Post #8

My Favorite Guest Lectures

1) Women’s rights by Sherry Mariea

I found this lecture especially enticing and thought provoking because Mariea gave a new spin to gender issues. She started off early on by saying that she would not specifically call herself a feminist. As she went on with her lecture, this shocked me. I was surprised because she talked about things like gendercide, sex trafficking and her own personal experiences of gender discrimination. All of these things are usually issues that feminists want to reverse so it was so intriguing that she didn’t necessarily consider herself a feminist.

I thought about why she didn’t consider herself a feminist for awhile the next couple of days after her lecture. Although I never got to ask her, through my own thoughts I came to a sad conclusion: our world has tainted and twisted the word “feminist” so much from its true origin and essence. Too often, when you ask someone what a “feminist” is, they think that it is only someone who advocates for the rights of women. When in fact, feminist really means advocating rights for allImage result for feminist

This comment, and her lecture as a whole, then allowed me to examine my own beliefs. Would I consider myself a feminist? I think I would consider myself a feminist but I think that I look at gender differences through a much different lens than the typical feminist. Because I am entering a field dominated by women, education, I have often been questioned (by myself and others) what issues of gender inequality mean to me. It’s been hard to hear people say, “You don’t need to be a feminist because you’re going to be a teacher and all teachers are women.” This has had the opposite effect than people have intended by saying this because it makes me want to be a feminist even more. I think female dominated fields (such as nursing and education) almost need feminists the most.

Below is a video about how much we have changed as a society over the years. Cars have changed, technology has changed, and even attitudes have changed. However, in this video, it illustrates that classrooms have not changed at all in the last 150 years.

This video and lectures like Mareia’s allows me to examine how important it is to bring change into my profession to better the lives of all.

I loved this lecture because it got me to think past my normal sphere of comfort and allowed me to establish my true beliefs. Mareia wasn’t afraid to share a different viewpoint (not being a feminist) and because of this it challenges me to share my different viewpoints to enact humanitarian change.

2) Service learning by Ann-Marie Foley

Service has always been something I have been very passionate about. I have gone on 6 mission trips and love any and every opportunity I get to serve because it teaches me a lot about my world, my community, and myself.

This presentation was especially interesting to me because it pushed me to examine a lot of my beliefs and perspectives. I went on a mission trip to Jamaica after this lecture was presented and after we had spent a lot of time talking about negative impacts NGO’s can have. Because of lectures like this, I went on my Jamaica trip curious about the positive and negative impacts we had. I never thought that NGO’s could ever have any sort of negative impact because we are never taught to think that way.

Pictures from serving in Harmons, Jamaica this spring break. 

In the lecture, on the slide it said that a challenge of NGO’s can be, “Ethical purpose and aid as forwarding self-serving purposes (religion, volunteerism, professional development, ideological and political control)” (Think Global PowerPoint). I didn’t want my trip to be something that forwarded my own personal motives, but rather helped a community so different from mine. While on my trip, I asked the director, Josh, a lot of questions about this. It was so interesting to me because he was telling me that this is something they’ve diligently and consciously thought a lot about. They make it their mission to work with the Jamaicans instead of for. A really cool example of this is Won By One (the organization I went on my trip through) has each participant bring two suitcases full of donations to leave in Jamaica (including everything from medicine, to toys, to clothes for all ages). Instead of just handing these over to the Jamaicans, they put them in a store where they can buy them at very low costs. This then allows the Jamaicans to not be dependent on a “white savior complex” (as talked about in this lecture) and gives them a sense of worth through being able to buy their own stuff and work in the store.

Day 01 (4)

The store where the Jamaicans work and where our donations went.

This lecture gave me such a cool, new perspective that I never would have had going into my trip without. It has pushed me to be a more critical thinker and citizen of this world.

What insights did you gain doing research on your country?

My country, Syria, is in the news all the time. Even if you don’t know anything about what’s actually going on in Syria, you know that it’s at least on the news. And sadly, before this blog research that was the extent of my knowledge. I knew that something was going on in Syria, but didn’t know what.

After learning a lot about the conflict in Syria, it has made me want to be a more knowledgable citizen. It’s important that I do know things about Syria, and other countries, because we are all globally connected. I have learned so much about my own government and beliefs through learning about Syria and that’s the way it should be. I should be able to know what my beliefs and thoughts on a global situation is without doing it just because it’s a blog post.

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Because of this blog, I want to continue to learn about Syria and the world with an open mind. I want to become a better informed global citizen.


Post #7

Image result for human trafficking

What is human trafficking?

“Organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor)” (Merriam-Webster).

How is human trafficking being seen around the world — specifically in Syria?

As the Civil War has prolonged in Syria, the number of human trafficking incidents has also gone up and victims have remained trapped inside the country.

