Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Black lives don’t matter: why stories of death on the streets rarely get told

Gary Younge                       Guardian/UK                     23 February 2016

‘After Ferguson went up in flames – to almost universal condemnation in the US media – the DofJ conducted a report into how the city was being run that any enterprising journalists could have produced if they had not become inured to this kind of systemic discrimination.’

‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” But over the past few years I have wondered if there might not be an addendum to that adage. Because there are things that happen with such regularity and predictability that journalists have simply ceased to recognise their news value – not least if those things are least likely to happen to the people most likely to be journalists.

Because much of what we have come to accept as commonplace has dulled our curiosity as to why so much of what is commonplace is unacceptable. Because given the prevailing and escalating inequalities and inequities we simply do not occupy the same worlds we pretend to cover – even when those worlds are right on our doorstep. Because there is value in asking “Why do dogs keep biting people?”; “Who owns these dogs?”; and “Why do the same people keep getting bitten?”

The growing political and economic inequalities, both within nations and between them, is not only replicated in journalism but is increasingly being amplified by it. The upshot is an elite consensus, episodically shattered by the intrusion of more democratic forms of new technology but never ultimately displaced.

I’m going to make the case for why this matters, primarily with reference to the United States, since that is where I have been reporting for the past 12 years. But I am confident that the over-arching points work as well in the United Kingdom or almost anywhere else in the western world.

In the US we know how many police officers are killed in the line of duty in any given year, but there is no national tally for how many people are killed by police officers. It is revealing that, as far as anyone can make out, there has not been an increase in the number of black people killed by the US police since the #BlackLivesMatter campaign came to the fore. What there has been is a growing political awareness that has forced a reckoning with a reality that has existed for several years.

These shootings are not news in the conventional sense. They are neither rare nor, to the communities involved, surprising. They are news simply because those who make the news can no longer ignore them. They are news because – as was the case with Trayvon Martin – social media smelled a rat before mainstream journalism could. The world hasn’t changed; what’s changed is our ability to pass off the grotesque as unremarkable.

Every day, for instance, seven children are shot dead in America. In 2007 I picked a day at random and reported on the cases. One involved Brandon Martell Moore, a 16-year-old African American shot by a security guard outside a Detroit store. The city’s two main newspapers never even saw fit to mention his name. I found a similar nonchalance among journalists when it came to the shooting deaths of young black men in poor areas. “People are desensitised to it,” said one. “They reason that’s just where bad things happen.”

“Unfortunately homicides are not uncommon in that area,” said one. In short there are places in almost every US city where children and teens are expected to get shot; To raise children there, whether they are involved in criminal activity or not, is to incorporate those odds into your daily life. The trouble is, if you’re expecting black kids in low-income areas to get shot then the stories never get told.

After the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, went up in flames two years ago – to almost universal condemnation in the US – the Department of Justice conducted a report into how the city was being run that any enterprising journalists could have produced if they had not become inured to this kind of systemic discrimination. Among other things, the DoJ reported the case of a 14-year-old boy who was chased down by a dog which bit his left arm as he protected his face. The boy says officers kicked him in the head and then laughed about it. Officers say they thought he was armed – he wasn’t. DoJ investigators found that every time a police dog bit someone, the victim was black. Sometimes dog bites man really is the story. And we keep missing it. [Abridged]


My brother Ted, the Unabomber

David Kaczynski              Sydney Morning Herald            February 13, 2016

It was a chilling, heart-breaking moment when David Kaczynski realised the true identity of the killer terrorising America by sending bombs through the post.

In the summer of 1995, my wife, Linda, put her hand on my knee as she sat me down for a serious talk. "David," she asked, "has it ever occurred to you, even as a remote possibility, that your brother might be the Unabomber?" At the time, the hunt for the so-called Unabomber was the longest-running and most expensive criminal investigation in the history of the FBI. Over 17 years, this shadowy criminal had mailed, or placed in public areas, 16 explosive devices that had claimed the lives of three people and injured dozens more.

A month after Linda approached me with her suspicion, The Washington Post published the Unabomber's manifesto. "The Industrial Revolution have been a disaster for the human race," the manifesto read. "They have destabilised society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering ...and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world."

