Saturday, July 6, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Horrors of Tadmur Prison -- a Movie Description

This browser English transcription is from the online Pier 22 site. The film was released a couple years ago. The reader is encouraged to do background reading about this place. I have read other descriptions of Assad's prisons which are as bad or worse than this account. And yes, this is an example of how and why Assad maintains power. There are a few more images at the link.

Former Lebanese detainees tell of the Hell they lived in Tadmur prison

The experience of arrest in Tadmur prison is often described as the experience of staying in hell. This is what he is trying to document a film (Palmyra), which was recently exhibited at the French Institute in Beirut.

The film is directed by Monica Borgman and Lokman Salim, founders of AMEM, a humanitarian organization working on the subject of memory and the archives of the Lebanese war. The film describes the arrest diaries and horrors of prisoners living in this place.

Palmyra prison is depicted in the film as a kingdom of violence, torture, and insanity. The actors - the twenty-five former Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Tadmur prison - managed to get out of prison following a general amnesty issued after President Hafez al-Assad's death by President Bashar al-Assad in 2000. Their sentences ranged from six to thirteen years, The fact that they came out happened "miracle.

At the beginning of the film, we see the working group investigating the film building the virtual place they will build in the form of Tadmor prison, to film the film. They set up a deserted school on the outskirts of Beirut, built the prison cell in the basement, made a hole inside the concrete, the guards were watching the prisoners, they fixed the iron bars, the iron door of the cell, and made the black bars of the leather bars and the sticks used by the jailers. So they prepared the tools and the place to tell the stories of their arrest and the diaries of their imprisonment, sharing the roles of the past among them. Four of them would take the roles of the jailer and the executioner while the rest had to restore the role and feelings of the victims.
The reader is encouraged to drill deep into the web links
& learn more about this terrible place. This is not a secret.

The film was given to all those who had experienced the experience of arrest in Tadmur prison, but also to many Lebanese citizens who had been forcibly disappeared since the Lebanese war, and who are believed to be still in Syrian prisons.

"It is a film about the life, or about the life of every person who entered the notorious Palmyra prison, where the jailers turned into experts in torture and in degrading human dignity in systematic ways," wrote critic Giannine Jalke in L'Orient le jour.

In a dark and slow rhythm reminiscent of the suffering of the detainees, the film takes us through the worlds of anxiety, horror and fear that the actors return to perform, being the diary that accompanied their years of detention. Restoring the traumatic events and events experienced by these detained representatives leads the recipient to the question of the impact of the restoration of these feelings and experiences: is this restoration through art able to rid them of the memory of pain? Are they able to purge them of the innate feelings associated with this experience?

Whatever the answers to these questions, the restoration of these experiences with their pain and fears requires great courage in the film, and a high degree of faith in the role of art as a possibility that allows them to identify and document their cause and open the horizon of the struggle to rid other disappeared persons and detainees who are still living the same fate.

The film follows two types of narratives: narration through re-representation of scenes and events, and narration through direct testimony irrigated by former detainees, sitting in a chair in front of the camera in a room set for cinematography, and verbal and direct speech to the camera events and experiences difficult to be photographed through the first narrative , Ie by direct incarnation.

One of the methods of torture is the "reception wheel", a technique of torture where the prisoner is forced to enter through the frame of a car wheel so that he can be easily whipped. Here we learn about the types of whips, including those that are glazed with iron wire, double, triple or quadrilateral cables. The prisoner is flogged when he receives between 250-300 lashes and has to prepare them to the end. If the prisoner makes a mistake, he or she will receive the lashes from the beginning.

Other scenes in the film explain to us about the period of respiration given to prisoners but under conditions that are not far from the horror and torture, where they can be beaten by the jailers, at any moment. In this breathing activity, which is supposed to be a respite for the prisoners, they are forced to sit on their knees off the wall, the back is curved, the head between the legs, and the eyes are closed. The film's scenes also describe the manner in which the prisoners go to the cell. They walk together with their heads down to the ground, holding hands with one another. They are subjected to unrestricted intercourse at the entrance and exit, in order to deprive them of their humanity, push them to obedience and make them easier to get around.

