Berlin refugees found a way to map resources for incoming refugees

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A map-based website shows where refugees can find hospitals, police stations, counseling, and even free German lessons.

Source: Berlin refugees found a way to map resources for incoming refugees

It’s no easy feat making your way to Germany from war-torn Syria. By the end of this year, Germany might be taking in close to 800,000 refugees. But an even greater challenge lies ahead: finding a way to assimilate the huge population of Syrian refugees into German life.

But a center in Berlin is already working on a solution. Developed by Haus Leo, a shared accommodation home in Berlin for refugee families that aims to “ensure asylum-seekers their dignity and allow them to find their way here and to try something new,” a group of refugees have pooled their resources together to create “Arriving in Berlin,” an interactive map of resources across the city.

The map points to over 250 venues for counseling, healthcare, German-language lessons, accommodation, legal assistance, public libraries, and police stations. The website includes a color-coded map of Berlin, and was developed and researched by Hamidullah Ehrari, Mohammad Yari, Farhad Ramazanali, and Alhadi Aldebs, four refugees living in the house.

The idea for a map formed first because it was a visual tool. “[Maps] can be produced by many people and combined together to tell stories about complex relationships,” the project website explains. “Because maps are never finished and only tell part of a story that can constantly be expanded upon. Because power exists in space, struggle exists in space, and we exist in space. Because we cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we are from.”

The group is working to develop the map as an app for smartphones.

The mass exodus of Syrian refugees has been called by Amnesty International “the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Over 190,000 civilians have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. Nearly 12 million have fled their homes: a quarter of that number is now in Europe.

According to a United Nations report, 2014 has seen more people uprooted from their homes since “detailed record-keeping began.”

Under Angela Merkel’s insistence, Germany has been instrumental in providing for refugees – and not just providing homes. A group of refugees have recently taken up cycling lessons in Berlin. Other groups are offering free German and English lessons to refugees.

Still, questions of how to handle the growing number of refugees continues to plague many European nations.

“We cannot flip the switch in one go – we must proceed step by step,” Merkel said on Tuesday.creoqzxwuaa-gvw1

Iran on track to kill more than 1,000 this year, UN expert reports

Two Iranian poets jailed for their work and sentenced to 99 lashes apiece for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex are the latest targets in a crackdown that analysts say pits hard-liners against those offering new glimpses of life in the Islamic Republic.

Source: Iran on track to kill more than 1,000 this year, UN expert reports

Calling it an “unprecedented assault on the right to life in Iran,” Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed described a surge in executions over the past year. He said Iran hanged nearly 700 people since January.

Shaheed said that within the past two weeks, the Islamic Republic violated international law by hanging two juvenile offenders. He added, “there are dozens more waiting a similar fate on death row.” Shaheed said most people who face death are nonviolent drug offenders.

Human rights groups have long criticized Iran for flaunting international laws in its treatment of locals and foreign journalists. Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter and dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, has been detained in Iran for 14 months and was recently convicted on charges that include espionage. He reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison.

The U.S. government, the Post and rights groups have criticized Iran’s handling of the case and called for his release. Shaheed said most journalists face severe punishments simply for reporting or airing out their views. He said some in Iran face death sentences for posting other news articles on social media.

At the end of last year, at least 30 journalists were held in Iranian prisons, including Rezaian, according the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Others have been detained since, and in August state media accused a senior Wall Street Journal reporter who once served as a correspondent in Iran of conspiring against the government. The Journal called the claims “completely false, outlandish and irresponsible.”

Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said reporters often get targeted because they are “much easier to frame” as spies.

“There is a fine line that people … in democratic societies are accustomed to. The role of the journalist is to gather information, including those related to public officials,” Mansour said. “What they are trying in Iran is to blur that line.”

Two Iranian poets have also been caught up in the crackdown, jailed for their work and sentenced to 99 lashes apiece for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex.

The sentences have served as a grim backdrop to President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to soften the country’s image and improve relations with the West, including through the landmark nuclear agreement reached last summer.

Hard-liners in the police, judiciary and military view any rapprochement with the West as a threat to the Islamic Republic and a sign of moral decay. Rights groups and analysts say those targeted in the ongoing crackdown on expression in Iran also serve as pawns in the hard-liners’ struggle with moderates ahead of February’s parliamentary elections.

