Toilets in India

IMG_8478At the banks of Indus river in Nimmu, Ladakh

This morning I saw this tweet by Bill Gates which triggered my immediate response (and started a discussion) …

bill

… and remembered me about this text I wrote as an introduction for a longer story “Why urban and rural India should meet”:

This is almost my third year in India now. Most of my time I’ve spent in rural areas. Sometimes at first light I drive out on my motorbike across the country. Madhya Pradesh, where I live, is crisscrossed with a web of narrow, unpaved, dusty roads on which huge potholes create small mosquito-infested lakes during the monsoon season. They take me through vast forests of teak trees to small villages where it seems like time has been standing still for decades. It’s then that I see the hidden part of India. The sprawling network of lonesome roads, which only appear as thin hairlines on any map, connect some 700,000 villages throughout the whole of India many of which are not even marked on Google maps.

Just before sunrise the men, women and children emerge from their huts and houses – homes which are mostly just one room with no furniture, no electricity and no sanitation in which the three generations of the same family plus a goat or two sleep on the ground. They carry cans of water to wash themselves after they’ve emptied their bowels somewhere. Sometimes they’ll shit right next to the road, sometimes along the railway tracks, sometimes in the fields, and very often the kids shit on the heaps of uncollected garbage where pavements should be. Right next to the chickens, pigs, donkeys, goats and cows strolling through the garbage looking for something to eat. This mixture of rotting garbage and excrement emits an acrid nauseous smell which hangs in the air like a pall. It becomes truly excruciating when they set fire to it, which they very often do.

Sordid as this is, it’s daily reality for more than half a billion people – almost the total number of people living in the U.S. and Europe. India accounts for around 36 per cent of the world’s poor. Just recently (May 2014) the United Nations published a report stating that 600 million people in India are now living below the poverty line of $ 1.25 a day.

Bill Gates started to work on toilets six years ago, a huge competiton started to re-invent the toilet. A good thing. No doubt. And necessary. But the outcome – a nightmare! Even the New York Times – who usually acts as a Gates promoter – was astonished by the lack of “rural knowledge” this entire project bared. And this is just one example of so many toilet challenges … The question seems so obvious where isn’t there a solution yet?

Technology doesn’t seem to provide anything helpful. Too expensive to roll out in masses, too far away from the “client’s” habits, environment unfriendly and and and … Why not look at rural areas in India where it’s clean and people are aware of hygiene and cleanliness and learn from them. There are examples …

– Asia’s cleanest village is in north eastern India (Mawlynnong)
– tribals in Thudukky, Agaly, Palghat, Kerala (as I just learnt now via twitter)
– Ladakh (see photo on top) is very clean

What do they do?

It starts basically with collecting the waste. There are various ways of doing it. Collecting in bamboo or wooden dust bins directed to pits and use it as manure. Collection in big holes, and again use it as manure. Keep the natural waters clean. The shit goes separately – but is used in the same way. And washing afterwards is essential. But this is what most of the people are aware of. At least this is what I see (see my description above). They find a way by themselves … going along with their habits.

Crucial seems to be that in all these areas mentioned above the literacy rate is way above average! So it goes along with education … which once again is key.

I truly believe and this is why invest the little money I have in education that with education many of the problems can be solved. We need a kind of education which suits the people’s environments and needs, not one (Western) system for the entire world. The meaning of education has very local faces and these local colors need to be addressed. A situational approach of learning is needed which aims much more towards the collective (the villages in the cases above) than towards the individual.

Posted in India, we_school | Leave a comment

Was zeichnet NEUE Führung aus ?

Sorry, once in a while I have to add blog posts in my mother tongue. The following post is about “What defines new leadership” in the enterprise world, a project I’ve been working on as a freelancer for the last year. And it’s focus is Germany only.
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Ich habe im vergangenen Jahr immer wieder für das Projekt “Forum Gute Führung” gearbeitet, unter der Federführung von nextpractice in Bremen. Ich habe Interviews mit Führungskräften und Experten gemacht, Texte geschrieben und beim Relaunch der Website mitgeholfen. Die Arbeit hat Spass gemacht und auch ein paar graue Haare mehr gebracht. Das Projekt ist eines von vielen sog. INQA-Projekten (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit) die vom Bundesminiterium für Arbeit und Soziales gefördert werden. nextpractice hat die Projektleitung übernommen und arbeitet mit anderen Unternehmen zusammen. Für mich war der Prozess der vergangenen 15 Monate selbst ein Paradebeispiel dafür, wie facettenreich das Thema Führung ist und wie groß die Spannungsfelder sein können, die sich hin und wieder auftun. Die unterschiedlichsten Arbeitsweisen und Führungstile von Ministerium, Inhaber geführten Unternehmen und freelancern verdeutlichten gewissermassen die Aktualität und Relevanz der Studienergebnisse – es waren immer wieder Aushandlungsprozesse notwendig und der Bedarf an einer gemeinschaftlichen Verständnisgrundlage war groß.