One of the former detainees involved in the film (Musa Saab) said: "What I feared most was the weekly haircut, they forced us to shave their eyelashes, they passed the razor on the eyelashes, and at night it was painful to close the eyes, The day after shave was followed by days of sleeplessness, because the latching of the eyelids after shaving was painful, and I had to sleep with open eyes "

Musa Saab remained for five years in solitary confinement, obsessed with the vagueness of the voices that reached his solitary confinement room. Shivering alone in his cell, he sits in the position of the fetus in the hope of getting rid of his worries and fears. He had no contact with him and found himself forced to make ants, cockroaches, and flies visiting his cell friends, saying: "I wanted to make sure that I could communicate with others, I was wondering if I could still express myself? Understand what I say?

Moussa Saab accurately describes his ideas when he envied the insects for being able to move, while growing hating his belonging to the human community because of the difficult conditions he lived in prison, which was paid to wish to belong to other types of beings, other than human. The participant (Ali Abu Dahan) on the screen on the screen where he is forced to lick the wet ground with dirty water and mud.

The participants in the film reflect another influential scene: how the prisoners deal with the single egg they are given, the egg is cut into small pieces using a thread of cloth, because any other instruments are forbidden, the hacker tries to be as fair as possible, The egg will make the task very difficult. As for the method of distributing the pieces, one of the prisoners closed his eyes and did not see the piece to which another prisoner of the egg referred. Close the eyes Each piece is named not by appointment, and in this way of luck the egg pieces are distributed to the large number of prisoners, to achieve the greatest degree of justice between names.

Another story about food in prison was narrated by Ali Abu Dahan: On the day of the Baath party, the prison administration distributed pots of cooked rice with chicken. Abu Dahan was sneezing from a hole in the cell door to the corridor, where the soldiers carried the pots and put them at the door of the cells. He saw through the hole that one of the military prisoners cursed those in the cells of the prisoners and urinated over the pots of rice and chicken that would enter his cell moments later.

Ali Abu Dahan lived a struggle between telling his cellmates about the truth and depriving them of the only meal they had during the year. Or hide what they know? What if the prisoners were told that the pots of rice and chicken had been urinated by a guard? Would not all of them stop eating? Would not the jailers know that someone was groping at them by piercing the door of the cell? This is what Abu Dahan will offer to torture the limit of death if he tells his friends what he saw.

Yes, torture is death. This is what the participant (Saad Eddin Saif Eddin) says, showing how the dead, those who could not tolerate torture and torture, were left with bodies alongside the cells in the cell already crammed with bodies. The bodies remain in the cell for days before administrative officials decide to bury them. "During the five years I spent in the cell, I participated in more than 700 bodies," says Saad Eddin.

At the beginning of the film, the filmmakers explain that the stories and testimonies that are told in the film are only a small part of the torments and horrors experienced by the characters in the film.

"Prisoners rarely get alive from Tadmur prison, many leave life because of beatings and torture," says Raymond Bouban, who has spent 11 years in Syrian prisons, including five years in Tadmur prison.

The film restores the conditions of detention, detention, and punishment in Syrian prisons, through live re-enactment, and in the manner of narration of testimonies, the recipient film addresses questions about human violence and the purpose and feasibility of human practices in repression and torture. Civilizations, and across the ages.

This article is mainly based on a text written about the film by Jeanne Galk√© in L'orient Le Jour. (Text link)  
I have not seen it nor do I want to. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Good-bye, Lee Buck

*This is a copy of a post from my old blog, September, 2006.

The Salvation Army has a wonderful way of noting when someone dies. They say he was promoted to glory. I read another line in an email last week when a beloved member of our church went to be in the unhindered presence of the Lord. Somehow it helps ease the loss when we can salve the pain with soothing, uplifting words like these.

The death of Lee Buck leaves a very big hole in the lives of all who ever met him. He was one of the most irrepressibly upbeat people I have ever known. He not only put his money where his mouth was, he never failed to follow that with more of his mouth as well. You could be certain that if he was on the property everyone within the sound of his voice would hear the Gospel Message at least once. He lived his life according to what he called the Five Foot Rule. If you get within five feet of someone, tell them about Jesus. The man was a vibrant personification of what is best about Christian Evangelism.

Nobody could tell stories as well as Lee. His gift for public speaking was good enough that if he was present at a public gathering and failed to say something to the group assembled, those of us who knew him wondered if he might not be feeling well. He couldn't help himself. And when he spoke he was always, always positive. This was the salesman in him. He knew what to say and what not to say to sell a product. And his product, from the time he became a Christian, was nothing more complicated than old-fashioned Christian love. And he spread the word of that love in a manner that few people are ever privileged to do.

