indefinitely, where torture is inevitable. Therefore to be an Eritrean journalist can be a costly enterprise, especially for a journalist who upholds the core values of the profession. In my home country I worked for the state-owned television station as a news presenter and editor. But in order to survive, I had to compromise on what I was passionate about, telling the
As tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia began to escalate, senior officials within the Eritrean government grew critical of their own leadership, and the only way to get their message across to the general public was through the use of the private papers. Both the ministers and members of the public began to resort to these papers to vent their frustrations over the country's administration. Fearing a public mutiny spearheaded by those senior officials, the country's unelected president, Isaias Afwerki, called for the imprisonment of 11 members of his own cabinet, shut down the private newspapers and imprisoned the journalists who worked on those papers. Around 23 journalists are believed to remain unaccounted for to date. Free press and free speech as we know it was officially terminated from the East African nation. The state-run media, which became the only source of information, albeit biased, labelled them as traitors who compromised the country's existence as an independent entity. None of those imprisoned were ever brought before a court of law to defend themselves. They continue to be kept in solitary confinement and receive no visitation rights. Their families aren’t allowed to ask where they were taken. Since September 2001, nobody knows the
ILLUSTRATION BY MARGUERITE CARNEC
story as it is. The only way to stay alive was to sing the praises off the hymn sheets as instructed by the government, or meet a premature demise. I had to flee Eritrea because I knew that sooner or later I could land myself in hot water if I ever decided to do the work of an independent journalist. My experiences in Eritrea, and what I witnessed in terms of the fate that befell those that either remain in jail or are no longer living, have only rekindled the fire to want to continue the search for and expose the truth. In places like Eritrea, journalism is first and foremost about giving a voice to the voiceless and telling their stories to the rest of the world. Nowadays you don’t have to even travel to Eritrea to get to the bottom of the story. The government's tyrannical rule has affected every sector of the country. Consequently Eritreans make up the second largest group of migrants (behind Syrians) fleeing to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. Every single one of those migrants has a book of horrific and untold stories in them, waiting to be extracted. I believe that journalism is the most lethal frontier in exposing rogue governments and holding them accountable for their crimes and gross violation of human rights. As a TV journalist, I believe I am at my best when I can tell the story using moving image to complement the narrative. It is with great conviction that I feel those lucky enough to make it out alive owe it to the public, and our colleagues in jail, to tell their stories and fight for justice.
Who is a refugee? THROUGH HER WORK AS A CAMPAIGNER AND COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER, FARDOUS BAHBOUH WANTS TO TAKE BACK OWNERSHIP OF HER REFUGEE LABEL Browsing the library shelves while waiting for an event at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a book in the Syria section caught my attention: “What is a refugee?” The title surprised me as I was taught in English to use ‘who’ for people and ‘what’ for things. Despite my initial irritation and resentment, I picked up the book and starting skimming through, wondering to myself what a scholar sitting at his desk in a safe office somewhere could possibly know about the plight of refugees. Reluctantly, I decided to read the book. At least I could use it to challenge the narrative. Contrary to my preconceptions, Professor William Maley’s book offers a brilliant contextualized, comprehensive and humane insight into the refugee experience. He outlines the historic background – as forced migration is not a new phenomenon and it could happen to anybody. Then he talks about various definitions and some of the work done to help refugees, with examples from different countries. The most important aspect is the inclusion of the personal stories of individual refugees, proving that everyone has a unique experience and a personal story – something that is sometimes lost in reporting when refugees are often presented as nameless numbers. I personally never like it when journalists use the expression ‘the refugee crisis.’ For me, refugees are not a crisis. As Professor Maley articulates, refugees are products of failing systems: “When a particular state fails to protect its own people, they may look for protection to other parts of the system of states. Refugees are symptoms of a system of states that has failed properly to live up to its responsibilities." Thus, society can’t blame the victims! Refugees leave their homes, family, friends, businesses
and achievements behind and flee for their lives. But reaching safety is only half the challenge. They then have to deal with losing family ties, having to learn a new language, losing social recognition gained by work or profession. The actual crisis is states’ failure to protect their own citizens, and other states’ failure to welcome and protect these individuals. To avoid the moral, ethical and legal responsibilities, politicians sometimes claim refugees are economic migrants. While talking about refugees has become a very popular topic in the European media recently, Professor Maley highlights that in welcoming refugees, poor countries are as generous as rich countries, even more generous sometimes. Furthermore, the lack of safe routes to sanctuary means that, “refugees have been driven by governments into the arms of people smugglers”. This makes them further at risk of abuse, exploitation or slavery. Professor Maley talks about the diversity of refugees and the different circumstances they go through. He identifies different categories: the ‘acute refugee’ who finds themself in a desperate situation; the ‘anticipatory refugee’ who is already outside their country when they realize they can no longer return; and the ‘refugee sur place’, by virtue of being well off. My personal experience makes me both ‘anticipatory’ and ‘sur place.’ In a discussion with a friend about helping refugees, when I told her: “I am a refugee myself,” she replied, “All my family are ‘actual refugees’ who fled their homes in one night leaving everything behind.” For her, I didn’t fit her definition of a refugee because I didn’t go through such dire circumstances. I came to the UK for a self-funded Masters programme, or as I sometimes jokingly describe
it: a daddy scholarship! My parents supported me to come to study here, and prior to the UK, they encouraged me to go to the USA to study politics. My father has big hopes for me. He used to tell me that one day I would become the Syrian Iron Lady or Benazir Bhutto. But he definitely did not wish for me to get assassinated, and because of my activism against the brutal Assad regime, I can’t return home. It is really difficult to be cut away from one’s own roots. I go through a mix of grief and denial that I am stuck away from home while the country is burning. However, I am starting to come to terms with my new situation. Being a refugee now feels like part of my identity: a refugee welcomed and protected in another country. I want to give back and help other refugees reach safety, so I volunteer alongside many amazing people devoting their time and effort to make a difference. Through this painful journey and the volunteer work, I have found my real identity and a sense of belonging. With my friends, I have started a community group to welcome refugees to London. We have called our grassroots initiative ‘Ahlan Wa Sahlan’ - Arabic for ‘welcome’. We run English classes and social activities in a safe and comfortable environment. I also volunteer with Citizens UK and the Refugees Welcome campaign. I see how ordinary people can come together to improve lives.