Syria has become a source and destination for victims of human trafficking. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to force women into marriages with their soldiers. They also have abducted many women from other countries and have forced them into domestic servitude, marriages, and rape. In addition to this, in 2014 ISIL publicly released guidelines on how to successfully capture and enslave women and girls. Image result for human trafficking in syria

Outside of sexually forced human trafficking, ISIL and other pro-government groups have also captured and made soldiers of many children. They also use children as human shields and other horrifying matters to fight. In addition, they use children as informants and this exposes them to cruel brutalities. They have had to see and be apart of harsh conditions and punishments such as taking part in beheading people. Some of these children can be as young as 6 years old.

One child’s story:

As a result, these children have been stripped of an education and childhood and even have been put in training camps. The conditions of these camps are very dangerous, including exposure to weapons and bombs at too young of an age.

These crimes are too normalized in Syria and need to be fought back with education, justice, and change.

How (or more fitting how not) is Syria responding to human trafficking incidents?

The Syrian government has not met minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking and they are not showing any intentions to do so. The government has continued to take part in human trafficking and in addition has failed to protect victims from it. No human trafficking perpetrators have been convicted by the Syrian government and victims have not been recognized. Syria has a long ways to go in not only ending but in acknowledging human trafficking to get on the right track.

How are we combatting human trafficking on a global scale? 

Image result for the outcome document of open working groupIn Sarah Mendelson’s article, “Born Free,” on preventing human trafficking she talks about the measures being done to end human trafficking. She opens the article by saying, “When it comes to generating public attention and outrage, the buying and selling of people has a lot of ghastly competition.” This quote shocked me — and rightfully so. The fact of the matter is that human trafficking has been put on the back burner for too long.

Luckily, recent moves have been made to enact change. Mendelson talks about the Outcome Document of Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals could help in greatly in the coming years. The Outcome Document specifically calls to get rid of trafficking in many places.

Listed below are the articles calling for change in the Outcome Document (from Mendelson’s “Born Free”):

Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” — the drafters call for the end of trafficking of women and girls.”

Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” — the Outcome Document references bringing the trafficking of children to an end.”

Even more specifically, Mendelson talks about three key examples of ending human trafficking:

  1. Giving legal identity with birth registration to all.
  2. Promoting “sustainable” tourism and transportation.
  3. Giving special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations including women, children and persons with disabilities.

The reason these examples are key is because not having a legal identity and being born into positions of automatic disadvantage (such as having a disability) makes people more prone to victimization. In addition, the tourism and transportation industries have been so vital in combatting human trafficking as it is, so providing them with more training and resources to be sustainable will help combat the issue even more.

One story of how transportation has effectively intervened in human trafficking:

Although all of this new legislature is very progressive and optimistic for the fight against human trafficking, we still have a ways to go. Many challenges lie ahead of us, including how we can measure and fight against something that is so difficult to be measured and getting the international community to agree on and recognize such a complicated issue. We must continue to evaluate and improve our fighting tactics towards human trafficking.

“If the international community agrees to what is laid out in the Outcome Document, more donors, more funding, more organizations, and more people will flow to the movement to end trafficking” (Mendelson).







Post #6

What are the principal concerns Linda Polman raises in Crisis Caravan?

Linda Polman, author of Crisis Caravan and journalist, examines an ethical dilemma on whether it is better for aid organizations to “leave or continue providing aid at any price?”(2). Polman devoted her life to submersing herself in real world conflicts so she could bring light both the positive and negative aspects aid organizations really do have.

She is not the first or only person to examine this question. In fact, she outlines in her introduction that this is a conflict deeply historically rooted.

It started with Henri Dunant and Florence Nightingale. Dunant believed in “Tutti fratelli” Image result for henri dunantmeaning we are all brothers. And Dunant was strongly convicted of that belief. He convinced volunteers to help all the wounded men in the Franco-Prussian War despite their nationality. Soon every house, church and place was turned into a clinic for miles and miles. However, volunteers became exhausted resulting in aid to fail. But this is where his idea for the Red Cross, many trained nurses who were qualified bringing help to all, began. From this point onward, the Red Cross serves as an aid organization to all — no matter their side or stance in the conflict.

Dunant believed that reducing the number of cripples would save the government money and thus be more beneficial to countries as a whole. However, this is where Florence Nightingale disagreed with him. She thought that the higher the war expenses, the sooner it would end and by saving the government money (Dunant’s philosophy) the war would be prolonged.

Nightingale’s belief in this was a result of her own experiences. Her hospital for war victims was disgusting and many died there, but she couldn’t get anyone to help better the conditions.The reason she couldn’t get help is because the government wouldn’t present her results of how dirty and gross care conditions were because then it’d be harder for them to recruit new soldiers. She then devoted her whole life to getting the government, the only people who she believed were able to, improve conditions. Nightingale disagreed with Dunant’s attempt to “lessen the government’s burdens” because she wanted them to be more responsible.

