Tag Archives: Bashar Al-Assad

Miss Myrtle’s Vancouver: Pomegranates

He smiled. Daroo had always seemed very serious, almost unapproachable. He struck me as being in his late 20’s, and he never cracked a smile. Ever.

Until the morning I put down my only grocery purchase – two large pomegranates. He smiled. I asked if he liked pomegranates, and he answered wistfully “We have two pomegranate trees in the garden, back at my home.” When I asked him where “home” was, Daroo responded “Syria”.  When pressed further, he added “in a small village near Aleppo”. Instantly, I understood the underlying sadness that his face always expressed. Hoping that Daroo might share the story of how he had come to Vancouver by way of Aleppo, asked if we could meet for coffee. He agreed.

Daroo was born in a Kurdish village near Afrin. It sits near the north-west border of Syria and Turkey. The region is called “Kurd-Dagh”, the Mountain of the Kurds. His parents still live there. The village is famous for its bountiful olive, fig and pomegranate trees. Daroo says that once you taste Afrin’s fruit, all others will forever pale in comparison.

“Neighbouring Azaz is also home to many Turkmen and Arab communities. Almost everyone, Kurds included, is Sunni Muslim. Kurdish identity is based not on religion, but on ethnicity and cultural heritage. Overlooking the Afrin River, within sight of the Turkish border, sprawl the vast Roman ruins of Cyrrhus” –  Diana Darke, BBC

The thriving, ancient Syrian city of Cyrrhus was founded in 300 BC, by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander The Great’s generals. Its history over the centuries includes Roman, Armenian, Byzantine/Justinian, Muslim and Crusader rule.

Daroo was born into a family of five sisters and one brother, with lots of aunts and uncles. He played with his brother, sisters and friends in the family garden and roamed the streets of his village and Afrin. He remembers that when he was a child, all the members of his family had to sign an Oath of Allegiance to the ruling Ba’ath Party, led by Hafez al-Assad. The family avoided politics, and the community was largely left to its own devices.

Daroo also remembers, that even as a young boy, he knew that he was “different”. He knew early in his life that he was gay. He was not alone – when he eventually went to work and study in Aleppo, he discovered a large, vibrant underground LGBTQ community, where he fit right in. The Hafez al-Assad Regime enforced Article 520 of the penal code of 1949, which prohibits “carnal relations against the order of nature”, and provides for up to three-years imprisonment. Members of that community have been and continue to be jailed, beaten and often executed. Neighbors and even family members continue to inform on others.

Someone reported Daroo in 2008. In jail for 5 days, in an underground cell, he and several friends were packed into “a shithole” where he often had to sleep standing up, hearing endless beatings and screaming. He himself was beaten so severely, that he passed out. The five days felt like five years. His frantic family pooled their resources and paid the local police and judges, expensive bribes. He, his two gay and one transgender friends, were finally released from jail. Even though he was released, he had to go back and forth to court for a year. Fortunately he was given parole.

In 2011 The Arab Spring, which had given so many in the Arab world hope, was hijacked by radicals, but all that the Kurds really wanted, was a secular Syrian Democracy. Life began to change for the worse. Even in the face of all of these challenges, Daroo found something that would underpin his life forever…

Daroo fell in love with the writings of William Shakespeare. He majored in English Literature at Aleppo University. The Bard’s plays transported Daroo to another time, another place – but they also spoke of the very contemporary treachery, horror, loves, lives, wars, births, deaths and laughter that were life in Kurdish Syria. Daroo and his classmates wrote their final exams in 2013. While he sat in the eerily quiet exam hall, with pen in hand, the Russians carpet-bombed the University.

His passion for Shakespeare shaped Daroo’s decision to remain in his family’s Aleppo home, even after they had returned to the relative safety of Afrin, because the Bashir Al Assad – Putin regime stepped up bombardments of Kurdish communities and “rebel strongholds” like Aleppo. On that fateful day in 2013, all around him, many of them friends as well as classmates, 80 students, died. Daroo kept his head down. He kept writing. “I studied so hard and so long I wanted to graduate or die. I wasn’t afraid, I was fatalistic.”

Daroo passed. Aleppo University exams were suspended for a month. Although he didn’t realize it, he was still in shock. The day he was awarded his BA in English Literature, he also received an official notice from the Syrian government, saying that he was drafted into the Syrian military, and must report to basic training. Then and there, Daroo made one of the most difficult decisions of his life. Leaving his beloved family, he fled to Turkey.