This is not the time or place to be airing the dirty linen of the Episcopal Church in America, but it would be disrespectful to Lee to fail to mention that painful part of his life the last decade or so. Because of his global orientation, Lee Buck was able to see the Christian faith from a larger vantage point than those who only breathed the rarified air of academia or drink only the distilled, filtered, perfect water of untempered tolerance that we in America can afford to indulge. Only in America do we have such an overflowing cup of faiths that we are able to pick and choose among them, like shoppers at the grocery, trying to decide whether to get the low-fat, low-sodium variety product or one which is larded with cholesterol and swimming in brine. From one end to the other, Christianity in America offers any flavor you want, from Unitarians to Catholics to mainstream Protestants and everything in between. Historically, the Episcopal Church has sought a "middle way" with a liturgical form comfortable to those from that tradition to an open-communion welcome to just about anyone baptised into the faith, irrespective of the origin.

In recent years, however, in a well-intended impulse to inclusivity, sexual politics has displaced Christian love in a way that has divided the Episcopal Church in America. Those of us who can stand with one foot on each side of the issue are few and far between, essentially not warmly welcomed by either "side," but treated respectfully by both. Enough of that. Here are Lee Buck's predictions for the future of the Episcopal Church in America.
**The [House of Bishops] will vote to approve Vickie Gene Robinson, out of pure individualism if nothing else.The Third World {no longer so third} will ex-communicate the provinces of ECUSA and Anglican Canada, and very soon after the announcement of Vickie Gene Robinson's election.
**A new "REPLACEMENT" province will be formed in "NORTH AMERICA" to accommodate both Canada and the United States.
**The "continuing churches" such as REC, CEEC, American Anglican Church, and others, including AMIA, will be invited in to this new province.
**The ABC [Archbishop of Canterbury] will give his "blessing" to such a province because of the fact that he does not want to leave a legacy of the first ABC in history to be excommunicated by his own communion. Whether or not anyone believes it, this has already happened in the Jeffrey John affair, as I previously predicted some time ago.
**Africa, South America, and Asia have now grasped the extent of their "power" in the communion and, from this point on, will exercise great authority in the affairs of the communion. The center of power will no longer reside in Canterbury, but in "the South".
**When a province is ex-communicated it is as if it never existed in the eyes of those who have placed it out of bounds, but ECUSA does not care, because they are "independent" of any authority, including scripture.
[Episcopal Church USA] will continue on for many years, but will decline in numbers and influence. Because it has so much money, it can continue to exist as an institution, but will be known in the Christian world as a "secular" or "non-Christian" church. For example, the Unitarian Church of The U.S and ECUSA will be classed in the same category.
Please do not look upon the times to come as "tragedy or disaster", but rather as God at work bringing those who will, to a closer walk with Him. As a matter of fact, we in the Anglican Communion are living and experiencing the most rewarding, exciting, stimulating, invigorating and glorious of times. Out of this now seemingly incomprehensible and unsolvable morass, my prediction is that a great move of God is at hand and that we should wait on "tiptoe" with great expectation for what He is doing and going to do. This era will go down in Anglican History as a time when God moved in great power. I say to you REJOICE that God has allowed us to be a part of what He is doing.Listen to what Paul declares in Hebrews:
HEB 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
HEB 12:18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."
HEB 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
PRAISE THE LORD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Clearly, this was not a man of small passions. At the time of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 (this is a world-wide event for the World Anglican Communion that is convened every ten years) there was a lot of discussion about where the Episcopal Church in America was headed. Lee Buck returned from that conference with great enthusiasm because he learned first-hand that the Third World countries presented (and still do, by the way) an overwhelming mathematical advantage over their brothers here in the US, and in Britain, home to the mother church.

At this writing there is something of a diaspora of Episcopalians casting about, looking for new church homes. As Lee predicted several years ago the Episcopal Church in America seems to be marching to a secular drum, but the Church (capital C) remains strong. Some are starting independent congregations, some are swimming the Tiber, some are migrating to any number of convergence churches. But everywhere you look you can see a "move of God" that Lee Buck so joyfully predicted.

Canon Kendall Harmon marked the passing of Lee Buck at his blog titusonenine with a post of simple dignity. I am reminded of something I heard once: No matter how you live, it is wonderful to die an Episcopalian. Those who never knew Lee Buck can learn a lot from the comments thread being left at that post.

Rest in Peace, Lee. We will all be with you in just a short time.

