WE also means / implies actually multiple perspectives

This talk from Raghava KK is an outcry to allow and to go for multiple “WEs” in our today’s society. He makes it so obvious and easy to understand why we need communities with multiple inputs in order to achieve multiple outcomes. THE “one and only” outcome is no longer enough (and maybe never was) to find responsible and sustainable solutions. Thank you for this Raghava!

Raghava KK at KIN Global 2013: Shaking up Perspectives from Kellogg Innovation Network on Vimeo.

Raghava was part of our we_INDIA magazine which we published a few month ago … also with his approach on multiple perspectives.

we_middle east – we_magazine Volume 09

We are happy and proud to share with you THIS, our 9th issue of we-magazine.

After travelling the region several times and BEING impressed by its people and the unfolding dynamics, we decided to focus this issue on the Middle East, its “Arab Spring” and the aftermath of the so-called revolutions.

As usual the focus is ON giving A voice to the silenced and unheard. Their very personal stories are often in sharp contrast to the black & white narratives we´re fed by THE mass media.

But that´s not all.

We’ve experimented with the online format again and this time have come up with an interactive version. We’re really happy with the platform our friend Håvard developed! IT’s “work in progress” in terms of ACTUAL content and format / platform development – but here it is the prototype of the interactive online version of we_magazine. Explore this content package! We’ve gotten rid of the linearity so you’re free to dive in, explore and make your own path as you please.

We hope you´ll enjoy it and are looking forward to your feedback and comments, especially on the more controversial articles.

Video Sources Syria

For the Red Cross and US Congress I put a list of video sources together – all uploaded on YouTube on August 21, the day the alleged chemical attacked happened in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. The list includes upload time (UTC), youtube URL and original source. And YES this list had to be an excel sheet, no links wanted … ready for print out that what they were asking for;-)

You can download the list here.
If you have any amendments, please let me know!

UTC-time in the list indicates when YouTube upload started!
The way I got the YouTube metadata was to replace video ID in URL below with ID of video I was interested in:
http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/api/videos/9-nXT8lSnPQ?alt=json
Look for ‘published’ in the source code to get the upload time in Zulu (UTC).
The list isn’t complete – but the videos which were discussed most in media are all included.

A big thank you to Brown Moses who provided the basis for this. His source of 194 videos , is the best collection you can find on the web. Here is a youtube player of all the videos …

Tunisia will make it!

The last stop on our Middle East trip: Tunisia.
The next one already in mind.
We spent 5 days here, mostly in Tunis.
A city I really fell in love with.
Finally.

I was here 18 month ago.
At that time an activist attacked me with a knife because I was working with NATO to prepare their summit in Chicago.
We were running we-nato.org an online platform aiming to link netizens with NATO staff and ambassadors.
We started with a live stream between Joi Ito and Steffi Babst, these days head of public diplomacy at NATO, discussing Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book “The Age of the Unthinkable”. Unfortunately this premiere remained the one and only “conversation” between the two groups – at least in the way we intended to design them.

I quit the job before the summit took place.
Why?
I would say: we couldn’t synch our interests;-)
Or: NATO’s organizational structure wasn’t (and probably still isn’t) ready for the speed of the online world.
NATO probably would say: We pushed them too hard to give up classic PR.
What so ever.

I returned to Tunisia.
And I really enjoyed my stay.
I still do.
I am sitting in one of Sidi Bousaid’s cozy cafes, writing this post.

Before I continue let me say one thing:
TUNIS IS SAFE TO TRAVEL To and IN.
Absolutely safe!
We should support the country’s economy by NOT sweeping it off from our travel destinations list!

I started “to report” from Tunisia on December 31, 2010 – long before western media jumped on the train and long before Lina Ben Mhenni became a synonym for the revolution in Tunisia. We met Lina last night in the Cafe Baba Club on the Habib Bourguiba Boulevard, the “boulevard of broken dreams” – as we named it. She seemed pretty disenchanted. Currently protected by the police because she is threatened by the Salafists, by the government itself and by the democrats (as she told us) – she said she has NO IDEA where the country is headed. She described the situation as unstable, and not at all in concert with the people and their problems. Religion became the overwhelming topic. We’ve heard this many times.

