In a world of half truths and lies, when is it safe to own one’s true destiny?
Brought to you as part of CAN’s Refugee and Migrant Women’s Theatre Programme, Standing in My Own Truth is a cross-art exploration of the brave, often circuitous journey towards one’s own destiny. Making a new life in a baffling city that offers sanctuary but no peace of mind. Liberated from the shackles of the old life but still yearning for a time of innocence in a land now too far away. But always finding time for joy in a song or two.
Deportation of refugees from Greece to Turkey begins today under the EU deal. According to this agreement people who apply for asylum in Greece and have their applications refused, will be returned to Turkey. Today 200 migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were sent back to Turkey.
One reason behind this deal is to stop human trafficking across the Aegean and The Mediterranean and therefore to stop death toll in the most deadliest sea crossings. It has been said that so far this year, the death toll has climbed at an even faster rate than over the same period in 2015. However, following the belated decision by Europe’s leaders in late April to reinstate an effective search and rescue mission, this has for the time being been stemmed.
Those migrants who are attempting this perilous journey to Europe mainly come from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria. But by far the single largest number by nationality is Syrian.
The EU is paying Turkey more than £4 billion over the next three years to contain 2.5 million refugees. However the deal to send people back across the Aegean Sea has been fiercely criticised by rights groups on ethical grounds. The Spectator leading article reiterates that ” the problem, is that Turkey is being offered more than money. The EU, in its desperation, says that within a few months it will offer Turkey’s 77 million citizens the ability to travel to any of its 28 member states without the need for a visa. Worse, it will fast-track Turkey’s application to become a full member of the EU — and turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of Recep Erdogan’s regime. Not that he wants to join the EU: he just wants to show his domestic audience that can behave how he likes, lock up who he likes, and have the EU eating out of his hand.”
Greater Manchester is taking control of £6 billion of public funding for health and social from April 2016.
This will involve making decisions about some of the most important things in our lives – such as health and social care. It will also mean that transfer of certain powers and responsibilities from national government to all 37 NHS Trusts and Local Authorities in Greater Manchester.
Manchester Refugee Support Network is working across Greater Manchester to ensure that refugee voices are heard. They want to help build a collective understanding of what hinders or helps refugees and people seeking asylum from taking charge of their health and well being and making healthy choices, so they need your thoughts and experiences.
This event happening tomorrow Saturday 19th March, 11 am – 3 pm At: St James Church, Princess Road, Moss Side, Manchester, M14 4TH
Refreshments and travel expenses will be provided.
People from all parts of Gtr Manchester are strongly encouraged to attend this event.
For further details contact Belay Kahsay on 01618680777
You could go online and answer a few questions about your health;
I have been asked by Migrants Supporting Migrants to write an essay for International Woman’s day. I took the opportunity to talk about some women who have been in jail or still in jail due to their humanitarian or civil activities.
”Another 8th of March has arrived and the international woman’s day is cherished in many counties around the world. However while we , in the west, celebrate this day, there are millions of women in developing or dictatorship countries who can’t commemorate simply because their government sees it as a political act and a threat against itself.
I want to take this opportunity to introduce you a few brave Iranian women who fight for women rights in Iran and have been in jail for that matter. Some still in jail as Prisoners of Conscience. Because 8th of march is their day as well and it’s true that without such brave women and their fight for equal rights we would not have had what we got now.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights lawyer and activist in Iran, the winner of many human rights awards.
She has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors.
Nasrin’s first work in the field of women’s rights was a diverse collection of interviews, reports, and articles for the journal Daricheh. The editor-in-chief of the publication rejected the collection which “made Sotoudeh even more determined in her work for women’s rights”. She is one of the key leaders of one million signature.
One Million Signatures for the Repeal of Discriminatory Laws, also known as Change for Equality, is a campaign by women in Iran to collect one million signatures in support of hanging discriminatory laws against women in their country.
Nasrin has been arrested a few times. Last time she was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison.
In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced her to 11 years in prison, in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. An appeals court later reduced Sotoudeh’s prison sentence to six years, and her ban from working as a lawyer to ten years.
In jail, she went on hunger strike two times. First strike was to protest being denied visits and phone calls from her family which last four weeks. Again on 17 October 2012, she began an indefinite hunger strike in protest of new restrictions placed on her family visits. She her hunger strike after 49 days following a short visit of some parliament members at Evin prison where they acknowledged and implemented her requests on lifting her daughter’s travel ban.
Nasrin was released on 18 September 2013 along with ten other political prisoners days before an address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
to the United Nations. She has been active since her release and is being threatened by hardliners.
Today I read a story beautifully written on Syrian refugees by Booker prize winner Richard Flanaganin Guardian. He visits Lebanon, Greece and Serbia to report on the plight of the 5 million Syrians fleeing their country. The story tells how families had to pack and flee their home after ISIS had appeared from nowhere; inexplicable situations which the pen is incapable of describing.
He asked children to draw their homes in Syria and every single of them used dark colours , blue and black. One of them said ” there were no colour left after Daesh came”.
The story ends very touching ; ”Refugees are not like you and me. They are you and me. That terrible river of the wretched and the damned flowing through Europe is my family.”
