By Aniek Santema Around 2 million Syrian refugees who fled the war have been stranded in Lebanon and many of them live in harsh circumstances. The following pictures will give a small insight into the lives of Syrian youth and show the world from their perspective, through their eyes. The pictures in this photo essay were taken by Syrian refugee girls in the city of Saida who participated in a workshop where they learned how to use visual methods as a way of self-expression. During the workshop the girls answered questions about themselves and their lives by using photographs and they took photographs about things that are meaningful to them. Here, a selection of six of the pictures is presented, along with the titles that the girls gave to them and a small explanation from my side.
Mariam is Maha’s sister and they are very close. Mariam took this picture and she shows how the childhood is lost for many children when they experience war, flight and exile. But Mariam feels that children do have this right.
This picture shows the collective shelter where Mariam and Maha live with their family and a few other families. It is an old house where the families are packed together. Each family lives in one room. For Mariam and Maha, this place has little comparison to their home village in Syria, where they had their own house and could walk around and play with their friends. Here, in the old house, it is hard to adapt.
Ayat lives in an unfinished university building, where she shares a room with her 9 brothers and sisters and parents. This shelter houses around a 1000 people, mostly from a community from the same rural area in Syria.
Whereas Syrian refugees in Lebanon are deprived from many civil rights, Ayat also calls attention to another right: the right to happiness.
Aniek Santema graduated from her master SCA at the VU last year, and wrote her thesis on lived experiences, education and future perspectives of Syrian refugee youths in Lebanon. She is currently working at Edukans, a development organisation for children’s education worldwide.
This photo essay gathers statements from both outside (West Bank/Jericho area) and inside the peace project EcoME (“Ecological Middle East”) in the contested Palestinian Territories. The texts and their contexts portray the dynamic relation between outside hopes, fears and separation policies and the project’s inner striving for connection, warmth and openness. (The author wishes to stay anonymous).
A reminder to hang on, tattooed on a eighteen-years-old Palestinian’s underarm. The young man proudly presented me the inscription, when I visited his family home in the West Bank in 2014. Returning there in 2017, I met him playing with his new German shepherd, which he introduced me with equal elation. Despite unemployment and their challenging living conditions in a conflict area, young Palestinians try to thrive and pursue their dreams, thereby often yearning faraway places.
Arriving at EcoME during the night. If one looks up the project for the first time, its low-key signposting imports wonder: does the place exist at all? Or is this plate just a remnant from the past? Indeed, unlike the young Palestinian’s exhibition of endurance above, EcoME’s public representation reacts with subtlety to the outside threats of othering and unduly state policing. It reflects how these forces constantly work against the meeting space and put it in a precarious position.
Meeting beyond wrong and right – as promoted by the Sufi poet Rumi – is EcoME’s vision and common practice. Inside, this philosophy is directly forwarded to newly arriving foreign guests, who take an obligatory tour through the project. Although couches, cushions and blankets are still messed up from a drug raid by the Israeli police which marks an intrusion of EcoME’s security, its participants continue their work of connecting people in an open space.
A few hundred meters from EcoME, separation instead of meeting is declared. This typical Israeli warning board on the way to the Palestinian city Jericho demarcates the border between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, it symbolizes the fear embedded in their social boundaries. Most Jewish participants are afraid to be treated adversely in Arabic areas, the Palestinians vice versa. Though many also sneak through the division lines. This puts them in danger, but it also creates a new, promising and less clear-cut reality.
Again, in the inside, EcoME’s core values defy the outside separation. To communicate in an empathic way, numerous participants apply Non-violent Communication (NVC). The board is from an NVC workshop, during which intensive self-reflections and attentive encounters peak, and EcoME’s culture of care and exploration gets strengthened and forwarded to foreigners and locals.
Also outside the peace project, hope can be found. At least, advertising water bottles in a small supermarket in Akab Jabr, a Palestinian refugee camp next to Jericho. In contrast to this labeling, water is an issue of the Palestinians’ frustration, since their sources are controlled by Israel. One of EcoME’s participants thus works in the supermarket to get a chance to leave for a freer place, even if it is just for a while.
While studying sociology and cultural anthropology, the author has spent more than half a year participating in and researching the ecovillage-inspired peace project at hand. Currently, she is writing a master’s thesis about its relationality with the outside world of conflict and cultural difference.
By Marina de Regt Last Saturday the holy Muslim month of Ramadan started. Ramadan, a month of fast-ing and feasting, a month of contemplation, a month that should be full of joy and happiness. In Ramadan Muslims experience what it means to be hungry which will make them cherish what they have and feel compassion for those who are poor and hungry. Who will fast Ramadan in Yemen this year? Are there still people left who are not starving to death? Are there still Yemenis who need Ramadan to know what it is like to be poor and hungry? Continue reading →
Food in EcoME is mostly vegan and vegetarian in order to be able to host people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Many participants love it, others have to get used to it. Photo by the author.