“I think people thought with the nuclear deal, there would be sort of a bit of a thaw as well or a bit of an opening up,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, the director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America, an organization promoting literature and freedom of speech. “I think the judiciary is sort of pushing back and trying to make clear that there isn’t going to be that opening people were hoping for.”

Fatemeh Ekhtesari, a practicing obstetrician, and Mehdi Mousavi, a trained doctor who teaches literature and poetry, were first arrested in December 2013, months after Rouhani took office. Earlier this month, Ekhtesari received an 11 1/2-year prison sentence, while Mousavi got nine years on charges ranging from propaganda against the state to “insulting sanctities,” as well as the lashings, according to PEN.

Iran always has restricted the arts, but both writers previously had published books of poetry with the permission of government censors. Karlekar said the judiciary was waiting for a case where it could “make a demonstration and send a message by giving a very, very harsh sentence.”

Neither Iranian officials nor state media have commented on the poets’ sentences, the latest in a series of similar cases. One of Iran’s best-known human rights activists, Narges Mohammadi, was arrested in May and remains in custody.

The crackdown has targeted artists as well. In May 2014, authorities arrested a group of young Iranian men and women for a video of them dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” While the arrests drew widespread criticism, including from the musician himself, those involved each received suspended sentences of six months in jail and 91 lashes.

In June, a court handed cartoonist Atena Farghadani a 12-year, nine-month sentence, in part for depicting Iranian parliament members as monkeys, cows and other animals. The cartoon was criticizing a draft law restricting contraception and criminalizing voluntary sterilization, according to Amnesty International.

This month, a court sentenced award-winning Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi to six years in prison and to 223 lashes over his films, which authorities also said were “insulting sanctities.”

The crackdown represents the “continuation of the paranoia that the intelligence services and the judiciary has been having all along,” said Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American dual national who was detained by Iranian authorities in 2007.

“They are now trying to frighten a lot of people who are inside Iran — (aid groups), journalists, poets, bloggers, Internet users. They are trying to warn them that, `Make sure you think twice if a foreigner gets in touch with you and reaches out to you,”‘ said Esfandiari, a fellow at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “They are scared of the possibility of a soft revolution.”

Mousavi and Ekhtesari may have been targeted because their work is known abroad. Both are self-described “postmodern Ghazal” poets who seek to revive the traditional Persian love sonnet by applying it to contemporary political and social issues. One Mousavi poem, entitled “Scared of…,” touches on the paranoia felt by many today in Iran.

“What if there’s a microphone in my clothes?

What if this text message is being registered?

What if my cry over the phone is being recorded?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Handwritten Draft Of King James Bible Discovered: Reveals No ‘Divine Powers’

This is one of the biggest finds of the last several decades.

Source: Handwritten Draft Of King James Bible Discovered: Reveals No ‘Divine Powers’

AUTHOR: OCTOBER 28, 2015 8:51 AM

The earliest known version of The King James Bible, perhaps one of the most influential and widely read books in history, has beendiscovered mislabeled inside an archive at the University of Cambridge. The find is being called one of the most significant revelations in decades. It shows that writing is a process of revising, cutting, and then more rewriting. The Bible is no different in this regard, even though some conservative Christians claim it is the divine word of God himself. Perhaps God, then, is a revisionist. This find certainly seems to suggest that.

The notebook containing the draft was found by American scholar, Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who announced his research in an article in The Times Literary Supplement. The New York Times didn’t take long to pick up the story. They ran an article about it, HERE. Mr. Miller was researching an essay about Samuel Ward, one of the King James translators, and was hoping to find an unknown letter at the archives. While you can say he certainly accomplished that end, he definitely wasn’t expecting to find the earliest draft of the King James Bible — which is now giving new insights into how the Bible was constructed.

He first came across the plain notebook not knowing what it was — it was incorrectly labeled. That’s why no one has found it until now. It had been cataloged in the 1980s as a “verse-by-verse” Biblical commentary with “Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes.” When he tried in vain to figure out which passages of the Bible the commentary was referring to, he realized that it was no commentary at all — it was an early draft of part of the King James Version of the Bible.

Professor Miller described what it felt like when he first knew what he had in his hands:

“There was a kind of thunderstruck, leap-out-of-bathtub moment. But then comes the more laborious process of making sure you are 100 percent correct.”

Pic via The New York Times.

The material in the manuscript discovered by Miller covers the apocryphal books called Esdras and Wisdom and seems to show that the translation process at Cambridge worked completely different than what researchers had previously known. Until now, it had been assumed that six different teams, or companies of translators that is, had worked more collaboratively rather than individually. Yet — this draft throws that idea out the window.