The day came when I finally acknowledged that Linda might be right. What if my notification ultimately led to his death by execution? What would it be like to go through the rest of my life with my brother's blood on my hands? Furthermore, what would this do to my mother? She was a 79-year-old widow who had worried for years about Ted's emotional problems, isolation and estrangement from the family.

I don't remember a time when I wasn't aware that my brother was "special", a tricky word that can mean either above or below average, or completely off the scale. Ted was special because he was so intelligent. In school he skipped two grades, and he garnered a genius-level IQ score of 165.

Despite our age difference – Ted was seven-and-a-half years older – we grew up deeply bonded. He was consistently kind to me and went out of his way to offer help and encouragement. In return, he won my admiration and deep affection. I wanted to be like him. But even though I placed him on a pedestal, there was another part of me that sensed he was not completely okay. I was seven or eight when I first approached Mom with the question, "What's wrong with Teddy?" "What do you mean, David?" she said.

"I mean, he doesn't have any friends. It seems like he doesn't like people." Mom and I sat down on the couch and she told me about my brother's early life. "When Teddy was just nine months old, he had to go to the hospital because of a rash that covered his little body," she said. "In those days, hospitals wouldn't let parents stay with a sick baby. Your brother screamed in terror when I had to hand him over to the nurse. He was terribly afraid, and he thought Dad and I had abandoned him to cruel strangers.

At the time, I never questioned that the four members of our family were connected through unbreakable bonds of love. Only as I neared adolescence did I realise that Ted didn't return our parents' love. When hugged as a child, he squirmed. In adolescence, he stiffened when embraced by our mother. Unable to fathom Ted's internal physics, Dad eventually gave up, whereas Mom preferred to believe that her son's sensitive inner self was normal and loving, only hard to reach because of his hospital experience.

Ted left for Harvard when he was 16. There, he won a prize for the university's best PhD thesis in maths. He was a rising academic star. After earning his doctoral degree, he was appointed assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1969, he abruptly quit his professor's job and announced to our family that he thought technological development was threatening humanity and the environment. He was so concerned that he was determined to remove himself from industrial society and, to this end, he would attempt to live in the wilderness as primitive peoples had done for most of human history. he had sent a 78-page manifesto to The New York Times and The Washington Post with demands that it be published – or else more bombs would be mailed to unsuspecting victims.

His alienation continued with blistering letters to our parents.The gist was that he had been unhappy all his life because they had never truly loved him. He claimed they had pushed him academically to feed their own egos and that they'd never taught him appropriate social skills because they didn't care about his happiness.

In March 1996, I climbed the stairs to Mom's second-floor apartment. "Mom, have you ever read any newspaper articles about the Unabomber?" I gave her a quick summary of his course of bombings. By now I was crying, and talking faster. I decided I'd better come clean: "Mom, I'm really concerned that Ted might be involved in these bombings. I'm really scared. I've approached the FBI and shared my suspicions." After a stunned pause, she got up and came towards me. She was small – under five feet -whereas I'm over six feet tall. She reached up, put her arms around my neck, and gently pulled me down to plant a kiss on my cheek.

"I can't imagine what you've been going through," she said. Then she told me the most comforting thing imaginable. "I know you love Ted. I know you wouldn't have done this unless you felt you had to." With those words, I understood that I hadn't lost her love. I realised that the three of us – Mom, Linda, and I – would face this ordeal together.

When federal agents entered my brother's tiny cabin near Lincoln, Montana, on April 3, 1996, they discovered bomb-making parts and plans, a carbon copy of the manifesto, and – most chilling – a live bomb under his bed, wrapped and apparently ready to be mailed to someone. Two years later, Ted's trial ended with a plea bargain that spared his life while condemning him to life imprisonment without parole. The next day, Mom and I were ushered into a meeting room at the Federal Building in Sacramento, California. Sitting there was the widow of a man my brother had killed, her sister, and her late husband's sister.

They stood as we entered. Almost in unison, Mom and I said the only thing we could have under the circumstances: "We're sorry. We're so, so sorry." However deeply we felt these words, they had a hollow, helpless ring. The widow spoke first. "We may never meet again," she said. "We didn't want to miss this opportunity to speak with you and to tell you how deeply we appreciate what you did ... It must have been incredibly difficult to turn in a family member in a case like this. I can't imagine how painful it must have been."