Safe Passage, a project of Citizens UK, works to find legal routes to sanctuary for people fleeing persecution. I have experienced incredible happiness from helping child refugees reach safety and being reunited with their family members in the UK. Since Safe Passage started, 1,050 child refugees have arrived here safely. Through my work I have experienced extraordinary support from the UK public. For me, it symbolizes real hope and thought for humanity. It also represents glimpses of light during the dark times. I only hope that collectively we can convince the government to reverse their decision to renege on their commitment under the Dubs scheme. So a simple answer to the question ‘Who is a refugee?’ My response is that refugees are highly determined and resilient people who learn how to survive wars and establish new lives. All in all, for refugees, fleeing oppression and persecution can be life changing. But it can also inspire people to help and make a difference. Empathy and compassion are what make me feel I belong here. It has helped me to rediscover the value of life and to refuse to be silent or silenced. As Rabbi Joachim Prinz said of his experience in 1930s Germany: “…I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
Journalism as a healer of divisions ANWAR ELSAMANI WORKED AS A REPORTER IN SUDAN FOR 20 YEARS. HERE HE CONSIDERS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND HIS WORK I remember when I was six years old, I would go to my father’s shop every morning, where he and his friends asked me to read one of the English newspapers whilst having their coffee. At that time I didn’t even know how to read in Arabic, but I just made some noises and spoke random words. I didn’t know what they meant or from which language they came. I would invent most of the words. I kept doing this every morning because after finishing the reading I would receive some money and sweets from my father and his friends. To me it was a comedy show that paid off well. Now journalism has become an important part of my life. Journalism means communicating about important issues and details of life. It can enrich our knowledge and provide us with opportunities to rethink our behaviour and look beyond our self-interest. It can show how other parts of the world celebrate diversity and live in harmony. I’ve lived in a country that experiences constant barriers between people, whether relating to sectarianism, tribalism, discrimination, racism or poverty. In countries with conflict, most of the political parties enforce one of those barriers because they themselves represent a group on one side of the division. Therefore, to raise the awareness in order to overcome these barriers, a free press is vital to inform people. The media, or journalism in my case, can be a good platform for all people to learn about something new or consider things that they had never thought about.
Whilst I was in Sudan, I spent about 20 years as a journalist dealing with some of the above mentioned issues, trying to bridge the divisions between different people. Through my work I could really touch people’s issues. I travelled around my country doing a journalism project, which I called ‘mobile journalism’. I travelled to write about small communities far away from the capital where people had no access to basic needs such as clean water and education. In places where people lived under the shadow of war, I could see how destructive it was in far more than a physical sense. I visited over 400 villages and small towns and wrote articles about people’s lives, their jobs, the rights of children and anything relating to the culture and history of their areas. After arriving in the UK three years ago, my view of journalism has developed even more. I need to think about my career as my situation has completely changed and things are different to my native homeland Sudan. I now view journalism in a more holistic sense and want to use the experiences from my previous work to write articles that relate to issues dominating the media in the UK. Things such as the waves of migrants and refugees coming across the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East. I want to tell many stories focusing on the background of these people and the countries they come from and explore the details of their long journeys to Europe.
Fleeing religious persecution THOUSANDS OF PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS SEEK ASYLUM IN THAILAND BECAUSE OF ON-GOING VIOLENCE, DISCRIMINATION, AND PERSECUTION. AFTAB ALEXANDER MUGHAL REPORTS ON HOW THESE MIGRANTS’ HOPES OF LIVING IN FREEDOM ARE BEING DASHED In March 2013, an illiterate Christian man, Sawan Masih, was sentenced to death after he was found guilty of blasphemy. In a response to the conviction, hundreds of Muslims attacked Joseph colony, a Christian neighbourhood in the heart of Lahore city, burning down at least 160 houses and two churches. Christians are Pakistan’s largest religious minority, amounting to 1.5 per cent of the total population, according to the government’s figures. However, retired Bishop Alexander John Malik of the Church of Pakistan says that thousands have been forced to flee the country as the level of religious persecution worsens. Christians in Pakistan are not only treated inhumanly, many have been prosecuted under the country’s blasphemy laws, which carries a death sentence. Christian areas are attacked by Muslim mobs who kill Christians and ransack their houses. Faced with growing persecution, Pakistani Christians are leaving the motherland to find safety and security. It is hard for Christians to get entry into neighbouring countries – Iran, Afghanistan, China, and India. However, flying to Thailand is much simpler as it is relatively easy to get a tourist visa and the travel costs are affordable. A BBC report, published in February last year, estimated that more than 11,500 Pakistani Christians had sought refuge in Thailand. However, those who arrive in Bangkok soon find themselves in limbo as Thailand has refused to ratify the United Nations Refugee Convention, and is therefore not bound to implement a formal asylum process. Asylum seekers have to register their applications to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and then wait for the decision on whether their cases are deemed genuine. This is a lengthy process – it can take years - and anyone found in
Thailand without a valid visa or work permit risks being arrested and jailed for being an illegal immigrant. For Christian asylum seekers, obtaining a long-term visa in Thailand is expensive and complicated. As a result, hundreds of non-visa carrying Christians, have been arrested by the local police. “Between 200 and 250 Pakistani Christians (men, women and even children) were being held at the Immigration Detention Centre on Suan Phlu Road, making up the largest community there,” The Bangkok Post reported on April 10, 2016. According to reports, men, women and children were chained and put in jail. In the latest developments, 45 men were arrested in December 2016. During this whole process, asylum seekers have to live on their own resources. Mainly they rely on the support of their family members' back home, local churches or other charities. During the waiting time of their asylum applications, which could be years, surviving just on outside support is difficult. To minimise their living costs, they live in overcrowded rooms and struggle to meet their daily needs. In those difficult circumstances, they live in isolation and are vulnerable to violence, bribery, and the constant fear of being arrested. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, UK, published a report in 2016 highlighting the plight of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand. It said: “These asylum seekers often live in a desperate state of poverty with little or no access to job opportunities, education, and healthcare.” It calls on the relevant governments to do more to protect the rights of this persecuted minority. Although Thailand is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, it still has an obligation to treat these asylum seekers humanely.