Ward’s draft seems to indicate the people were assigned individual sections of the Bible and then worked on them almost entirely by themselves — a massive undertaking with little guesswork. You would think this would cause people to become more error prone. In fact, quite hilariously, Professor Miller noticed that the draft suggests that Ward was picking up the slack for another translator. This really shows how human the entire job was, according to him.

“Some of them, being typical academics, either fell down on the job or just decided not to do it. It really testifies to the human element of this kind of great undertaking.”

This is sure to piss off a lot of religious conservatives who claim that the Bible is the “actual word of God.” While this finding certainly doesn’t disprove God, it does show that the translators of the Bible didn’t get a finalized product the first go around — it wasn’t a walk in the park with an angel over their shoulder telling them what to write. It took many different individuals, working separately — and they often suffered from man-made struggles, like meeting deadlines. You know, now that we think of it, doesn’t sound that much different from the writers of today’s workforce.

Featured image via The New York Times  

UNHCR warns of looming refugee crisis as women flee Central America and Mexico

img_17912112141113111331211234112221221112111111111221115221113211121411Washington, D.C., 28 October 2015 (UNHCR) – Women in Central America and Mexico are fleeing their countries in rising numbers to escape a surge in deadly, unchecked gang violence, fueling a looming refugee crisis in the America

Source: UNHCR warns of looming refugee crisis as women flee Central America and Mexico

UNHCR warns of looming refugee crisis as women flee Central America and Mexico

Press Releases, 28 October 2015

Washington, D.C., 28 October 2015 (UNHCR) Women in Central America and Mexico are fleeing their countries in rising numbers to escape a surge in deadly, unchecked gang violence, fueling a looming refugee crisis in the Americas that demands urgent and concerted action by the states of the region, the United Nations refugee agency warned Wednesday.

“The violence being perpetrated by organized, transnational criminal groups in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and certain parts of Mexico has become pervasive,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in Washington as he issued a new report on the situation entitled “Women on the Run.”

“The dramatic refugee crises we are witnessing in the world today are not confined to the Middle East or Africa,” Guterres said. “We are seeing another refugee situation unfolding in the Americas. This report is an early warning to raise awareness of the challenges refugee women face and a call to action to respond regionally to a looming refugee crisis.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling specifically on all countries in Central and North America to:

    • Recognize the growing refugee situation in the region
    • Establish adequate capacity at borders to ensure the identification of persons in need of international protection;
    • Move swiftly towards a coordinated regional approach to this problem aimed at enhancing access to protection and solutions for refugees and at addressing the root causes of forced displacement.

“Women on the Run” was based on interviews conducted with 160 women recently forced to flee their homes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras the “Northern Triangle of Central America”, or (NTCA) and parts of Mexico to escape growing violence in their communities.

They described in detail how criminal armed groups terrorize populations to establish control over large areas of these countries, and how women in particular are targeted by specific and extreme forms of gender-based violence.

“Everything affects you because there a woman is worthless,” explained Lana, one of the women interviewed for the report. “It is as though your life is not worth anything. They rape. There is no limit. There is no authority. There is no one to stop them.”

While governments in the region have made efforts to address root causes of violence, people continue to flee. The region has some of the highest murder rates in the world, especially of women.

While some of the women flee towards the United States, many others escape to neighboring states in Central America and Mexico where applications for asylum from people fleeing the three NTCA countries and parts of Mexico have skyrocketed thirteenfold since 2008.

According to U.S. government statistics, 82 percent of 16,077 women from these countries who were interviewed by U.S. authorities in the last year were found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture and were allowed to pursue their claims for asylum in the United States.

View the full report here

For more information on this topic, please contact:

      • In Washington:

Brian Hansford

        , Senior Public Information Officer,

+1 202 243 7623
Chris Boian

        , Public Information Officer,

+1 202 243 7634

      • In Geneva:

Karin de Gruijl

        , Senior Communications Officer,

+41 79 255 9213

All articles – Tenth Wall Defense 4 Human Rights

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Arab woman launches new talk show with Oprah Winfrey as the first guest

Not many people can say they are friends with Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie and Donna Karan.

Source: Arab woman launches new talk show with Oprah Winfrey as the first guest

second career as a talk show host on a new program which launches in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East on Saturday (Oct. 24). That person is Iraqi born

who, Time magazine said, “gives women a voice.”

