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America's Untapped resources in Covid-19 Era: Part 2, Refugees and Immigrants

April 09, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

  Then, we are millions of immigrants, refugees from wars (often of U.S. making) who’ve witnessed waves of attacks. Day-after-day we lost a loved one, often unable to perform the last rites for our dearest ones. We turned to caring for our wounded, dared to shelter underground resistance fighters. We rushed from one place to another, seeking somewhere to hide. We left behind a child, an aged parent, a sick friend. We also devised ways to avoid nagging mothers or garrulous brothers. Families became closer, and humor emerged from shared traumas. We endured more than bombardments; sometimes we were hunted down by government commandos, attacked by desperate citizens or rebel militias.

            A more threatening curse imposed on us by outside enemies was embargo. Our Iraqi, Venezuelan, Iranian, Vietnamese, Palestinian and Syrians citizens can tell you about embargo-created deprivations, death and isolation-- a battering more deadly and invasive than any physical assault. These are contemporary U.S.-perfected and murderous applications of economic and cultural embargoes, sieges sanctioned and extended by the lofty, noble United Nations. (Iraq’s embargo was endorsed in 1990 by the U.N. Security Council/General Assembly, and adhered to worldwide for 13 years! The Vietnam embargo, imposed by the U.S. after its defeat, extended for two decades.)

            Documentation of the sanctions-war on Iraq (imposed in 1990 ended only in 2003!) augmented by US-led military bombardment, is hardy remembered today. (My accounts from Iraq during that period published by U. Press Florida, joined those of the International Action Center and published in the 1990s were reports from the field. Later came a Harvard study based on secondary sources.)

            Three warning notes from personal experience in Iraq suffice to suggest the trauma Americans, their European and Australian supporters of that war will themselves confront in their neighborhoods very soon.

            The first from my friend, sculptor Mohammed Ghani, on my initial visit to Iraq in 1989. Foremost among the memories he felt compelled to share rose from the just ended Iran-Iraq war. “Every day, passed cars with coffins strapped on top, holding the bodies of our sons (back from the battlefield of Al-Faw). Every day, every day; they drove by: one, two, then another, another”, he moaned.

            Hardly a year later came the invasion of Kuwait and the first U.S. Gulf War. Among those I interviewed soon after was journalist Kthaiyer Mirey. Among institutions smashed by American bombings in 1991 was Shamaiya Hospital for psychological diseases. Hospitalized for alcoholism, Mirey managed to escape from the bombed smoldering ruins. Many staff were killed; feckless survivors along with some patients escaped. “The dead and wounded”, Mirey told me, “were abandoned; then the dogs entered the debris to clean up.”

            Third, was my own witness of an eternal line of martyrs,  their portraits imprinted on banners --Iraqi soldiers who’d fought ISIS (under U.S. occupation during the past decade).

           

[ America's Untapped resources in Covid-19 Era: Part 2, Refugees and Immigrants ]

America's Untapped Resources: Part 1, High Risk Senors

April 02, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

            We have a natural impulse to extend protection to the very young and to the old first; we offer sympathy and succor to traumatized refugees too.

            That’s reasonable. Our seniors and our children require attention as the most vulnerable; immigrants need support in unfamiliar surroundings.

            Professors speaking about historical precedents for the COVID-19 emergency invoke the Great Depression and chaotic hospital scenes from World War II. But, hey: we know about that, and more, first-hand!

            Yes. So, why not consider us elders, along with our immigrant citizens as assets at this time of crisis and fear--untapped resources? We have abundant practical advice for people fearful and under duress, counsel based on our past experience.

            We may not operate computers as nimbly as the young, but priorities are changing. As the COVID-19 crisis makes apparent, some skills become redundant; you’re unmoored from your once brawny anchors. When you’re really scared and grope for alternatives, turn not to apocalyptic movie scenarios but to what seniors have seen and done before you were born, what immigrants were shy to share. Our histories may offer guidance and solace in today’s disaster. We can tell you about our strategies and you can discover how we managed to cope. We’re here as a result, aren’t we?

            If elders didn’t suffer a pandemic, we endured other plagues, and we survived because of habits we devised, here not only because America offered sanctuary and opportunity, but also because we rebuilt our lives resourcefully. Heard of ‘rationing’? --A great, simple strategy. Improvisation too. Both painless habits. 

            We’re grateful to our energetic daughters and grandsons who happily set up our phone apps and install our Netflix. You’ll Google anything—even if we don’t really need it-- from potato peelers to airline bookings, and hearing aids-- all delivered to our distant home. (Yes, we succumbed to that pampering.)

            Surely now’s the time we can reciprocate with tips we learned from our less indulgent, less fast-paced and frugal past.