f a r from home WHEN FIROOZEH JABANI LEFT HER HOME IN IRAN, SHE HOPED TO FIND SECURITY AND HAPPINESS IN THE UK. HER FIRST EXPERIENCES COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE DIFFERENT Can you believe that the thinnest, smallest piece of paper decides your destination? Since we arrived we’ve been living together in a hostel. Although we’re separated into two or four to a room, none of us can stay here. From breakfast until dinner we all live in the dining and public area but we don’t speak to each other, perhaps we aren’t really interested in each other. We have different languages, culture, colour and beliefs but the one thing we have in common is injustice. Injustice in our family, work, belief, or our different attitudes. Despite that, we are here. That’s what we have in common, that’s the powerful reason we’re friends and housemates. All we know about each other is that we endured the risky and unpredictable journey to this place. We came with a small bag and experienced a long voyage, for some of us it took six months. This is the definition of faith. We have felt faith since we said goodbye to all the precious things we have: family, friends and memories. Every day we’d wait for the Home Office to move us from the hostel to our new home, the moment marked by the arrival of a small piece of paper. The friendships formed in the hostel last around 15 days, that’s usually how long it takes for the paper to arrive, and then we say goodbye to our friends. But for some of us it’s longer. Maybe our whole lives, who knows? After 14 days my paper came. Middlesborough is the name on the paper. I had never heard of it before and can’t even spell it properly. All my friends – new friends –
said, “It's too far. It's at the top of the map, it's awful.” But what is the exact meaning of ‘far?’ Far from where? Far from whom? If your family and friends are not near to you, you’re always far away, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the North or the South! It took hours to travel by van to Middlesborough from the hostel. The weather was windy and no one spoke a single word. We reached our new home around 12am, but it's not exactly home. It’s another shared property, just a smaller one, maybe a tiny hostel. There are five of us in the new home. An old lady from my country with breast cancer and I are the new arrivals and must stay in one bedroom. A few African ladies and one Iraqi have lived there more than two years. All the things in the house need repairing and cleaning. Fortunately the kitchen appliances are brand new, but who can cook in a dirty place with a new oven? Our new home is a small bedroom decorated for me and my old roommate who is crying the whole time. Poor mam. We are all human beings and we should learn to live respectfully and calmly together, even if our beliefs, attitudes, culture and customs are not the same. Living in a small, shared house when you step into England is not a good way to learn and adapt to the lifestyle however. I tried to be positive. Although the life is tough, we are safe and not living behind a special fence like when we first arrived. In Middlesborough, we are living in an area with other British citizens as our neighbours. The area might be rough but it’s near the centre and is convenient for the GP and bus, but it's not a happy ending to this story.
Women on ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERTO BLACKMORE
To us, we are living the same as others, but in reality we are the people living behind the red door. It’s not the normal red door colour, it’s specifically for us. ‘Us’ means the people who said goodbye to all we had and were forced to start from zero. Red for refugees and asylum seekers. Where is the equality and freedom which we always heard about from the first world countries? We live in the same area as everyone else but have different door colours to set us apart. Are we recognised as heroes who fought with sadness, faith and power and never gave up in the face of injustice? No. We have been separated and identified as new asylum seekers who could be harmful and you’re better off avoiding our place. I don’t have any power to raise my voice legally, neither does my friend. We are not legal citizens, we are asylum seekers. This means the authorities have permission to reject our case anytime they like. We have to be patient and brave, and try to overcome these barriers as we move forward. Now I know exactly what far means. Far isn’t about distance, we live among citizens but we’re far from being in contact with other friendly people who have a normal life. That’s the deeply sad part of living in Middlesborough. Apparently we are living in a safe place but in our lives there are many red borders which start from the door. Time will show that the red door, the red border, isn’t a way of identifying people. I am hoping that soon the world will not be divided by numbers, colour and religion.
One day our homeland will be a safe, peaceful and happy place. Until that time, we are calm and make an effort to help the world, regardless of whether we are living behind a red door or not. *Following complaints that residents were feeling vulnerable to abuse, the doors of properties accommodating asylum seekers in Middlesborough were repainted in January 2016.
OPPOSITE PAGE TOP IMAGE: A WOMAN IN AN IDP CAMP IN MAIDUGURI RECOUNTS HER TIME IN BOKO HARAM CAPTIVITY IN APRIL, 2016. OPPOSITE PAGE BOTTOM IMAGE: A SYRIAN 21-YEAR-OLD FROM DAMASCUS PICTURED IN MAFRAQ, JORDAN, ABOUT 10 MILES ACROSS THE BORDER. HER ENTIRE FAMILY ARE ABOUT TO MOVE TO GERMANY, LEAVING HER BEHIND - SHE DOESN’T QUALIFY BECAUSE SHE’S NO LONGER A MINOR. JANUARY, 2017.
FROM WATCHING A WOMAN SHAKE FROM MEMORIES OF WHAT SHE’S ESCAPED, TO BEING THREATENED HERSELF WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT BY A SMUGGLER, REPORTING ON MIGRATION THROUGHOUT EUROPE, AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST HAS MADE SALLY HAYDEN ALL TOO AWARE OF THE HORRIFIC JOURNEYS ASYLUM SEEKERS MAKE AND THE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING FROM THOSE WHO’VE NEVER EXPERIENCED THAT LEVEL OF SUFFERING OR SUFFOCATING POVERTY IMAGES BY SALLY HAYDEN
Much of the focus has been on the noticeable maleness of those who’ve come to Europe, but I’ve met many women who have made journeys across the Sahara desert, or through Turkey and across the Mediterranean in a quest for sanctuary. I’ve also interviewed dozens of others in countries like Nigeria and Iraq who have become victims of conflicts that will determine their whole lives, but lack the means or knowledge to leave. Those who attempt to leave have no guarantees.
they admitted, though wouldn’t say much more. Their smuggler had told them to stay quiet. After an hour or so, I watched them walk away from us across the grass, the two-year-old girl toddling between them, their desperate hope marking a trail behind.
I once asked an Eritrean why there were more men than women fleeing the endless military conscription in their brutal dictatorship. “We’re 50/50 when we leave Eritrea,” he said, his voice dropping. “By the time we get to Europe we’re 75/25 - the women don’t make it through the desert.” The journey to and through Europe puts women at huge risk of violence and sexual assault, with many placing their lives in the hands of smugglers who can be volatile and dangerous.
Another Syrian woman – a young university graduate – was sitting on the grass nearby. Again, she apologised, but said quietly she couldn’t talk to us, she had been ordered not to speak to anyone. This hesitance wasn’t unusual. Female refugees in Calais were generally being watched by someone – usually two variants of men, presumed smugglers. There was one type who’d stand at a distance but feel ever-present, scowling over if they smiled at journalists or anyone else they shouldn’t be talking to. Then there was another, almost more threatening kind – seemingly jovial men with practiced stories who readily interrupted any conversation, steering it away from the women and their experiences in France.
