No Exit From Internal Frost

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Cold wax oil painting portrait of a girl Copyright Christine Montague 2010. 6″ x 6″ oil & cold wax medium on a wood panel

It is so cold in here. Inside glass sparkling skyscrapers, inside fancy cars, inside bee hives, inside what is supposed to be warm homes, and inside people.

The cold crawls under my thin skin, it is nippling my knees and cracking the joints of my fingers. This cold is lashing me with dreariness and anxiety, it takes parts of my flesh everyday as I shiver, it is turning my heart into an ice castle where my nerves are just frozen pipes. There is a cruel solitude in this internal frost, there is a hopeless aspiration for the sun outside the glass, always shining but never warm and kind, forever mocking the chill inside.

This cold always howling and whistling in a steep monotonous voice that shatters and distorts my inner unique voice. It seeks to turn me into another print, and I struggle everyday to find my voice in the vast prairies inside, I have a sour swollen throat and a saggy lungs as I gulp down all the air I need, more than I can take just to have the sense of  breathing.

It is so cold inside of me, and I am exploited and wasted.

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رحلة من رحلات السندباد: الأحرار لا يعيشون في الجنة

Hummingbird:

قصتي على مدونتي الجديدة

Originally posted on Counterpoise:

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بعد عشرة أيام عاصفة، لم تدع الأنواء خلالها ريحا إلا وزوبعتها، و ظهر البحر وكأنه يغلي من غزارة المطر، وكانت الأمواج الشقية تحمل سفينة السندباد عاموديا، استحال العالم الغاضب إلى عالم مسالم تلاعب الغيوم في سمواته بعضها بعضا، وتربت فيه الرياح على خدود البحارة معيدة إليهم ذكريات لمسات شفاه زوجاتهم وعشيقاتهم. النهار ساطع لكن لا وجود للشمس، هناك غيوم لكن لانجوم تلوح في أفق السماء. وقف السندباد في مقدمة السفينة، عيناه مغلقتان وخياله يلهو مع الغيوم البيض، وبينما هو يناجي نفسه الساكنه، حمل له النسيم صوتا رائقا ينادي إسمه. فتح عينيه ورأى اليابسه قبل أن يصرخ أحد البحارة: اليابسة. هز صوته وعي السندباد.

السندباد: اتجهوا نحو تلك الجزيرة علنا نجد المزيد من المؤونه، أو من يمكنه أن يرشدنا نحو بيوتنا.

البحارة: هيلا هيا.

أدار أحد البحارة الدفة نحو بقعة الأرض البيضاء المتلألئة، كانت من بعيد تلمع كالؤلؤ وكلما اقتربت السفينه منها بدأت تظهر تفاصيلها العجيبة. في البداية، شاهدوا أجمة بيضاء من…

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Lessons From The Past And The Present

The memory of the Lebanese Civil War (which lasted 15 years and 7 months) just passed by few days ago. As we recollect the horrors of that time, we also recollect the contribution of regional and international parties in this mayhem. Seeing the Syrian situation now, one can largely see the resemblance between that long war in Lebanon, and the constant mutilation of my country by regional and international parties to turn it into a similar atrocity. Till today, Lebanon lived in a state of negative peace and did not recover.

One thing is different, our globalized age made it possible for countries I never heard of before to speak about the Syrian affairs, widening the pool of interfering parties by supporting different groups, even ISIS. It also became easier to mobilize people on religious bases.

We know the lessons, yet we never learn. The sad matter is that when one realizes after all death, destruction, financial and psychological drainage which Syrians suffered, it was never about us or our dignity, it was always the bargains made between different parties. Like the nuclear deal with Iran, I was looking forward to it with a bitter relief as it might lead to stopping the support to Assad regime and withdraw Iranians militias and boys, which will lead to the defeat of ISIS as its twin villain (Assad regime) will be finished. Looking back into the modern history of Syria under the rule of Assad family one can clearly see that Assad regime was always given a free hand in committing all massacres it wanted as long as it keeps people under control. I hold those who forced themselves on us as “International Community” the responsibility for all massacres committed by Assad regime starting from the Lebanese Civil War, to Hama genocide and reaching to the current mass killings.