“Humanitarianism is based on a presumed duty to ease human suffering unconditionally. Aid organizations endorsing the humanitarian principles of the Red Cross promise neutrality (no cooperation with one side in preference to the other), impartiality (the giving of aid purely according to need), and independent (from geopolitical, military, or other interests). Humanitarian aid workers help wherever, whenever and whomever then can” (Crisis Caravan 7).

Nightingale was appalled by the beliefs stated by the quote above:Image result for florence nightingale she thought it was an incomplete and ignorant viewpoint to have. However, in present day 194 countries embrace and support the Red Cross. Though wars and humanitarian territories have changed, the Red Cross’ views have stayed the same. Polman writes, “Humanitarian aid workers still help wherever, whenever, and whomever they can, as a matter of principle, but by doing so they are at the mercy of the belligerents and become subject to their whims” (9). What Polman means by this quote is that by living up to this principle, humanitarian organizations are at risk of and do help the bad guys and hurt the victims.

Polman goes on to examine this question by traveling with readers alongside the fact that humanitarian “caravans” go to and from humanitarian territories without much thought. She asks the question that is the epicenter of her book: “If aid has become a strategic aspect of warfare, can the claim to neutrality made by humanitarian aid organizations still be justified?” (11). In other words, is neutral humanitarian aid effective in the real world today.

How does Polman answer this big question? 

I believe Polman answers her question of whether aid should be given at all costs and be given neutrally by saying, “Aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” (177). Polman first went to Sierra Leone to examine humanitarian conflicts and thought that initially they were great: they claimed to be helping people while restaurants opened up again, gas (a resource lost at the time) was given to them, nice places were being rented out for aid workers, offices were opened, and even golf courses were opened for aid workers. She was enthusiastic about this growth until she realized that the aid organizations were finding a connection with the political elite (guilty of causing the war and prolonging it) and giving them the most money and the actual victims would receive none of the aid money. She thought this was wrong because she always thought that aid was going to poor, the “Mother Teresa” disguise many of us believe to be true of aid organizations. She wanted to know more so she went to a multitude of other countries experiencing conflict and humanitarian aid to see if the same thing was happening — and it was.

Image result for linda polman in sierra leone

Polman sums up this issue simply by saying aid is an industry. Amongst the 37,000 aid organizations that the UN have counted (they stopped counting at 37,000) they are not working together and this is where Polman finds a major issue. Since they aren’t working together, they can’t prevent the bad guys from getting the aid and instead are working for their own interior motives and connections.

The aid industry is a competitive, highly expensive industry. Polman says in her TedTalk,”What’s Wrong With Humanitarian Aid? A Journalist’s Journey,” that $130 billion dollars per year (not included private citizens’ money that they donate) is put into the aid industry. This is an ENORMOUS amount of money. Because there is so much money involved, aid organizations want their specific organization to rise to the top and have the most money, thus shutting other organizations down. Aid organizations don’t go in with a communal plan (looking at what’s best for the citizens) but rather a plan catered to their own personal motives of money and success which often results in connecting with the elites who can give them money. But the catch is, the elites are almost always the bad guys. But honestly, this is not entirely the aid organizations fault. There are no precautions taken to make sure that they do not fall victim to this tragedy.

Watch Polman’s full TedTalk here: 

Polman believes that for aid organizations to stop being a business or industry disguised as Mother Teresa they must work and cooperate together, to actually become an agency that gives help to those who need it most.

What do journalists, the public, governments have to do to make humanitarian aid successful?

So this is a pretty scary thought that something like the Red Cross, associated with so much good, can be prolonging or even fueling conflicts as a result of their competitive nature with one another. We must ask ourselves, what can we do?

Polman gives a few suggestions on this. First, in regards to journalism, they need to stop “automatically approving” (177) of aid organizations, supporting them wherever they go, and begin to question them. They must ask why aid is needed (and if it is in fact needed), how much money is being gained and who is gaining it, if aid workers have the right training to be giving aid, if they are paying the correct attention to the correct people/neighborhoods/environments, what post-care after their aid they are planning to provide, and whether the enemies would reap benefits. Polman claims that journalists not only should be asking these questions but have the responsibility to be asking them. Journalists see aid organizations as a good story but they must dig below the surface and get at the root of aid organizations in our world.

So what can we as human beings do? We must also ask questions. Polman suggests we must stop highlighting the principles of humanitarian groups and get at the effect of their consequences. We need to ask when their principles do not become ethical.

The government, and us as individual citizens, also must know that saying “no” to giving aid is an option. We need to ask if doing something is always better than doing nothing and find out who is truly receiving the aid.