When the Tunisians went to the polls in October 2011 – they didn’t vote for a new government.
They voted for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA).
Just like the Egyptians.
The NCA is the body in charge of devising a new constitution for the post Ben Ali era. 
217 democratic elected representatives of the people.
Their ONLY task is to write the new constitution for Tunisia.
NOT TO SET UP a new government.
More than 150 parties (!) competed.
Ahmet Hamza, Program Coordinator at Women Enterprise for Sustainability, told us that he and his wife attended the pre-election events from all the parties in their hometown Kairouan. They were hungry for information – naturally, since it was the first time they had been allowed to vote. When they went to an Ennahda event, they were surprised that the seats for men and women were separated. They choose to sit on the far end of each section, so that they could sit together but still respect Ennahda’s given order. However,  “officials” wanted them to sit away from each other. So they left. And Ennahda lost two votes.

Six parties and 44 unaffiliated members made it into the NCA.
Ennahda became the strongest. They won 89 of the 217 seats.
The schedule was to deliver a binding constitution within one year.
And only after the constitution has been finalized are new elections for the first post-Ben Ali government planned, based upon the principles of this new constitution.

But so far the NCA has only delivered a provisional constitution.
Which hasn’t much more to offer than Bourguiba’s social reforms had in the fifties.
Nothing new. Nothing what the people are yearning for.
Nothing which deals with the problems of the people and the country.
The most crucial question turned out to be, which form of government to implement.
And are Islamic principles included or excluded.

In the current draft they are included.
If the constitution were to pass as it is drafted right now, it would cut-off women rights in a profound way. It would include Sharia law. 
Tunisian people don’t accept this. 
They go back into the streets.
Women. Men. The youth.
There are many demonstrations and sit-ins.
And all more or less peacefully, even though two important opposition leaders have been killed.
People say by Salafists.

Many Tunisians fight for one cause: To keep government and religion separate.
They believe that religion is something personal.
Something which belongs to the individual.
They are Muslims, yes.
95% of the Tunisians are Muslims.
And they want to practice Islam.
But they want to practice it as THEY want.
Not in a way a political party or a government tells them to do.
Hence they won’t accept an “Islamic” constitution.
People are deeply disappointed from Ennahda.
They considered them as moderate Muslims.
But it turned out that they shifted towards fundamentalism.
And now Ennahda is loosing support significantly .
They are losing the people.
Hence they have no interest to complete the constitution soon.
Ennahda wants to remain in power.
A dangerous game.

What the people are desperately waiting for, are solutions for their daily problems.
The economy is down.
Unemployment rates are increasing.
Prices and costs of living are increasing.
Foreign investments are significantly decreasing.
So is tourism.
Medical care becomes insufficient.
Media is still controlled.
Public services are “on sale”.
Corruption is getting worse.
Garbage is all over in the streets.
Raw materials in some areas run short.
There is a huge “vacuum” in the interpretation of law.

What the people don’t fear, is their military.
Tunisians are very much aware that the military is weak.
It always has been weak – as they say.
Ben Ali, being afraid of a coup, always kept it small.
Today this is a huge plus for the people – especially when we compare it to Egypt.

Tunisians also realize that the transition to democracy takes time.

They don’t expect it to happen over night.

And they don’t expect it to be perfect.

They are willing to fail.

And ready to learn.

Most of them are willing to work for their democracy.

And – if necessary – to fight for it.

Not really knowing how it might look like.

Only a few are willing to give up the liberty they have finally achieved.

The liberty to hold free meetings.

To speak out freely.

To vote.

To have a choice.

The freedom not to be controlled.

Occasionally we felt a slight breeze of nostalgia – the good old Ben Ali days!
Despite all the trouble, Tunisians are optimistic.
Especially the youth.
But not only the youth.
One older woman in Kairoaun said: “It’s the job of the parents to support their children to live their dream and to build a better future!”

Syria is not Iraq.

The following text circulated last week in Geneva. I assume it was written by Hans-C von Sponeck, Former UN Assistant Secretary General & UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq

Syria is not Iraq. Yet, the intensifying human drama in Syria does remind of Iraq in the build-up of the US/UK invasion in 2003. Conspiracy theories abounded, disinformation made the news and political leaders mislead the public without hesitation. Once again innocent people are fleeing their homes in the millions, are killed in large numbers and physical destruction is all pervasive. These are the facts we have.

At the same time the US Navy and other NATO ships are assembling in the Eastern Mediterranean. “We are ready to strike” are the words from Chuck Hagel, the US Secretary of Defence. A morally, financially and politically exhausted America prefers the rockets from the sea to boots on the ground. The decision to go ahead, as with the Iraq war in 2003, rests with the Commander-in-Chief, US President Obama, and his minions in London and Paris not with the President of the UN Security Council. The UN weapons inspectors, deployed to Syria to get the facts, are told by Washington, as their predecessors were in Iraq in 2003, “Do not waste your time. You are too late to make a difference”. Once again, a pre-meditated act of aggression is about to take place with no regard to law and the mandate of the UN Security Council. A sign on the doors of the UN Security Council might as well read: “Until further notice out of order!”