We need to regain our destiny, our right to decide what we are. Do we remember this one article in Human Rights Charter? The right of self-determination? I feel that this article is the least called for. No peace will come to Middle East as long as solutions for “peace” are manipulated and imposed on the people and not made by the people, and the claim that these societies cannot achieve peace in democratic ways is just another orientalist pretext for empowering dictators so they can control and sedate.

I also believe that as part of a globalized world, I have the right to choose the international community that is fair and treats all humans on earth on equal and just grounds.

In an article published on The Republic website for Syrian Revolution’s Studies, Syrian writer Mohammed Al Attar says (and I entirely agree with him):”There is another confrontation must be faced by the Syrians who believe in the necessity of the revolution. It is the narrations of the revolution against the narrations of the anti-revolution. To face the narrations that curtails us to just war as a summary for our entire story. This is a battle of writing, documentation and blogging to protect our memory. To remind us of the just cause of freedom in Syria. It is too early to announce our defeat in this fight, if we do that then this will be a grand treason for those who left us shouting for freedom, and for the revolution.”

Tel al-Zaatar Massacre during Lebanese Civil War perpetrated by Assad forces and Maronites militia

Tel al-Zaatar Massacre during Lebanese Civil War perpetrated by Assad forces and Maronites militia 1976

Hama Massacre committed by Syrian regime forces 1982

Hama Massacre committed by Syrian regime forces 1982

Al Fadl Massacre by Syrian forces 2013. More than 500 civilians killed.

Al Fadl Massacre by Syrian forces 2013. More than 500 civilians killed.

The massacre of Queiq River in Aleppo. More than 200 bodies were tortured to death by Syrian regime security forces then dumped in the river to be drifted to the other part of the city where they were pulled out by civilians.

The massacre of Queiq River in Aleppo. More than 200 bodies were tortured to death by Syrian regime security forces then dumped in the river to be drifted to the other part of the city where they were pulled out by civilians- 2013.

Child tortured to death, his pictured emerged with other hundreds of pictures leaked by defected Assad regime security officer 2014. All photos show the bodies with numbers on their foreheads.

Child tortured to death, his pictured emerged with other hundreds of pictures leaked by defected Assad regime security officer 2014. All photos show the bodies with numbers on their foreheads.

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My campaign

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Photo Of A Day: The Source Of Terrorism

Photo of a Day

Tyranny is the source of terrorism.

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Random Thoughts On Words and Music

Hummingbird:

My new blog..

Originally posted on Counterpoise:

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When I was reading Kafka On The Shore novel, I came across a piece of music by my beloved Japanese group Mono, it was called: A Dream Odyssey, and I thought that if the novel was a tone, then Dream Odyssey got to be it.

I believe that everything has its own smell even the abstract, as I believe that everything has its own music, especially words. The Cloud Atlas Sextet played in my head every time I opened the novel to continue reading it. When I read Samarqand by Amin Maalouf, I heard Thafer Youssef singing, and recently when I read Azazeel by Youssef Zeidan I felt its best tone was silence of the monks, silence is also music. When I read for feminist writers I like to listen to Open by Rhey, or Lebanese pop singer singer Tania Saleh.

There is something in the voice of iconic Arab…

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Solidarity with Yarmouk, crushed from all sides …

Originally posted on Syria Freedom Forever - سوريا الحرية للأبد:

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Yarmouk, Your wounds are our wounds brother, Aleppo

Yarmouk camp in Damascus is now under the quasi total control, according to the latest news, of the forces of the Islamic State (IS), after several weeks of military operations to invade the camp, with the collaboration of Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria) and the declaration of neutrality of the Islamist movement Ahrar Sham. Military forces, independent of the regime and reactionary fundamentalist forces, composed of Palestinian and Syrian fighters inside the camp did try to resist militarily against the onslaught of IS, but without success. Clashes between these forces have led to the death of many martyrs defending the camp, including Colonel Khaled Alhasan, known as Abu Oday, who defected of the Palestine Liberation Army, which is under the domination of Assad regime, and subsequently commanded the movement of the “Free Men of the Palestinian Liberation Army” in…

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A Thought For Me Today: Stop Screaming

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The Scream by the Expressionist artist Edvard Munch

Since the start of year 2015, there was a voice constantly screaming inside me. This voice is only sedated during late hours at night when I am reading, afterwards it resumes screaming when I fell asleep. Every morning I wake up with a headache as the scream was pounding on my ear drums all night, from the inside.