Führung ist ein spannendes Thema und wie sie sich verändert im Zeitalter der Vernetzung noch ein viel spannenderes. Wir hatten diesem Thema bereits vor 4 Jahren ein ganzes we-magazine gewidmet – mit internationalem Fokus.

 

In dieser Ausgabe waren auch Peter Kruse (GF nextpractice GmbH) und Thomas Sattelberger (ehemaliger Personalvorstand der Deutschen Telekom AG) vertreten. Beide sind heute die “öffentlichen Gesichter” wenn es darum geht, das “Forum Gute Führung” nach aussen zu vertreten. Beide werden auch am 15 Oktober 2014 auf der Zukunft Personal in Köln in eimem Gespräch das Projekt vorstellen, die Ergebnisse der Studie diskutieren und einen Ausblick geben, wo die Reise denn hin gehen soll. Begleitet wird der Auftritt der beiden von dem FutureLab HR, in dem ganz gezielt zu einzelnen Führungsthemen vernetzt in Gruppen gearbeitet wird.

Doch first things first;-)

Der Internetplattform “Forum Gute Führung” liegt eine nextexpertizer Studie von nextpractice zugrunde. 400 Führungskräfte wurden dazu befragt. Ein Querschnitt durch die Führungslandschaft in Deutschland: Dax-Unternehmen und KMUs aus allen Regionen der Republik und vielen Branchen.

Die Ergebnisse in Kurzfassung

In dem aus den Interviews errechneten Werteraum “Gute Führung” wird erkennbar, welche Aspekte des Führungshandelns noch akzeptiert, welche in Frage gestellt oder bereits klar abgelehnt werden. Darüber hinaus zeigen die Daten, wohin sich „gute Führung“ in Zukunft nach Einschätzung der Erfahrungsexperten entwickeln wird und was den handelnden Personen auf dem Weg dahin besonders wichtig ist. Eine detaillierte Darstellung finden Sie hier auf der Projektseite selbst.

Es wurden 10 Kernaussagen beonders heraus gestellt:

1. Flexibilität und Diversität sind weitgehend akzeptierte Erfolgsfaktoren.
2. Prozesskompetenz ist für alle das aktuell wichtigste Entwicklungsziel.
3. Selbst organisierende Netzwerke sind das favorisierte Zukunftsmodell.
4. Hierarchisch steuerndem Management wird mehrheitlich eine Absage erteilt.
5. Kooperationsfähigkeit hat Vorrang vor alleiniger Renditefixierung.
6. Persönliches Coaching ist ein unverzichtbares Werkzeug für Führung.
7. Motivation wird an Selbstbestimmung und Wertschätzung gekoppelt.
8. Gesellschaftliche Themen rücken in den Fokus der Aufmerksamkeit.
9. Führungskräfte wünschen sich Paradigmenwechsel in der Führungskultur.
10. Führungskultur wird kontrovers diskutiert.

Der Werteraum “gute Führung” steht allen, die mehr erfahren wollen, zur Verfügung. Es besteht sogar die Möglichkeit, dass Sie die “Daten fragen” – sprich sich selbst durch den Raum navigieren und wichtige Resonanzfelder von Führung erkennen und besser verstehen lernen. Sollten Sie im Datenraum verloren gehen, können sie via Twitter oder als Kommentar auf der Plattform ihre Fragen stellen.