For me, this was particularly evident in Calais, where there were women - though they usually kept a distance. One night in August 2015 I sat with refugees near the Euro Tunnel entrance as they joked about the relationship between the press, police, and the migrants. “You know they’re only waiting until you leave,” one Sudanese man told me, gesturing down at the police blockade near the Euro Tunnel entrance below us. “Once the journalists go they let us through. The sooner you’re gone the sooner we can get on with this.” That night I spoke to two Eritrean women, one carrying a small child. They were nervous about trying to board a train in a bid to get to the UK,
This was at night, when stakes were high, but during the daytime, women were freer and more comfortable about speaking. In the Jungle camp, an Eritrean 16-year-old with pink hair and lacquered nails stood one afternoon with her bags packed, hoping for a lift from an aid worker. She had to leave Calais, she said, because drunk men kept entering her tent and trying to assault her. “It’s not safe for us.” One protection was female solidarity – which I’ve seen not only in Calais, but everywhere I’ve covered migration issues: Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Central America. In Jordan, a group of five Syrian women agreed without hesitation that they were all feminists. In
IMAGES ABOVE CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: AN IDP WOMAN IN THE UNFINISHED HOUSING SHE’S CAMPING IN IN YOLA, NORTHEAST NIGERIA, WITH HER TWO SONS, IN APRIL, 2016. ETHIOPIAN AND ERITREAN WOMEN COOK TOGETHER AT A CAMP IN NORRENT-FONTES, NORTHERN FRANCE IN OCTOBER, 2016. WOMEN STAND OUTSIDE THEIR SHELTER IN NORRENT-FONTES, NORTHERN FRANCE, IN OCTOBER, 2016.
Norrent-Fontes, northern France, I met dozens of Ethiopians and Eritreans who’d set up a secret camp, where women could protect each other. "You are not afraid to move in the dark here,” one said with pride, adding that there is strength in numbers for women. This camp was astounding, because it offered a truly safe space to some who had been victimised repeatedly because of their gender. Many Eritrean and Ethiopian women are sexually assaulted along the migration route to Europe, particularly in Libya, where human rights groups have documented rapes by militia members, smugglers or traffickers who demand ransom payments from their families back home. It’s rare that they’ll admit to it though or even seek help – the stigma is so great. I’ve been asked to write about what it’s like being a female journalist reporting on migration, and whether it makes a difference to how you work. It definitely changes details in the way some people interact with you, like Malian refugee elders in Burkina Faso refusing to shake my hand, or Nigerian women readily beckoning me into their female-only shelters. But overall I think it balances out the same. The month I first went to Calais, a colleague and I headed to Teteghem, about 50km northwest of the port, after being tipped off that there was a smuggling operation going on there. We drove through the town, pulling over to chat to some migrants who told us they had paid £7,000 to be driven there straight from Iran – suggesting an alternative smuggling route. When we entered the main camp, a British-sounding man approached us. After
first playing it friendly and introducing us to a Syrian family with small children who were living in a nearby shipping container, he suddenly became aggressive. “I’m going to rape her and hang you both from a tree,” he told the photographer who was with me, before physically attacking him. Luckily we made it away unharmed, but the point of mentioning this is to highlight the sorts of threats these vulnerable migrants and refugees face all the way through their journeys, and the fact that rape threats and sexual assaults are used as a means of controlling the women. Since January 1 2016, 17 per cent of Mediterranean arrivals have been women over 18, according to UNHCR figures, with many more included in the 26 percent that are minors. In the most common origin countries – Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Iraq – women have suffered immeasurably during ongoing conflicts – rape and illtreatment of them is often used as an extra weapon by those vying for power. The women who manage to make it to Europe are both very tough and very vulnerable. What meeting them and reporting on their plights has taught me is that as a journalist you have to look beyond what’s being said, or not being said, to who’s exerting control and how brutally they’re willing to hang on to it, as well as recognising that the trauma of these experiences is not easy to express or understand.
Sally Hayden is a freelance journalist working for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Magnum Photos, Vice, Maclean’s magazine, the Irish Times and various others.
IMAGES ABOVE CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: WOMEN WALK THROUGH THE MARKET IN MAIDUGURI, NORTHEAST NIGERIA. TWO MILLION HAVE BEEN DISPLACED BY THE CONFLICT WITH BOKO HARAM. APRIL, 2016. // A WOMAN CRADLES HER NEWBORN BABY IN ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP IN JORDAN, WHERE 80,000 SYRIAN REFUGEES NOW LIVE. JANUARY, 2017. // A WOMAN IS PICTURED AT AN INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE WOMEN’S SHELTER IN MAFRAQ, JORDAN, WHERE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ATTEND SELF-DEFENCE CLASSES. JANUARY, 2017.
The Facts of War ABDULWAHAB TAHHAN ARGUES THAT THE UK’S MEDIA SHOULD MAKE BETTER USE OF INDEPENDENT DATA MONITORING IN ORDER TO OFFER MORE BALANCED COVERAGE OF THE CONFLICT IN SYRIA
As an investigative researcher I am driven by the data I collect about the war in Syria and the number of civilians allegedly killed by the different forces. It can be surprising sometimes when the numbers do not reflect what emphasis the mainstream media gives to the conflict. The Syrian Network for Human Rights – an independent body that documents atrocities committed against Syrians – published a review of the number of civilian casualties in Syria in 2016. The report claimed that out of 16,913 civilians killed, more than 51 per cent (8,736) were allegedly killed by the Assad regime, while 23 per cent (3,967) were killed by Russian warplanes. At a glance, the numbers clearly suggest that President Bashar al-Assad and his
allied Russian forces were responsible for majority of the civilian casualties. Although there is a slight variance in the precise figures, other independent data monitoring bodies corroborate the data offered by the SNHR. A number of monitors reported about the targeting of hospital and makeshift medical clinics in 2016. Similar to the data indicating the culpability for civilian casualties, according to the SNHR, the Assad regime came in first, followed again by Russia. The SNHR called the attack on medical and civil defense centres and their personnel “a blatant violation of the international humanitarian law”. The SNHR also found that President Assad and the Russian forces were responsible for 431 incidents out of the 448 attacks (96.2%) on vital medical and civil defense facilities. With this data in mind, plus the reports from Syrians caught up on the frontline of the conflict, the UK’s media coverage has at times been disappointing and imbalanced. I witnessed an example of this on December 6, 2016, in the BBC news report titled: “Syria: Celebrations as families return to homes in Aleppo.” The piece starts by showing civilians returning to the Hanano neighborhood in Aleppo, after four years of being displaced. The video shows happy children and a woman kneeling down to kiss the soil while pledging allegiance to President Assad. The report also claims that the Syrian Army, which according to most monitors is responsible for majority of killing in Syria, is providing shelter and food for the displaced Syrians. Furthermore, standing in front of a destroyed building, the BBC reporter delivers a piece to camera saying, “This is what happened to their home. They can’t say for sure who or what caused it”. She then goes on, “The stories we heard here in this one neighborhood are stories you hear across Syria, people returning to their homes, to their old lives and old communities”. For me, it is surprising that the UK’s leading broadcaster was not more critical in their coverage. In response to this BBC report, an activist who was at the time trapped in besieged Aleppo tweeted @thomasradio, “Friends, is
this pro-Assad channel?” The BBC could have offered a more balanced and contextual approach by considering some of the data available from the independent monitors, and by speaking to more of those on the ground. The numbers of Syrian casualties due to Assad’s aggression, Russia’s or the coalition’s are not always reflected in the news reports. It deeply saddens me to see the actual number of victims missing from the mainstream media’s calculations when these figures are freely available online in English and Arabic. The latest example of this came with the coverage of Ar-Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in eastern Syria. According to Airwars – an independent body monitoring civilian casualties – the coalition airstrikes reached record levels, but yet I saw little evidence that the UK’s media covered this. Maybe because in the war against ISIS, a level of civilian casualties is acceptable and not newsworthy. I’ve presented just a few examples of the mainstream media producing one-sided reports. In my opinion, as a matter of urgency, the media needs to conduct more thorough research when producing their reports.