That’s exactly what Miss Zainab intends to do with her show Nida’a making its debut on OSN, Saturday. Nida’a — which means — “The Calling of Women,” combines heartfelt stories with funny, celebrity-oriented, and inspirational stories. But it also digs a little deeper too, as the show explores social, political, and cultural issues. What this show unique and different is many of these stories are seen and experienced from people who are dealing with these issues first hand. Nida’a also sets out to celebrate the dreams and achievements of Arab women across the world with powerful heartfelt stories.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette from New York where she was on a press tour, Nida’a host Zainab Salbi said, “I think we need so many more shows to acknowledge Arab women and all their stories and all their contributions. We equally need to talk about the possibilities of change and development within our own culture and traditions. Many women are doing that but they are yet to be acknowledged fully.”

Zainab has Oprah, one of the most famous women in the world as her first guest. Oprah gives “Nida’a” a rare interview in the Middle East about life, faith and coming to terms with abuse as a child. Also appearing on the first show is the Saudi comedy sensation who has never revealed her true identity.

Nida’a has a lot of star power behind it. Zainab’s work as a humanitarian caught the eye of Oprah Winfrey, who invited Zainab on her show 10 times.

When asked about Oprah’s support, Zainab told Saudi Gazette: “I am grateful. I am grateful. She has been a blessing in my life from the days she featured me when I was running Women for Women International to the gift of giving me the first interview at The Nida’a Show.  She is a great teacher and a friend and I am blessed with this gift of her support.”

So it should come as no surprise Zainab’s executive producer at Nida’a and three other top producers all worked at Oprah’s show too.

It was over 20 years ago that Zainab decided to devote her life to helping women in war-torn countries. As founder of Washington-based “Women for Women International,” Miss Salbi helped the organization grow from helping 30 women when it started, to helping over 400,000 women in 8 conflict areas. The private funding of supporters lead to a distribution of more than $100 million in aid and loans, which in turn impacted more than 1.7 million family members.

Zainab appears frequently in media in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. In 2010, President Clinton nominated her as one of the 21st century heroes as featured by Harper’s Bazaar. In 2011 Newsweek and The Guardian identified her in the Top 100 list of Most Influential Women. Most recently, Zainab was identified by Fortune Magazine as one of the Most Influential Women on Twitter in 2014. She also helped produce “In the Land of  Blood and Honey”  about the rape of women in Bosnia with Oscar winning actress Angelina Jolie who said this of Zainab, “I think she’s extraordinary. These issues are so sensitive and so it’s so important to us that women like her who know these issues and work.”

What’s nice for viewers watching in the Kingdom, is just how many women from Saudi Arabia are featured on Nida’a. They include the first Saudi woman to scale Everest — Raha Moharrak — sharing her story of pursuing her dream. Saudi fashion designer Haya Awad, swings by the Nida’a studio with her designs in Saudi fashion designer, as does fellow designer Razan Alazzouni. Another woman from the Kingdom who appears on an upcoming episode of Nida’a is actress Ahd Kamel who talks about teaching yoga, and why she enjoys doing so.

Giving Saudi women a voice on the Nida’a show was very important to Zainab. In her interview with the Saudi Gazette she said, “Many in the region and around the world have various stereotypes of Saudi women, and part of my goal at The Nida’a Show is to challenge all stereotypes not in a paternalistic way but in a way that is truthful and loving by having real heartfelt discussion with Saudi women and show all their beautiful voices and contributions.’

The Nida’a team has also found inspiring stories that we may not have heard about. For instance, the inspiring story of Solar Mama, the woman who left her Bedouin village to achieve her dream of becoming a solar engineer; Arab Idol and superstar, Mohammed Assaf, comes to the Nida’a studio for music and conversation and in a highly moving episode of Nida’a, brave Iraqi young women break their silence after their traumatic experiences when held captive in the Daesh (the so-called IS) controlled territories.

Nida’a is the first international talk show for American and European audiences being shown on OSN and TLC. Given TLC is the world’s #1 Women’s Pay TV brand with almost 400 million global subscribers, and other guests include Bill Clinton, Queen Rania of Jordan, and James Bond actor Daniel Craig, it would seem “Nida’a” is a show not to be missed.

Nida’a airs on the OSN network Saturdays at 2150 KSA time. One can follow their latest show listings and other fun facts about their show on Twitter @NidaaShow.

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