By an anonymous researcher I am reading through my field-notes, getting immersed in the life 4.200km from here. Back from researching a peace project in the West Bank, I feel touched by both precarious lives and people’s good intentions.
EcoME (“Ecological Middle East”) assembles Israelis, Palestinians and foreign visitors and offers them a space to meet in the middle of intractable conflict. Sustained by volunteers, it promotes a simple lifestyle and activities respective sustainability, non-violent communication and arts. The project has a holistic approach, aims to cover spiritual, social, economic and environmental aspects. It draws on ideas from the global ecovillage movement. Continue reading →
Door Edien Bartels en Lenie Brouwer “Wat nemen Marokkaanse Nederlanders mee op vakantie naar Marokko? Kaas en pindakaas!” Dit vertelt Mohammed Abdel, een Marokkaanse Nederlander uit Rotterdam, enthousiast als we zijn kaasfabriekje bezoeken in Magdahr, een dorpje in het noordoosten van Marokko, tegen de Algerijnse grens. We zijn in dit gebied voor onderzoek naar achtergelaten vrouwen en kinderen en verrast deze man te ontmoeten. Tien jaar geleden heeft hij voor het eerst bedacht een kaasfabriek op te zetten en inmiddels heeft hij zijn droom verwezenlijkt. Met een team van zes mensen, waaronder twee remigranten uit Nederland, heeft hij hier de afgelopen jaren aan gewerkt. En nu is hij nu mede-eigenaar. Veel Marokkaanse migranten in Nederland zouden graag een eigen bedrijf willen opzetten in Marokko, maar weinigen lukt het. Hiervoor zijn veel redenen te bedenken, zoals het ontbreken van financiële middelen, kennis van het product en van de Marokkaanse bureaucratie. Hij vertegenwoordigt met dit project de discussie over migratie en ontwikkeling: een succesverhaal dus. Continue reading →
In the shelter, a girl on her way to work in the fields
By Aniek Santema The floor in Ouzai where Mariam lives becomes a familiar place. I know the people in this corner of the tall building and they greet me happily when I visit them. Today, the stairs that lead up to this floor are slippery and covered with garbage like empty bags of chips, chocolate wraps and orange peels. While climbing up the stairs to the third floor, I pass by some small kids with stains on their clothes, faces and hands, running and playing on the stairs. The youngest must be around 2 years old. Many of the kids walk around on bare feet, even though it is not warmer than 12 degrees today. 3 boys come down the stairs while playing loud music on one of their phones. On Mariam’s floor, I find Aziza playing with some small kids in the gallery, away from the dark rooms, getting some daylight. The colourful laundry that hangs outside to dry gives some colour to the grey building that breaths hopelessness. I follow the small, dark corridor in the left corner of the floor and knock on Mariam’s door. – Fieldnotes, 6 March 2017
Sheila Carapico (chair), Marina de Regt and Erika Cortes.
By Erika Cortes Anthropology is a way of life. It, if I may, is life. It can present us life at its most complex state. And, more often than not, the topics we choose to work on as anthropologists usually stick with us beyond purely academic pursuits. Continue reading →
Maandagavond 14 no-vember is er in samen-werking met het Grote Midden-Oosten Platform en de afdeling Sociale en Culturele Antropologie van de VU een mooie bijeen-komst georganiseerd over de vergeten oor-log in Jemen. De bijeenkomst vormt on-derdeel van drieluik, met als doel om ach-tergrondinformatie te geven over de gebeurtenissen in Jemen en om antwoord te vinden op de vraag: “wat kan ik doen?”
Voor ik binnenkom, stel ik mijzelf dezelfde vraag: hoeveel weet ik eigenlijk van de gebeurtenissen rondom Jemen? Hoe ernstig is het? Af en toe lees of hoor ik over deze indirecte oorlog tussen Saoedi-Arabië en Iran, maar meer durf ik er niet over te zeggen. Aangezien er niet zoveel over gesproken wordt zal het vast wel meevallen. Vast wel… Continue reading →
Vijf jaar na de revolutie in Jemen: het land is in crisis, voedsel op rantsoen, prijzen stijgen de pan uit, mensen ontvluchten dood en verderf, en vredesinitiatieven stagneren. Hopeloos, denkt menig nieuwsredactie met als gevolg: nauwelijks beelden of nieuws uit Jemen. Marina de Regt (antropoloog verbonden aan de VU) plaatst het huidige conflict in context, ligt de verschillende kampen toe en vertelt meer over de geschiedenis en het leven in Jemen, een land waar zij gewoond en gewerkt heeft en waarover zij bijzonder veel weet. Continue reading →
Egypte 2011: net als documentairemaakster Anna Roussillon terug is in Frankrijk breekt de revolutie uit. Ze baalt verschrikkelijk dat ze dit historische moment mist. Toch is ze er vervolgens in geslaagd een fantastische documentaire over die revolutie te maken. Ana Ash-Sha’ab – ‘Ik ben het volk’ – werd zeer lovend ontvangen op Europese filmfestivals.