Months before, Daroo met a farmer who transported tea and cigarettes into Turkey, in bags on the backs of several donkeys that he owned, in order to support his family, including small children. The man lived in the next village Sheeh, one village over from Afrin. Daroo helped carry some of those bags across the border into Turkey.

His sister had married a Turkish man and was living in Turkey. She had a passport and met Daroo after he crossed the border. He sat, emotionally exhausted, as she drove back to her family home. Daroo lived with his sister and brother-in-law for the next year. They all worked cutting fabric 12 hrs/6 days/per week for 600 turkish lira ($140 Cdn), to survive.

Daroo had applied for a passport before fleeing Syria. Amazingly, a year later, his passport in Aleppo was ready. He stole across the border to Afrin and bribed someone to steal his passport and bring it to him in Afrin. Passport in hand, he fled Syria for Turkey, and eventually made his way to Canada, Vancouver… And a New Life.

To be continued … Pomegranates 1

Footnote. Have never been a chest-pounding smug Canadian, but am very proud of our Country for taking in over 50,000 Syrian Refugees over the past four years. Many people came to Vancouver, and in spite of facing so many challenges, continue to enrich our Community in many ways. Yes, our social support systems are stretched – but life for those who fled the horrors of the Syrian war and impending Kurdish Genocide, is now bearable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrrhus

Never Again Is Now! Remembrance Day November 11, 2018

Never Again Is Now!

Yesterday, Traitor-In-Chief, Fake President Trump stayed in his hotel and tweeted hateful comments to Californians while their state became an inferno. Others, REAL Leaders honored those who served and died, to defend Democracy. They attended memorial services across France.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Vimy Ridge Memorial, where he laid a wreath and made a heart-felt speech in the pouring rain. Vimy holds a special place in Canadian’s hearts and consciousness. 66,000 fought and died during World War One. The Canadian Expeditionary Force served with distinction.

Trudeau at Vimy Nov 10 2018 Canadian Expeditionary Force Flag

They fought heroically at the Battle of Arras, wherein lies Vimy Ridge, and on other bloody battlefields across Europe. On the 11th hour of the 11th day, Armistice Day, we remember their sacrifice during the Great War. We said Never Again.

Canada itself had only become a nation in 1867. At the start of World War 1 in 1914, Canada’s population was just under 8 million. Over 619,000 Canadians enlisted and served, both at home and abroad. Putting that into context, our losses were staggering. While so many perished on the battlefield, many came home alive, but irreparably damaged.

World War 1 was the first major global conflict in which chemical weapons were used. In this case mustard gas, phosgene gas, chlorine gas and tear gas were deployed with deadly and life-changing consequences. The newly invented machine gun and bombs propelled the permanent need for on-site amputations of arms and legs. The number of those surgeries was astronomical. Shell Shock became the euphemism for PTSD. Needless to say, those who survived the Great War, came home with serious untreated mental health issues that they never talked about. Those issues haunted them to their grave. The painting below is by renowned artist John Singer Sargent…

Chemical Weapons Soldiers WW1 John Singer Sargent

The Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and the Canadian Army Nursing Service performed heroically on the European battlefields. They had previously distinguished themselves attending to Canadian soldiers in South Africa, during the Boer War (1899-1902) and at home.

WW1 Royal Canadian Medical Corps  WOUNDED GROUP Canadian Soldiers WW1

Canada Remembers because the Battle to Save Democracy NEVER Ends.

Nurse with Wounded Soldiers  Canadian Nurses Burial WW1

That is why my Russian grandfather fled the Jewish Pogroms, joined the French Foreign Legion, then joined the British Army and fought in WWI. He eventually made his way to Canada, where he worked and raised a family. My father, his son, served in the Royal Canadian Navy during WW2, working on dangerous North Atlantic convoys. Two of his brothers served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. One became an acclaimed war artist, whose paintings of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Hamburg and Hanover, hang in the National War Museum in Ottawa. What he witnessed, haunted him for the rest of his life.

Aba Bayefsky War Museum2  Aba Bayefsky War Museum1

Canadians have always had our American Cousin’s backs, never more so than today. We have served in the trenches of every major global conflict, with our American Cousins.

That is why it is so important, perhaps even more important today, to continue the Fight To Save Democracy. Make no mistake, nothing less than global Democracy is at stake in these perilous times. As Putin’s Puppet Donald Trump, meets with his master in France, the Republican Party that is no longer the Party of Lincoln, helped install him. We must understand that while many of the battlefields have changed, the battles are just as bloody.