This expression of gratitude came so unexpectedly that it left me speechless. "We also want you to know that all we ever wanted was for the violence to stop," she said. I believe this was her way of saying they hadn't wanted the death penalty for Ted. All five of us were crying. As survivors of tragedy, we had much in common.

But the mood changed dramatically when Mom started talking about Ted. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by several forensic psychiatrists and psychologists who examined him after his arrest. She had read and learnt a great deal about the disease, and had come to understand that her son was one of the very small number of schizophrenics whose illness manifests in extreme paranoia and violence.

Now, looking into the faces of three women whose lives had been devastated by her son, she deeply needed them to appreciate that it was the illness, not Ted himself that had done this terrible thing. The widow stiffened. Instead of generating understanding, Mom's words were producing pain. What the widow seemed to hear was someone making excuses for the man who had murdered her husband. "He knew what he was doing!" she said.

The room was frozen in silence… Mom looked at the floor, her small body hunched over. After a moment, she said: "I wish he had killed me instead of your husband." The hardness in the widow's face slowly melted. She eased herself down from her chair and knelt in front of Mom, looking up into her face. The widow's eyes were once again brimming with tears. She was a mother, too. On that level, she could relate. With quiet urgency, she said, "Mrs Kaczynski, don't ever imagine that we blame you. It's not your fault. You don't deserve this burden."

Mom's early vision for her sons remains clear in my mind: it was that we would develop intelligence and compassion, and use our intelligence, guided by our compassion, to benefit humanity. This mission would allow us to live with integrity, providing us with the courage to make difficult choices. But the reality of life's journey, with its many obstacles and tests, is not so easy to formulate. In some ways Ted never stopped being his mother's son.

Unfortunately, his capacity for empathy was eroded by his strong sense of personal injury and disappointment; his hope for the world was shattered by an apocalyptic vision. Beholding this threat through the distorting lens of his own illness, his sense of integrity became tragically twisted.

I mourn the loss of an older brother I once admired, his better self lost to the rages of a mental affliction that robbed him of his insight. Although I still love him, I despise what he did. Responsibility to me means taking responsibility for one's own suffering, and finding in one's own pain the seeds of a wider compassion, not an excuse to inflict pain on others.

Edited extract from Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and His Family by David Kaczynski (Duke University Press). ttp://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/-gmf67n.html

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Search for God

Ian Harris        Otago Daily Times      February 12, 2016  

Arguments about the reality of God are mostly misconceived or obsolete, says Ian Harris. It’s time for a change in perspective.
A black cat in a dark room has sparked an amusing set of images on questions of faith and reason in the modern world.

, it contends, is looking in a dark room for a black cat. Metaphysics is looking in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there. Theology is looking in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there and shouting “I’ve found it!” Science, however, is looking in a dark room for a black cat using a flashlight.  

Ah science, we are meant to conclude. The shining path to enlightenment! The hope of misguided humanity! Rational, methodical, our only chance of finding that black cat! But the room is still dark. Maybe that elusive cat isn’t there to be found after all. Maybe – and this is what I think – it’s the wrong search in the wrong place. So much of the argument about science and religion, on both sides of the debate, is misconceived or obsolete.

An ODT correspondent presented the atheist misconception: “I have never encountered one shred of evidence for such a being (i.e. God), let alone one who prevents disasters, wars, disease and misery.”

But what if God is not a being at all? True, the churches build their rituals on the conviction that “God” has to refer to a someone or something, real, active, existing, unique, or the whole doctrinal edifice will totter and fall. But leading-edge Christian thinkers left that notion behind years ago.

There’s clearly a problem of interpretation, and it lies with that word “real”. Trying to prove God is real in a physical sense is a waste of time. So is trying to disprove it. For ideas of God don’t depend on that physical world. They are generated in the world of human thought – the same world that gives rise to language and the creativity of the novelist, dramatist, composer, artist. Is that thought-world not real?

In short, the physical world does not encompass the whole of what we know to be real. Many things that are real in human experience can never be subjected to mathematical formulae, laboratory testing or microscopic analysis – whether you love your husband or wife, for example, your response to a movie or concerto, a war or a disaster. Those responses flow from your thought-world and the values you live by, not science. Would anyone argue they’re not real?

