The gardens of Damascus: Can Syrians reconnect with nature?

An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.

By Alex Ray

“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.

The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls.  The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital. Continue reading

Storms bring ideal waves for surfing, but also trash

This article appeared in the print version of Lebanon’s Daily Star on February 27, 2018. It can be accessed online here.

by Alex Ray
BEIRUT: When storms lashed Lebanon in January, they delivered an abysmal reminder of its garbage crisis: a coastline carpeted in trash. Being the middle of winter, Lebanon’s famed beaches were mostly deserted after the mess. But one group could still be found diving headfirst into the waste. Continue reading

Humanitarians for War: Language and the New Orientalists

By Alex Ray –  in Off-Guardian on the 5th of October

 

OffGuardian

by Alex Ray

Not-so-subtle dehumanisation of the targeted "other". Not-so-subtle dehumanisation of the targeted “other”.

A UK House of Commons inquiry into the 2011 attack on Libya and the country’s subsequent collapse has found what many suspected: NATO and its Gulf Arab allies used their ‘Responsibility To Protect’ to launch their attack even though: “

…the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

Though the MPs’ damning report blames Libya’s political and economic collapse on former Prime Minister David Cameron, the manipulation of public opinion to lay the basis for war is built upon longstanding – but now sharpened – processes and semantic structures that prepare populations to accept punitive action against a targeted ‘other’.

In an earlier example, on October 10 1990, a young Kuwaiti woman known as ‘Nayirah’ testified before the United States’ Congressional Human Rights Caucus that invading Iraqi soldiers…

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Unis need proper links with Arab countries

Through my own attempts to study Arabic in-country in my undergraduate years I became aware of a shocking lack of support for Australian students interested in studying in the Arab world.

While opportunities for students wishing to study abroad in North America, Europe and increasingly East Asia, are vast, not one Australian university offers students the chance to spend a semester or more on the ground in an Arabic speaking country. Continue reading