Independent monitors, such as Airwars, provide their data for free on a daily basis on their website. Additionally, the media could also utilize more of the skills of the refugees who come to the UK with specialist knowledge of the regions. They are able to offer more authentic perspectives on the conflict, and the culture of the country.
Abdulwahab Tahhan is a researcher at Airwars
IN A CONFLICT THAT HAS SEEN MORE THAN 400,000 KILLED, AMMAR BAJBOJ REPORTS ON ATTEMPTS TO BRING THE PERPETRATORS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AND WAR CRIMES IN SYRIA TO JUSTICE The international community has taken important steps towards starting the procedures to prosecute war criminals who have committed the worst atrocities against humanity in Syria.
the war criminals
The United Nations General Assembly achieved something historic and unprecedented on December 21, 2016 when it voted overwhelmingly in favour of establishing “…the international, impartial and independent mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011”. The vote was passed 105 to 15, with 52 abstentions. According to the Liechtenstein-drafted resolution, the UN-established panel will “assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes” in Syria. It will “collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and…prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings”. Evidence that war crimes have been committed during the five-year-long Syrian Civil War cannot be ignored. Most of the war crimes and crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute have been committed in Syria in the past five years. For example, the use of chemical weapons (chlorine gas) against civilians; conducting torture and extrajudicial killings; the indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling, leading to mass civilian casualties; and the recruitment of child soldiers. Even though the law has not protected Syrian civilians and not deterred the criminals for their actions, it does not mean that the perpetrators won’t eventually be brought to the court. It may not be the International Criminal Court (ICC) simply because Syria is not a member state of the Rome Statute—the treaty that established the ICC. Without membership, the ICC could only obtain jurisdiction if the United Nations Security Council refers the situation there to the court – this was attempted in May 2014 but voted down by veto-wielding powers Russia and China.
There are other options outside the ICC. A national court that accepts the “universal jurisdiction” can charge individuals with war crimes in their own courts. Moreover, it would be possible to set up an ad hoc tribunal with a mandate to prosecute atrocities in Syria. Despite this, the UN General Assembly doesn’t have the power to establish a tribunal or to compel its members to cooperate with its investigations without the approval of the legitimate Syrian government or additional approval of the Security Council, a body of the UN that seeks to maintain peace and security. The resolution could be considered if it sidesteps the Security Council, or sets up an ad hoc international or hybrid tribunal to prosecute them in light of Russian and Chinese resistance. The importance of the resolution will become clearer in the next phase to resolve the crisis, when the Syrian regime becomes alone after being abandoned by his allies. This resolution not only threatens the Syrian regime, but all those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, including the opposition fighters. The General Assembly resolution dramatically increases the likelihood that the perpetrators of grave crimes in Syria one day will be brought to justice. When the war comes to an end, the international attention would turn from the current efforts to alleviate civilian suffering in Syria to bringing those responsible to the court. Setting up such a mechanism paves the way to accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. This could deter those contemplating further atrocities against civilians anywhere in the world. The perpetrators and their supporters should know that justice exists, and that they may one day find themselves behind bars.
OPPOSITE IMAGE: FROM CREATIVE COMMONS A RESCUE TEAM ARRIVES AT A BUILDING FOLLOWING AN AIR STRIKE BY SYRIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES ON JANUARY 30, 2014 IN THE NORTHERN SYRIAN CITY OF ALEPPO. SYRIA'S GOVERNMENT HAS RAZED THOUSANDS OF HOMES AS "COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT" OF COMMUNITIES THAT BACK THE OPPOSITION IN THE CAPITAL DAMASCUS AND IN HAMA PROVINCE, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH SAID. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-KHATIEB
from my history As a Palestinian refugee activist in the UK, I was invited to speak at an emergency protest, which was organized in London back in January against President Trump’s oppressive policies – the travel ban on seven Muslimmajority countries, his indefinite bar on Syrian refugees and the proposed wall where the US borders with Mexico. The demonstration took place opposite 10 Downing Street, where British Prime Minister Theresa May lives and works. This was also to protest against her slowness to denounce Trump’s xenophobic and Islamophobic executive orders that he signed during his first week of presidency, and her eagerness to invite Trump for a state visit. “Discriminations against those perceived as ’the other’ is the binding thread of all supremacist ideologies,” I said in my speech. In saying that, I wanted to place Trump, Brexit and other rising right-wing ideologies in the context of other supremacist ideologies. Such policies perceive the ethnic community as pure and superior, and suggest that threats can only come from those portrayed as ‘others’. Therefore, it makes sense to build walls for protection, and bar migrants and refugees. As a Palestinian, born and raised in Gaza’s open-air prison, such supremacist ideology sounds very familiar. The short public memory fails to make the connection between these supremacist ideologies and those that historically rose to power at the expense of the misery of ‘others’. We should not, however, prove Hegel right when he suggested that history teaches us that history teaches
SHAHD ABUSALAMA DRAWS PARALLELS BETWEEN PALESTINIAN ENCOUNTERS WITH ZIONISM AND THE RISE OF TRUMPIST IDEOLOGIES us nothing. This is why, I believe, the Palestinians’ tramatic encounter with Zionism is very important in helping us to put things in context. A century and a half ago, Europe saw a destructive rise of supremacist nationalism, and Jews were those ‘others’ that Nazi and Fascist regimes blamed for their internal problems. This pushed the lethal anti-Semitism into power, and the world still carries the burden of the guilt caused by its catastrophic consequences. Anti-Semitism has arguably made Zionism, culminating in the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, inevitable. Ever since, from the standpoint of a victim, Israel continued to assert itself as the only safe haven for the Jews that would protect them from another Shoah, distracting the world from the devastating political and humanitarian costs that the Palestinians have paid. According to one of the earliest anti-Zionist Jewish journalists, Lucien Wolf, anti-Semitism was Zionism’s “most powerful justification,” which Israel’s most successful misinformation campaigns in modern history misused to legitimate its existence’s impact on the indigenous people of Palestine. Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, described anti-Semitism as “the existent propelling force” in his 1896 manifesto The Jewish State. “And what is our propelling force?” Herzl asked. “The misery of the Jews”. Undoubtedly, there is no moral code that can justify a persecution of an innocent third party with the need to relieve the Jewish distress in Germany and other antiSemitic countries. Emerging during nineteenth-century European colonialism, the Zionist project’s inconsideration about the right to self-determination of Palestine’s indigenous population was typical of the imperial colonial Western culture of that time, which had no concern for the inhabitants of their targeted colonies. Nevertheless, Israel, with the unconditional support of Western imperial powers, has constructed a narrative of ‘truth’ that remains almost unquestionable in Western politics, academia and mainstream media to this day. Between Brexit’s “taking back control” slogan and Trump’s vow to “make America great again,” the demonization