As I can’t take this anymore, I am telling my soul to chill out in sub-zero degree and stop screaming, I know this metamorphosis is painful and difficult, but I am a strong Kurdish girl and I will be alright, one way or another.

Chill and concentrate.

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“I’m Afraid, Don’t Let Them Take Me,” 2935 Said

You probably heard of Caesar’s case, the man who used to work as a photographer with the Syrian Military Police. He took 55,000 pictures for 11,000 detainees tortured to death in Syrian regime’s detention centers. The victims bodies dumbed in Mezzeh Hospital 601. Among the victims there were children, Christians, and even supporters of the regime. One picture emerged belong to a woman among the tortured and emaciated corpses.

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Rehab Allawi

Her identity was revealed, 24 years old Rihab Allawi, or body No. 2935, used to study civil engineering, was taken from her house on 16/01/2013. Her family didn’t hear anything about her till Caesar’s pictures emerged. One girl was with Rihab in the same cell said that Syrian regime intelligence came and took Rihab at 12am from the cell, her last words were: “I’m afraid, don’t let them take me.”

A number of Syrians reacted by writing numbers on their foreheads and taking pictures in a campaign called: Syrians are not numbers.

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Syrian activist in support of tortured to death detainees in Assad prisons

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The issue of detainees is one of the most persistent matters to be solved in Syria, and the most neglected by the International Community. The Syrian government and armed extremists must reveal the detainees identities, numbers and situations.

Mercy.

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Mary ‘Ajami: A Pioneering Syrian Woman During WWI

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Born in Damascus in 1888, Mary Ajami was one of the first feminists and female writers in Syria and the Arab World. She fought for freedom during the Ottoman Empire, for a Free Syria. She is a poet, a translator (like me) a writer, and started a number of women’s groups and Associations during her life, one is a literary salon called: Damascus Women’s Literary Club. She mastered Arabic and English. Mary was a smart and brave woman that broke the set of patriarchal rules of her time and “was highly praised for her ability to run the intellectual discourse and was acknowledged as a skilled talker.”¹

In December 1910, she started Al-Arous Magazine (The Bride), the magazine’s logo was: Honor was given to women to beautify the earth with heaven’s flowers. The publication of the 32 pages magazine stopped in 1914 because of WWI, during that time Mary started a private school to teach children during the war. She resumed publishing her magazine in 1918, but the number of its pages doubled to 64 pages. In 1951, the man she loved was hanged by Ottoman leader Jamal Basha (nicknamed The Assassin).

Mary was human rights defender, she visited prisons and wrote about the situations of the detainees.  Her articles called to support farmers, workers and soldiers, she also gave private lessons to young women and girls eager for education. Mary was honored in Damascus 1929, she got a number of awards in her life.

Mary Ajami died alone in 1965.

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1- Arab Women Novelists: The Formative Years and Beyond by Joseph T. Zeidan.

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Into Fifth Year of Revolution: On Women’s Heroism & Other Observations

This article was part of a speech I made during Women in Public Service Uganda on the 7th of March 2015.

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“Great social changes are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.” ~Karl Marx

Before the 2011 uprising in Syria, some claim that women were enjoying certain liberties under the rule of the Syrian regime. I don’t know if we can say that there were any liberties for women or men in a country that was in a state of negative peace and was kept under an emergency law for more than 40 years. Before 2011, women were allowed to work and get education, but this was part of the phase that time when leftist parties came to power like Baath as there was no authentic approach in solving society’s issues. Women who worked in positions and participated in public life were only part of the system that used them. Women empowerment issue and organizations were hijacked by specially designed and guided institution called: Women Union, which did nothing but to indoctrinate women and participate in the production of a generation of loyal women, but not empowered. Although handful of women activists tried to start their own organizations, but the majority did not get any support from other parties, most of these women worked on political and cultural issues, not on the grassroots levels.