Polman exposes a new identity of humanitarian groups that we must actively question and examine.

Take a look at the Red Cross in my blog’s focus country of Syria: 

Post #5

What does climate change have to do with human rights? 

In member of the National Geography Society Elizabeth Lindsey’s TED Talk, “Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World,” she claims she became an anthropologist because she, “wanted to bear witness to that which was vanishing.” She continues to tell a story about the women who raised her. She was with these women by the ocean and they told her that they knew there’d be a time that came that the world would be in trouble. Meaning the vast ocean and nature they stood around of wouldn’t be the same forever. They told Lindsey to remember the stories they told and so that is what Lindsey sought out to do.

Lindsey’s TED Talk continues with her telling of ancient wisdoms of these people. She ends with a story saying that she called one of the women who raised her to tell her about a new position she had gotten for a job and that they needed to go out and celebrate. Instead of asking all the details of her new position, the women takes her in front of the ocean and studies her. All she then asks about it is, “Will it make your heart happy?” The women who raised Lindsey did not value the same materialistic aspects our current American culture does like job promotions or new cars just to name a few. They value their land and are their happiest just with that. However, their land is vanishing before them. If our another nation decided to take away American’s job promotions or possessions, we would not hesitate in the least to consider it a violation of their rights. So why aren’t we doing the same in regards to taking away a cultures land?

Watch Lindsey’s entire TED Talk here:

The first women president of Ireland, Mary Robinson addresses this idea of climate change being an infringement of human rights in her TED Talk, “Why Climate Change Is a Threat to Human Rights.” She says that her interest with climate change began because of the impact it had on people and their rights (for example, their health, education, shelter and food just to name a few rights). She talks about whole countries on track to go out of existence because of climate change.

In a trip to Africa, she kept hearing the phrase, “Oh but things are so much worse now.” What she found out was “worse” was their climate. A woman she met there didn’t have to worry about going hungry when she was younger: they had the four seasons and knew when to harvest. But recent droughts followed by floods destroyed schools, livelihoods and harvests. If any other factor was destroying those aspects of a culture, we would be outraged on the violation of human rights.

Robinson then talks about Malawi. She informs listeners that there have been terrible floods there causing thousands of people to lose their livelihoods and 100 people were killed. The interesting thing is that the average Malawian emits 80 kg of carbon dioxide a year. However, the average American emits 17.5 metric tons. Those who are suffering don’t even have as much as an impact on the climate change but they are the ones feeling the drastic effects. This is an unfair human condition.

An image used in Robinson’s TED Talk illustrating the disproportionate emissions of pollution: 

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Robinson ends her talk saying that the problem ahead of us is large, but they can be solved. We need the total support of the international community and there can be seen hope. There must be change in order to not only save the climate, but save human rights.

Watch Robinson’s entire TED Talk here:

So how is Syria addressing human rights and climate issues? 

Human Rights:

With the ongoing conflict in Syria, actual action on the bettering of human rights is on the back burner. However, human rights are still on the radar as something that will be necessary for Syria’s survival post conflict. In the Geneva Talks of February 23, 2017, it is said that Syrian human rights need to be the priority amongst the UN. Ending the bombings, unlawful attacks and safety for refugees are just a few topics amongst this issue.

To obtain the proper attention human rights in Syria needs, they must make constitutional amendments and most importantly, it must be a Syrian-led process.

Image result for syrian human rights

It is explained in the Human Watch Right’s article, “Syria: Make Human Rights Priority of Geneva Talks,” that on the agenda of addressing and changing Syrian human rights, is the drafting of a new constitution, free elections, a ceasefire, releasing war prisoners, and a complete end of civilian attacks.

Check out more details in the outline for Syrian human rights in this article:

Climate Change:

Climate change, specifically drought, is widely thought to be one of the causes of the Syrian conflict. The drought leading up to the war created the loss of livelihoods and thus tension and migration of the Syrian people. However, climate change was not the only cause of the conflict. Instead, climate change contributed to the built up tension of the regime but did not cause it.

Alex Randall agrees that climate change was not the sole factor in the rise of the Syrian conflict in his article, “The role of climate change in the Syria crisis: how the media got it wrong”:

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Though climate change is an obvious issue in Syria, as seen in forms of droughts, it is not an issue being tackled head on right now since the conflict is the main focus. However, I do think in the years to come there will, and should, be a large rise of climate protection organizations in Syria.

Main points of Noor’s “Beyond Eurocentrism”

Author Farish Noor writes in his article, “Beyond Eurocentrism: The Need For a Multicultural Understanding of Human Rights” he outlines the problems of eurocentrism and the ways we should and must respond to that.

Eurocentrism is the belief that the Western world is the superior and dominant way of life worldwide. In other words, it’s when the Western world thinks that their way is the global way. For example, Americans believing that Coca-Cola, an inherently western thing, is a global product is Eurocentric.