Followup, September 11

Along with everyone else I will spend today contemplating the fifth anniversary of that terrible day five years ago. But I have to take a moment to record a couple of memories of Lee Buck's Celebration of Life last Saturday in Room F of the Cobb Galleria. Several hundred people came to say good-bye and remember this man whose energy and enthusiasm for Jesus and the Gospel Message will forever remain his most enduring legacy.

It seems fitting to be reminded on September 11, yet again, that we have no way to know when we will be called to die, just as those victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 were called...Lee would point to these events and call that conclusion obvious. And with no fear of redundancy, he would easily and compellingly lead anyone within the sound of his voice through the Sinner's Prayer. For the umpteenth time, if necessary, just to make it stick.

Lee planned his own funeral in detail. One of the two priests delivering homilies said he did everything but write the sermons. The service was a liturgically correct celebration of Communion, open to all baptised believers, with six clergy participating, each of whom had been close to Lee as mentor, encourager, supporter and friend.

The Old Testament reading (in addition to Psalm 91) was the description of an ideal wife recorded in Proverbs, a powerful statement of this man's absolute dedication to and love of his wife, mother to their children and foster children.

One of the two family testimonies included, at Lee's instruction, the mandatory exercise that he always used to make sure listeners were alert and relaxed, ready to hear what he was about to tell them. The entire assembly was instructed to stand up and pay attention to some simple instructions. At the appointed time, they were to turn slightly sideways (not to bump into one another), raise their right fist, and left knee at the same time, pulling down their fists saying loudly at the same moment the word "YES!"
The leader said, "JESUS CHRIST is LORD!"
And the crowd responded with a loud "YES' that could be heard a long way off.
We had one "practice" exercise, then one final and joyous expression sure to lift the spirits of even the most solemn people present.

Pat Robertson and his wife were there. He added his testimony to the others listed in the program. I think he and Lee knew one another for years and Lee may have been on the board of CBN.

A young, gifted bagpiper played Amazing Grace, starting from the back of the room and walking slowly toward the altar as the elements were being blessed for communion. There were four stations to receive so the crowd was handled as quickly as possible.

At the end, again in accordance with Lee's instructions, there was a flag ceremony by two uniformed Navy personnel. A bugle played "Taps." The flag was then carefully and slowly carried forward to be folded into the traditional triangle and presented to Audrey, his wife. The service ended with the Navy Hymn as we all filed out to a reception at the back of the room.

There was much, much more. But these notes will be helpful to anyone wanting to recall this most memorable event.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Josh Shahryar's Refugee Story

I'm curating Josh Shahryar's Twitter thread here for future reference. 

He is a reporter and analyst for EA WorldView, covering foreign policy and human rights. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Beast and PBS Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at

Today is #WorldRefugeeDay so I'm gonna tell you what being a child refugee is like. This might be repetitive. It's very definitely triggering. But most importantly: it's really about who you are and how you react when you see a child who has been ripped from his homeland.

I was only 5-6 when I had to leave Afghanistan in 1989. When I say "I had to", what I really mean is that the adults around me decided that if I was going to live, I had to be moved (they were right). A child has ZERO choice in where they get to go. No one asked me.
No one even TOLD me. I don't remember a conversation with a parent or grandparent. They didn't sit me down. They didn't explain anything to me. I just started hearing the name "Pakistan" over and over again. I didn't know what it was. This is a typical child refugee.

You start hearing words you can't really conceptualize, yet. "Home", "country", "citizenship", "people", "travel", "immigrate". I heard these words. I just didn't know what they meant. No one sat me down to explain them to me. Nor did they explain why they couldn't explain them.
Of all the words I kept hearing, the one word I knew was "war". The majority of the world's refugees are driven out of their homes by war. I imagine that's one word all child refugees know. Why did we have to move? Because at the age of 5, I knew what violent death was like.

If there is one thing you can expect many child refugees to know, it's killing. Bullets, bombs, rockets, jets, blood, guts, bodies... And graves. So many graves. Ppl dropping off around you like flies. All the time. "Where's my cousin?" They point you towards a mound of dirt.
The adults stop watching TV. They stop listening to music. This is even before you are a refugee. They are up late at night. Talking. Seriously. With sadness in their voices. They whisper until they think you are asleep. But I don't even know what you're talking about?

"We must leave..."
You cannot imagine the sadness those three words encapsulate when you hear your mom or dad utter them, in the pitch black of night, while you're hiding under a blanket, pretending to be asleep.
"Why is dad never happy ever?"
"Why is mom so quiet always?"
I've heard children who had to escape drug lords and killing squads from Central America describe the exact same scenarios, too. The exact same moms and dads. Sometimes only moms. Sometimes only dads. Sometimes, uncles and aunts because mom and dad weren't there.
And then you wake up one day and it's that day to leave!
"To a better place."
No answer. 

