Into the Emergency Maze

Injuries of Refuge in an Impoverished Sicilian Town

by Silvia Pasquetti
published in MER280

It was a sunny and warm day in February 2015, in the midst of an otherwise atypically rainy and cold Sicilian winter. Awate and Drissa [1] sat next to one other on the edge of the covered balcony at the small reception center for asylum seekers where they lived. Both wore headphones but their bodies moved out of sync as they followed the different rhythms that pumped into their ears. Driving past the center [2] with his car window down, Roberto commented as I sat next to him: “They always seem so relaxed, with their headphones and flashy shoes. They are taken care of.

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Letter from Ellinikon

by Parastou Hassouri
published in MER278

On a bright and sunny day in early April, outside a terminal at what was once the Ellinikon International Airport in Athens, I listened as Javad, 16, told the story of the second refugee flight of his life. Javad (not his real name) is a member of the Hazara ethnic group and originally hails from the Baghlan province of Afghanistan. His family fled his home country during the rule of the Taliban, who infamously targeted the Hazaras for massacre, in part because most Hazaras are Persian-speaking Shi‘a. They escaped to Iran, where they lived in relative safety, but not dignity, as Afghans often face the exploitation of Iranian employers and the discrimination of the government.

We Can—and Should—Do More to Help Syrian Refugees

by Chris Toensing | published September 16, 2015

Imagine that 58 million Americans were streaming into Canada and Mexico, many with only a small satchel and the clothes on their backs. Picture another 102 million residents of the Eastern seaboard seeking refuge with relatives in the Midwest and West.

That terrifying mental exercise gives a sense of the sheer, staggering scale of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been uprooted since the country’s horrendous civil war broke out in late 2011. Over 4 million people have escaped to neighboring countries and beyond, while an additional 7 million or so are displaced within the country.

The Immigrant Experience in Sweden

by
published in MER123

Mahmut Baksi was born twice. The first time, in Kozluk, a village in Turkish Kurdistan, in 1944. His left-wing and nationalist activities brought him into conflict with his landowning family and with the Turkish authorities. Mahmut chose to leave, and he sought political asylum in Sweden in 1971, where he was born the second time. The metaphor of a second birth comes from the introduction to his book of short stories, Hasan Aga, published in 1979. “I will be eight this year. I came here [to Stockholm] on May 25, 1971. This is my new birthday.

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Crushing Repression of Eritrea's Citizens Is Driving Them Into Migrant Boats

by Dan Connell | published April 20, 2015

Abinet spent six years completing her national service in one of Eritrea’s ministries, but when she joined a banned Pentecostal church, she was arrested, interrogated, threatened, released and then shadowed in a clumsy attempt to identify other congregants. She arranged to be smuggled out of the country in 2013 and is now in a graduate program in human rights in Oslo.

Like Abinet, hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers are landing on the shores of Italy. Eritreans are second only to Syrians in the number of boat arrivals, though the country is a fraction of Syria’s size and there’s no live civil war there.

From Sinai to Lampedusa: An Eritrean Journey

by Dan Connell | published January 19, 2015

Two human tragedies will forever scar Eritreans’ memories of the past decade, during which hundreds of thousands fled repression and despair in their homeland to seek sanctuary in more open, democratic societies: the brutal kidnapping, torture and ransom of refugees in the Egyptian Sinai and the drowning of hundreds more in the Mediterranean Sea when their criminally unseaworthy and overcrowded boats went down, a running disaster epitomized by the October 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck.

Arafat Goes to Strasbourg

by Diana Johnstone
published in MER155

Europe’s attitude could influence the decisions of the next Palestine National Council, Yasir Arafat told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 14, 1988. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairperson urged Europeans to assume their share of “international responsibility” for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The prospect of European recognition of a Palestinian state and provisional government, he said, would powerfully support Palestinian moves to abandon armed struggle for diplomacy.

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North Africa Faces the 1990s

by Joe Stork
published in MER163

The startling changes that have transformed the political landscape of Eastern Europe in 1989 may have no equivalent in the Middle East exactly, but that region has seen some remarkable developments nonetheless. The Arab versions of perestroika, or restructuring, while less profound in comparison with those of Czechoslovakia or Poland, reflect certain realignments of political forces. No regimes have toppled -- yet. But from Palestine and Jordan in the Arab east (the Mashriq) to Algeria in the west (the Maghrib), a phenomenon of intifada, or uprising, is challenging the static politics of repression that have prevailed for many years.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER163

Events elsewhere in the world -- elections in Nicaragua, death squads in South Africa and recent decisions by the European Commission -- hold much instruction for people concerned with the Middle East. Elections, after all, are not the same as democracy. After ten years of US armed intervention and economic aggression, a majority of Nicaraguans voting on February 25 chose an alternative to 10,000 percent inflation, to pervasive shortages, to the killings and sabotage of the Contras. “Sandinistas Lose the Hunger Vote” was the accurate headline in the Financial Times. The winning opposition front was cobbled together and financed by the State Department.

Lampedusa

A Primer

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers
published in MER261

More than 52,000 would-be migrants have landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in 2011. Roughly half of the arrivals are young Tunisian men looking for job opportunities in Europe. Most of the others are Sahelians, sub-Saharan Africans or South Asians fleeing the violence in Libya. In many cases, they were forced onto boats by Libyan soldiers, as part of the “invasion” Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi promised should his rule come under NATO attack. [1] The staggering number of arrivals does not include the estimated 1,500 who starved, suffocated or drowned in the central Mediterranean trying to reach Europe’s nearest shore.