Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Must Reads: Middle East Minority Perspectives

Some important international headlines to ponder, glued as we've been to East Coast hurricane news and U.S. presidential campaign coverage:

The largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, named a new leader this weekend, the BBC reports. The photos are inspiring, with an explanation of how the choice among the top-three candidates was left "in the hands of God."

From the New Yorker: An absolutely gripping tale about a U.S. Iraq war veteran who, tormented by a battle where Americans killed civilians including three members of an Armenian Christian family, sought out his victims' relatives now living in California. In a story highlighed by NPR and Charlie Rose, read how Dexter Filkins' interviews at a Baghdad hospital and subsequent stories facilitated forgiveness from the sins of war. Journalism at its best.

Then, a BBC essay on Izmir, the West Coast city once called Smyrna. It is among the Turkish locales flooded with Syrian refugees. This piece addresses what we have been asked to forget: Turkey still is "scarred by wanton killing and destruction in World War I." Fergan Keane writes,
"Gone are the streets in which the voices of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Levantines and Jews mingled ... prayed and made music and told stories in the narrow lanes of the bazaar and by the glittering water of the Aegean."
That brings us to New York Times review last week of wildly popular Turkish movie, "Conquest 1453," dramatizing the Ottoman capture of Constantinople, now Istanbul. Fascination with the era has launched TV shows and other projects. The author juxtaposes opinion:
  • Says Melis Behlil, a film studies professor at Kadir Has University: “The Ottoman revival is good for the national ego" ... but films like "Conquest 1453 are engaging in cultural revisionism and glorifying the past without looking at history in a critical way."
  • Says Burak Temir, a German-Turkish actor who learned to sword fight and use a bow and arrow for an Ottoman-era show: “It makes me proud to be Turkish.”
Turkey is diligently working to establish its political dominance as Egypt, Iraq and Syria struggle. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan just met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, underscoring tensions as Turkey pushes 2023 membership in the European Union, reports Der Speigel, the German newspaper. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz emphasizes his plans to visit the Gaza strip.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Turkish Boat Sinks: 30 Refugee Kids Drown

On their way from near Izmir, Turkey, apparently headed to the Greek isle of Samos by night, 61 migrants with mostly Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian passports drowned Thursday, according to an NBC story.
Half were children. The Turkish crew survived and was arrested.
Greece has complained for years that it cannot control its porous, coastal borders and that it is being used as a gateway to Europe. Greece also receives EU aide for illegal migrants.
The Onassis Foundation in New York hosted an amazing installation several years ago on this theme. The artist created whitewashed boats, shaped like giant pods containing beans, and suspended them over flowing water in the noisy Onassis atrium.
The New Yorkers pushed and drank and left. Do they remember?
The latest drownings are deja vu: see the book described in my post below on the David Kherdian family story, circa 1920.And of course, there is our family story, among countless others.
No transit, no safety, no identity, and no protector in authority. Is migrant and refugee desperation and suffering a fact of life in the world?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photo Tragedy

Two photojournalists met their death in Libya today, a very sad day. Two others photographers were injured. Tim Hetherington was a British photojournalist and co-directed Restrepo, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about a U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan. Chris Hondros, an American with Getty Images, made big waves when, while "imbedded" with a U.S. Army unit in Iraq, he quickly uploaded bitter images he shot as the jittery Army unit slaughtered an Iraqi family in a car several years ago. Columbia Journalism Review wrote extensively about it. According to, "The Greek-American photojournalist [Hondros] was born in New York City to immigrant Greek and German parents, both survivors of World War II, he moved to North Carolina as a child." Click here for interview w/Hetherington on making Restrepo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kurds & Turks

A well-known singer and Turkish Kurd, Ibrahim Tatlises, was shot in the head last week as he left a Turkish television station. The BBC says Tatlises recorded more than 30 albums, acted in numerous films, hosted a TV show and had business interests in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
Divided among bordering nations, Kurds are about 20% of the Turkish population, and some are returning to Iraq to profit as Iraq rebuilds. But it is Turkey that really is flexing its economic muscle in "a region long suspicious of it," according to a January article in the New York Times. (see "Resurgent Turkey Flexes Its Muscles Around Iraq.") The piece says in Iraq's Kurdish north, 700 Turkish companies are expanding, and a Turkish Islamist group is opening scores of schools and teaching English.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Iraqi Christians

A week ago, I got a note from someone in Baghdad saying that insurgents were offering $100 rewards for murdering Christians there. Today, the New York Times writes that Iraq's Christians are fleeing en masse because they feel unprotected, and they are going to the Kurdish region and even Turkey - an irony given historic ethnic conflicts. Many of these Iraqi Christians consider themselves Assyrians, the ancient Mesopotamian tribe that predated Christianity and was present across the Ottoman Empire. (Read the book "Not Even My Name," containing Sano Halo's testimony about her starvation march through Turkey, dictated to her daughter Thea Halo.) Following World War I, some Assyrians fled from Iran to Iraq, where others had lived for centuries. They also went to Chicago, where the Assyrian (Chaldean) Church has a quiet presence. This issue illustrates how overzealous missionaries divided Chrisitianity and rendered it powerless in some regions. We should all be one.