People picking up super ordinary things and then staring at them for a long time. Deciding whether they need grandpa's books. Or grandma's dishes.
You can't stay. You cannot make your parents let you stay. But you also can't take the rabbits with you. Nor can you take the cat that comes over once in a while and purrs around your legs. The fig tree will also stay. You will dream about climbing it for the rest of your life.
Your mom keeps crying. Your dad is also crying, but he's hiding his tears. They keep hugging you. They keep staring at walls. I never knew walls could make you cry. I still haven't seen walls make people cry again. But the day you become a refugee, you will see it.
They lock the door when you are all out. Your belongings haphazardly tied together. 

"Why did we not have an organized departure?" Years later, I asked my mom.
"We never knew WHEN we were going to leave. Just told to be prepared at a moment's notice."
What did we take with us?
Clothes. Spoons. Grandma's medication. Mom's jewelry. Some religious books. That's it. Never saw anything we left behind again. I know kids whose families just had to lock up the door and leave. With nothing. Some picked the kids up with no shoes.

You are a child refugee in a car. Sitting on a crying parent's lap. Your older siblings are crying about having to leave their friends. Your youngest sibling is crying because she's a year old and needs milk. Your grandma is crying because of the pain of the bumpy road.
You see other cars. Filled with crying kids. Crying moms. Crying grandmas. Dads crying. Babies crying. Years later when I heard the term, "Trail of Tears", I knew EXACTLY why that's what they called it. What else do you call it? What else CAN you call it?

Days turn to nights which turn to days which turn to nights which after a while all just look like one long expanse of incalculable time you can never forget, but can't quite remember either. It all becomes a painful blur of hunger, sadness, pain, silence, fear and longing.
You start seeing things you had only heard about. Or hadn't even dreamed of. Snows. Mountains. Rivers. Deserts. Plains. Forests. Wild animals. Your first experiences of the wonders of nature is through the worst they can offer you. Heat, cold, thirst, mosquitos. SO MANY mosquitos
Then one day, you get to a place with a HUGE number of people gathered in a small place. Families upon families upon families. Your crying caravan also parks there. Hours... sometimes days. You're there. Waiting. The adults are talking. You have no clue. "We must go through!"
Then you see guns. Lots of them. People in uniforms. Men. Angry looking men. Everywhere they go, people cower in fear. They ask your dad questions. He shows them a tiny notebook. You didn't know he had notebooks! It has pictures in it. WHAT'S IN THE NOTEBOOK!?
You wake up. It's all dark. The adults are talking. They are scared. Wait, we are in the car again?
"We have to go around them. They won't let us in."
"I just hope they don't find us."
WHO!? Why are they after us? Is it because I was crying?
You are going towards the unknown. A scary unknown. Some "things" are after you. They want to get you. Are they the monsters that hide in my closet? The one that lives in the out house at night? PLEASE DON'T LET THEM GET ME!
You hide in your grandma's arms. She's scared, too!
Then you hear the words,
"I think we made it!"
GREAT! Can I please go home now?

You will be saying those words for years. First to your parents. Then to yourself. Then to the system of corporations, ideologies and states that ensure you remain a refugee. Then, the universe.
You start hearing ppl talk. In a different language. Your car changes. Sometimes you are being carried by a parent. One time, one of the people with guns starts beating up one of the men in your caravan. He is lying on the ground crying. All the kids cry. The men with guns laugh.
You dad is clinching his fists and biting his lip. The people with guns in uniforms come to him. They push your dad. They push everyone else around. They drag the guy on the ground away. If you are lucky, you get to keep moving. To more men with guns. More beatings. More pushing.

By now, you have stopped asking questions. There are too many questions and ZERO answers. Besides, when you ask your parents questions, they start crying. That just makes you cry even more. It's been weeks. You start tuning out. You become quiet. You learn to be a refugee.
See, at the core of being a child refugee despite everything is this tacit acceptance of your fate. In order to live, you make a bargain. You accept the pain, the wandering, the lack of answers and the constant pushing and shoving. So that you can live. It's that basic.

