Diary of a not-so-baby BarriSTAR

An alternative perspective



Sanctuary in Death

Today feels different.

As I walked to the subway to get to work, the sun was shining. What a beautiful day.

I wonder if the sun is shining in Aleppo.

Despite the corpses littering the streets.

I thought about how many absolute truths we share as humans.

The sky.

The air we breathe.

The blood we bleed.

Yet, how our humanity is qualified. Contingent. Conditional.









Scrolling through social media feeds.

Aleppo has fallen.  Civilians shot dead. Children burnt alive. Scores of men disappeared. The rebels are baddies too. MPs are holding an ’emergency’ debate. The UN says atrocities are being committed.

“A Meltdown in Humanity”

Nothing in actual fact is particularly different today. Innocent people die every single day at the hands of oppressors in this increasingly dark world.

But today feels different.

I hate the international community, governments, the UN every day.

But today feels different.

I feel anger, sadness and helplessness every day.

But today feels different.

Today the tears fall.

Today, I struggle to find hope.


“Families in Aleppo are asking religious scholars if it’s permissible to kill their daughters before they are captured and raped.”


What must one have endured, what must one fear when killing your own child is the better option?

My heart doesn’t just break for Syria. My sadness today isn’t just for Aleppo.

It is for an existence where the only sanctuary for some is in death.

I know for some, they choose not to read what is going on, because it is too sad. Because we feel helpless.

But we must




Over and over.

It is the least we could do.


I want my sadness to consume me. 


The only glimmer of light I have felt today came from what I paste below.

Even if you categorise yourself as an unbeliever, it is at times like this that a belief in eternal divine justice can provide even you, some hope- because what else is there?


Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

“When the believer is about to depart from this world and go forward into the Next World, angels with faces as bright as the sun descend from the heavens and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits at his head and says, ‘Good soul, come out to forgiveness and pleasure from Allah!’ Then his soul emerges like a drop of water flows from a water-skin and the angel takes hold of it.

“When he has grasped it, the other angels do not leave it in his hand even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and place it in a perfumed shroud and a fragrance issues from it like the sweetest scent of musk found on the face on the earth.”

“Then they bear it upwards and whenever they take it past a company of angels, they ask, ‘Who is this good soul?’ and the angels with the soul reply, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so,” using the best names by which people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be opened for him. It is opened for him and angels who are near Allah from each of the heavens accompany him to the subsequent heaven until he reaches to the heaven where Allah the Great is. Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says, ‘Register the book of My slave in ‘Illiyun and take him back to earth. I created them from it and I return them to it and I will bring them forth from it again.’”

*Image via Alaa Basatneh


Nearly two months in NYC at the brilliant Center for Constitutional Rights on a Pegasus Scholarship from the UK. I have been keeping a work diary and a record of personal reflections, but today I felt inspired to start writing again.

We had a lunch seminar with the fantastically inspiring Fayrouz Sharqawi from Grassroots Jerusalem a brilliant Palestinian organisation based in Jerusalem.

She discussed the challenges faced every day by Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem. Simply to do basic things. To have a house; to have a house that may or may not be demolished at some point; to have a job; to be able to travel to your job; to have a school to go to; to be able to go to university without being tear gassed; to have free access to your own farmland- the list is endless.

She talked about Israel’s ‘centre of life’ policy, a tool deliberately designed to forcefully displace Palestinians. Residents have to prove their ‘centre of life’ is in Jerusalem. So when the authorities come knocking on your door, without notice after midnight and you’re not there, you risk losing your home.


The example Fayrouz gave was, if you studied medicine for instance at Al Quds university, your degree isn’t recognised by the relevant authorities to practice in Jerusalem, so you have to travel outside of Jerusalem for work. This takes hours because of the separation wall and checkpoints, forcing you to rent somewhere nearer to work.

Voila, you’re stripped of residency in Jerusalem because it is no longer your ‘centre of life.’

Another example of Israel’s displacement policy is demonstrated by the fact that only 11% of the land is for Palestinian recreational construction, despite them constituting approximately 40% of the population. In recent years, 94% of applications for building permits made by Palestinians were rejected, forcing them to build homes ‘illegally’ rendering them liable for demolition.

Land confiscations, house demolitions and the consequences of the separation wall, deemed illegal in international law, are just a few of the tools that are being used to change the geographic and demographic nature of Jerusalem. Ultimately, this is part of a systematic policy designed to appropriate Palestinian land and isolate Jerusalem from the West Bank with the goal of establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite the ongoing occupation and persistent violation of human rights, Palestinians continue to resist through their existence. Grassroots Jerusalem founded in 2011, is a hub committed to Palestinian led struggle and liberation. With 80 community organisation partners, they act as a hub for Palestinians to build networks, organise, mobilise, and ultimately to unify in their resistance to the occupation.

When asked about partnering with Israeli organisations, Fayrouz’s response could not have been more poignant. Grassroots Jerusalem do not engage in ‘normalisation’ (that is to say normalisation of the status quo) and therefore do not work with Israeli organisations. She stated that real life power relations and politics are replicated within Israeli and Palestinian partnerships in doing this kind of work. Who truly ends up making the decisions in such ‘partnerships?’

