CAAT – Campaign Against Arms Trade – for Yemen

”I work for Campaign Against Arms Trade and this morning we have won the right toCA take the UK government to court over the sale of British weapons that have been used by Saudi Arabia in the bombings of Yemen”.

 

The message was followed by the article of The Guardian ‘British arms exports to Saudi Arabia to be scrutinised in high court’

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The article clearly states :
‘A UN report leaked to the Guardian in January found “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians in the Saudi-led strikes, and identified 2,682 civilians killed in such strikes.

The report found 119 strikes that it said violated international humanitarian law, including attacks on health facilities, schools, wedding parties and camps for internally displaced people and refugees.

The high court case calls for the government to suspend all current export licences and refuse all new licences to Saudi Arabia where it is possible the weapons could be used in Yemen, while the business secretary, Sajid Javid, reviews whether the sales are legal.’
CAAT – Campaign Against Arms Trade – issued a press release , immediately:

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  • High Court grants judicial review into arms exports to Saudi Arabia, following unprecedented case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Extensive evidence suggests Saudi Arabian forces have committed war crimes in Yemen
  • UK has licensed over £2.8 billion worth of arms since the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen began

The High Court has today ruled that Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), represented by human rights lawyers Leigh Day, can bring a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills’ decision to continue arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The arms sales came despite serious allegations and compelling evidence that there is a clear risk Saudi forces might use the equipment to violate international humanitarian law (IHL) in their ongoing bombardment of Yemen.

Over 6000 people have been killed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe; destroying vital infrastructure and leaving 80% of the population in need of aid. Despite this, the UK has continued to arm the Saudi regime, with over £2.8 billion worth of arms having been licensed since the bombing began last March, including licences for bombs and air-to-surface rocket components and a £1.7 billion licence for combat aircraft.

The claim follows reports from a range of prestigious international organisations including a UN Panel of experts, the European Parliament and humanitarian NGOs, which have accused Saudi forces of serious breaches of IHL. These include:

  • A failure to take all precautions in attack as required by IHL
  • Attacks causing disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian objects.
  • A failure to adhere to the principle of distinction and/or the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and those not directly participating in hostilities.
  • The destruction of Cultural Property and/or a failure to adhere to the immunity to be afforded to such property during armed conflict.

Despite this, the UK government has licensed over £2.8 billion worth of arms since the bombing of Yemen began. The weapon categories included for arms exports since the bombing of Yemen began include approximately:

  • £1.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

This is a historic decision and we welcome the fact that arms exports to Saudi Arabia will be given the full scrutiny of a legal review, but they should never have been allowed in the first place.

The fact that UK aircraft and bombs are being used against Yemen is a terrible sign of how broken the arms export control system is. For too long government has focused on maximising and promoting arms sales, rather than on the human rights of those they are used against.

Successive governments have pulled out all stops to keep the arms deals flowing. Recent years have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop a corruption investigation into arms exports to Saudi, David Cameron flying out to to Riyadh meet Saudi Royalty, and Prince Charles sword dancing to secure sales for BAE Systems.

The claim, which will now progress to Judicial Review, calls on the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while he holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation.

Andrew continued:

The arms export controls do not work, but how can they when the government is actively promoting arms sales and working hand in glove with regimes like Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi Royal Family’s influence is imprinted all over Whitehall’s approach to arms sales and the Middle East.

If the government cares for the human rights of those in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or the wider region then it must end its support for the Saudi military and its complicity in Saudi state violence.

Rosa Curling from the human rights team at Leigh Day, which is representing CAAT, said:

It is crucial that the courts consider whether the ongoing sales of arms from the UK to Saudi Arabia is unlawful. The overwhelming evidence from those who are, or have been, working on the ground in Yemen is that the Saudi coalition is acting in breach of international law, killing thousands of people and destroying vital infrastructure. To continue to grant licences in such circumstances, is unlawful. We hope the Court will now intervene in this matter and order the government to reconsider without further delay.

 

For further information please contact Andrew at media@caat.org.uk or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673232.