of the ‘other’, be it migrants or refugees, is a common thread. Similarly, the portrayal of Palestinians as the threatening ‘other’ has been an ideological weapon that Israel has used throughout its history and it has shaped the language of its politicians and media, and consequently Western audiences’ perception. According to the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said: “Almost from the moment that the state of Israel came into being in 1948 – and although the preparations were made well before that time – the West was deluged with a whole series of narratives and images that acquired the solidity and the legitimacy of ‘truth’”. Throughout the history of Israel, the demonization of Palestinians was a consistent characteristic in its narrative of ‘truth’. The colonial reality in Palestine for most Western audiences and policymakers has effectively been reduced to an imagined binary system of Europeanlike Israel versus the savage-like Palestinians, to whom the westerner cannot possibly relate. Israel’s designation of Gaza as a ‘hostile entity’, following Hamas’ takeover in 2007, is a good example of how the representation of Palestinians as a threat is an Israeli ideological weapon; it presumes the blockade on Gaza, defined by most international human rights organisations as a measure of ‘collective punishment’, as necessary; it suggests that its population is the perpetrator of violence, ensuring Israel’s victimhood, and its periodic military assaults, which caused the murder of thousands of civilians, as “self-defense” against “terrorist” others. Israel's Zionist ideology that privileges Jews and dehumanizes Palestinians is a supremacist ideology that allowed Israel to exercise a scale of violence from landtheft, expulsion and shoot-on-sight orders to harassment at military checkpoints, borders and airports. While dispersion and dispossession remains the lot of the entire nation, Palestinians continue to be subject to punitive and discriminating laws in Israel, military occupation of the West Bank, and remotely-controlled occupation of besieged Gaza, all of which Israel’s supremacist ideology has enabled and escaped accountability.
OPPOSITE PAGE: PHOTO FROM CREATIVE COMMONS PROTESTER WITH A MESSAGE ABOUT THE IRONY OF TRUMP'S BLANKET IMMIGRATION BAN, BY ALISDARE HICKSON ILLUSTRATION BY SHAHD ABUSALAMA
Protecting those who seek refuge DANIEL TRILLING ASSESSES THE GLOBAL RESPONSE TO THE ONGOING MIGRATION CRISIS AND WARNS THAT INACTION WILL HAVE FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES IMAGES BY SARA FURLANETTO
In September 2015, as media coverage of the refugee crisis on Europe’s borders reached its peak, The Sun ran a front-page story headlined “It’s life or death”. Accompanied by pictures of the drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi and a baby that had been born to a refugee family in a Budapest railway station, the newspaper urged David Cameron to deal with the “biggest crisis” to have faced Europe since the Second World War. Just over a month later, the paper ran another front-page story on refugees, this time about a group of Syrians whose boat landed on territory belonging to the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri on Cyprus. This time, the tone was far less sympathetic. “Illegals have landed”, declared the headline, followed by a sub-heading that accused the refugees of seeking a “back door to the UK”. Viewed in isolation, this shifting viewpoint – refugees need our help, but when they reach our own borders they’re a threat – may seem hypocritical. Yet, it is by no means limited to The Sun. As the number of refugees heading for Europe has grown since the Arab uprisings of 2011, the political and media rhetoric has been marked by a strange mixture of sympathy and hostility. After the shipwreck off the coast of Libya in the spring of 2015 that killed more than 900 migrants, the worst-ever disaster in the Mediterranean, a statement from the European
Commission proclaimed the EU’s “moral and humanitarian obligation” to act, followed by several paragraphs about the need to keep the migrants out of Europe altogether. As Nick Vaughan-Williams, a professor of International Security at the University of Warwick, argues in his book 'Europe’s Border Crisis' (Oxford University Press), there is indeed a contradiction at the heart of European border policies when it comes to the treatment of ’irregular migrants’: those people – often, but not always, refugees – who try to cross Europe’s borders without official permission. States want to control their borders, but under international law they have an obligation to protect refugees, even when they travel by clandestine or unofficial means. Why, then, asks Vaughan-Williams, do Europe’s policies “expose the very ‘irregular’ migrants they are supposed to protect to dehumanization and death?” The problem is that Europe’s humanitarian obligations often come into conflict with the desire for security. The ’irregular’ migrant – at once faceless and an object of sympathy, criminal and victim – is treated both as a life to be saved and a potential threat. In 2010, the EU received 287,000 applications for asylum; in 2015 it received 1.4 million. In global terms these are relatively small numbers: the EU has a population of 508
Australia’s policy of outsourcing immigrant detention to Papua New Guinea, which it claims as a success, is hitting legal obstacles), all have generated a serious human cost. Since the second half of 2015, Europe’s focus has been on closing the borders, striking a deal with Turkey to take back refugees from Greece, and shutting down the ’Balkan route’ that many thousands took to Northern Europe beforehand. Why is this happening? In the age of global capitalism, as theorists like Étienne Balibar and Saskia Sassen have argued, international borders are more than a geopolitical phenomenon – a line that marks the limit of a territory and with it the end of a sovereign state’s power. Instead, a network of physical infrastructure and social policies attempts to sift out unwanted or unknown migrants, while preserving the mobility of goods, capital, communication and approved categories of people. The physical border still exists, but think, for example, about the British government’s recent immigration reforms, which give landlords a duty to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. You don’t have to be at the frontier to be caught out by the border police.