Was mich persönlich am meisten an den Ergebnissen fasziniert hat, ist die Tatsache, wie “verloren” sich anscheinend viele Manager fühlen und wie ohnmächtig sie als Einzelpersonen zu sein scheinen, um den Herausforderungen, denen sie in den Unternehmen gegenüber stehen, alleine entgegen zu treten. Die Sehnsucht nach einem kollektiven Vorgehen ist gross und wie es Peter Kruse formuliert auch notwendig. Er sagt, dass Führung im Unternehmen nicht losgelöst von der Gesellschaft betrachtet werden kann. Führung ist zu einem gesamtgesellschaftlichen Thema geworden und hat nun auch die Mangementetagen der Unternehmen erreicht. Ausführlich erklärt Peter Kruse dies in dem folgenden Interview, das ich mit ihm gemacht habe:

Die Studie und auch das Video geben den Startschuss für einen bundesweiten Diskursprozess zum Thema „gute Führung“ – also dem von den Managern gewünschten gesamtgesellschaftlichen Aushandlungsprozess. Das Projekt endet nicht mit der Ergebnispräsentation, sondern fängt jetzt erst richtig an. Leider geht dies in dem sehr lebendigen Artikel in der ZEIT zu der Studie etwas unter.

Wie sieht dieser Aushandlungsprozess aus und wie und wann findet er statt?

Dieser Aushandlungsprozess findet online und offline statt. In beiden Situationen wird das Großgruppen-Moderationstool nextmoderator eingesetzt. Der nextmoderator erlaubt einem strukturierten zielführenden Diskurs, in dem die Teilnehmer zu im Vorfeld definierten Fragestellungen gemeinsam Ideenansätze und/oder Empfehlungen entwickeln. Dank der durchgängigen Transparenz sind Doppelungen bei der Eingabe von Gedanken, Ideen oder Bewertungen deutlich reduziert und dadurch erhöht sich die Effizienz. Die entstehende Inhaltsdynamik fördert ein einheitliches Verständnis welches für einen konstruktiven durchaus kritischen Austausch notwendig ist. Durch mehrfache iterative Wechsel zwischen dem Generieren von Ideen (jeder sieht alles) und ihrer Bewertung (jeder kann alles bewerten), kristallisieren sich sehr schnell die WIRKLICH relevanten Ansätze heraus. Sogar eventuelle Ambivalenzen sind sofort sichtbar und im Diskurs aufklärbar. Auf der Zukunft Personal werden im FutureLab HR die ersten Workshops zum Thema “Gute Führung” in dieser Form durchgeführt. Geplant sind dann ab November weitere online Workshops auf der Plattform selbst. Und als besonderes Highlight sozusagen ist ein grosses Live-Event in Vorbereitung, welches 500 Führungskräfte an vier Standorten vernetzt und gemeinsam an dem “Führungsleitbild für Deutschland” arbeiten lässt.

Ich denke, dieser Aushandlungsprozess ist der ganz entscheidende Mehrwert den dieses Projekt bietet.

Ich bin gespannt, wieviele der Führungskräfte, die sich diesen “Austauschprozess so gewünscht” haben, nun auch tatsächlich bereit sind, Zeit und Gedanken dafür herzugeben und gemeinsam in diesen Prozess einzutreten. Es ist Arbeit und es ist nicht “for free”. Die Manager selbst müssen etwas dafür tun. Es ist immer eine Sache “Studien zu konsumieren”, es ist eine andere Sache, dann aktiv auch für die Veränderung einzutreten. Dies macht man in der Regel nur, wenn man an diese Veränderung wirklich glaubt und diese will. Walk your talk liebe Führungskräfte!

Posted in Ideas worth spreading | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Peer-to-peer infrastructure and thinking applied for an entire country: Ecuador

FLOK: Free/Libre Open Knowledge
Also known as the social knowledge economy project.

Ecuador is exploring how the principle of open knowledge might reshape its economic and social development.

Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, was heading the research department of FLOK. His direct involvement ended June 2014.

I know Michel from the early days of our we-magazine. He contacted us after the launch of the first volume and contributed to the second one: “The Emergence of Open Design and Open Manufacturing.”

When FLOK started it was announced as the first serious attempt of an entire country to peer-to-peer structure it’s economy and society. It seemed to be backed by the government, so the translation of the theory and already existing practice into legislative (law, government structure, educational institutions ..) was planned to be part of the process! Quote Michel Bauwens: “When we started the FLOK process, it was presented to us as a project that was strategic for the Ecuadorian government, as supported by the Ministry of Knowledge and the Secretariat of Innovation and would systematically move the country to a social knowledge economy, and that would be enthusiastically received by civil organisations.”