That is the order of reality to which God-talk belongs. As English novelist Iris Murdoch neatly sums up: “God does not and cannot exist” (that is, as a separate, objective being). “But what led us to conceive of him does exist and is constantly experienced and pictured. What we need is a theology that can continue without God” (again, as a separate, objective being). In other words, God happens in our heads (or not, as the case may be). And when God happens in our heads, that experience becomes part of our subjective reality.
Hence God is best conceived these days as Presence, a presence that becomes real in the lives of those who are conscious of it, nurture it, and then live it out in their daily lives. When that happens, God (or Godness) is real in the world through them – but it is not the reality of cosmology or physics.

Such an understanding offers Christians, humanists and atheists (at least those who are not hamstrung by their respective fundamentalisms) an opportunity to seek common ground on questions of life, meaning and purpose. It would shift the conversation out of the world of the physical sciences and into the human thought-world, which is where religion and the arts belong. The question is not whether God exists, but how the idea of God functions in that thought-world. There, as Sir Lloyd Geering reminds us, God symbolically embodies the supreme values that people feel bound to respond to in their actions.

In Christianity, the highest value is love. God functions as a poetic symbol for the awe-inspiring mystery of life. The apostle Paul captures this in the phrase “in God we live and move and have our being” – again, Presence. God is in us, in our neighbours, even in our enemies.

God is also the supreme symbol of connection between ourselves and all humanity, all planetary life, the universe itself. As such, God provides a pivotal reference point for our whole experience of life. Reality of that order is a world away from – and infinitely vaster than – the search for that elusive black cat.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

A plan must be made for ‘life after Isis’ in the Middle East

A plan must be made for ‘life after Isis’ in the Middle East In the Second World War, Allied leaders planned for the post-war world – a ‘United Nations’ – years before the conflict ended. We must do the same for the Middle East.

Robert Fisk                     Independent/UK                    8 February 2016

There are times in the Middle East when nightmares and delusions take the place of the real and growing tragedy which is consuming the Arab lands. More and more earnest are the calls for peace as more and more nations launch more and more air raids, from Kabul to the Mediterranean, and down through Sinai and Yemen and across to Libya. The bloodbath is real, yet no one plans for a future – for “Life after Isis”. By my reckoning, there are now 11 different national air forces bombing five different Muslim countries to “degrade and destroy” their enemies. But what comes afterwards?
History teaches us that for 100 years now, the people of this magnificent, dangerous region have sought justice and received only injustice. Foreign and proxy occupation, corruption and dictatorship – the hands of the torturer – have taken from them the one value which so many millions finally sought in the great Arab awakening of 2011: dignity. Yet what are we doing about this? Why have we never addressed the great historical injustices which have caused this human earthquake?
Instead, we conjure up imaginary armies – as if the real ones aren’t frightening enough. We dream up 35,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria when perhaps there are a thousand – and 20,000 Afghan Hazara Shia and hordes of Iraqi Shia militiamen in Syria and another 10,000 Hezbollah – and this is before we even remember David Cameron’s ghost army of 70,000 warriors ready to fight for democracy. The Turks are about to invade Syria, we are told, but they haven’t. Then there are the thousands of Saudi soldiers which our favourite Gulf monarchy is ready to send to Syria to fight Isis.

This is insanity. Europeans react with horror when a million refugees cross their borders – yet while it’s informative to know that Hungary thinks it is the frontier of Christendom, no one has suggested that we need to address the original problems of all these poor people. We obsess about persuading Turkey to stop the refugees and asylum seekers pouring into Europe, but without any long-term planning for a new Middle East which will reduce their numbers. 

Today, I cannot find in my files any record of a single Arab or world leader who has spoken of what the Middle East might look like in the future. Why can’t we plan ahead now?