This is only the beginning, hopefully, of a new chapter.
The final lines of the message are a request, for everyone, to get involved and speak up.
It is our chance to say what it is like to be at the receiving end of unlawful airstrikes, of what this war meant to the entire country:
”On Monday 11 July we are organising a protest as it is the 50 years since the UK government set up its department for arms sales. We wondered if you might have a message we could give to the government about why we shouldn’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, or about what is happening in Yemen? Solidarity and strength from London”

You may contat CAAT with your thoughts at: action@caat.org.uk

 

The photo was taken this morning, 30 June 2016, in front of the High Court

The War Stories Collector

‘I made a website called Uncloak that shares the stories of people living in war zones and the incidents and experiences they had. Until now I’ve published four stories. And I’m looking for more.
Uncloak was made to share the incidents and stories that happened to people in all war zones. Not just Yemen.’
If you grew up in Europe, you had your grandparents and relatives telling you how WWII was. What it felt like to be under bombardments, to be cold, have family members being deported, neighbours killed.
Stories ran in the family, circle of acquaintances.
The oral handing of personal stories was as effective as your history books. As if history made sense because it was hitting home.
It hit home for the war in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Viet Nam war, Afghanistan,  Iraq, Chechnya and an endless list which knows no borders.Salah is a young Yemeni, hurt by the war. He agrees – like many Yemenis I talk to these days – that there is no side to take any longer. Just the side of peace.
I tell him I unfortunately have many stories from so many places from Africa to Middle East but have little time to collect them and he replies:
‘If there is any need, I’m willing to help. In any possible way. Also, I still haven’t updated the site to specifically say this due to power outages, but even if these stories happened to people who don’t speak English that won’t be a problem. I’m willing to speak to them to understand their experience to be capable of writing it down and publishing it. Another option would be if they can write their experience in Arabic, I will translate it to English and post it.’

Ali

He has commenced a  sensitive project.
‘I want Uncloak to share the experiences and incidents that happen to normal, ordinary civilians living throughout the world away from the manipulation of media and politics, because if you notice, every group only talks about the hardships and problems of people who are ON their side.. This is a huge problem that creates a big rift between people of the same country or nation. Civilians, no matter what their views on politics/religion are, are the main victims of these war and shouldn’t be prioritised according to their views. I hope this war ends soon. Too many people died for nothing.’

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We must never forget and Salah is willing to collect the survivors’ stories.
I am afraid his will be an endless project. Somewhere, it will always hit home

 

For further information: https://uncloak.github.io/

Yemen: the flowers gone

I am finding out many of my neighbours have become ‘martyrs’.
All the young ones. The happy ones. The ones who wanted to travel, get engaged.
The ones working in the family corner shop, the taxi drivers, the students, the ones who helped me when I had the accident and maybe the ones involved in it; the ones who had no plans at all but did make a choice to go and fight. ‘It’s our duty’ they always tell me while I feel my duty is to protect them. At the end, we gave them this world, the fertile ground of wars included.
They started leaving on small buses in April 2015 (the war started on March 26 of the same year) from the Old City of Sanaá full of hopes. With a Kalashnikov and a small copy of the Holy Quran in hand.
They are heading north, They are going South my neighbours would tell me.
Don’t worry, Dear, Allah is with them.

They died in Mareb, Bab el Mandab, at the border, in places you have rarely heard of
The flowers are all gone.
They continue dying.
I hate social media. I hate WhatsApp messages in the middle of the night.
I could say it politely ‘Down with wars’. I won’t. FUCK WARS


photo: Reuters

Socotra, a distress call

Beyond the headlines, the sides and the personal interests, the various factions, those who care and those who couldn´t care any less, those who always have the answer and know who is ultimately to be blamed.
This is a message from Socotra island, isolated from the world and forgotten in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 400 km ca, off war-torn Yemen.

”A distress call.
Dozens of critical medical cases on the island, including a case of coma and kidney failure.
We need help, regular boats coming to the island and flights to/from Hadibo.
Flights to Socotra have stopped months ago and, due to the monsoon season, there are no more boats to our shores.
Students, families, patients are stuck in Mukhalla now. It has been so for 2 months.