Political cartoon on eurocentrism:Image result for eurocentrism

Noor says that for countries to protect themselves against eurocentrism, they use essentialist ideologies. He then claims that these essentialist ideologies can become, “reactionary, defensive and exclusivist” (53). So there must be a better way. But what?

Noor suggests we can break out of the fight that has resulted from the Eurocentric vs. essentialistic cycle by first making sure all cultures have a concern for the liberty and human dignity of everyone. He claims this will also benefit us because the healthiest societies have understandings of“issues related to power, rights ad equity” (54).

Noor insists we then must accept that the world is trying to save a multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious world.

“We will need to attempt to understand and appreciate the way different societies and cultures have developed their respective understandings of human dignity and values and to try to identify the specific local traditions and thought systems that should be elaborated to ensure that the goals are achieved” (Noor 54).

Noor then outlines how we must begin to understand indigenous rights and liberties. Western nations trying to impose their ways on Asian (and other) cultures are simply unaware of Asian traditions and values so we must educate to inform them of this. When they are educated, they then might realizing they are actually intruding on their rights by implementing their values. Noor informs readers that there have been many movements in many different parts of Asian but that there needs to be more (such as recognizing other cultures’ beliefs) done to stop eurocentrism.
Image result for asian indigenous cultures

Finally, Noor outlines obstacles to combatting eurocentrism. He says the first one is simply that Asia has so many traditions and beliefs that it is going to be a daunting task to account for all of them. In addition, he claims of two other major obstacles in reviving Asian rights and liberties. The first being that Asian elites tend to use their Asian values as a strategic way of political and economic influence. The second one is that Western elites tend to assume that human rights are guaranteed only if the Western model is used everywhere. These are two very different but two very potent obstacles that need to be accounted for unbiasedly in the hope to revive a multicultural world.

“By living in a world crowded with different cultural world views and value systems, we can experience the many possibilities that underlie the true meaning of pluralist universalism, which, though it is rooted in genuine differences, also embodies fundamental similarities” (Noor 70-71).

Post #4

What should taking action on climate change look like? 

Native Inuit Sheila Watt-Cloutier insists in her article “The Inuit Right to Culture Based on Ice and Snow,” that environmental issues should be considered a violation of human rights. For too long, she has watched her land and Inuit culture fade away being bandaged with “short-term ideologies” favored by businesses that pushes the problem under the rug.

Image result for inuit culture environment

The problems should be looked at from a human rights standpoint because it is in fact detrimental to the rights and cultures of human beings. For example, Watt-Cloutier says that the young males in her Inuit society have one of the highest suicide rates in the world which she says can be credited to the traumatic historical change climate change has brought them over the years. In addition, some communities are so damaged, Watt-Cloutier says, that they have already had to uproot and spend millions of dollars to relocate. The events that climate change brings are life transforming or even life risking. Since lives are at stake due to environmental issues and Watt-Cloutier insists that countries, specifically big and developed ones, starts taking on this issue with the seriousness of the results of climate change in mind.

So how does it actually look realistically to implement the change that Watt-Cloutier is suggesting? She says they are not asking that we take a step backwards in developing our economies, but rather as we step forward in developing them we are using proper technological advancements that limit greenhouse effects that are the driving force behind the impact in her community.

What is actually being done by global leaders? Is there consensus? 

In regards to the United States, environmental issues are being ignored or unmentioned by President Trump. When Trump became president, he basically archived all things related to climate change into an online Obama file. He calls climate change a “hoax” and all President Trump says now in regards to climate change on the White House website is that they need to eliminate unnecessary policies such as the “Climate Action Plan” which was Obama’s broad plan to get rid of carbon emissions. So not only is Trump making environmental issues nearly disappear, he is also denouncing them by claiming he will take efforts to remove any progress made. President Obama said that establishing the United States as a global leader in climate policy is one of his best legacies and now Trump is diminishing and worsening that legacy.Image result for epa

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been told (by President Trump) to halt all plan making and to be quiet about it. This means that they can’t post on social media, can’t respond to interviews, and can’t make any public statements. This will severely halt progress to a global consensus on environmental protection issues. Since social media is the primary source of news nowadays, there will be less informed citizens who can take action and less informed international connections who could help. By the time people do become informed, it is possible that it will be too late.

However, there is still global hope amidst Trump’s setbacks. The Paris Agreement, a policy within the UN to combat pollution starting in the year 2020, is standing strong. Trump cannot legally block countries from following through on their promises with the Paris Agreement. But the concern still lies in the fact that without participation of the United States in the Paris Agreement, the world’s second largest polluter behind China, the ultimate goal of the agreement cannot be obtained. Also, without the United State’s participation, other governments are likely to withdraw too.