            We can tell you how to recycle cardboard and plastics, invigorate a stew for a second meal, review the merits of baking soda, trim your hair, repair a car or bicycle tire, forage for wild edible plants, disinfect fresh vegetables, substitute one spice for another, preserve surplus food, stitch a face mask.

            To survive we adjusted our social skills too, learned dexterity needed to endure wars' deprivations.

            Separated from loved ones, prayer became more routine; we rationed essentials, prioritized limited resources, reused clothes. We hunkered in underground shelters during a bombing blitz, slept on cold floors, coupled with our husband even with mother-in-law and children just meters away. We used water instead of toilet paper—it works great, left hand only (you can learn). We recycled bath water for cleaning, rewashed cotton diapers and sanitary cloths.

            These are a few elders’ memories and tips. We’d welcome a chance to share them, granted you’ll doubtless improve on them too.

                      Images of overwhelmed morgues and columns of unaccompanied hearses have reached us from Italy and Spain this week. That will become part of the American landscape.

            Young Americans are not yet ready for this; perhaps resourceful elder veterans and refugee victims from U.S. wars abroad can help sustain us. (Then there's the comfort of our voice.) END

[ America's Untapped Resources: Part 1, High Risk Senors ]

Nepal--Turn Around and Realize Your Neighbor is China

March 30, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Involuntarily, week by week Nepal’s population, joined by the global community, will find itself compelled to abandon hitherto starry-eyed views of ‘America’ as redeemer, source of truths, and all things good. (It’s already happening.)

            Working in your country for over four decades, I’ve never met people more enthralled with the U.S. as you are. Everyone I know strives to send children here. You order your iphone direct from U.S.A.; you quote the NY Times and CNN; villagers too consult Facebook for ‘reliable’ news; Kathmandu residents patronize your local reproduction of Starbucks and Pizza Hut. (The only exception to these addictions is Hindi dramas; they’re accessed from India.)

            On its side, America too is charmed by Nepal. We admire your beguiling, robed monks, your extravagant and vibrant Hindu rituals, and docile residents welcoming us on treks through your Himalaya.

            Appreciating the value of your exceptional loyalty (perhaps based on historical Gurkha-British alliances (www.gwt.org.uk/news/gurkha-regiments) the U.S. extends an open door to Nepalis: with your abiding charm, your industrious  graduates and Buddhist gurus, and your 6,000 earthquake victims, (admitted on TPS-visas in 2015, ignoring largely fraudulent claims, then granted extensions last year).   

 

            Politically, Nepalis are inexplicably complacent at home. For most of your history you were subjected to the rule of absolute monarchs. Although never occupied by foreign invaders. Following your successful 10-year Maoist guerilla campaign, you eventually rid yourselves of that oppressive sacred kingship. That was followed by your declaration as a republic, multi-party involvement, a democratic constitution and a 2015 election that endowed the winning Marxist/Leninist Party with power. Few lives had been lost in that process and expectations were high moving ahead. Despite the ended monarchy, an expanded free press, a vibrant tourism industry and the injection of foreign aid, your nation’s economy was never reformed, your class disparities never addressed. The elite remained entrenched; favoritism, corruption, graft, and nepotism deepened.             Corruption is worse today than ever. Although officially secular, consumptive spending on temples and rituals has increased, and high caste privilege remains. Your economy is crippled: as new plutocrats sap the wealth, your administration grows fat on bribes while allowing ordinary families to depend on overseas remittances; (5-7 million jobless, a fifth of your 28 million, are migrant workers in Malaysia and Arab Gulf states). https://www.globalresearch.ca/long-nepal-blame-others-woes/5665412?print=1 

            The U.S.’s open door combined with the generosity of foreign social service organizations lodged in Nepal, maintains this status quo. 

            It was to be expected that you and your government would await the arrival of foreign medics and health supplies along with instructions from here about how to treat your COVID-19 victims. Instead, growing awareness of that plague arrived with waves of those sons and brothers sent home from their curtailed employment overseas. (This influx may reverse the drop in agri-production after farms were abandoned or mortgaged, resulting in cash-dependency, more reliance on imported food and other needs, more demand for iNGO assistance.)

            Meanwhile, by March 15th Nepal reported only a single case of infection—a figure no Nepali accepted.

            Your government (neither as impoverished nor indebted as outsiders suppose) is unabashedly corrupt and inattentive; so you’re unsurprised at its negligence in identifying infections and moving to protect you from the spreading scourge.