We lack  Baby Formulas, food, medicine.
Our lives are being sacrificed. We are under a forgotten siege.
The situation is worsening.
We need help within the next 48 hours.”

The kidney failure case was a prior message received:
”My friend…he had a kidney failure. It is the first time it happens to him. His health is deteriorating. There are no medicines at the hospital. Imagine: they cannot do anything at the hospital.
There are no flights to mainland. He is stuck here, in Socotra, and his condition does not allow him to travel by boat to Mukhalla. 
He is under the mercy of God.
The war in Yemen deprived people of everything. If you are sick, there are not even emergency flights from Socotra.
Can you please write about him and his case? Hopefully someone can send an airplane to get all the patients out. He is not alone. There are many like him.
His name is Abdullah Salem.”

The name Socotra is derived from a Sanskrit word with its meaning  close to “The Island of Bliss”.
That was before the senseless war. Before lives started being sacrificed in the name of power.
50.000 people, amongst the kindest on the planet, await to be remembered.
Beyond the headlines.

 

photo: © Time

 

Parallel deaths of war on Yemen

There never seems to be an end in sight.
War torn Yemen has been, basically, destroyed. The deaths, which seem to rise every morning with the sun, are not necessarily and exclusively the ones occurring under the bombs and/or in ground battles.
The parallel deaths which are not accounted for – and most likely will never be fully considered – are the shadowed ones. Shadowed by bigger news. In war times there is always a bigger news.
The parallel deaths cannot be confined to any category, chart . Not for now, not for the time being as Yemenis are busy skipping the bombs and the Saudis are busy white-washing their crimes at the UN.
The UN had, in fact, the unfortunate idea to blacklist the Middle Eastern Kingdom in consideration of its role in the killing of Yemeni children. Indiscriminate killing and inflicted suffering. Serious matters: crimes against humanity.
The black-listing lasted only a couple of days. Saudi dignitaries and diplomacy have already managed to make the UN temporarily cancel the report claiming they were and are, at the end, the victims. Constant state of denial.

We received a message from Socotra island two days ago.
Socotra is one of the most exotic paradises on earth, protected by the UNESCO.
With its  825 – and counting – endemic species, with its unparalleled heaven of biodiversity lying ca 400 km off the coast of Yemen, it was good to know that Socotra had been spared by the war. Mentally it was as if the island  was floating in a limbo, waiting for peace to arrive.
In extreme poverty, after having survived two cyclones which hit the island last November, meteorological calamities always seem better than any bombardment.
Allah Kareem, they say: God is generous. He will take care.
Then came the news, starting around February 2016, that the island had been lent/leased to the UAE for 99 years. The same UAE which is so active in bombing Yemen along with the Saudis (the eternal victims of this war, remember).
But everything made sense (a twisted one) at the end: it was a precious gift of run-away former Yemeni President Hadi to the Ruler of Abu Dhabi. With the compliments of Yemen must have read the card. Wars cost and Hadi needed to pay back.

On May 9 2016 we posted on Living in Yemen on The Edge page in Facebook an ‪#‎EXCLUSIVE‬ alert:

An informed source said on Friday, May 6, 2016 , that the Emirati military forces arrived to the ” island of Socotra ,” with a number of armored vehicles and military vehicles headed by an Emirati military delegation .
The source pointed out that some residents of the archipelago are shocked and distressed about the entry of these forces to the island as Socotra is a natural reserve of an extremely delicate endemic eco-system.
Most of the population contacted has expressed refusal to turn the island into a military base but who will listen to the isolated population?

And now the message of a friend in Socotra reminded us that not only bombs kill during wars and that most likely, one day, this parallel death will be put in the right chart.
For now, people in Socotra, await a slow death.