Putin has weaponized social media and the internet. As he masses forces on Ukraine, Belarus, Polish, Finland & other borders, he has become the de facto ruler of Syria. He and Bashar Al Assad have bombed the Syrian People into oblivion. Putin is playing all sides against each other, hoping to draw America, Iran, Israel, Syria and Saudi Arabia into an all-out Middle East war. He has created chaos everywhere.

He finances and manipulates White Supremacists and domestic terrorists in Europe and North America, uses his own mercenaries in Africa and elsewhere. Very quietly, Putin has taken over much of the Arctic. His newest ice-breaking nuclear submarines have disappeared off the radar, but my money’s on them being in the Arctic, where drilling for oil has become a priority.

Russian Nuclear Sub Prince Vladimir 2017  Medvedev Russian Nuclear Attack Submarine 4th Generation

He and his cronies the Russian Oligarchs have looted and pillaged Russia. They have become obscenely wealthy, at the expense of the Russian people. The economy has fallen flat. His propaganda machine is in overdrive. Once again the Russian people are at the mercy of a cold-blooded tyrant who is murdering his opposition, with impunity. My Russian grandfather is turning over in his grave.

Robert Mueller, his team of Trump Russia Investigators, other intelligence agencies, judicial bodies, investigative journalists – foreign and domestic, Allies around the World and concerned citizens everywhere, have a part to play in the Battle to Save Democracy. Now is The Time For All True Patriots To Come To The Aid Of Their Country – On this Remembrance Day 2018, Never Again is NOW!

– End –

In Flanders Field was written by  Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, in 1915. It was written after the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. Since World War One, the Canadian Legion, Canada’s War Amps, the Vimy Foundation, Veterans Affairs and others have played an important role in addressing Veterans needs, and making sure that their contributions to preserving Democracy are honored, from generation to generation.

in-flanders-fields-by-john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields-the-6375884  330px-Lieut.-Col._John_McCrae,_M.D.

Please donate to these organizations, so that the never-ending services and support that they give Our Veterans can continue: Lest We Forget

@RoyalCdnLegion https://www.legion.ca/ @TheWarAmps https://www.waramps.ca/home/ @vimyfoundation https://www.vimyfoundation.ca/ @CanWarMuseum https://www.warmuseum.ca/

Miss Myrtle’s Rectal Cranial Impaction Hall of Fame Part 6

Illegitimi non carborundum – Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Bugs and Daffy Around Campfire

Here for your edification and enjoyment are yet more Inductees into the Rectal Cranial Impaction Hall of Fame. These are the folks who leave us dumbfounded, dumbstruck and dumbfucked, in no particular order:

DISCLAIMERS: Any picture/Inductee duplication is purely intentional. You may also notice that the majority of Inductees are men. Dearies, that should require no further explanation. This blog post includes text and photos…because a picture is worth a thousand words.

SPECIAL THANKS to Colonel Morris Davis, former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor for creating the phrase Rectal Cranial Impaction

Dear Hearts, am still reeling and recovering from 2015. It was a horrific year on every front. Am raising a glass of champers in memory of those we lost in Paris, San Bernardino, Charleston, Umpqua, Garissa University, and everywhere our loved ones have been taken from us by gun violence.

Raising another glass to us all, in the hopes that 2016 will be an improvement.

That fervent hope was dashed when Ammon and Ryan Bundy and their Bundy Militia “occupied” the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in  Princeton, Oregon, ostensibly to air land-ownership grievances. This bumbling insurrection spawned the outstanding twitter hashtags #YokelHaram #YallQueda #Talibanjo and many more. The Citizens for Constitutional Freedom began running low on supplies last week and sent out an urgent request to supporters – #SendSnacks. Honestly Dearies, I could not make this up. When care packages began arriving with French Vanilla coffee cream and sex toys, reluctantly coined my own hashtag… #DildosAreUs.

AmmosexualsBundy Militia Toon John Cole   Bundy Militia Recruits Arrive TY IamBlueTrek

That other family Gong Show, fondly known as the GOP Clown Car Presidential Campaign rolls blithely on. The Illuminati continue trying to outrageously outdo one another, but Cirque Du Toupee aka Donald Trump has cornered the market on Hate Fear and Lies . His Hate List has grown from Mexicans/hispanics, blacks, women, workers, unions, The New York Times and yadda yadda yadda, to include Muslims and whatever bogeyman next appears on the horizon . This bombastic, bloviating, bullying buffoon continues to confound the political pundits. The GOP don’t have the balls to stand up to him. If only Donald Trump’s grasp of The Constitution were as his firm embrace of Mein Kampf...