            According to those of you I speak to on a weekly basis, the Nepali leadership was as slack as America in quarantining your population. You bide the time, accustomed to mismanagement and lies waiting for America’s magic pill to arrive. (By March 28th, only 4 positive cases had been announced, again causing public skepticism.) Now on lockdown—imposed on the heels of U.S. orders for its citizens -- you can’t even take your demands to the streets, a strategy used so effectively against your monarchy.

            While the American leadership has finally awakened to the severity of the pandemic, now rushing to contain the damage; it can draw on abundant resources, however belatedly. Nepal is slowly rousing itself, but it lacks those resources.

            In our phone conversations, it seems you feel forsaken, not by your government but by the U.S. and elsewhere. You must be shaken by witnessing the depravity of your hero.

            As you see, every government is occupied with its own overwhelmed health systems.

            If anyone comes to your rescue I expect it will be China, your northern neighbor and a steadfast benefactor. Beijing’s earthquake aid in 2015 was immediate, efficient and unmatched. (China has had major infrastructure projects underway there—partly to balance your traditional reliance on India.) Just yesterday, responding to today’s crisis, Chinese help is on its way to Kathmandu. Your government’s incompetence will be ameliorated, for the present.

            In the long run, your romanticized image of the omnipotent richest-country-in-the-world, will dissolve. You’re not the alone. The world had already glimpsed the unmasked face of the global bully in the person currently occupying the White House. Now your view is further refined by the U.S.’ presumption of immunity, our sloppy response to the epidemic, our ill-equipped medical system, the impotence of our military might.

            It’s time for Nepal to consider a new policy, not one that transfers overdependence to China, but one of resourcefulness and self-sufficiency, perhaps on the model of Cuba or Vietnam. A logical step for a Marxist-led government, don’t you think?

[ Nepal--Turn Around and Realize Your Neighbor is China ]

Rethinking Commander-in-Chief in American Leadership

March 20, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

https://www.globalresearch.ca/rethinking-commander-in-chief-american-leadership/5707092 

              Ask Americans who’s commander-in-chief, most will respond: our president. Citizens only think about this just before a presidential election every four years when their final, ‘supreme criteria’ of U.S. leadership is raised: “Does she or he have it:-- namely the wisdom (or courage, or resolve) to control the nuclear (war) button?”

               It’s a vague term whose specifics are not publicly explored; but I think we can agree it’s singularly associated with military conflict.

               I haven’t heard the term commander-in-chief applied to other heads of state, but some variety of it doubtless exists, where a military officer heads a government as Egypt and formerly Pakistan today. Notwithstanding Americans’ first president was a general-- one among 12 who became president https://www.theglobalist.com/generals-and-the-u-s-presidency/ (of 26 American presidents who’d served in the military).

               (Joe Biden, although never a military officer, is clearly projecting this ‘commander-in-chief image’ in debates, invoking his presence in ‘the situation room’, etc. He understands war, he assures the public.)

               Leadership was an underlying issue during recent primary debates. They’re essentially over now, eclipsed by the growing pandemic where the focus of leadership has rightly turned to management and moral vision.

               Surely our current unprecedented crisis reveals it is time to reconsider the concept. My point here is not Trump’s capacity, but the general underlying American criteria for the nation’s person-in-charge.

               Crisis strategists admit this pandemic is a ‘war’, even invoking 911 when Americans perceived they were under siege. (Although-- with the exception of immigrants who’ve fled conflicts, by-and-large generated by American bombardments and sanctions on their homelands—most really don’t grasp the realities of siege: economic, diplomatic, medical, cultural or military.)

               Now a major health, social and economic crisis—a catastrophe, not to be too alarmist—has arrived in the name of COVID-19.

               Whether or not we had doubts about the moral character and management ability of Trump, today we can testify to the gravity of his silliness, racism, ignorance, ugliness, meanness and misplaced priorities. It is far, far more serious that we could possibly have imagined. It forces us to scan the horizon for leadership.  

               A resident of New York State I’m most closely following the response to this crisis by our governor. (I fervently hope other governors are acting similarly to Andrew Cuomo.) https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/20/watch-live-ny-gov-cuomo-holds-press-conference-on-the-coronavirus.html. Because, the more I hear from Cuomo day-after-day, the more I feel (along with neighbors, family and friends overseas as well as in the U.S.), we have a profound example of the kind of leadership needed at this moment.

               In his presentations Governor Cuomo exhibits no commander-in-chief attitude, but rather that of a capable manager, also someone with –dare I say?—emotion and compassion, approaching that of a ‘father figure’. Perhaps his presence reminds us of President Roosevelt’s legendary fireside chats https://www.britannica.com/event/fireside-chats.

               Post-pandemic changes are inevitable. Friends talk about their offices and companies, their universities and hospitals rethinking long-term goals to offer different and better service; one talks about perceiving her neighborhood differently, seeking a new family dynamic, rethinking how we educate our children.