Her response reminded me of some of the issues explored in Malcom X’s autobiography by Alex Haley that I am currently reading. Particularly, the notion of ‘separation’ as opposed to both ‘segregation’ and ‘integration.’ It is interesting to consider the methods through which oppressed people perceive they can achieve their freedom. A choice only they can legitimately make.

She emphasized that Palestinians need to empower themselves. Freedom cannot be found through the oppressor.


In her view, Israelis sympathetic with the Palestinian plight need to address the deep rooted issues in their own society first i.e. challenging the views Israeli youths have about Palestinians. It is not for them to ‘save’ Palestinians.

In the same vein, Grassroots Jerusalem is committed to and are working towards a self-sustainable funding model which would mean they would not be reliant on international donor funding. She explains such funding comes with a number of restrictive conditions and unsurprisingly- a political agenda.   As if to say “here is a million Euros for your cause, but you need to work for your liberation in ways we dictate.”

Fayrouz spoke with passion and fire. For me, she embodied the same Palestinian spirit I was blessed to find in refugee camps in Lebanon, in Jerusalem and the West Bank; highly principled, resilient and fierce.

There are a number of ways to support Grassroots Jerusalem. They offer political tours, sell a political tourist guide of Jerusalem, have a volunteer programme and much more.

When she was asked how people like us can help, she said the two key things are solidarity and tangible support. Not forgetting BDS.

Get involved. Renew your commitment to a free Palestine.

From The Jungle no.1: The Map

“The Jungle” is a refugee camp on our doorstep. In Calais, a matter of an hour and a bit away from us exists what should be the deepest source of shame for us, our government, the French, our European neighbours and the rest of the international community.

The problem is embodied in the semantics. The labelling. The choice of words.

The Jungle?

I am not sure where the name for the camp came from. But it is where the process of dehumanisation begins.

In labelling this area the “Jungle” we are saying a number of things.

The inhabitants are not human.
They are animals.
There is no order.
No system.
No rules.
No rights.
And no corresponding responsibility.

The label only seeks to legitimise the deep injustice. It is ok to call a structure made with bin liners and sticks home, it is ok to have to queue hours for one meal and not be sure you’ll get one because there’s not enough to go around, it’s ok to have nothing on your feet despite the mud and the floods of water, it’s ok to have no sanitation, no properly running water, no electricity and everything else that comes with living in a ‘jungle.’

It is ok, because you are not human.

The camp might be ‘The Jungle’ to us.

But it is not for those who call it their home.

The refugees. People. Humans.

In the words of one of them, “it is not a jungle, it is a village because we work hard.”

Despite our dehumanisation of them, they continue to represent the true meaning of humanity.

In sharing this post and others that will follow, I hope to help in highlighting some of the harsh realities of the refugee crisis, challenge stereotypes, encourage dialogue but most importantly hope that people will find it within themselves to not only read, and maybe share- but to act.

I am working with friends and colleagues in pooling our skills and experience to establish how we as a collective community can best try and contribute to this ongoing crisis. If you are interested, please get in touch.

Always. #Pisa #Italy #RealTalk #Politics #Government #EndAusterity (at Pisa, Italy)

ICC a tool for western imperialism?
Outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry will be an interesting one.

‘It is said that great men and women live forever. They live through the lives they’ve touched, and the things they’ve accomplished. I would say this is also true for people on the other side of this fence: the villains. History will show the extent of Blair’s failings, his perversions of the truth, his misleading of the world and the blood on his hands.’

Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes – not just judged by history | Twiggy Garcia | Comment is free |

“The state has failed to provide adequate representation to allow the trial to take place,” Cameron told the court. “A stay is exceptional, but so is lack of representation in this country. We are worried about a fair trial. It’s not the fault of the FCA but we do [blame] the state more widely.”

David Cameron’s brother calls for fraud trial to be halted over legal aid cuts | Law |

The UN is not fit for purpose.
The new world order needs a new organisation with less corruption and less bureaucracy.

Ukraine crisis: What’s the UN doing about it? – Al Jazeera English

The UN Security Council ‘united’ for the first time yesterday on the Syria crisis and passed resolution 2139. After nearly three years of the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria,
UNSC representatives ‘negotiated’ a deal allowing for the access of humanitarian aid. Yet, the resolution makes no mention of sanctions being imposed for non-compliance.

How have we come so far in accepting the realities of war and politics that now-food is being used as a weapon of war and our ‘negotiations’ or absence thereof are facilitating the destruction of entire peoples?

Progress? Or not worth the paper it is written on?

Filippo Grandi – UN Commissioner General for UNRWA held the piece of paper containing the resolution whilst he visited Yarmouk camp and reassured it’s people ‘they had not been forgotten.’

The little boy crying tears of hunger, may have valued what Grandi held more- had it have been a loaf of bread.

Food as a weapon of War. Yarmouk. The oppressed within the oppressed.

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