The platform for global consensus on climate change is very unstable with the recent election of President Trump and we have to wait and see how other nations choose to respond to his policies and ignorance of environmental issues.

Check out these articles for expansion of the information provided above:

Environmental Groups in Syria 

Neither nor have bases in Syria. However, has a base in Adana, Turkey which is Syria’s neighbor.

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The Syrian Environment Protection Society (SEPS) was founded in 1992 and it was the first environmental movement founded and announced publicly in Syria. They hope to correct the urban environments that pose environmental threats to their nation. SEPS has a multitude of problems that they want to fix but their website lists the following as “priority problems.”

  1. Contamination, depletion and dissipation of water resources.
  2. Poor air quality and air pollution (industrial and urban).
  3. Deterioration of urban environment and uncontrolled urban expansion.
  4. The growth of illegal settlements.
  5. Poverty and population growth.
  6. Inappropriate solid waste disposal (domestic, industrial “hazardous & toxic”) and waste water pollution.
  7. Degradation of biodiversity and habitat deterioration and poor use of biological resources.
  8. Soil, land and rangeland deterioration & degradation (soil salinization , land contamination and erosion ).
  9. Deforestation and desertification.
  10. Lack of public awareness on environmental issues.
  11. Lack of industrial zones.
  12. Food contamination, food diseases & epidemiologies, food security, environment security.
  13. Coastal degradation.
  14. Excessive use of agro-chemicals and pesticides.
  15. The wrongful hunting.
  16. Cultural heritage degradation (archaeological and historical sites).

Image result for syrian environment problems

The overarching goal of SEPS is to bring awareness to environmental issues and act on them in proper ways. They hope to do this by publishing books, stickers, brochures and so on to educate the community. They also want to hold lectures, campaigns and projects that have the ultimate goal of implementing environmental change.

The Middle Eastern Drought 

The drought, starting in 1998, in the middle east region has been said to be caused by human global warming. This drought is also thought to have contributed to the rise of the Syrian conflict — specifically the lack of food and stability.

Environmental issues are clearly impacting Syrians and their surrounding regions. Since they are more focussed on the conflict right now they are (understandably) doing little to solve the environmental problems. However, I think in the years to come Syrians will recognize the importance of environmental activism so that they can avoid conflicts such as the one they are currently in.

Note: I looked up Greenpeace but they are not directly working in Syria right now. I think this is likely because of the current conflict. 

Post #3

What is nationalism and what are problems with it? 

Nationalism is a patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts. Citizens who feel very loyal to their country typically feel a great sense of nationalism.

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Nationalism can be great motivation for a country to better themselves but it also has its downfalls. According to author Fareed Zakaria in regards to nationalism, “The rise of pride and confidence among other nations, particularly the largest and most successful ones, is readily apparent” (34). This gives countries a certain sense of cockiness or superiority over other countries. Zakaria goes on to talk about an example he’s seen of this. He was talking to a Chinese executive who was describing the vast growth of his country. The Chinese man describes how he thinks his country will go on into years of prosperity and is very positive and uplifting about it. However, when he is asked about other countries roles in the global world, he starts using “furious” tones claiming that he would invade or distrust certain countries if problems were to arise. The problem that Zakaria is seeing with nationalism here is that it is a wonderful and positive driving force internally for a country, however, when they have to consider their external competitors, the attitude suddenly becomes harsh and negative due to the country’s nationalistic ideology of superiority.

How does nationalism play out in Syria?

With such large and concerning claims made by Zakaria, we must examine a country’s nationalism to get a feel for them as a world power and as an independently operating country.

1. Western Nationalism In Syria 

We can see the effects of Western nationalism in Syria. Some people have suggested that Syria rapidly transitions into a Western capitalistic and democratic system. This is due to the fact that Western powers have seen their ways work for themselves, so they feel a sense of superiority and assume that their way must be the best way. However, Syrian sectarian cleavages have stressed the importance of gradually moving to a system that is specifically suited for the Syrians’ needs. The Syrian nation is believed to have many different identities that define it. If they transform into a nation that operates the same as the Wester-world, many cultures and voices will be shut down. The opposition to the Western nationalism trying to be implemented in Syria is a good example of the negative effects of powerful countries nationalism (in this case the nationalism of the Western world) and how it is impacting other countries. Zakaria says, “We still think of a world in which a rising power must choose between two stark options: integrate into the Western order, or reject it” (38). Syria’s choice to seemingly reject Western ways illustrate their loyalty to their own form of nationalism.

2. Arab Nationalism In Syria 

If Syria is rejecting Western nationalism, then what type of nationalism do they portray? One article argues that the official nationalistic identity of Syria is Arab. This is referred to as the “Baath” ideology. Amongst this Arab (or Muslim) nationalism, Syria still allows a safe haven for Christians — as long as they don’t want to convert the Muslims.