That's fundamentally what being a child refugee is about. You go through a journey so alienating, so completely unimaginable and one you are so absolutely unprepared for that from that point on, you will forever be in survival mode without ever knowing anything different.
That's why when after months, you get out of the cars, the walking ends, the horses, donkeys and camels disappear and you are allowed to lay on the ground by your grandma, you stop questioning where you are or why you were brought there. You're just grateful the journey is over.
That's why when after weeks of trying, you finally learn the language the new ppl around speak, and learn that the words they keep telling you mean, "GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM," you don't go back. You don't even think about it. You know it's a hellish nightmare of a journey.
It makes my heart hurt when activists try to stop the use of the phrase "illegal alien" and promote the word "immigrant" and "refugee". I grew up with people calling me a "refugee". It was the worst slur imaginable. Because it's not the word that hurts. It's HOW people say it.
But even that doesn't faze you. "REFUGEE! Why don't you go back?!"

You know exactly what that word means. R-E-F-U-G-E-E.
It means, you are:

1. Unwanted
2. A burden
3. Responsible for your plight
4. A parasite on the new society
5. The cause of all crime
6. At age 5-6

The adults say it to your parents. The kids say it to you. Sometimes, the kids say it to your parents. And sometimes... sometimes, even the adults say it to you. Sometimes, they say it out of anger. Sometimes, they say it while laughing at you. You are hilarious. A refujoke.
If you've ever looked at a child refugees eyes you've just met, you will know a strange look. It's not surprise. Or apprehension. Not even curiosity. Those things quickly diminish and are replaced. It's a sort of blankness. They're not dead. They're just not there. Tuned out.
Dad never smiles the same way again. Mom gets lost staring into the distance whenever she is alone. Grandma dies soon after. Your siblings and you become closer. The kids in the new place never accept you. And never forget to remind you you don't belong here. EVER.

That word... is always just under the surface. "Refugee!" You know the second you piss someone off, that's what they will call you. But remember, you are a child. You didn't live long enough to have a concept of "Home" in your country. Home means the house you left behind.
You dream of that house. Grandma is alive. Dad smiles. Mom laughs. You can still climb the fig tree. The cat runs towards you instead of running away. The rabbits feel so soft. The walls don't make anyone cry. No, they embrace you. In a child refugee's dreams, walls have arms.
Then you wake up. And you are a refugee. You know you should hate yourself because everyone else hates you, too. But that's okay because at least you are alive. You never tune back in. 

Remember when you were on the road and decided you couldn't take it anymore? That's the moment. From that moment on, the moment you accept your status, as a refugee while trying to escape, you can never tune back in. Your journey never ends. You never go back home. In fact, you can never go back home. Because home is that state. That state of not having a home. Forever.
A lot of us refugee kids have the word on our bios and profiles everywhere. This isn't necessarily because we might not have citizenship somewhere. Or might not be back in our home country. No no. Being a refugee as a child isn't a status. It's life-defining moment. Once you become a refugee at that young of an age, you can never be unrefugee'ed. Those experiences cannot be erased. Once you tune out on the journey to live at any cost, you can never tune back in. Years of therapy and medication help. But they cannot fully heal.

Now try HEALING when you live in a country that has child refugees forcibly taken from their moms and dads. Put into cages. Denied medication. Called "bodies". Yeah, US border guards are not calling refugees "bodies". Because "illegal alien" just doesn't sting as much anymore.
Try HEALING when the news tells you about Italy fining ppl for rescuing drowning refugees at sea. Try HEALING when corporate fascism is DESPERATELY trying to start a war on Iran, which you are absolutely certain will results in 100s of 1000s dead & millions of more like you.
I have lived long enough to see words like "Afghan", "Syrian", "Somali", "Congolese" and "Guatemalan" become slurs because we dared to escape and tried to live. Because so many of us became refugees. We are the causes of all your problems. Are Iranians next?

But that's not a question I'm asking today. No. Questions like that are every day for me. And you must understand: they are for every child who is a refugee. We may have tuned out from the way you live your life. But we haven't tuned out of the lives of other refugee children.
You may have the luxury of seeing a child in a concentration camp and thinking, "Well, let me read an article about the semantics of 'concentration camp' to fully understand what's going on!"
I don't have to, so I don't have that luxury. I wish you could see through my eyes.
I wish you could see through my eyes and you could see that that kid, in that cage, from Guatemala, has so many questions to which no one has given her answers. That her hellish nightmare once begun, will never end. That she, too, dreams of a home she'll never get back to.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Social Media Response to Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is a tragic response to PTSD. This case appears to be receiving a viral response, most of which appears to be expressions of shock and disapproval.
The original Twitter link prompting this post has since been deleted but here is a screencap.