Reality turned out to be different – the “old system” was striking back in various forms. Michel describes it here in more details

The research done and made public is very helpful for our further way walking towards – what I call – a “Greater We”. In the following 4 videos Michel explains FLOK itself, the research they’ve done and their suggestions for education, economy (micro and macro) and society. A MUST SEE (20 minutes) for all those who are looking for post-capitalism models which put the concept of the commons in the center of the activities. It’s neither communism nor socialism, yes, it’s rather left than right. It provides meaning and value for the many. It’s trying to find a better balance between the rich and the poor.


What is FLOK?

Knowledge

Michel argues for a “reciprocity based license” which basically says: “If you contribute to our commons, you can use our commons. If you don’t contribute to our commons and you make a profit from it, then you have to share the profit with us.” This avoids piracy – so Michel – escpecially it would help rural areas to be exploited by big multi national corporations.


Value Regimes

Michel says that we’ve been moving from “Cognitive Capitalism” (which he explains in the video) to what he calls “Netarchical (= hierarchy in the Net) Capitalism” in which the creators of the value do NOT benefit from the financial outcome of the value created (examples: FACEBOOK, crowd working). In this system we haven’t democratized the means of monetisation. See the following graphic.

facebook_capitalism

Michel suggests to move towards a (mature) civic peer-to-peer economy where the value returns to the value creators.

Technological Regimes

Michel is describing this 4 technological frames in which we experience today the commons – his suggestions is to move towards the GLOBAL COMMONS

global commons

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Experimenting …..

Slowly, slowly I am getting ready for another motorbike tour up to the Himalayas … final destination: Leh where I will stay with a friend and do some writing. Some stories of my life;-) But I am also planning to climb up a few passes (while Thomas is writing;-), Khardung La Pass and Chang La Pass are definitely high on the list.

So I am trying to figure out what is the best way to fix the camera on the bike … I want to get some video footage, not sure what for right now … Here is the first attempt. It’s filmed in Jhansi, leaving the town towards Gwalior (both MP) … the camera was (loosely) fixed in my pack back which I had above the tank … not ideal but the result is not too bad …

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Truth untold

Fukushima is just another story where governments and media try desperately to hide the truth … and so are all the EU governments … do they tell us anything about the perils? Nope.

Just watch and see what the future will bring because the present is a lie:

Posted in Activism | Leave a comment

Deo Bagh

In God’s garden I was in heaven ;-) Literally.

Deo Bagh is one of the BEST hotels I ever stayed! It is located in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, and it is the most perfect stop in between Ken River Lodge (where I stay in Khajuraho) and Delhi on a motorbike ride. It’s almost half way and it’s an oasis of silence. Just the perfect spot after 5 or 6 hours on the dirty dusty roads;-)

IMG_7547
“Hallway” to the rooms

I arrived around 1 pm after a beautiful ride from Ken River via Orcha and Jhansi. By now the new motorbike was MINE;-) It was a bit tricky to find the place since I entered Gwalior at the complete opposite side, but with the help of an auto ricksha driver I made it through the busy, loud and chaotic center of Gwalior.

The moment you enter Deo Bagh you are in a different world.

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Entrance of Deo Bagh

After a long hot shower in the HUGE bathroom I slept for 3.5 hours and when I woke up I felt like a newborn.
I walked around the temples of the Maharatsha which are part of the hotel property and enjoyed that NOBODY was there.
A quite unusual thing for India.

A light dinner in the evening and a good book to read was all I needed.
In the next morning I left for Dehli (via Agra) at 5 am.

And all of this for 40 Euro a night!
Not bad.

Here is a short video of the place – outdoor.

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It’s their only chance out …

… says Vini (alias Shyamendra Singh), the owner of Ken River Lodge in Panna, talking about the children in Panna, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. Ken River Lodge is my home when I am in Khajuraho or Panna. I know Vini for more than 2 years now and I am very happy that he embraced our idea of building the we_school skatepark in Panna. In this short little video clip he explains life in Panna and why it is important for the children to get something like a skatepark:

A bit outside Panna is the land where we build the skatepark. It is provided by Sanjay Tawari, a business man in Panna and father of two children. He is very much engaged in the social development of his hometown. It’s a beautiful piece of land – just so typical of Madhya Pradesh. Some huge trees at the Western border of the land and surrounded by villages where Adivasi live. A school is near by, they say 160 children go there.