However, the dominant Arab nationalistic identity does not allow the acceptation of the Kurds. Maps try to diminish the Kurdish population when it actually remains very prevalent in Syria. For example, most sources say that Kurds are 10% of the population when in reality it is at more than 15%. Syrian government does not conduct transparent censuses that hardly acknowledges the Kurds existence in the first place making more grounds for Arab nationalism. Even the U.S. department of State and CIA didn’t recognize the Kurds until the 1980s. Image result for arab nationalism

Because of this refusal to acknowledge the Kurds, there have been many unfortunate circumstances. Some 300,000 of them are denied citizenship, relegated to statelessness with no access to passports and, in many cases, governmental services. In the 1960s, Kurds were even stripped of their national status. Arabic Syrians were afraid a Kurdish nationalist movement would uprise. And that did in fact happen. Martin W. Lewish of GeoCurrents writes, “Syrian security forces have repressed at least 14 Kurdish political and cultural public gatherings, overwhelmingly peaceful, and often resorted to violence to disperse the crowds. Not only have the security forces prevented political meetings in support of Kurds’ minority rights, but also gatherings to celebrate Nowruz (the Kurdish new year) and other cultural celebrations. In at least two instances, the security services fired on the crowds and caused deaths.” The Kurds are ignored as a negative result of Arabic Syrian nationalism.

3. Explaining Nationalism In Correspondence With Nation States

A nation state is a sovereign state whose citizens or subjects are relatively homogenous in factors such as language or common descent. The Arab sense of nationalism can be explained by regional nation states. The areas where the Kurds are, are thus overpowered by the dominant nation state of Arabic citizens. Even though the Kurds and Muslims both consider themselves Syrians, the conflict of their nation state surfaces. Author of Globalization A Very Short Introduction Manfred B. Steger argues that nation states manage immigration control (67). This can be an explanation as to why the Arabic nation state is able to control and displace the Kurdish population.

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Another article argues that the concept of a nation state for Syria is different than most other countries. Since there are a lot of different religions in Syria, there are a lot of different cultures. This article then argues there isn’t one prevailing “nation state attitude.” This doesn’t make the conflict of nation states and nationalism in Syria nonexistent, it just makes it complicated. The article then goes on to say that the people’s sense of common identity has a lot to do with the ability of former president Hafez al-Asad to orchestrate financial incentives and repressive tactics. So in a sense, this article argues that their nation state is their own way they have been doing things. The argument would then be that any transition into a new state, for example the transition into a Western-like economy, would pose a lot of dangers and threats for the Syrian people.

Inequality in Syria

We must also consider how a country’s inequality plays into the country’s problems and conflicts.  Syria’s two biggest forms of inequality are gender and economic.

1. Gender Inequality In Syria

Since the conflict, women are experiencing increased sexual violence and discrimination. Below is a video on stories of different Syrian women who have fled Syria because of domestic violence.

The horrific stories of women such as in the video above are much too prevalent in Syria. Correlating with these stories are the many pressures Syrian women feel. Syria values protecting their family’s honor, so women are pressured into conforming to social norms to uphold a family’s reputation that men don’t feel. In Farah’s story she refused a man’s proposal resulting in violence and abuse from her own family. Many women like Farah are afraid to defy the norms as she did so they are stuck in relationships.

What is being done to help domestic violence in gender inequality?

The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic gives equality to all of its citizens despite gender in article 25. It also says in Article 45 women are guaranteed, “all opportunities that enable them to participate fully and effectively in political, social, cultural, and economic life.” However, no law technically prohibits gender discrimination and individual laws even have deep gender biases.

The Syrian Arab Republic created the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Violence against Women in 2003 but nothing has really been done to implement this. In addition, many women in Syria have seen growth of women in the workforce, but gender inequality remains a major issue in social standings. In summary, not much can be done politically or economically until Syria socially accepts women.

2. Economic Inequality In Syria

Despite the 5% growth in the economy over the last 5 years, poverty still remains high. One out of every three Syrians live below the poverty line.Image result for syrian poverty

Lahcen Achy, writer for the Carnegie Middle East Center suggests there are five main economic problems:

  • 1. Population growth and the creation of new jobs are not keeping up with each other
    • Pop grow 2.5% per year (requiring 250,000 jobs) but only 20,000 jobs per year have been created since the mid-1990s
    • Official unemployment rate is about 10%
  • 2. Drought
    • 25% decline in agricultural jobs
    • Agriculture provided 20% of jobs to the labor force and made up 20% share of the GDP
    • Lots of people have moved from their farms to cities
    • As a result, urban poverty rates have doubled over the last five years
    • Government has tried to put in place cash transfers to poor families but the effect of this is not comparable to the effect they need
  • 3. Syria is dominated by large companies that have strong connections to the regime
    • Corruption problems
  • 4. Oil is becoming less important to the GDP
    • Oil prices fell more than 14% in the 2000s and the poor have felt the effects of this because the government has thus decreased their social spending
    • The government couldn’t offset the decline of oil revenues
  • 5. Income inequality has increased in the last ten years
    • Excessive inflation
    • The wage increases that were happening only benefited those with higher-education degrees and not the 60% of the less educated people who make up the labor force

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What is being done to improve economic equality? 