 I eliminated his identity to respect the writer who later deleted this message.
There were many more replies, of course, but I'm keeping the ones I copied.
I'm sure this case will have plenty of social media responses. 

This spooks me. This is in danger of surrendering into a fatalism that says it is impossible for someone to overcome a traumatic event, that at least there is hope that a bright day will come one day, that their life has to be ended with state assistance.
I'm not saying I have the answers or I know it all because I couldn't imagine how I would feel in that position, but if we, at least officially, believe that rapists can rehabilitate then shouldn't the same principle be applied to their victims?

This is the text of the original report from Australia.

Noa Pothoven, 17, has been legally euthanized in the Netherlands, saying the pain she was dealing with after a childhood rape was “insufferable”. Noa, from Arnhem, said in a social media post a day before her death last Sunday that she “breaths but no longer lives”.

Noa wrote an autobiography called Winning or Learning, after sexual assaults and rapes as a small girl led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia. She was attacked three times as a youngster. The first two incidents were molestations when she attended children’s parties aged 11 and 12 before she was raped by two men when she was 14 in the Elderveld neighbourhood of the city. 

For years she never revealed the horrific abuse because it left her feeling ashamed, the 17-year-old said.
“I deliberated for quite a while whether or not I should share this, but decided to do it anyway,” she wrote. “Maybe this comes as a surprise to some, given my posts about hospitalisation, but my plan has been there for a long time and is not impulsive.
“I will get straight to the point: within a maximum of 10 days I will die. After years of battling and fighting, I am drained. I have quit eating and drinking for a while now, and after many discussions and evaluations, it was decided to let me go because my suffering is unbearable.”
“Out of fear and shame, I relive the fear, that pain every day. Always scared, always on my guard. And to this day my body still feels dirty.
“My house has been broken into, my body, that can never be undone. “

Noa spent her final hours saying goodbye to her heartbroken friends and family. She asked them to “not convince me that this is not good, this is my decision and it is final.”
“Love is letting go, in this case,” she added. She said her mother Lisette had “always been there for me” - however according to Dutch law, her mum did have a say in her daughter’s decision.

Last year, she revealed she had been admitted to hospital in a critical condition after her anorexia left her organs on the brink of failure. Doctors placed her into a medically-induced coma to feed her through tubes.

Dutch minister Lisa Westerveld, who first made contact with Noa in December after her newspaper interview, visited the 17-year-old before she was euthanised. She said: “It was nice to see her again. It is also very unreal. Noa was incredibly strong and very open. I will never forget her. We will continue her struggle. “

Children as young as 12 can opt for euthanasia in the Netherlands but only after a doctor determines that the patient’s pain is unbearable. Euthanasia is also legal in some US states, Canada and Belgium.

Here are some replies to this twitter link:

  • Truly terrifying if you ask me. Sent shivers down my spine as I was reading about it 
  • Jesus Christ, this has really horrifying implications
  • As a formerly depressed teenager who experienced some of the same types of trauma as this young woman, it’s unconscionable that this action was taken. She was 17....
  • It’s more complex than the headline suggests. Her health as an indirect result of the trauma seems to have deteriorated significantly (due to anorexia). But it is none the less disturbing.
  • I think many Dutch people had no idea either. I don't remember the euthanasia debate being about cases such as these. Or maybe most people (including me) didn't pay enough attention. A slippery slope exposed if I ever saw one.
  • Yeah, I’m completely in favour of euthanasia for dementia/terminal diseases but, it’s ghoulish and wrong.
  • not sure how I feel about this. my gut reaction is to say it's wrong. however, some people never get better. forcing them to live or commit unsafe suicide themselves doesn't feel right either. but 17 years old is *extremely* young. her brain wasn't completely developed yet.
  • I'm surprised the story doesn't go into more detail. like... how did the doctor come to the decision that her pain was unbearable and why did her mother agree to it? did they discuss all other options? the tone of everyone involved seems off and weirdly casual.
  • The rational part of your brain isn’t fully developed until 25. There was a way for her to recover. I believe that absolutely.
  • Me too. I'm not against euthanasia in principle either. I believe people should be allowed to die in dignity. But Christ not 17
  • If she was 17 & had terminal cancer? That’s different. This is PTSD and clinical depression. Both can be hard to treat but they’re not untreatable by any stretch.
  • I think assisted suicide should also be an option for people with mental illness, too, but only above a certain age and with strong regulations and requirements (eg only after all available treatments have been exhausted). there are people who never get better.