Do you remember Alyan Kurdi? The 3 years old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach near Bodrum and made global headlines? I think most of the people in the world have heard about him.
Now Missy higgins, Australian singer-songwriter and musician, sings a song a for him to tell his tragic story. She shared the song on her Facebook and said;
Like most people, the photo of little Alan Kurdi being carried out of the water shook me to my core. We often read about the tragic plight of refugees but I think that picture exposed us to the reality in such a raw way that the truth became inescapable.
‘Oh Canada’ simply aims to tell a story. It’s not preaching anything in particular, it’s simply my attempt to make sense out of senselessness. If it also reminds people of what happened to Alan and his family then I think that would be good – after what they went through they don’t deserve to be forgotten. If the song reminds people how the picture of that lifeless little boy made them feel then that would be even better because that proves we’re all very similar people who just happen to live under different circumstances. If the song inspires anyone to do something on behalf of refugees – to speak up for their rights and to push back against those who seek to inflame our fears and prejudices – then I think that would be best of all. ”
The song is accompanied by a powerful animated video created by award winning director Natasha Pincus and animation director Nicholas Kallincos.
Caritas and World Vision Australia support programs in Syria and neighbouring countries that create spaces where children can express their feelings of the past and hopes for the future. The drawings in the ‘Oh Canada’ video are by children in Caritas programs in Damascus, Syria and in World Vision programs in Beirut, Lebanon. Both the global Caritas network and World Vision have helped millions of people affected by the crisis in the Middle East.
Have you ever seen a refugee cat? Well I have known one recently thanks to Guardian.
According to the Guardian’s story, Kunkush the cat has become a refugee in Norway. Kunkush who separated from its Iraqi family on the way to Europe, was found and fostered in Berlin, where an international online search was co-ordinated in the hope of reuniting him with his family.
Hundreds of Mancunians and Chinese braved the cold and hailstones to celebrate Chinese New Year parade in the heart of Chinatown on February 7. The ritual started with dragon Parade as usual and continued with traditional lion dances, music and acrobatics, a funfair and fireworks finale.
I had the chance to be around town hall just before the venue starts and see Chinese dance. I liked it that Chinese have managed to become a very powerful and successful community in the UK and run such a huge festival in Manchester city centre. I have been to Mega Mela which is the largest celebration of South Asian Culture in the North of England, but Mela usually takes place at Plat Field park.
According to Chinese calendar, 2016 is the year of the Monkey. Monkey is ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. Monkey is a clever animal. It is usually compared to a smart person.
It has also been said that this year is the year of the Fire Monkey. But what that means?
In addition to the twelve year cycle corresponding to each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, there are Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which are associated with their own “life force” or “chi”.This energy blends with the corresponding animal to determine that year’s fortune. In 2016, the corresponding element is fire. Fire is also associated with the color red. Therefore it is the year of the Red Monkey.
Read this to find out what this year will bring us.
I have been watching Shappi ( Shaparak) Khorsandi on youtube tonight. Shappi introduce herself as “an Iranian refugee”. She and her family were forced to flee from Iran after the Islamic Revolution following the publication of a satirical poem her father composed. He is a well-known comedian in Iran.
Shappi has graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Drama, Theatre and Television, then moving on to pursue a career in comedy. She has won many prizes and one of them for her charity works. She has also published her book ” A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English” in July 2009. The book describes the way in which young Khorsandi experienced England as a young girl. The narrative begins with her attending nursery school, The Kings’ International Nursery School, with her brother, Peyvand. Throughout the book, she explains the ways in which the Iranian language differs from English: “They called me ‘poppet’. Iranians said ‘jaan’ or ‘azizam’.” She also expresses pride in how her father took English classes and was praised for his affinity with the written word, though she also felt he was able to be more humorous in Farsi. Other themes include her experiences with English food and customs, the war between Iran and Iraq, and the hostilities that she and her family encounter–she notes, for example, having been referred to as a terrorist.
She finally made it. She left the UK last night ( Thursday ) at 8 pm. I was talking to her a few minutes before her departure. She said immigration officers were treating her well and they had arranged a taxi very early in the morning to make sure she does not miss her flight for the third time. She spent all day at the airport but at least she was happy that the nightmare will end soon.
And now she is in her home country. A beautiful place where she finds her family, friends and cousins. The thing is she needs to get a divorce from her husband who is a British citizen. I am not sure if she can manage to do that, considering hat she is now living in a far country and have not access to the UK legal system: a problem facing some female asylum seekers in the UK.
Apart from all the distresses of asylum life we went through, we have been good friends since she came to Manchester in 2013. To me, she has been not only a good friend who taught me how to overcome my fears of riding a bicycle, but also an example of a strong & level- headed woman who could live through the difficulties of asylum life without suffering from anxiety and depression.
She tried her best to make a new life here but in the end when all the appeals on her case have been rejected, she decided to not fight anymore and find her happiness else where. I know she has some problems back home and she may not be able to go back to her home town yet. She told me she will probably go to a neighboring country to live and work along with her aunties.
I am wishing her a happy life and I wish freedom for all the detainees at Yarl’s Wood and other detention centers.