IMG_7527

During our meeting yesterday – overlooking Ken River – Sanjay and I discussed the items needed to build the skatepark, we went over the materail list which was provided by our German partner skate-aid, the NGO which is supervising the construction process.
Special thanks goes to Rahul from Khajuraho our translator; and thanks to Google translator which really helped well in finding some specific construction expressions in Hindi.

meeting
Sanjay on my left, Rahul on my right

The idea is not only to build a skatepark on this land but also a small we-lab with laptop computers, a cafeteria and 2,3 rooms where people can stay. The cafeteria and the rooms will be build by Sanjay and Vini, the rest we’ll do. The we-lab will be equipped with laptops which again will be provided by nextpractice … the program which combines skateboarding and learning will be designed by skate-aid and Nicola Claire. Can’t wait o see this entire thing taking of …

land_park

So the next steps will be to find the right guy to build the park – skate-aid is already looking for this person – and we at we-school are looking for more funds (another ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD auction is on its way) and in addition we will raise money on social crowd funding platforms. But we have enough to start …

And here again a small chapter why we are doing this and why we think it is a good thing (by Nicola Claire):

The idea of combining fun with learning is not new, indeed, it is fundamentally the way children learn. We are taking this concept and constructing an environment which intrinsically combines an activity that is fun, but at the same time requires acquired skill, knowledge and practise, with a learning environment which provides that skill and knowledge. The young people will also have the opportunity to develop and extend their learning at a we-school hub on the same site. The young people who come to the skate-park will find everything that they need, from building their skateboard to becoming proficient users. Through the process they will learn English and maths. They will gain an understanding of force, balance and weight. They will experiment with art, colours, styles and design. They will discover body and muscle control, healthy eating and life-style choices. Above all, they will find ways to take what they have learnt back to their families and communities to support and enhance the quality of daily living.

Posted in ARTBOARDS/SKATEBORADS, India | 3 Comments

For a better tomorrow …

… is the aim of the Samarpan School for underprivileged children in Kishangarh, Delhi. The school was started in April 2007 with 40 children in the mornings, providing informal education. Today it has 160 children aged five to fifteen from nursery to class 5 studying from prescribed CBSE textbooks. Children leaving from class 5 are helped to get admission in senior secondary schools. A computer center was set up in February 2011 with ten computers and two teachers. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children receive a breakfast including cereal and milk, a snack during break and rice, dal, a green vegetable, roti and salad for lunch; egg, soy nuggets, banana and a seasonal fruit once a week (read more about the school and its achievements here).

Bronwyn, a charity worker from Australia who is living in India for more than 30 years, introduced me to the school and to Sherna Waida, the principal. I first went there a year ago to see the classroom they’ve build out of plastic bottles filled with sand (youtube video here). Somehow we’ve kept in touch.

When the idea of our ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project came up one of the options where to build the skatepark was Samarpan School. Unfortunately the land situation in Kishangarh is a bit tricky and many uncertainties would have been involved, so we decided not to build there. But it brought me back to Sherna and the needs of her school. High on Sherna’s priority list were laptops. One laptop per classroom would allow them to teach the kids in a modern and new way.

With the help of nextpractice, a company I freelance for in Germany, namely Andreas Greve and Peter Kruse, we could make Sherna’s dream come true. nextpractice provided six laptops for Samarpan! Thank you so much!

When I went back to Germany last week I packed the laptops into the biggest suitcase I had. 36 kg (!) – it was a real job to get them to the airport. As you can see the suitcase was almost bursting;-) At the Lufthansa check in a nice surprise was waiting for me. First of all they didn’t charge anything for the extra kg and on top of that they upgraded me and I could comfortably fly in the upper deck in their new 747-800. Nice!

IMG_7572

I arrived early Monday morning in Delhi, it was 1 am when the captain announced that the temperature in Delhi is still 36 degree! Monday afternoon – during the heat of the day – I delivered the laptops to Sherna:

IMG_7574
Sherna Waida, principal of Samarpan School, and one of the teachers storage the laptops in their computer room.

In this interview Sherna gives an overview of what Samarpan School is all about.

And to see more kids getting great results from Samarpan School we will try to get more books for their library …

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… and we are planning to build at least a small ramp for skateboarding in their school yard!

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And this story had a beautiful and surprising side effect: when I posted my fully packed suitcase on facebook and gave the glimpse of the story, Frank Roebers, CEO of Synaxon AG, contacted me and told me he had an idea how to support me;-) After a brief facebook chat I have 2000 Euro more in my pockets which help me to continue my work in incredible India. Thank you Frank!