The replies thread at this Ann Althouse post is long, varied and thoughtful. 

A web search for "Noa Pothoven story" already gets over a hundred thousand responses. The DW link looks especially good.

Addendum, forty-eight hours later...

Shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday, one of the world’s biggest English-language news outlets, Mail Online, published a story about the death of a Dutch teenager named Noa Pothoven.

Deploying one of the news outlet’s trademark long, outrage-inducing headlines, the website claimed: “Dutch girl, 17, who was sexually abused at 11 and raped as a 14-year-old is legally euthanised at her home by ‘end-of-life’ clinic because she felt her life was unbearable due to depression.”

The story about Pothoven being “legally euthanised”, complete with Instagram tributes from the 17-year-old’s sister, soon spread across other English-speaking online news outlets.

In less than 24 hours, versions of the story were written by the Sun, the Daily Star, the Independent, UNILAD, Sky News, the Times, the Italian press, the Australian News Corp–owned, the New York Post, the Daily Beast, NBC–part-owned Euronews, and the Washington Post.

They weren’t just referencing Mail Online’s story. Some didn’t attribute the information to anywhere.

Even the BBC’s World Service did a segment about Pothoven’s “euthanasia”, with a correspondent giving an important caveat midway through the interview: “I should make it clear, we’re not entirely certain about how [she] actually died.”

It didn’t matter, because the story about the Dutch teen who had been “legally euthanised” clocked hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook and countless retweets on Twitter, becoming the biggest story in the world. According to the Mail Online’s display, the story had been shared a staggering 124,000 times.

By Wednesday, the story was front-page news in Italy and was so dominating the internet conversation that the pope appeared to weigh in with a subtweet.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a defeat for all,” @Pontifex wrote on Twitter. “We are called never to abandon those who are suffering, never giving up but caring and loving to restore hope.”

But amid all the online outrage and all the pageviews, it appears all the media outlets that ran the story missed a key fact.

On Wednesday, thanks to the diligence of Politico Europe reporter Naomi O’Leary, the truth finally started to emerge outside of the Netherlands: Noa Pothoven had not been “legally euthanised” at all.

She had requested euthanasia under Dutch law but had been refused. She died at home after refusing to eat, and her parents and doctors agreed not to force-feed her, offering her palliative care instead.

After O’Leary used her Twitter feed to lay out the facts of the story and call out the outlets that had unquestioningly gone with the false version, those outlets quickly began changing headlines, rewriting copy, and deleting sentences.

Last year it was reported that Pothoven applied for euthanasia or assisted suicide at an end-of-life clinic in The Hague, but her request was rejected.

A spokesperson for the clinic told DutchNews that they could not confirm or deny that she was actually a patient: “There are very few young adults in euthanasia clinics, and it’s even rarer to see them for psychiatric reasons. Euthanasia of someone who is 60 is very different to that of someone who is 16. But we follow the law, which says someone must be in unbearable suffering with no other alternative.”

In a statement published to their website, the end-of-life clinic say they’ve been inundated with requests for comment following the death of Pothoven, and said that due to privacy rules, they can’t make any statement about this.

They wrote: “To put an end to incorrect reporting (in foreign media in particular) about her death, we refer to the statement made by friends of Noa this afternoon: Noa Pothoven did not die of euthanasia.

“To stop her suffering, she has stopped eating and drinking. De Levenseindekliniek deals exclusively with euthanasia and does so explicitly within the Dutch legal framework.”

The law in the Netherlands for euthanasia is careful with very strict guidelines, and the penalty for unlawful euthanasia can lead to 12 years’ imprisonment. The number of cases of death by euthanasia fell 9% last year. However, end-of-life clinics have been getting more requests from people under 30.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association (RDMA) have released a statement saying that the international media have misrepresented the death of Pothoven.

They wrote: “The RDMA feels the urge to correct the misreporting, because it gives a wrong impression of Dutch law and practice.

“Under Dutch law, euthanasia is defined as the active termination of life, by a physician, at a patient’s voluntary and well-informed request. Euthanasia can be performed under strict conditions on persons who suffer unbearably and hopeless from a medical condition.”


As with many viral social media stories this one will likely approach a kind of web immortality, a clickbait meme, another gift that keeps on giving in the form of comments, links and other traffic generating revenue streams wherever it travels. I'm tired of chasing this rabbit as I end this post but the reader is welcome to follow the links and read to your heart's content.