Women were not part of the decision making process, they weren’t part of making laws, foreign policy, internal policy or even policies related to civil and familial life, nor their own private life. The fact that women did not have their fair share of the economic life in Syria was also a part of women’s exclusion from leading an effective role in public life. There was also an illiteracy gap between boys and girls in Syria, were the number of uneducated women higher than men. Marriage and family was protected by the government and many familial issues were left to be dealt with inside the confines of the patriarchal control of the family, but the nature of the societal culture in Syria was not quite supportive of women. Equal rights of the two married partners were not protected, rather, the institution of marriage by-itself (not the humans that form it) was protected in Personal Status Law. In the constitution, there were some limited articles stating women rights, but as all points mentioning human rights in it, all rights were limited either by the ideological frame of Baath party, or to the family in women’s and children’s rights.

Only in 2002, Syrian Government signed the CEDAW but it showed reservations on: “Subject to reservations to article 2; article 9, paragraph 2, concerning the grant of a woman’s nationality to her children; article 15, paragraph 4, concerning freedom of movement and of residence and domicile; article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g), concerning equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution with regard to guardianship, the right to choose a family name, maintenance and adoption; article 16, paragraph 2, concerning the legal effect of the betrothal and the marriage of a child, inasmuch as this provision is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah; and article 29, paragraph 1, concerning arbitration between States in the event of a dispute.”

Najah Al-Attar, Vice President of Syria, a loyalist to Assad family.

Najah Al-Attar, Vice President of Syria, a loyalist to Assad family.

Bouthaina Shaaban - Political Media Advisor for the President. I see her as one of war criminals in Syria.

Bouthaina Shaaban – Political Media Advisor for the President. I see her as one of war criminals in Syria.

In 2011, Syrians started protesting in the streets. Inspired by the wave of anger ignited in Tunisia, at first, protestors called for reforms. The situation escalated when a group of children in the city of Deraa south Syria, were detained after they repeated the phrase they saw on TV screens that states “People Wants to Topple the regime.”  These children were tortured and there were some reports of sexual abuse. When regime’s security officers refused to free the children, massive demonstrations started demanding their return, and making radical reforms in the security and bureaucratic system, fighting corruption and improving the livelihood of the people. The regime faced the peaceful protests by sending military tanks. The army and police were told to open fire at will, even shooting at funerals and after Islamic Friday prayers in order to prevent any possible protests. Anger waves increased after gruesome images of a child called Hamza Al Khateeb and other children, were released showing them brutally tortured to death after they were  arrested by regime forces. These children were part of a group of people tried to reached the besieged city of Deraa and deliver aid when they were captured by a barricade installed by Syrian regime.

Video: One of the children after his release, signs of torture on his body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhfu1UCutaU

13 years old Hamza Al Khateeb, tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

13 years old Hamza Al Khateeb, tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

Thamer Al Shari'i - Tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

Thamer Al Shari’i – Tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

When other cities in Syria saw the massive oppression against this small city, they peacefully took their banners and shouts to the streets calling to stop the security breakdown on the innocents. Men and women from all ethnic and religious backgrounds were part of the peaceful protests, and women were the engine, women organized protests, designed banners, took pictures and videos, documented violations by Syrian regime, and confirmed their existence in every aspect of the new movement. The uprising opened the door for women from the grassroots levels to surge into the wider picture and be part of the movement for change. One of the earliest protests was a women protest. A group of women of all ages from a village located in the costal area cut the main highway demanding that the regime would turn back their husbands and fathers, 4 women were killed after Regime supporters opened fire on these women.

Video: Massacre against the women in Al Marqab village.