The ramifications of military action against Syria rather than multilateral negotiations are far-reaching. The price will be paid first and foremost by the Syrian people. They are forced to join the many others before them who have become victims of hegemonial double standards. Confrontation will intensify well beyond the borders of the Middle East. Impunity will not survive. People world-wide are disgusted and angry. One thing is certain: they will show it.

Day 10, Jifnah, Palestine, August 22

The evening before and the entire day we spent with our host Rawda. We went through the Jifnah, met with locals. We did a long interview with her which will become part of our we-magazine. She talked about her daily life and her social involvement. Many of the things she said we touched already in this post.

Rawda’s mission to let people “experience” daily life in Palestine by inviting them to stay in her guesthouse, we think is a very good way to achieve your own view on what is going on between Israel and Palestine. My view – after maybe 10 visits to the area – is the following:

  • Israel is there to stay – that’s for sure.
  • people – Israelis and Palestinians – would manage to live peacefully together, if there weren’t all these political interests and powers
  • Israel is dominating and regulating the daily life of Palestinians (water, infrastructure, electricity, travel …)
  • it’s dividing and oppressing people
  • Israel has a very strong military presence
  • Palestinians seem to be “second” class citizens
  • their voice isn’t heard in the world
  • Palestinians aren’t terrorists, they are people like you and me
  • many Israelis and Palestinians are tired of the “war game”
  • the western support for Israel is besides the bloody economical interests in oil and gas another important reason why at least the west keeps the fire in the Middle East burning. Peace wouldn’t suit their interests.

And by the way, do you hear anything about the Middle East Peace Talks which began last month – the first of any substance in five years – and US secretary of state John Kerry is supposed to have the whole thing sorted out by May next year. Assuming, of course, that he’s not too busy dealing with Syria and chemical weapons. How’s it going so far? I haven’t a clue. As the state department explained when the talks began, it’s deliberately being kept out of the public eye and progress reports are “unlikely”.

In the afternoon we left for Ramallah where we met with one of the social media activists, whom I blamed the day before in this post! I connected with him via twitter (Ahmad ‏@ANimer) and I was very happy that he came.

life_cafe_rammallah_02
Café La Vie, Ramallah

We talked about how important it is that we, in the networked world, who embraced the Internet for the good continue to live our dream for a better more fair-minded world. A network is only as good as the input it gets – so it is on us to live up to OUR responsibility to put in only these things which we want to take out! If we put in lies, we will harvest lies. The good thing in the networked world is – in comparison to the old world – that it becomes much faster transparent!

In the evening we went back to Jerusalem and took a bus to Tel Aviv from there.

“I go to Libya to buy clothes …

… for your business, Mum” said Fatima’s son during Ramadan 2012.

She expected him back home for Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.
The Feast of Breaking the Fast.
An important religious holiday in Islam.
His mum and family were waiting for him to sacrfice the sheep.
He didn’t come.
Not on the first day of Eid al-Fitr.
Not on the second.
She started to get nervous.
She felt there was something wrong.
Friends told her what she didn’t want to believe.
Her son had been recruited by extremists.
Only then did Fatima realise that she had lost her son to the Muslim fundamentalists.
He has become a jihadist.
Yet another young Tunisian man who went to fight the Holy War.
One of so many.
This time in Syria.

fatima_01I’ve met Fatima in Kairouan, a beautiful town in Tunisa 180 km south west of Tunis. It’s an important centre for Islamic and Quranic learning It attracts a large number of Muslims from various parts of the world, second only to Mecca and Medina.

Fatima runs her own business. She is married and has three children, one boy and two daughters. Her son went to school, studied and just recently returned back home from Sousse. He was working there – but he decided that he wanted to live with his family until he gets married. A pretty typical way of living in Tunisia.

What had happened?

Fatima told me that her son had changed a lot in the last two months before he left.
But she only understood this afterwards.
Otherwise she would never have given him the money to buy the clothes he said that he wanted.
She would never have helped him to get a passport to travel to Libya.
He changed the mosque where he went for his prayers.
He went to pray more often.
He started to see “new friends”.
He separated from the old ones.
He changed his way of dressing.
He started to dress all in white.
He grew a beard.

Then he left.

