Tag Archives: aid

3 Reasons Why the Paris Attack Feels like 9/11 and 1 Reason Why It Demands A Different Response

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.

In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.

1) It felt close to home

I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.

Even though last Thursday 45 innocent victims lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Beirut and, 6 months ago a similar attack in Kenya killed 147 innocent people, many of us heard little to nothing about those attacks until their news coverage was compared to what occurred in Paris. In our effort to show solidarity with Paris, the Western world made it apparent that certain tragedies frighten us more than others.

As Elie Fares explained in his blog comparing the media response to the Paris and Beirut attack,

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

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The Siege of Gaza

There’s a prevailing idea that the Middle East and its history is nothing but a quagmire of conflicts and wars too ancient and complicated for all but the most scholarly. This simply isn’t true, and 9 times out of 10 it’s just a flimsy excuse for one’s ignorance on the people and politics of civilization’s cradle. The truth is, the Middle East isn’t anymore complex than any other part of the world, and by the end of this post, I’m hoping to have proven that.

This is as simple as it gets, people.

Let’s talk about a little stretch of beach called Gaza.

A fifth of the size of Los Angeles, and with a population of 1.7 million, the Gaza Strip is the world’s largest open-air prison.

That’s right, a prison. We can call it a “territory” or a “reservation” or dress it up any number of ways- at the end of the day, a gigantic holding cell is all that it is.

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Shame Day: Your Treatment of Syria

I grew up in Syria.

I was born in the US, but the vast majority of my life was spent in the Middle East. In spite of the civil war that’s been raging in my adopted homeland for the past couple of years, I’ve remained largely silent on the issue here on the blog. More than anything else, I’ve done so because I know that there’s really no happy ending to anything I can say. For all my raging and foaming at the mouth, I really and truly don’t enjoy having to lambaste things- more than anytime else when there’s really and truly no light I can see at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with American warships closing in on the Syrian coast and a mountain of evidence growing for the regime having unleashed a chemical attack on its own people, there’s really no keeping quiet at this point.

So here it goes.

I. There Is No Free Syrian Army

If you’ve been watching the situation or if you listen to the news, you may hear the term “Free Syrian Army” or “FSA” thrown around. While initially formed out of deserting Syrian soldiers and officers in the early stages of the conflict, there never really was- and still isn’t- any kind of centralized command. There’s a myriad of different militias and cells in Syria all operating under the banner of the FSA, but there’s really no connection between any of them, militarily, ideologically, or demographically. There’s also no connection, as is otherwise sometimes portrayed, between the self-declared opposition government operating out of Turkey and the FSA- they’re two completely different groups. It’s important to understand this to keep from being led into the false assumption that there’s only two sides to the conflict- the dictatorial regime and the pro-democracy rebels. There’s going to be a temptation to grossly oversimplify the situation- don’t let it happen more than it already has.


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Fame Day: Cambodian Orphans and the Calgary Flood

These are some of the kids at the Place of Rescue orphanage in Cambodia.

The reason I want to talk about these kids is because on June 20th one of my best friends was evacuated from her home in Calgary, B.C. due to extensive flooding.

There was actually a lot of cool stories I began hearing after the flood. Like the time the city asked for a few hundred volunteers to come out and help clean out flooded homes and a few thousand showed up instead.

But the coolest story I heard was actually about those kids at the orphanage in Cambodia.  About six days after my friend was evacuated kids and staff at the place of rescue pulled together and sent a total of $900 to help with flood relief in Calgary. Apparently they had each been given the equivalent of about $12 Canadian money by the Cambodian prime minister’s wife not long before the flooding here in Canada. When they heard about the damages they decided to send some of the money they had been given to help with flood repairs. The reason I find this so exciting is because here in North America we tend to think we don’t actually have any real problems.

And we are constantly told about the horrible things happening overseas and why we should send money to help stop these horrible things from happening.

I’m not saying these horrible things aren’t happening. I’m not saying there isn’t a real need, or even that we shouldn’t send money overseas. All I’m saying is that we need them just as much as they need us. When the discussion of poverty is constantly framed in a way that leads us to believe we have the power to save lives it tends to lead to a bit of a god complex.

Not to mention that it also allows us to forget that often we are part of the problem. According to Blaine Sylvester, director of the Calgary-based Canadian

Foundation Place of Rescue, the kids at the orphanage don’t feel like they are so  poverty stricken that they can’t share with their Canadian friends: “The children may live in spartan conditions and sleep 10 to a house with a house mother, but they’re safe, they’re secure and they’re loved.” While Canada and the States are ranked well below countries like Fiji, Nigeria and Ghana on the Global Happiness Index we still assume North Americans need to teach countries we perceive to be “3rd world” how they ought to live.

But while more and more North Americans begin to suffer from donor fatigue, the kids at Place of Rescue seem more than happy to teach us how to give.

Shame Day: Efrain Rios Montt and Thein Sein

We try to stay topical here at CWR, and with both of these individuals making headlines, we’ll be splitting up our time railing on both of them.

Let’s start with General Efrain Rios Montt, former Guatemalan dictator. Montt has just managed to get his April 19th conviction overturned by a constitutional court.

What was he convicted for?

Genocide. Continue reading