”My friend…he had a kidney failure. It is the first time it happens to him. His health is deteriorating. There are no medicines at the hospital. Imagine: they cannot do anything at the hospital.
There are no flights to mainland. He is stuck here, in Socotra, and his condition does not allow him to travel by boat to Mukhalla. 
He is under the mercy of God.
The war in Yemen deprived people of everything. If you are sick, there are not even emergency flights from Socotra.
Can you please write about him and his case? Hopefully someone can send an airplane to get all the patients out. He is not alone. There are many like him.
His name is Abdullah Salem.”

Sleepless in Mareb (Yemen)

This is what it feels like to have dear ones in a war zone: the moment you know of a suicide bomber, a bomb explosion, aerial airstrikes and the lapse of time it takes for news from those you care about to reach you, sum up to  a long, exhausting, corroding wait.

There was a bomb  explosion yesterday, May 6, in the troubled city of Mareb, 156 kms East of Sanaà, Yemen. It happened after Friday prayers at the qat market. Being Friday (weekend), the qat market was packed with people. Virtually everyone in Yemen chews qat, the mild leafy stimulant, on a Friday.

I happen to have a friend in Mareb. The area has been always a nightmare: it rests on Yemen´s richest oil and gas fields and has been the constant battleground between tribes, government, smugglers, AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) fighters and, since 2015, a nevralgic point of fighting between those loyal to former President Hadi´s Saudi backed government (in exile) and Ansarallah militia supported by Yemeni military forces loyal to ex President Saleh.
The war in and on Mareb has been long. Devastating.

Only today my friend replied to my immediate message, making me realise that the explosion of yesterday is only an additional bomb to a daily story of fighting, pain and struggle.
‘The battle is close to me, it is just 3 kilometers away.12974515_1007156106004086_4164260433325426796_n
God will save us though the war is in all Yemen, it is everywhere ..but in Mareb we have an ongoing war basis. 
The battle is from 4 sides. North and West is where they use all kinds of heavy and light weapons: missiles, artillery, Katyusha and aircraft. Sometimes we don’t sleep at night Dear.
We all pray, you pray too Dear.

We will be OK, with God’s will.’

My friend survived, yesterday.
He has not seen his son who lives abroad in more than 8 years. Talking about lapse of time.

 

 

featured image: Nabil Hassan

Yemen: this is why the War Hurts

Any war hurts.
Any conflict is a war on humanity and on the most vulnerable: children first. The poor. The sick, the elderly, the defenseless. Those who are silenced because their voice will never be reported. The animals. The illiterate. Those who live on less than 2 dollars per day. Or even 5. Those who have no documents, lest a passport.
Those who have nothing to sell and can rely only on their legs to run away. Those who cannot escape because there is nowhere to go.

Showing a picture of a blown up body in Europe will be received with a Rest in Peace. But it’s not here, it’s not here with me, close to me, contingent. It does not affect me.
There is a distance. It’s enough to move on.
Any war is not specific, contigent. Until the first bomb drops on your city, your neighbourhood, your house.

Why the war on Yemen hurts.
This war which is not here, close to us, has not made hundreds of thousands of victims (not yet, that is), is taking place in a country which for decades has received so much negative publicity we wonder if there is an equivalent on earth (maybe Afghanistan).
A war which has produced 2.5 million internally displaced who can only move from one village to the next one, to a school turnt into a refugee building in the Capital Sanaá but cannot cross borders.
The war is there, in Yemen. Not close to us. No refugees to kick out of our sacred European territory, our precious soil.
This war which has seen a country waking up one night under the sound of bombs falling from the sky.
Nine-to-One: this is the ratio. Nine countries united against one, the poorest country of the Middle East.
We remember seeing pictures of Ramallah, before the war on Yemen, and say: They seem better off than us.
A country which has always fought hard to reach the end of the day with enough food for the family, the water to find, the disease, the lack of electricity, unemployment, corruption.

This picture was taken in 2006, nine years before the war, in the Capital Sanaá.

