Monday, February 26, 2007

'I think.. therefore I am.. in prison...'

A few days ago, my friend Abu Kareem published a post highlighting the plight of a fellow-blogger, who is being penalized by the Egyptian authorities for no crime other than expressing his thoughts..

As a Syrian blogging community, we felt that we cannot stand and simply watch, without trying to help Abdel Kareem Soliman (a.k.a. 'Kareem Amer' ) in this time of suffering..

Abu Kareem, with his well-recognised enthusiasm, and his well-known insistence on standing by his convictions, started a web-base campaign to try and help Kareem..

I am privileged to post a copy of his article on my blog..

Please visit Abu Kareem's blog, leave a comment, and copy-and-paste his article on to your blog.. You can leave a comment here as well if you wish..

And here is what Abu Kareem said:

We, as a community of Syrian bloggers, condemn the arrest and sentencing of Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman for the peaceful expression of his dissenting views. We ask the Egyptian government to reconsider its decision to arrest and prosecute Abdel Kareem. The stated reasons for their action include the preservation of the public peace and state security, and the prevention of incitement against Islam. We contend that his arrest will achieve neither. Silencing such dissenting voices as Abdel Kareem’s, serves only to strengthen the hands of extremists who will not shy away from violence to achieve their goals. Moreover, we remind the Egyptian government that his arrest and prosecution violates at least two articles (see below) of the 1948 United Nations universal declaration of human rights to which Egypt was a signatory.Relevant United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles:Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.Such rights for freedom of expression are also enshrined in the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and the 2003 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's religion

Thank you for your support.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A moment to reflect...

Anyone following the news in the UK would have heard about the tragic train crash in Cumbria last night..
I heard about it first on a News Flash.. Cumbria is a large County located to the north of Lancashire, with a number of large hospitals in it.. So my first thoughts were that there is a small possibility that our Department, geographically located in the centre of Lancashire, might be involved.. Then the news came that patients are being airlifted, and I thought: Our Department is definitely going to be involved.. We have a helipad just outside our Department, while most of the Emergency Departments in Cumbria and northern Lancashire don't..

I was not on-call.. However, I have, after all, written our Hospital's Major Incident Plan, and I knew it inside out.. So, I rang the Department, and found out that we have been put on alert to receive patients. Resigned to the fact that my plans for a quiet evening have evaporated, I sped away in my car, green beacon flashing, on my way to Hospital.. My colleague who was on-call, now the Consultant In-Charge, was already in, and has already started organising the Department in preparation for the expected influx of casualties.. Some of my other colleagues arrived shortly afterwords, and the whole Hospital was springing into action, as the Major Incident Plan stipulated... Each of us was given certain tasks, on instructions from the Consultant In-Charge.. exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

The rest of the Hospital was also bustling with activity.. staff called in, volunteers directed to where they can be deployed, patients being moved, beds prepared, and theatres opened and staffed... exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

Casualties started arriving, and each was met by a team.. Each was assessed and treated according to the severity of their injuries.. exactly as the Major Incident Plan stipulated...

At about 01:30 am on Saturday, we were instructed to 'Stand Down', as the Ambulance Service has evacuated the last casualty from the scene.. and you could hear a collective sigh of relief.. We have come through.. as a Team.. as a Department.. as a Hospital.. A job well done.. but no-one could have been more relieved than yours truly!... This was the first time the Plan was 'tested', and, on the whole, it seems to have come out well..

Some of the casualties were admitted for observation, some for further treatment.. Others were discharged.. We spent the following two hours or so bringing the Department back into some sort of an order, and most of us were able to go home by 03:30.. I had the misfortune of being on-call on Saturday, so I had to be back at 09:00!...

I was quite prepared for another slog of many hours of hard work, dealing with the usual workload of the sick and injured.. What I was not expecting was to be hounded all day by the Press for comments, interviews, statements, and information... By the end of the evening, I had done four (or was it five?..) newspaper interviews, three telephone interviews with major news outlets (including SkyNews), two TV interviews (including ITN), and had my picture taken by half a dozen photographers.. to what purpose?.. God only knows!!.. I am absolutely certain that my contributions in this particular area were totally insignificant...