He cold it a social media success story;-)
Indeed it is.

Posted in ARTBOARDS/SKATEBORADS, India | 1 Comment

The Gritty Height of Irony

I never thought that I would ever dream of seeing Bashar al Asad winning an election. But frankly speaking – today I do. For the sake of the Syrian people.

During my last visit to Syria in April 2014 I had two meetings which confronted me so badly with the gritty height of irony we are facing in Syria. It hurts. It makes me feel desperate and angry. What can WE the people achieve against this bulwark of power and money?

The first meeting was with Nourra, Bassel’s wife. Among many other things Bassel is a social activist. He has been detained 2 years ago. And Nourra, his brave and courageous wife is fighting for his release. No accusation. No trial. A political prisoner. I wrote about it earlier. The situation is a mess and it is getting worse and more unpredictable every day. Together with Bassel there are currently 30.000 (estimated number) political prisoners in Syria’s government prisons. The prisons seem to be not necessarily controlled by government, the prison security apparatus has become an institution of its own during the war. And arbitrariness is what we see. Hardly anyone of the detained is facing a trial, many of them disappear – and no one knows where. The number of requests sent to the officials is countless, relatives very often have no idea what has happened to their loved ones. Actually one need to admit that Nourra can be “happy” with the situation … Hard to imagine, but this is reality!

My second meeting was with a young student at Damascus University. Feras is his name. He attended a presentation of the Iranian delegation of our International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria. A group of scientists and artists – all very well-known in Iran. Here is Feras’ reaction:

So why were these two meetings so abounded with irony ?

Nourra and Feras, among other young Syrians, confirmed that in April 2011 people all over Syria went in the streets. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt. Frustrated with Assad’s dictatorship, its lack of fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and censorship. They’ve said maybe a few hundred went out in Damascus, but never ever thousands. And they’ve said, that their “revolution” has been stolen, stolen by foreign powers who have an interest in Syria and who’ve brought foreign fighters into Syria to overthrow Assad. An intervention as we’ve seen it in Irak or in Libya is still an option for the West.

Having said this, the irony become obvious:

  • Those young people who fought for the values the West used to stand for turned against their former ideal.
  • For most Syrians, including those who went out into the streets for a regime change, Assad is THE only one who can re-stabilize the country and protect it from foreign powers. He is stronger than ever.
  • The Syrian youth doesn’t see a near future WITHOUT Assad and they are convinced that he will use pretty ruthlessly the failures of the West against his own people. Meaning more censorship, less human rights … more military.
  • The Syrians have lost their nation. Their country is destroyed.
  • And the Syrians never accepted the SNC – heavily supported and dominated by the West and the Saudis – as their representatives.

So, what has been achieved in Syria?

Another destroyed country in the Middle East. Millions of refugees – the UN speaks about the biggest human desaster nowadays. In Syria more than anywhere else the dirty game of war, power and economic interests became transparent for the worldwide public. The opposition – supported by the West – got “out of control” and today with the weapons of the West they fight against the West. The fear that jihadist – trained by the US and UK – return into their home countries and attack their citizens is bigger than ever before. The number of fundamentalists is growing rapidly and the entire region is far from being peaceful. In Irak the war is escalating. Today many more people die on a daily basis than during the war. The government can’t control the country. Same is true for Libya. And Yemen – were silently a US drone war is going on. In Egypt a new general was sworn in as President – a Western and Gulf puppet who when dressed in his uniform always reminds me of Gaddafi . Sisi was elected by less than 50% of the Egyptians! Is he a people’s president? In all countries the economic situation is a mess and the youth has lost its hope.

If not this, than what is irony?

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And here is a piece written by Rick Sterling, a founding member of Syrian Solidarity Movement, who joined our “International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria”: Why are They Afraid of the Syrian Elections?

This article was first published by COUNTERPUNCH, May 30, 2014

The Presidential Election in Syria takes place next Tuesday, June 3. With a revised 2012 Constitution, Syria is no longer a one party state and there are multiple candidates for office. Running against Bashar al Asad are former communist and legislator Maher al Hajjar and business person Hassan al Nouri.