Syria is trying to better economic equality as a whole while facing many other problems:

  • 1. Unequal distribution of services by region
    • Easter and southern regions are most at risk due to the drought and poor infrastructure – they face rising child labor and deprivation
  • 2. Transition into a market-oriented economy and the need to keep up with competition
    • The government needs to become less corrupt and implement a better physical and technological infrastructure
  • 3. Syria needs to spend more money and increase their debt to help the population during this transition
    • They need to spend more money specifically on healthcare and create a program that gives the poor a bit of a “safety net”
    • Many people are protesting and if Syria spends more money to help the poor protesters, they could give their citizens the economy and freedom they desire.

If Syria can overcome all of these problems, Achy suggests they will be on the road toward economic success.

Post #2

Languages of Syria

  • Official language: Arabic
    • Spoken by 90% of the Syrian population
    • Branches of Arabic are spoke: Levantine in the west, Mesopotamian in the northeast
  • 17 total languages are spoken in Syria
  • Notable languages: Kurdish, Mesopotamian Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Assyrian, Levantine Arabic, Western Neo-Aramaic, Najdi Arabic, Standard Arabic, Turoyo, Domari, Lomavren, and classic Arabic
    • Armenian and Syrian Turkmen are spoken among Armenian and Turkmen minorities
    • Classical Syriac is still used for various Syriac Christian Denominations
    • Some of these languages are just spoken in certain villages
      • ex: Western Neo-Aramaic is spoken in the village of Ma’loula

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Syria and the UN, IMF, WTO and GINI Coefficient

The United  Nations and Syria

The United Nations is a global organization that promotes political and economic cooperation around the world by organizing economic and social development programs and improving human rights in hopes to end global conflicts.

Syria has been a member of the UN since its formation in October of 1945. At the time, Egypt and Syria joined as a conjoint member. Since then, Syria gained independence and resumed separate membership in October of 1961.

With the ongoing conflict in Syria, they are a country the United Nations has on high alert. Especially with President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries (including Syria), UN members have had to decide what is best moving forward for the well-being of human rights in Syria.

In an article titled “UN agency ‘alarmed’ by uncertainty facing refugees in the process of being resettled in the US” from the UN News Centre’s website, Filippo Grandi, head of the United Nations refugee agency, says he is extremely worried for the uncertainty refugees who were supposed to be settled into the US prior to President Trump’s ban. More than 800 Syrian refugees were supposed to call the US their new home just this week so the travel ban is a horrifying reality for both the UN and Syrian refugees. The UN has noted that the US has been a global leader in protecting the lives of refugees and they hope that they will continue to be a safe haven moving forward.

Filippo Grandi, head of the United Nations refugee agency

Syria and the IMF

The International Monetary Fund fosters monetary cooperation, secures financial stability, facilitates international trade, and promotes high employment and economic growth to reduce poverty around the world. Syria has been a member of the IMF since April of 1947.

The Civil War has caught the attention of the IMF since the conflict has set the country back decades in terms of economic stance, social and human development. Syria’s GDP (gross domestic product) today is less than half of what it was before the war started. It is predicted to take two decades or more to return to Syria’s previous GDP levels. Rebuilding Syria’s physical economic infrastructure will be a daunting task in and as itself, but there will be an even greater challenge of rebuilding their human and social capital.Image result for syria and the imf

In the fragile and crucial state Syria is in, it will be important for IMF members to be looking forward on how to defend and rebuild Syria’s economic state.

Syria and the WTO 

The World Trade Organization is the only global program that deals with the rules of international trade. Syria has been a member since their working party established in May of 2010 but they have had no meetings yet.

Syria’s GINI Coefficient

A GINI coefficient is a statistical measure of the degree of variation or inequality represented in a set of values, used especially in analyzing income inequality.

Syria’s most recent GINI coefficient was calculated in 2004 and came out to a 35.77. A GINI coefficient of 0 is perfect equality and a GINI coefficient of 100 is perfect inequality. With Syria standing at roughly a 36, they are not too concerning in regards to inequality in their country, however, globally their level of poverty is very high. (This information is likely not able to be generalized to Syria’s current condition because of the lack of current information because of the Civil War.)

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