Before leaving for home tonight, I sat for 20 minutes in my office reviewing in my mind the events of the past 24 hours.. An immense sense of relief and satisfaction swept over me.. Relief that the condition of all our casualties has stabilised, although some are still critical.. Satisfaction with the way 'Team Lancashire' has come through..

(Of course, I exaggerate.. the girl in the pink uniform is not on our Team.. she does not have the right uniform!..)

There were some glitches, but no Major Incident response is complete without them!.. and there was nothing that could not be easily ironed out...

All that was tempered by the deep sense of sadness for the death of one casualty and the serious injuries suffered by so many... An elderly lady died at the scene, and several others were seriously injured.. some are being treated in our Hospital (including the train driver, and the daughter and son-in-law of the lady who died), while others are being cared for in Lancaster..

Nevertheless, one can only be grateful that things did not turn out to be as bad as we first feared.. the majority of passengers (90%) walked out unscathed, at least physically.. and that is blessing that we must be grateful for...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Proud to be Syrian.. yet another reason..

I feel that I should have written this ages ago.. about four years ago, in fact!!.. (Mind you, at the time, I didn't even know what 'blogging' was!..)

We are just over one month away from the fourth anniversary of the most devastating human catastrophe to befall our Region for centuries.. The invasion of Iraq..

Now, I am not going to talk about the morality or the legality of this war (I know.. I know.. legality?.. morality??.. and war???.. in the SAME sentence????... ). This has been debated to exhaustion on numerous platforms and all over the media.. I do not feel that I can add anything new to that debate...

It is the human catastrophe that I wish to talk about... Today, yet another car bomb devastates yet another location in Iraq.. scores killed.. hundreds maimed... and inevitably, thousands forced to consider leaving their homeland in pursuit of some sense of security...

Over four years ago, when the warmongering was gathering pace, many commentators warned about the devastation that will follow the invasion.. but they were labelled as 'spoilsports'!.. They were simply brushed aside as 'Saddamists', trying to deprive the Iraqis from the promised paradise of democracy, peace, and prosperity..

I remember at the time, my brother-in-law (he holds a high position in the Syrian Red Crescent) describing the plans to accommodate the influx of refugees that would be expected to flood across the border from Iraq, trying to escape the horrors that everyone was foreseeing.. (everyone, except for the invaders and their bandwagon, that is..)..

Sure enough, the refugees did flood in.. More like a rapidly rising tide, rather than a tsunami wave.. And Syria received them with open arms.. homes, schools, hospitals, jobs.. everything that was available to ordinary Syrians, was also available to our Iraqi brothers and sisters...

Now, anybody who have read my blogs and comments would know that I am no fan of the Syrian Regime. However, I also do not subscribe to the practice of attacking the Regime just for the heck of it.. (In fact, I have given up commenting on a number of blogs which encourage that attitude, for exactly that reason..).. The position of Syria as whole (ordinary people, 'civil societies', charitable organizations, and even Regime and Government) regarding the issue of the Iraqi refugees (and that of the Lebanese refugees when they needed our help) continues to be a source of immense pride and amazement for me..

Pride, because Syria has ALWAYS offered all it has, to share with anyone who needs it.. Even in the midst of the worsening Iraqi refugee crisis, Syria and the Syrians were willing to open their homes, and their hearts, to refugees from another neighbour.. The Lebanese were given the same welcome.. the same hospitality, if not more.... Amazement, because most Syrians are struggling to make ends meet in their everyday lives.. never mind sharing what scarce resources they have with others!!.. I have heard endless first-hand accounts from relatives of Iraqi friends about the hospitality of the ordinary Syrian people towards the Iraqis.. I will not bore you with such tales, amazing and incredible as they are... but, hey.. that is the Syrian way.. throughout the ages.. so, perhaps, I shouldn't be amazed!..

The recently announced plans to impose visa restrictions on Iraqi refugees should not detract from the fact that Syria, unlike other neighbouring Arab countries, is still prepared to provide safety and shelter to all those who need safety and shelter.. but no-one can do that indefinitely and without any rules or regulations..

I believe that credit should be given, where credit is due.. However, I also believe that, when the Syrian people opened their Country to fellow Arabs, they did not do that expecting anything in return..

And that makes this Syrian feel proud.. very proud, indeed..

(Photo: Busra Amphitheatre. Courtesy of Syria Looks)