When Fatima realized what had happened she contacted the people in Kairoaun who had recruited him.
She knows them very well.
They told her he will be fine and that he would come home soon.
The recruiters are well-known people in Kairouan.
One of them is the spokesman of Ansar al-Sharia, a hardline Salafist movement which was recently designated a “terrorist group” in Tunisia. This group was blamed for the killing of two secular politicians.
The recruiter is a successful sportsmen, and fellow students say a highly intelligent guy.
He was detained because of the recruiting.
But released shortly afterwards.
Why?
One can only speculate.

One explanation could be that Ennahda is backing the Salafits.
With 89 out of 217 seats elected, Ennahda became the strongest power in Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) after the first free elections in October 2011.
The NCA is the body in charge of devising a new constitution for the post Ben Ali era.
The most crucial question in this process turned out to be, which form of government to implement and and are Islamic principles included or excluded.

Ennahda was considered to be a moderate Muslim party.
It has been around for many years as a well-known opposition force under the regime of Ben Ali.
It started as a charity organization and has deep roots in Tunisia’s society.
That is why people voted for them. And because there was a lack of alternatives.
One can’t blame the Tunisian people for doing so.
Why wouldn’t they vote for an Islamic party?
But as it turned, out Ennahda moved more and more towards Islamic fundamentalism.
They included Islamic principles in the provisional draft of the constitution.
But the Tunisians didn’t like that and went back onto the streets.
And they are still fighting!
People confess that they are Muslims.
But they want to practice Islam as THEY want and not as a political party or a government tells them.
They believe that religion is something personal.
Something which belongs to the individual.
It should be strictly separated from politics.
And it should never ever become part of the constitution.
This is what the people in Tunisia are fighting for.

Fatima went to Libya after she realized what had happened to her son.
The Salafists told her that her son was there.
She was hoping to find him and to bring him home.
She became a Libyan resident in order to stay longer in the country.
She has family there, so this wasn’t hard to achieve.
She made contact with the local jihadists.
But it was too late.
They didn’t let her talk to her son.
But he called her on the phone.
He told her, he couldn’t come to see her – “they” would not let him go, he said.
And Fatima said that he was crying.
So was she.

During our conversation she burst into tears and fell into my arms.
All I could do was to hold her tight.
Tears were rolling down my cheeks – thinking how I would feel if this happened to my son.

Many Tunisian jihadis are trained in Libya, they get arms there, and then enter Syria via the Turkish border. Brainwashed, a new identity and passport. The official number is 4000 – people in Tunisia tell us there are many, many more. They come not only from Tunisia. They come from Chechnya in the North Caucasus region of Eastern Europe; they come from Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan, Iraq … They are supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And by us, the West.

They are all fighting on the rebel side in Syria. Against Assad.
It is not true that there are only Syrians fighting against Syrians in Syria.
The front that Assad is facing is much broader.
It is much more complex.
There are local revolutionaries opposing the regime who are fighting against autocracy.
They are not Islamists, in the sense that their political visions do not depend upon Islamic principles.
They espouse varying degrees of personal religious fervor.
Then there are moderate Islamists within the Syrian opposition.
They comprise rebel groups who are typified by a commitment to political Islam that is compatible with democracy.
And than there are Syria’s homegrown salafi-jihadist group, Jabhat Nusra, closely linked to foreign jihadist groups.
These groups are the ones that recruit the young jihadists.
They are at the extreme end of the spectrum.
And their fight is not at all in the interest of the people!
In this case the Syrian people.
The Syrian people are the victims.
And the mothers and families of the young men who are recruited by the extremists are victims.

Fatima recently came back from Syria.
She went with a Tunisian journalist team to Damascus.
Tunis Vision.
They wanted to find out more about Tunisian jihadists, since the political parties in Tunisia say that this is not an issue.
But the journalists found many of them in prison.
And they filmed it.
Unfortunately Fatima didn’t find her son.
But she knows he is still alive.
Her husband talked to him yesterday (August 31, 2013) on the phone.
He calls them once in a while.
Always from a different number.
They’ve asked again him to come home.
He replied he can’t.
“They” won’t let him go, he says.

All Fatima can do, is to wait for the next phone call.
And hope that he won’t die.
As so many do, in the name of god.

“What kind of god is that?” Fatima keeps asking.

Day 8 (part 3) – Jerusalem – Ramallah, August 20

The most challenging question after crossing the border from Jordan was: How to continue the trip to Jerusalem?
There are no buses available right at the border.
And the cab drivers asked for outrageous prices … Beit Shan (7 km), the next village, 50 USD!