In the first several months of peaceful protests, Syrian activists created a network of groups called the “Local Coordinators.” The Coordinators worked to teach people the culture of peaceful struggle, prepared signs and songs for the protests, delivered the aspirations of the people inside and outside the country via social media, worked closely with Syrian civil society groups established abroad to support those who are inside, and demanded the repeal of a decades-long emergency law banning demonstrations. The Coordinators included people from different ideological orientations and carried the hopeful promise of a new, inclusive, and progressive Syria. While this vision of Syria is supported by many, it is not aligned with the regime. One prominent figure participated in the establishment of Local Coordinators was a female lawyer. Kurdish areas were among the first in Syria to protest against the regime, though Kurds always faced oppression by Assad regime, but in the uprising they did not face the amount of brutal crimes because of the regime’s desire to alienate them from the revolution. Women’s active participation in the revolutionary act is not easy in a country that was still suffering from one of the highest rates of honor crimes in the region. Regime forces always used sexual violence against women activists to inflict shame on those women work in public life, this made many men oppose women engagement in the protests and activism. There are incidents saying a number of divorces happened because the wives refused to stay at home and not be part in the movement for change. Women faced oppression not just from the regime, but also negativity from society.

As people reacted to defend their lives and love ones from the unimaginable horrors committed by security forces, the peaceful revolution started to turn into an armed one. Bit by bit, the sound of bullets replaced the voices of demonstrators. But the work of civil society continued during the mayhem of war not just in relief and rescue fields, but in every way possible, inside and outside Syria. When more men joined the armed conflict, more women found themselves responsible to take care of their families and communities. There is an inverse relation between increase in arms and the presence of women in the uprising, under the reign of weapons women were pushed to the back lines. The transformation of the peaceful action into armed struggle placed weighing burden of life itself on the shoulders of women after their men were killed, disappeared or left to battlefields, women in regime areas also suffered from the absence of their men.

The militarization of the revolution did not have the same effect on Kurdish women because Kurdish women have a history in fighting in wars beside men, and after the Syrian revolution, many Kurdish women led the rebels in Aleppo city (second largest city in Syria) against Assad regime forces. Also, there is no environment for extremist thought among the Kurds. In the Charter of Social Contract issued in the Democratic Autonomous Regions (Kurdish self governed areas) on the 29th of January 2014, stated that: Women have the inviolable right to participate in political, social, economic and cultural life. Men and women are equal in the eyes of the law. The Charter guarantees the effective realization of equality of women and mandates public institutions to work towards the elimination of gender discrimination.

After two years of revolution, the Syrian regime used all kinds of weapons, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, and there are some reports of using Napalm. One work by civil society was an early alarm system for ballistic missiles. which is a network of activists and rebels work to monitor the timings of the scud missiles fire by the regime and send an SMS to the people in the areas where the missile is expected to fall. On 21st of August 2013, The Syrian regime attacked on east countryside of the capital Damascus, only 3 days after UN investigators arrived to Damascus. Hundreds of civilians died, most report say that the number reached 1000; no one was held accountable for the attack. During and after the massacre, Syrian activists shot and documented the attack, the injured were rushed to field hospitals, and an immediate campaign was launched to spread awareness on how to make house made masks and where to seek shelter in case of a second CW attack.

Video: Devastated father finds his two daughters among the victims of CW massacre.

Syrian activists living outside Syria, men and women, also worked as mediums for delivering the voices of those who are facing the aggression by Syrian regime, and extremist groups later on, being part of the conversation and vision about the future of their country, and working in raising funds for refugees mainly the micro-organizations that are work on local levels mainly in the countries that welcomed large numbers of Syrian refugees. In Lebanon, a group called Basmeh and Zaitouneh, an organization helps women tailors to train and manufactor their work in workshops established for them, in addition to deliver classes in English and other subjects, and help women and men plant and mend their small vegetable farms. In Turkey, a workshop established by a group of Syrian doctors to build prosthesis lower body parts in affordable prices. Another group in Jordan refugee camp started a campaign called “Refugees not Spoils of War” to raise awareness regarding marrying women and girls off to men sometimes much older than these women.