At the end of the First World War – the war which destroyed the Ottoman empire and crushed the last caliphate a few years later – many of the American diplomats in the collapsing empire and the NGOs of the time (they were missionaries then, of course) argued for one great Arab nation; one in which Muslims – and Christians and Jews and other minorities – would be citizens of a land which stretched from Morocco to the Mesopotamian-Persian border (the frontier of what is now Iraq and Iran). But of course the US lost its interest in such Wilsonian dreams, while the Brits and French had other plans and moved in to take the “mandates” of their choice.
Thus began the age of humiliation, of Western occupiers and local butchers and hangmen which stripped all these peoples of their honour. And now, 100 years on, we see its frightening apogee in the gruesome “caliphate” which is spreading Ebola-like around the world. But what the poor old Middle East needs now are not more air strikes, but an intellectual search by all those who still live there – and by those who have fled – for what kind of a homeland they want to live in. 
So for starters, why not plan for a new Middle East founded not on oil and gas but on education? Not on dictators’ palaces but on universities; not on torture chambers but on libraries. Islam lay at the heart of the ancient universities of the Middle East. Scholarship was not dominated by Islam – faith and religion were themselves enhanced and enriched by knowledge. From education comes justice. And justice – only justice – will destroy Isis.
I have noted before that Abu Dhabi has placed a special need on first-class university education for its citizens. And across the Middle East, lack of education lies like a cancer. For lack of education actually is a substance that spreads. Look at the tens of thousands of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who will one day return to their ruins without even the gift of literacy to pass on to their own future children. Schools and universities are going to be more deadly to Isis than any air-strike. That’s how you deal with nightmares.   [Abridged]

Four Horsemen

By Robert C. Koehler            Common Dreams              February 04, 2016

"War, Poverty, Racism and Climate Change," writes Koehler. "They may have other names, but these are how they appear to me in my political nightmares. And the riders are human. They’re the ones leading us right now, behind the façade of democracy."

“It was a shock to the system that a candidate universally known in Iowa, with deep pockets and long experience, could come close to losing to a relative unknown who was initially considered little more than a protest candidate.” The above quote, from the Washington Post, lays painfully bare the scope of awareness considered allowable in the American electoral process. Oh Bernie, with his unrealistic ideas, his idealism, his anger! He was supposed to be fringe but instead his campaign has cut into the mainstream vein, bleeding money from it and now, OMG, actual votes. What’s going on here?

The American public is hearing the distant rumble of civilization’s collapse — hearing it beyond the chatter of the boob-tube pundits, beyond our trivialized identity as “consumers.” With the term “sense of political self-worth,” Reno is trying to say that democracy has a deep, spiritual dimension, that politics is about life and death, that our so-called leaders have to pledge a different sort of allegiance than the one they’ve gotten used to. . . that maybe, as a society, we need to start over at some basic level.

This is what a movement is: collective momentum for change, focused around a resonating principle. All people are equal. Violence solves nothing. We must cherish, not exploit, the planet that sustains us. These, at any rate, are some of the core principles that Bernie Sanders is tapping into and animating with his campaign.

Movements can quickly lose momentum and deflate. This is what happened to the global antiwar movement that preceded George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. No matter that the invasion was an utter disaster from (almost) every point of view — indeed, that it set loose, you might say, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Meanwhile, the contemporary Four Horsemen are running loose: War, Poverty, Racism and Climate Change. They may have other names, but these are how they appear to me in my political nightmares. And the riders are human. They’re the ones leading us right now, behind the façade of democracy.

Consider War, a.k.a. militarism: While Sanders is roundly condemned for the cost of his “socialist” ideas, such as universal healthcare and free college tuition, the cost of perpetual war and military readiness — the cost of nukes and surveillance and global domination — never comes up in presidential debates or official political discussions of any sort. This cost manages to be both enormous and almost invisible.

Nicolas J.S. Davies, writing last fall at Huffington Post, points out that the military budget during the Obama administration has averaged $663.4 billion annually. He adds: “These figures do not include additional military-related spending by the VA, CIA, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice or State Departments, nor interest payments on past military spending, which combine to raise the true cost of U.S. militarism to about $1.3 trillion per year, or one thirteenth of the U.S. economy.”

U.S. military spending, as has often been noted, equals or surpasses the annual budgets of the next ten largest military spenders combined. Davies also makes this fascinating point in his essay: “If we compare U.S. military spending with global military spending, we can see that, as the U.S. cut its military budget by a third between 1985 and 1998, the rest of the world followed suit and global military budgets also fell by a third between 1988 and 1998. But as the U.S. spent trillions of dollars on weapons and war after 2000 . . . both allies and potential enemies again responded in kind. The 92 percent rise in the U.S. military budget by 2008 led to a 65 percent rise in global military spending by 2011.”