The election has been vehemently opposed by the so called “Friends of Syria” (NATO members Turkey, Germany, France, UK, Italy, USA, plus the Gulf monarchies UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia plus Jordan and Egypt). Since 2011 the “Friends” have met periodically to coordinate funding, arming and training the rebels plus trying to promote and consolidate a credible outside political leadership. According to the pro opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the result of this externally supported uprising has been over 62,000 dead Syrian soldiers and militia, plus another 80,836 dead civilians. Many of the civilians were killed by rebels. Just looking at the number of dead Syrian soldiers and security forces, can you imagine what would happen if 10% that number (6,000 soldiers and security) were killed in the USA?

Given the extent of the violence, the well publicized fanaticism of the most active rebels and evident difficulty to manage the political operatives who were supposed to be anointed “leaders”, one might wonder whey the USA and others persist in trying to force regime change in Syria.

But instead of viewing the multi-candidate election in Syria as a step forward, they are viewing it as a mortal threat. “Assad’s staged elections are a farce,” Kerry said after the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in London on Thursday May 15. “They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world,” he added.

France, Germany, Belgium and the Gulf States have all prohibited voting in the Syrian election. Syrian Embassies in the US and Canada have been forced to close, removing the chance for Syrians living in these countries to vote.

Why are Kerry and the “Friends” so upset and fearful of Syrian elections? If they are such a farce, then much of the public will not participate in them. If the vote is seen by the public as meaningless, then voter turnout will be very low such as in Egypt this week.

As to the issue of holding an election during a time of conflict, this was done right here in the USA. The 1864 election which re-elected Abraham Lincoln was held during the midst of the extremely bloody US civil war.

Another group afraid of the Syrian elections is the Syrian American Council (SAC). This well funded lobby group claims to represent Syrian Americans. They have launched a twitter and Facebook campaign decrying the ‘Blood Election’. They have professional marketing and public relations, paid staff and support from neo-con and zionist interventionists in Congress. Still, their real support across the country seems thin. Last August and September 2013, they were promoting a US attack on Syria. They were not concerned with the massive bloodshed that would have resulted from that. Ironically they are decrying blood now when Syria holds a peaceful election.

In sharp contrast with SAC, alternative organizations such as Arab Americans for Syria (AA4Syria) and Syrian American Forum (SAF) are speaking with growing strength against our US tax dollars being used to destroy their homeland. As a measure of the depth of feelings, over 25 members of AA4Syria are flying to Beirut then traveling by land to Syria to vote in next Tuesday’s election. The same thing is happening in other countries which have prevented Syrians from casting a vote. Syrians who live in the Gulf are traveling all the way to Syria to vote as a sign of their commitment.

The reason is that many Syrians, both inside and outside the country, see voting in this election as a sign of support for their homeland at this difficult time.

Voting by Syrians living abroad has already begun, with voting yesterday May 28 in Lebanon, Jordan and a few other countries. The turnout in Beirut was massive, with tens of thousands of people marching, chanting and singing through the avenue and along the highway to the Syrian Embassy compound east of the city center. Look at the video and judge for yourself whether these people are being “forced” to vote or cheer for Bashar al Asad.

The voting in Beirut has been extended due to the huge turnout. This is in ironic contrast with Egypt where the government is desperately extending the voting hours and days, trying to boost the voting turnout.

If recent history is a guide, there may be some kind of spectacular media event or atrocity in the coming days. The Syrian opposition and their handlers have executed PR stunts at critical times. If it happens here, the purpose will be to distract from the strong Syrian participation in the election and to attempt to renew the branding of Asad as “brutal dictator”.

But the branding is wearing thin, those who are most affected by the crisis know the truth and even those who have been influenced by the immense propaganda may be starting to wonder: Was it ever a genuine “Syrian revolution”? What kind of “revolution” is financed by corrupt monarchies and former colonial powers? Is the “brutal dictator” really as bad as they say? The scenes of thousands of Syrians waving his poster, chanting his name and youth expressing love for him are not what they wish us to see.

Next week we can look at the videos, photos and stories from Syria. Hopefully there will be some reasonably unbiased reports. John Kerry and other “Friends of Syria” did not want it to happen, and there may still be violence and bumps on the journey, but the election in Syria is going ahead. Let’s see what Kerry and company are afraid of.

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Sandstorm in Delhi, May 30, 2014

Last few days we’ve had a horrible sandstorm in Dehli coming in from Rajasthan … the entire day you couldn’t see the sky and then in the afternoon the wind began to catch up. Within minutes you could hardly see anything. 10 minutes later rain came and washed all the dust down.

9 people died during the storm …


Seen from Hauz Khas Village

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