Civil society groups were targeted by the regime and extremists because of their work in bringing people together and spreading the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue among the society. The notion of civil society itself is new to our patriarchal communities. As extremism crawled to the cracks of the extreme violence of the regime, women were further pushed backward, as the extremists seek to control personal lives, and treat women as subjects. Extremists issued laws in the areas they controlled like women cannot go to bakeries to buy bread. Extremists also created extreme women groups to monitor women and even children, one woman recruited by an extremist group threatened a woman activist to slaughter her because the revolution’s flag, rather than the black one. Many Syrian woman used to protest against ISIS carrying banners before the terrorist group’s headquarter in the city of Raqqah north east Syria, they also used to protest against one of the most cruelest regimes in the world. Extreme Islamic groups always consider women as something “private” and leave their affairs to be dealt with by the men in their families. The intentions of ISIS are to force its authority on people by using barbaric gruesome killing methods, and enslaving women and children.

Syria today is a stage for different layers of wars, a war against the people, proxy war as different parties are sponsoring their own war lords, terrorism and anti-terrorism war, a war between survival and the inevitability of death. UN estimates the number of death reaches 230 thousand, and millions of refugees, rarely mentioning the hundreds of thousands of detainees who are tortured in gruesome ways in Assad prisons.

Victims of torture in Assad regime's prisons. 55 thousand photos were leaked by the photographer nicknamed: Caesar.

Victims of torture in Assad regime’s prisons. 55 thousand photos were leaked by the photographer nicknamed: Caesar.

In the war against ISIS, Kurdish women represented the exact opposite of what ISIS represented. Passion for dignity against blind hatred, beauty against ugliness, courage against cowardice. As I mentioned earlier, Kurdish women were always part of the armed conflicts, and they showed an exceptional bravery by refusing to sit behind. Kurdish women created their own groups.

Banner made by the Free Women in the city of Raqqah to ISIS saying: To the state of corruption, you have no shame, take your blackness and leave us be.

Banner made by the Free Women in the city of Raqqah to ISIS saying: To the state of corruption, you have no shame, take your blackness and leave us be.

In the face of the this madness, the role of women was greatly undermined, but many Syrian women refused to be neglected, Syrian women created their own organization breaking the patriarchal frames, and demanded more political participation in the future of Syria. In 2014, Syrian women held a conference in Geneva from 11-14 January and issued “Syrian Women for Peace and Democracy Initiative” urging Mr. Kofi Anan to work on releasing the detainees, open borders for Syrian refugees and allow peaceful protests. Women continue to emphasize their crucial participation in the work for a new Syria. One is Syrian actress Yara Sabri who turned her public FB page into a platform to search for those who are missing and announce the names of those who are inside Assad and extremist groups prisons. On February 2015,  mothers and relatives of those detainees by the Army of Islam militia protested in Damascus countryside calling to free their love ones and condemn their acts that resembles the acts of the regime.

Women representation in opposition groups, women are not real partners in negotiations to end war, transitional justice, peacebuilding and for the future of Syria. Women are the parameter of the success of a state and society, though there should be substantial freedoms and rights in a community so women would be able to fulfill their visions. When I was writing this speech I realized that one of our biggest problems is the inability of debate and dialogue among us. We need to nurture this dialogue, one way is supporting different civil societies including the ones established, managed and work in empowering women. Connecting civil society and benefit from experiences of other nations. Sometime you think and hear that things were better for us before, and if we did not uprise then non of all this death and mayhem would happen. But the answer to this is that Arab tyrants construct their regimes on a thin crust over a deep abyss, their condition is either I or nothing. We heard this in Syria “Assad or we destroy the country;” so would you remain pawned or conditioned by such unjust combination? A slave for a mafia that threatens to turn your space and time into a living hell, unleash the demons of extremism and thugs brought in by different parties? One should know that terrorists are enabled by Assad regime after many were released from its prisons while activists are still tortured to death inside detention centers. There is no other way for peace but to stop the crimes of Assad regime, and his extremists counterparts, start a process of transitional justice and reconciliation. This is why I still call what happened a revolution, it is was an impossible act to change the system and structure.

The international community should stop its attempts to legitimize and impose a criminal of war and criminal against humanity as a partner in peace negotiations, this is others peace not ours.

Currently the most urgent two issues we must address are: Refugees and detainees. In a last note, there is hope given to us by those who live in surreal ugly situations, and they refuse to give up, especially women.

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