million; Lebanon, by contrast, has a population of 4 million and is hosting 1 million Syrian refugees. But it is Europe which has commanded most of the attention. A great deal of journalism has been produced on “the refugee crisis”, much of it focusing on the harsh and deadly journeys the migrants take to reach the EU, and some of the best - including Patrick Kingsley’s 'The New Odyssey' (Faber) and Wolfgang Bauer’s 'Crossing the Sea' (And Other Stories) - is now finding its way into book form. One of the strengths of such reportage is that it allows us to see how the conflicts and concepts identified by theorists such as Vaughan-Williams play out in daily life, and how the refugees themselves respond. In 'Crossing the Sea', Alaa and Hussan, two brothers from Damascus, have been at sea for ten days in a rickety smuggler boat that departed from Egypt, when they are intercepted by an Italian naval vessel. “We are the coastguard of the Republic of Italy!” announce the Italians. “Turn off the engine or there will be serious consequences.” Bauer recounts the refugees’ surprise at the appearance of their rescuers: “To the refugees, the Europeans look like astronauts encountering an alien species. The Italians wear white protective suits and face masks. They have plastic hoods over their heads and gloves on their hands for fear of infection”.
Two misconceptions affect much discussion of the refugee crisis at Europe’s borders. One involves treating it as simply the result of the war in Syria: while Syrians make up the largest group of asylum seekers arriving in the EU today, they are joined by people from many other countries (especially Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea), driven by a mixture of wars, dictatorship and economic instability. The second major distortion is to see refugees as exclusively – or even mainly – an issue for Europe. According to the UNHCR, some 85 per cent of all displaced persons are hosted in developing countries, and that proportion has risen significantly in the past decade. The world’s largest refugee camp is not in Greece or Turkey; it’s at Dadaab, in eastern Kenya, where five neighbouring sites provide shelter for over 300,000 people, mainly Somalis. Ben Rawlence, a former researcher for Human Rights Watch, explores conditions in the camp in his book 'City of Thorns' (Portobello). But even if the richer parts of the world don’t host the majority of refugees, it is they who have been making the greatest steps to put up walls – both physical and legal – to impede their movement. Australia, the US and Europe have all built increasingly militarized systems to keep out the uninvited in recent years; and while none of these has achieved its aim of stopping unwanted immigration (even
I’d suggest that recognising the persistence of racism is also essential for understanding the refugee crisis and some of the responses to it. Thousands of people from former European colonies, whose grandparents were treated as less than human by their European rulers, have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past two decades - yet this only became a ’crisis’ when the scale of the disaster caused inconvenience for Europeans. Even now, a hierarchy of suffering pervades much of the debate, in which black Africans are often ignored or dismissed as ’economic migrants’, with little discussion of how Europe might have contributed to the economic situation of the countries they leave behind. And when local conflicts involving newly arrived refugees break out, such as the Cologne attacks of New Year’s Eve 2015, many commentators jump seamlessly from a serious incident that needs a considered response to an existential
fear that suggests Europe itself is threatened by its Muslim minority. The vicious and opportunistic behaviour of a group of men in Cologne becomes, in the words of one Polish news magazine, “the Islamic rape of Europe”. At the same time, we have seen a huge outpouring of solidarity from ordinary Europeans. Volunteer lifeguards in Lesbos, squatted buildings in Hamburg and soup kitchens in Calais may not be a sufficient response to a crisis, but they are more than feel-good initiatives. When successful, such as the recent UK legal challenge on behalf of unaccompanied children in Calais, citizens can help to change the direction of government policy; but more importantly, it is such patient, grinding work that helps to break down the fears and cultural barriers on which anti-immigrant politics thrive. Europe’s refugee crisis is one of the major global challenges of our time. A failure to respond in a just and democratic way, so that the vulnerable are protected, while settled populations feel they are part of the decisionmaking process, will have far-reaching implications. The rise of anti-immigrant, anti-egalitarian populism in rich countries is well documented, but decisions made in Europe will also have wider repercussions. Last year, Kenya announced that it planned to close Dadaab and deport its inhabitants back to Somalia. A government official cited the EU’s recent deal to return refugees to Turkey as a precedent: “We will not be the first to do so, this is standard practice worldwide. For example, in Europe, rich, prosperous and democratic countries are turning away refugees from Syria, one of the worst war zones since World War Two”.
Adapted from a piece published in the Times Literary Supplement in June 2016 Daniel Trilling is editor of New Humanist magazine and is writing a book about refugees in Europe
BIOGRAPHIES Abdulwahab Tahhan was raised in Aleppo, Syria. He previously worked on The Suffering Grasses – a documentary about Syrian refugees which went on to win six awards. Now based in the UK, he worked as a volunteer for Amnesty Yemen team and in 2016, with the assistance of the Refugee Journalism Project, Abdulwahab became a researcher at Airwars – an organisation that monitors and assesses civilian causalities from international airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Libya. His work focuses in particular on Russian actions. Aftab Alexander Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist and the editor of Minority Concern of Pakistan’s magazine. His main area of interest is religious freedom and minority rights issues. He has an MA in International Relations and Globalisation from London Metropolitan University. He won an International Award for Women Issues in 2013 awarded by the International Christian Organisation of the Media (ICOM), Geneva. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org Ammar Bajboj graduated from the Faculty of Law at Damascus University 2003, and continued his studies in Egypt, where he obtained a master’s degree in public law in 2006. He obtained a PhD of international criminal law from Cairo University in 2011. Until 2014, Ammar worked as a lecturer at the faculty of law at Damascus University, and the Syrian Virtual University. He was also a lawyer in the Syrian Bar Association. As a result of the worsening violence in Syria, Ammar has moved to London. He currently works at a human rights and refugee organization and is interested in furthering his research on international criminal law, terrorism and international responses to war crimes in Syria. Anwar Elsamani is a news journalist from Sudan. He was deputy editor in chief at Al Akhbar Newspaper in Sudan where he led the news team. He has also worked as a political reporter on Al Safeer newspaper, Lebanon; Al Arab newspaper, Qatar and was head of investigations at Al Sahafa Newspaper. Anwar has combined political and investigative reporting with photography. In 2010, he was awarded the UNICEF Middle East and North Africa award for children photography; in 2009, the National award for UNICEF in Sudan about electronic media; and won an award for best coverage for an anti AIDS campaign offered by UNICEF.