               Likewise we need to seriously rethink the concept of commander-in-chief. America’s criterion for presidency is redundant. It is neither a humane concept, nor a relevant one in times of nationwide social crisis. Also absent from this concept is emotion, compassion and morality.

               Although not hitherto a particular admirer of Andrew Cuomo, I now perceive him not only as a brilliant manager but also a person with the apparent morality required at this moment. Maybe other governors whose work I am not following are acting likewise. (And please don’t cynically rejoin that Cuomo is working with his eye on the White House in 2024. We’ll talk about that later.)

[ Rethinking Commander-in-Chief in American Leadership ]

Kaia Rolle, Handcuffed and Arrested at 6; at Her American School

March 04, 2020

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Handcuffed and Arrested at 6—How Many More, and for How Long is This America?   

While fretting over refugee children in freezing tents along Turkey’s border, or Nargis Fazili’s family fleeing Afghanistan across Asia to Europe (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/24/midnight-traveler-refugee-documentary-afghanistan, or lone migrant children caged in U.S. detention centers, we may barely register what happens to American children like Kaia Rolle; she’s a 6-year-old student at a not unusual neighborhood school in Florida.

            I suppose we should feel grateful for the body cameras which most American police are now required to wear to document their on-the-job encounters. Some police videos are made available to the public; some are lost. One recently released https://abcnews.go.com/wnt/video/officer-fired-video-shows-arresting-year-69213056 records an incident last September https://nypost.com/2019/09/22/florida-6-year-old-arrested-handcuffed-for-elementary-school-tantrum/ :—the handcuffing of Kaia Rolle by policemen at her school. The manacled child was led to a squad car and, unaccompanied by any school official or relative, and taken to a detention center to be finger-printed and photographed. The video was likely edited to hide the child’s face, probably in compliance with a ‘civil-rights’ law that protects minors—thank you. But it illustrates enough for us to witness an all-too-common injustice.

            It’s not the pleas of the weeping child that I find most disturbing; it’s the school staff’s passive witness to the child’s torture. None of the three women in the camera’s scope makes any attempt to protest, or to question the decision by we-don’t-known-whom, to subject the child to this unconscionable treatment.

            To further emphasize the egregious behavior by the police, we hear one man –likely the school resource officer --chatting with the staff members without any hint of regret or hesitation about how he regularly arrests children. Arrests are a source of pride for him, it seems. “Six thousand arrests over 28 years”, he boasts, “the youngest, 7-years-old.” When informed that the latest victim is six, he quips: “She’s six; now that’s a record.” Dennis Turner is a policeman who, like many in his position, are hired after retirement as “school resource officers”.

            These resource officers constitute a new class of law enforcement personnel employed by schools across America— they’re in my New York neighborhood schools too-- our solution to school shootings, a nationwide policy to protect our children from gun wielding maniacs. While they wait for anything that threatens the school from outside, these officers are engaged in student discipline inside. Parents and school administrators, out of fear of armed assailants, are empowering these unsupervised, armed retirees and veterans of foreign conflict --men accustomed to manhandling mostly adult male suspects-- to discipline troublesome children.

            (In addition to their school salary, a wage often higher than teachers’, many of them enjoy a generous pension from their police or military service. What a boon for the profession of law enforcement!)

            Attorney John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute’s warning https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_illusion_of_freedom_the_police_state_is_alive_and_well about our expanding police presence is so alarming that we are either too disturbed to register the details or we think he’s exaggerating. He is not.

            Viewing this single video of an on-duty school guardian entrusted to protect children, one has to question how much more goes on that we are not privy to? And this in inside U.S.A. with its celebrated freedoms! (I cannot bear to imagine the experience of countless Iraqi and Afghan families subject to abuse by American military personnel.)

            We are told Kaia was released and isn’t facing any charges. This doesn’t mollify me; nor am I gratified by the firing of that officer.)

            The video of the child’s arrest is revealing about how the child is handled too. A school staff member calmly tells Kaia to “Go with them, baby girl.” As Kaia is handcuffed, we hear one officer gently say: “Come over here honey”; then “It’s not going to hurt”.

            Later news clips of Kaia with her grandmother report that she is doing fine. That’s today. What about in the coming years?

            This experience may embolden little Kaia to become an attorney or a civic leader, perhaps a policewoman to protect others from the cruelty she would never forget. Can we fault her, though, if she chooses violence as a way to defend herself when gentle people nearby fail her or if they’re better informed about child victims of foreign aggression?

[ Kaia Rolle, Handcuffed and Arrested at 6; at Her American School ]


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