By Zainah El-Haroun
In the words of Kyung-wha Kang, UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian affairs:
“Every seven-year old girl and boy in the Gaza Strip today has lived their entire life under siege. This is their third major conflict and humanitarian catastrophe…They deserve to know more than war and siege.”
Approximately half of the Gaza Strip’s 1.8 million residents are children. After the latest crisis, according to the UN, 1,462 civilians have been killed. Children make up 495 of the dead, now reduced to cold statistics and body counts. Around 108,000 people have had their homes completely destroyed or severely damaged. The question that we have to ask ourselves is – why has it come to this?
Leader of the Central Council of Yezidis in Germany, Telim Tolan formed a task force with a delegation of doctors from the association “Kurdish Doctors in Germany” and a ZDF (German public TV station) camera team, travelling through the refugee camps in South Kurdistan since 18th August 2014. On behalf of the leading commission of Yezidi organizations, Tolan collects information on the current status in Northern Iraq.
After having seen touching but somewhat reassuring images in the Turkish part of Kurdistan, the task force moved on to South Kurdistan where they observed a dramatic change in the situation. Contrary to what is reported by some bigger media representatives or relief agencies, the situation in Northern Iraq is a disaster. Refugees with just enough food to stay alive and some form of shelter are considered lucky.
Telim Tolan continued his journey together with Kovan Khanki, Yezidi lectuerer at the University of Dohuk. On 20thAugust they arrived in Derebun, a village 10kms to the east of Zakho, currently accomodating 45,000 refugees. 40,000 of those are living in a camp that has already exhausted all its capacities. The other 5,000 are living on the streets. Deeply concerned about these suffering human beings, the task force moved on to Xanik where they saw another 65,000 refugees camping on the streets, in schools, and abandoned buildings or construction sights. The journey on the next day to Shariya, a small place with about 25,000 refugees could only yield a repetition of these images. Meetings with the refugees were intense and the stories they heard in every place were gruesome. Surely, Tolan and Khanki would have seen similar images in many other places of South Kurdistan.
By Elise Alexander
Back in late June, the US State Department and the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism sponsored a discussion examining the state of anti-Semitism in 2014. At the time, the response was cautiously optimistic. Speakers voiced concerns about the rise of parties like Greece’s Golden Dawn and the loss of Christians in the Middle East, like the Jews before them.
Other incidents, such as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, loomed large in the background due to their recent addition as crimes against the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The final note, however, was that while anti-Semitism may never be eradicated, it can be fought and the current generation can equip the next one to continue that struggle.