Welcome to the Holy Land!

So we decided to hitch hike …

Standing in the blazing sun (probably +40 degree Celsius) and waiting for some cars to come by, it took less than 30 minutes until a brand new, comfortable SUV stopped. The driver, an orthodox Russian priest. We jumped in and within 90 minutes he dropped us off at the East Jerusalem bus station right next to Damascus Gate.

What a lift! First class travel!

The last part of our trip today was the bus ride from Jerusalem to Jifnah, a little village just outside Ramallah. Bus No. 18 – it’s less than a 25 km trip but you can “enjoy” everything that the political Israel/Palestine conflict is all about: walls, security, separation, military, refugee camp, settlements … Within 15 minutes of the bus station, we reached the checkpoint Kalandia to enter Palestine.

IMG_5162

IMG_5163

Since we were leaving Jerusalem/Israel no one had to get off the bus – a simple inspection by 2 Israeli soldiers was enough. It took less than 15 minutes. We continued our ride through Ramallah and passed by the Arafat tomb – a huge memorial. Jifnah, the place where we wanted to stay, is 4 km outside Ramallah. It used to be a Christian village, today it is half Muslim, half Christian. Christians in Palestine are less than 2% of the entire population. Muslims in Jifnah are a “result” of the refugee camp, which was built in 1948, right after the Nakbha. Palastinians from all over (the then) Israel fled and were gathered in camps – originally for a couple of weeks. Many of the camps are still around today, 65 years later! Some of the refugees achieved a decent life in Jifnah, built their own houses and “mixed” with the local community. But today – at least in Jifnah – it’s still “them” and “us”, no one talks about “we”.

Right across the street from the refugee camp there is huge stronghold: an Israeli municipality. The area around Jifnah is a so-called B area – meaning under Palestinian authority but with Israeli security. This is what the municipality is for. For example, Palestinians have to apply there if they want to go to Jerusalem. There are A and C areas as well. A meaning under both Palestinian authority and security; nevertheless Israelis still go in there when ever they feel like it. C areas in Palestine are under the complete authority and security of Israel. So the entire Palestine is divided into these A, B and C areas.

To complete the entire insanity of the area – across from the Israeli municipality is a huge settlement of religious nationalistic Jews. It is a heavily secured, gated community, living in beautiful houses surrounded by gardens. They have no shortage of water or electricity in the settlement unlike the surrounding villages. For example, in Jifnah they only have water once a week.

IMG_1640

This is why you see on the roof of every house lots of water containers.

We decided to stay in Palestine, because we wanted to experience Palestinian daily life. So we made reservations at the Khouriya Family Guesthouse, a nice place – although not cheap. Rawda, the owner, used to be a social worker and is very much involved in Jifnah’s community work. We’ve conducted a long interview with her for our magazine.

————–

And this comes in 3 days after we’ve left:
Funerals held for three Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops
It happens exactly in the refugee camp which I talk about above.

Day 8 (part 2) – Sheikh Hussein Bridge Border, August 20

To cross a border between Jordan and Israel, it is a process. There are three crossings, the Sheikh Hussein Bridge is the most northern border between the two countries.

Before we started our descent down into the Jordan Valley we had to pass the first check point. Passport control and the compulsory question: “Where are you heading to?”. What do they expect one would answer? About 1 km before the actual border you have to change cars. You are not allowed to reach the border on the taxi you came with. So we said good-bye to Hossein, our Jordanian driver and jumped into the official border taxi – for an extra 2 Euros. 100 m later, next stop. Next passport check. First luggage check. We had to get off the car, unload the luggage, get it checked and put it back into the car. Then the ride continues for another 200 m and finally the driver drops you off at a huge square.

Departure building and bus stop. Inside the building you have to pay a departure fee of 10 JOD (= 11 Euros). Then you get your passport stamped. But still you are not ready to leave;-) You have to buy a bus ticket for another 3 Euros for a shuttle which brings you to the Israeli authorities. We had to wait in the heat of the desert for about 10-15 minutes – no AC in the bus, no breeze. Believe me, it was hot. Then the bus finally started to move. But only for a few meters … first check from the Israeli authorities. Bus check. 5 more minutes then the bus was allowed to continue the ride – another 200 m to the Israeli arrival hall. Another passport check, another luggage check inside followed by the Q&A with the immigration officers. Then your passport gets stamped. The last hurdle is customs.

Only then you are allowed to enter the Holy Land.

We succeeded. All in all it took about an hour – which is really fast!

What a treat!
What a welcome;-)