13092002_1041504755942655_1876104030743934791_n                          © Sandro Rizzato

Enough to look at the pink dress of the girl on the left to understand and to know this was, at some stage, an Eid dress.
Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha being the only two occasions when most of the children receive their new wardrobe for the year. Do not think big: a pair of shoes, a dress and few other things. Chocolates. Pocket money from relatives and for one year they long for the next Eid. In the meantime, the pink dress fades in colour and texture.
Children of Yemen. This is why this war hurts.
 

 

5-yemen
© Mohamed al-Sayaghi

To and from the well. And back.
To and from the mosque. And back again.
To and from the charity tank set up and filled by an anonymous benefactor and back again. Till the tank is dry.
To and from the mosque, and back. To and from the well and back.
All under a scorching sun. Every day. So many times a day your legs become your clock: it is always time to move and fetch water.
Sisters of Yemen know no stroll. They work hard. Keep the family running fetching water which is undrinkable, uncookable. Still, keeps the family going.
This is why this war hurts. There has never been enough water to do anything.
Blessed are the monsoons: you can collect water.

With the siege imposed on the country, no gasoline is allowed to enter. No gas can be delivered to cities and villages alike. There has been no electricity since April 2015.
Many have found themselves selling the jewellery of the women in the family to buy a solar panel. Though it does not serve the purpose of cooking.Wood will do the job, if you are lucky to live in the countryside.
To and from the wood, and back.
This is why this war hurts.

13151839_1000805476662519_533289458977455240_n
Author Unknown

I took a taxi, in Sanaá, once. It was Ramadan. I hadn´t had food that day and the driver was surprised I was fasting.  It was by chance. I was not lying but he made of a single day of fasting a full month of observance.
When I reached the office, he refused the money and gave me a small copy of the Holy Quran.
‘Take this, please, Sister. And one day, when you return to Europe, tell them we are not all terrorists.’
This is why the war, this war, hurts.


Prior to the conflict, the health system in Yemen was significantly strained, with only three doctors per 10,000 people. Some 14.1 million people now need help to access adequate healthcare as a result of the intensified year of conflict. Lack of supplies, medicines, electricity, fuel for generators, and staff or equipment have caused health services to decline across the country. This is disproportionately affecting under-5 children, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic diseases – including cancer, hypertension, diabetes. The three main causes of additional deaths among children under-5 are neonatal, diarrhoeal disease, and pneumonia. Health facilities report attending to more than 30,586 injured and 6,427 killed since the escalation of violence in March 2015. Demands and strains on the health sector and on host families are increasing along with the number of people that have fled their homes in search of safety and security
UN Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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#AleppoIsBurning

Aleppo is burning.  Dying. Barrel bombs from the sky, mortar attacks from the ground, missiles, hell on earth, the sky collapsing on the people. Over 230 people dead just during the last week. Fresh round of airstrikes last night. Waiting for the next to arrive.
Aleppo will not be included in an hypothetical ceasefire. Out of the former 2 milion people living in Aleppo, 250.000 are still trapped with no way out.

“There can be no justification for these appalling acts of violence deliberately targeting hospitals and clinics, which are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law. People keep dying in these attacks. There is no safe place anymore in Aleppo. Even in hospitals,” said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC in Syria. “For the sake of people in Aleppo, we call for all to stop this indiscriminate violence.” (International Red Cross Committee ).

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And while many in the world are outraged and getting organised to take to the streets: Beirut, London, Oslo, København, Berlin, Leeds, Amman, Buenos Aires, S. Antonio – TX, Los Angeles – CA and other places joining in (you may check this link  for constant updates on the worldiwide event ALEPPO IS BURNING, WORLDWIDE PROTEST), Facebook is turning RED after a call from activists to spotlight the carnage taking place in Syria and Aleppo in this last case MakeFacebookRed , ff

a friend made her strong point:

What I’m about to share is going to be viewed as unfavorable. Many of you have seen, and are upset, angered — about current heinous crimes against the innocent people of Syria. After five years, it’s not going to stop. It’s not.
With all due respect, listen carefully, internalize what I’m about to say. Do not contact each other. Its a waste of time, resources, and lives. You’re not accomplishing anything. You’re not.
You need to contact “media” -governments, heads of state, academia, and the like. Remaining in your comfort zones accomplishes nothing –except more dead people. Please brave up, do as I ask … its the only answer. God bless.