U.S. military spending leads the way! A U.S. decision to disarm would also lead the way, but none of this is up for public discussion. Our military spending is silently necessary for the continuation of business as usual. Not only that, it’s never in danger, as, let us say, Social Security is, or any effort to relieve the hell of poverty. The money is always available. This enormous wrong requires direct confrontation by an informed and politically empowered public. Let us make sure that the 2016 presidential race is no less than this.

Robert C. Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist.


Stories from a war hospital in Jordan

 In the room are two boys: one from Iraq, the other from Syria. The Iraqi boy’s body was peppered with shrapnel when a car bomb detonated near the market where he was shopping with his brother. His brother died. The Syrian boy’s face bore the markings of burns – a fire that was sparked by a shell landing on the house next door spread to his family’s, and he was there. Now they are both receiving treatment in Amman, the Jordanian capital, at this Médecins sans Frontières hospital, where the walls are covered with children’s drawings. “The children whose faces have been disfigured draw monsters,” said Talha al-Ali, a paediatric counsellor.

The Mowasah Reconstructive Surgery hospital is no ordinary hospital, for within its walls are housed war-wounded from around the Middle East, generations united by the joint trauma of witnessing and barely surviving an upheaval that has redrawn borders and destroyed the foundations of nation states.

Initially set up in 2006 as a reconstructive surgery hospital to treat Iraqis maimed during the US occupation of the country and the ensuing insurgency, it now provides a temporary home to those whose lives have been upended by conflicts in Syria, Yemen, the occupied Palestinian territories and even, for a time, Libya. It is a microcosm of the region’s maladies and the trauma they have wrought on civilian lives – there are people here who have been wounded in sectarian bloodletting, shelling, airstrikes, occupation and crackdowns by dictators.

“From one day to the other, these people’s lives have been completely changed or destroyed, and we’re trying to offer them a second chance,” said Jean-Paul Tohme, who runs the day-to-day operations of the MSF hospital, at its new building opened in February. The facility provides reconstructive surgery to the wounded, whether orthopaedic or plastic surgery, saying the practice is neglected in the region’s hard-hit nations, which lack the capacity for long-term care beyond handling emergencies.

“We are concerned about the long-term consequences of the war here,” said Marc Schakal, the head of mission for MSF in Jordan and Iraq. “These are long-term wars. In Iraq it’s been more than 10 years, in Syria it will be five years soon and we don’t see an end to this conflict. In Palestine, it’s been 60 years.” Doctors at the hospital now do some 1,300 surgeries a year, and this year admitted 600 new patients, conducting more complicated procedures like flap surgeries, where tissues are grafted from one part of the body to another, complete with blood vessels.

It has also had unexpected advantages – a big part of the doctors’ work is battling infections, a process that has provided MSF with insights into antibiotic resistance. Over-the-counter antibiotic medication is widely available in the Middle East, and patients often self-administer the drugs without completing the courses, giving rise to widespread resistance among bacteria. “The antibiotic we use here as a standard is the last line in Europe because we face so much resistance here,” said Schakal.

The Guardian interviewed four patients at the MSF hospital from Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Gaza. Their opinions do not reflect the official views of MSF. [This testimony by Wael Samir is typical. A.]

Wael Samir – Yemen Scarcely an inch on Wael Samir’s face is free of burns: 70% of his body was scorched one night in 2011 when he and his friends were sleeping in makeshift tents in Change Square in Taiz, part of an uprising against three decades of rule by the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. At 2am, said Samir, they awoke to the sound of shelling and fighting in the camp, only to walk into raging fires after government troops set the tents ablaze. “A lot of people died,” he said. “It was only a few of my friends who lived.” Walking straight to a nearby mosque, a doctor took him to hospital. Samir spent two years at a medical centre in Sana’a, the capital, before moving to the MSF facility, where he has now spent a year and a half and gone through some 20 operations. Still, he smiles. He would like to return to Yemen, marry and reopen the family shop in Taiz.

 “I am saddened by what is happening – the wars, the bombings, the destruction,” said Samir. “We saw Tunisia and Egypt, and the losses were minimal. Syria and Yemen have been utterly destroyed. But I do not regret going out because what we demanded was right. It was so that my younger brothers can have a good life afterwards.”