Aziz Rahman is an Afghan-born journalist living in the UK since 2013. He is currently working as a volunteer presenter and producer with Afghan Voice Radio – a community radio station in London – and as a reporter for the Progressive Media Group. Aziz worked as a journalist for over 10 years in Afghanistan, where he freelanced as a field reporter for Afghan television as well as a finance coordinator with French Medical Instate for Children (FMIC). Prior to this, he worked since 2000 in finance, monitoring and office management with different NGOs, offices and educational institutes in Afghanistan. He can be followed @AzizrahmanAzizi Fardous Bahbouh is a journalist, teacher, translator and voice-over artist with excellent research and writing skills. She has a solid background in the Liberal Arts and Humanities and takes an interdisciplinary approach to her education. A UK resident since 2009, her clients have included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, Chatham House, King’s College London, the World Bank, the British Museum and various production companies. She has also studied and worked extensively in a variety of roles in Syria, the United States and Turkey. __Fardous is passionate about working in the media and hopes to inform, educate and entertain a broad audience. She wants her work in media to be a platform to celebrate cultures, contribute to building bridges and establish more understanding. She is motivated to give a voice to less represented groups and to hold governments accountable. She can be contacted @fardousbahbouh. Firoozeh Jabani is an Iranian freelance journalist & PR specialist with 14 years worth of experience in her homeland. Since she came in UK, Firoozeh has been focused on helping refugees and asylum seekers to regain their lost identity and to discover new skills. She wants to help them to have the ambition to build successful lives in the UK. She has worked with the North of England Refugee Centre and recently started working in a knowledge improvement project for Iranians in London. Jamil Danish is an Afghan journalist living in Britain. He has years of extensive experience with the United Nations, media, non-profit organisations and government of Afghanistan. His specific expertise includes: strategic communication in political complex situations, war reporting, disaster management, policy development,
conflict resolution and peace building. He obtained his BA in politics and public administration from the American University (AUAF), and completed a law certificate under Stanford Law School programme. Md Mahabubur Rahaman is a Bangladeshi journalist with 15 years experience in politics, education, human rights and international affairs. He worked for the largest opposition newspaper the Daily Amardesh, until it was banned by the government. He has graduated in Philosophy and Mass Communication and Journalism. Furthermore, he has been studying Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at Westminster University to explore his career in the international arena of human rights and media. He can always be followed at @ashique_kings Nargess Tavassolian is a bilingual Iranian journalist and legal affairs correspondent with a strong background in human rights law. Nargess has written extensively about Iran and human rights and more especially on the issue of freedom of thought and expression (which she has also written her PhD on.) Her publications can be found on her blog: http://nargesstavassolian.blogspot.co.uk/. She can be always followed on twitter at @NTavassolian Neda Siabi is a freelance video producer at the BBC. She studied media at University of the Arts London and has experience in different media platforms such as magazines, newspapers, TV and radio. She aims to pursue a career as a video journalist by producing visual stories about people across the world. Zabihullah Noori, a refugee from Afghanistan, is an award-winning journalist. Noori has covered major historical events of the last two decades of Afghanistan. His work has been acknowledged in the USA, winning him awards and acclaim. His documentary film "Holy Hunger in the Midst of Plenty" won the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter Emmy Awards, the 2008 Bronze Telly Award and the 2008 Videographer Award of Distinction. In addition to news reporting and documentary production, he has written op-ed and analysis for Afghan and international media. __Alongside journalism, Noori has conducted several independent investigations for private law firms and the legislative branch of the US government tracing the families of wrongfully detained prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Noori is a top class translator in Farsi/Dari, Pashto and Urdu. Recently, Noori has been working as a freelance journalist for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Sarajuddin Isar is a political economy journalist and researcher with extensive experience in banking, finance and international development. He is a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. __Isar is currently a reporting intern with the Accountant and the International Accounting Bulletin – two London based magazines focused on accounting and financial issues around the globe. He has previously worked on financial regulatory news, as well as with BBC Persia’s London office. __Isar has worked in a number of key roles with United Nations World Food Programme, United Agency for International Development (USAID), Afghanaid, OXFAM, ACTED, CRS/Caritas, and the Central Bank of Afghanistan in Afghanistan. He can be reached at isar1975@gmail. com or followed @isar2000. Shahd Abusalama is a Palestinian feminist writer, journalist, and artist, born and raised in Jabalia Refugee Camp, in Palestine’s northern coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip. She holds an MA in Media and the Middle East from SOAS, University of London. Shahd is the author of Palestine from My Eyes, which is reproduced at the Electronic Intifada, and was published as a hardcopy in Italian in 2013. She can always be followed at @ShahdAbusalama. Temesghen Debesai is an exiled Eritrean journalist who currently lives in London. He is one of the founders of the state television network’s English department in his home country. He ran the department as one of its news presenters and director for eight years before leaving for the United Kingdom. Temesghen is an author, editor, social media blogger and journalist. He recently completed a two-month internship at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He can be followed on Twitter at @temesghend
THE REFUGEE JOURNALISM PROJECT WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS FOR THEIR SUPPORT
Danielle Agtani Tess Akinson, CNN Lila Allen Neil Arun David Baines, Newcastle University Matthew Barraclough Marianne Bell, BBC Tara Carey Emily Churchill Zaraa James Cropper, student, BA (Hons) Journalism, LCC Fabiana De Giorgio, student, BA (Hons) Journalism, LCC Anca Dimofte, The Frontline Club Matilda Egere-Cooper Jane Ferguson, The Observer Juliet Ferguson Kirsten Forge-Jensen, The Guardian Foundation Sara Fridvalszky, student, BA (Hons) Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM Sara Furlanetto, __graduate BA (Hons) Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, LCC Belinda Goldsmith, Thomson Reuters Foundation Ben Hicks, The Guardian Foundation Simon Hinde Margaret Holborn, The Guardian Education Centre Max Houghton Vincent Huck, Timetric Aurore Kaddachi, student, BA (Hons) Journalism, LCC Sarah Kavanagh, NUJ En Khong, Open Democracy Patrick Kingsley Rebecca Lozza, Refugee Council Ros Lucas Kate Lyons, The Guardian Maurice Mcleod Beatrice Niâ€™Bhroin Ellen Otzen Rob Owers, Twitter Daniella Peled Eva Sanchis, Redress Tom Sanderson, The Centre for Investigative Journalism Tanviya Sapru, student, BA (Hons) Journalism, LCC Nabeelah Shabbir Rachel Shabi Samira Shackle Robert Sharp Lydia Shellien Walker, UNHCR Jack Sommers Alan Sparrow Henry Tang Daniel Trilling Dr Abel Ugba, University of East London Chris Woods, Airwars
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