She then provided address and telephone numbers to THE WHITE HOUSE
*****Write or Call the White House***** 10391870_10208525081702952_7945823489262184134_n

– CALL THE PRESIDENT –
PHONE NUMBERS
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
TTY/TTD
Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121
============================
Write a letter to the President
Here are a few simple things you can do to make sure your message gets to the White House as quickly as possible.
1. If possible, email us! This is the fastest way to get your message to President Obama.
2. If you write a letter, please consider typing it on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. If you hand-write your letter, please consider using pen and writing as neatly as possible.
3. Please include your return address on your letter as well as your envelope. If you have an email address, please consider including that as well.
4. And finally, be sure to include the full address of the White House to make sure you message gets to us as quickly and directly as possible:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
OR YOU CAN CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call#call

Point is: whatever you do. Do not stay silent. Do not waste time blaming parts.
Call your own Head of State. Contact media, your Member of Parliament, join others in exposing this senseless slaughter, email-bomb all the parties comfortably sitting in your Parliament, email the ever-sleeping United Nations.

( Petition to the UN Security Council here )6895083fbeb305a131c2edb47aac129c

Time to act, now.
For Aleppo, for humanity.

She called Wars ‘Chaos of the World’

Simply, she said: ‘The more we react to these wars, the more the devils love it. For they feed on that negative energies. Very tricky. I am always searching on how to be at peace with all these psyche damaging events.

I somehow managed to reply: ‘Yes, I know what you mean. But you cannot understand fully, I am afraid. Not because you lack compassion, but because you have not experienced it.’

– ‘I do understand. You are still in trauma. Seek help for healing.’
– ‘I do not have a doctor here. War does not go away with medical help.’
– ‘Lots of helpful tools in the net. I am beginning to understand now that we can do our part in helping the chaos in this world by raising our own vibrational frequencies. That is what we need to work on. Our reactions are amplifying the negative energies.’

Wars are psyche negative energies, part of the chaos of world which you can raise your vibrational energies against. And the net offers so much help in case your psyche has traces of PTSD.
To the people in detention camps in Eidomeni, the pregnant woman shot dead (shot 15 times ) along with her brother by Israeli forces at a checkpoint yesterday, the children killed at MSF hospital in already bleeding Aleppo (and remaining-still alive-mourning families) today, to those stuck in Yarmouk camp in Syria, to the 400.000 victims of the Syrian war, to the 60 million refugees worldwide fleeing wars-famine-terrorists-insane laws, to those trucidated by Boko Haram,  to the Yaziri women raped-enslaved-dehumanised, to those 500 drowned in a ghost boat in the Mediterranean sea last week with almost no media coverage, to the 350.000 Yemeni children dying of starvation or about to do so because of food insecurity (again, because of the war), to the orphans of war, the child soldiers of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the eternal campers of Darfur, to the mothers of Fallujah who are raising children made entirely of birth defects with virtually not a healthy bit in their body, to those under barrel bombs in this very moment : ‘You are doing it all wrong. Do not react. You have to raise you own vibrational frequencies before your reactions amplify the negative energies.’
And the net is abundant in tools of great help. So she said.

photo: AFP

 

It´s our Wars

My friend saw the picture and blew this out:

”It happens far from us –  but then again, not even that much – but it happens every day, even when we do not see it, even if no one says it.
War is death and destruction and fear and disorientation; it’s the end of the places the way they were, annihilation of life which had been until then.
Wars created by the civilised West, fought with weapons manufactured and exported by us.
Our hand is on those dead, though we like to think we are not involved.
And the refugees that we Western developed countries do not want,  are running away from this: wars, death, fear, things that we thankfully will never know.
They are refugees of our wars .”
~ Daniela Arletti ~


The aftermath of an airstrike. On a market place.
Syria, 19 December 2015 (Anadolu Agency)

Categories war