Donald Trump Putin Horse BFFsAffluenza-duo  Mad Magazine

NEVER has there been a field of Republican incompetents like this one! Ted Cruz of Canadian Birther fame, has just been endorsed by that great patriot Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Carly Fiorina ground Hewlett-Packard and other companies into the dust as CEO and decided that qualified her to lead The Greatest Nation on Earth. Brain surgeon Ben Carson has apparently gone off his psych meds, and visited Egypt’s Pyramids… oops grain silos, to improve his foreign policy grasp, while Mike Huckabilly palled around with Josh Duggar and Kim Davis, and visited The Flintstones, er, I mean Afghanistan. The list goes on and on and on.

2016_Republican_Clown_Car_Parade_-_Trump_Exta_Special_Edition_(18739683269)

Here in Canada, we are greeting the New Year with hope, having relegated despot Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party to the dustbin of history. The Liberals and Justin Trudeau have the daunting task of restoring Democracy, bolstering an economy of life-support (Harper put all of Canada’s eggs in the Oil Industry Basket) and returning Canada to its rightful place in the community of nations. While I didn’t vote for Trudeau, certainly wish he and The Team well. Tea Party North flyweights Rona Ambrose, Jason Kenney, Michelle Rempel and the rest of  The Can’t Shoot Straight Gang oppose Trudeau at every turn…pretending they didn’t create the mess we find ourselves in. I have a suggestion for these imbeciles – STFU!

Cons Lose Cartoon Malcolm Mayes Tory Caucus

Talk about timing, it’s Oscar Season and The Big Short is now on big-screens everywhere. How appropriate then, that the beacon of Wall Street integrity and financial acumen, Goldman Sachs starts the New Year with a $5 billion dollar settlement for selling fraudulent mortgages, helping to precipitate the Financial Crisis of 2008. Honestly Dearies, GS is The Gift That Keeps On Giving. As does Volkswagen. The US Department of Justice is seeking up to $48 billion dollars in fines for cheating on auto emissions tests. Das Auto … Das Bullshit!

Goldman Sachs Toon Joe Heller  Vokswagen Toon John Darkow

There is a Special Place In Hell reserved for Bashar Al Assad. Having decimated and dessicrated Syria,  Assad has murdered more than a quarter of a million of his people, many of them children. He has precipitated an international refugee crisis the likes of which have never been seen. The deliberate and calculated starving of Madaya, Foua and Kfaryawere, is unprecedented since Josef Stalin. And the World again stands by and does NOTHING. Joining Assad in Hell is his enabler, Vladimir Putin, who in his maniacal quest for world domination, continues to bomb Syrian children and their families into oblivion. He has also crossed another political opponent off of his Hit List. Author and political commentator Vladimir Pribylovsky was murdered in Moscow earlier this week. Of course there is NO suspect in the crime.  Our final Place in Hell  is reserved for Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who callously and with deliberate calculation allowed the mainly black citizens of Flint, Michigan to be poisoned by their own water. From railing against the Federal government and crowing his own successes, this pathetic hypocrite is now whining for Federal aid while the Flint Water Crisis deepens. As that great filmmaker and social commentator Michael Moore says… #ArrestGovSnyder.

Assad David Simonds bertrams-putin Gov Snyder Mike Thonmpson

We are only halfway through January 2016 and my head is ready to explode Dearies. Will leave it there, crack open a bottle of single malt and ponder the meaning of existence. There are so many potential Inductees into the Rectal Cranial Impaction Hall of Fame… and so little time! Your suggestions are always welcome.

Thank You Cartoonists John Cole, Dave Granlund, Donkey Hotey, Malcolm Mayes, Joe Heller, John Darkow, David Simonds, Joep Bertrams, Mike Thompson

 

 

 

The Kansas City Royals and American Pharoah Saved 2015

Dearies, have not written about American Pharoah capturing the almost unattainable Triple Crown and The Kansas City Royals coming back from the abyss to win the World Series, for fear that I would wake up and discover that it had all been a dream. A glorious dream, but none the less the gossamer wings of a dream…

American Pharoah (2)  Kansas City Royals Win World Series

As we enter 2016, am finding it difficult to express my sorrow over the horrific global events  of 2015. The Paris, San Bernardino and Charleston Church terrorist attacks have turned the World on its head. We have been shaken to our core.

Paris After ISIS Attacks 2 San Bernardino Charleston Church Victims

The continuing genocide in Syria with the relentless bombings of Syrian citizens by Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad, created a humanitarian crisis the likes of which the World has not seen since World War 2. The deliberate starvation of of Madaya and Zabadani, the flight of Syrian Refugees and our failure to act, have almost paralyzed us.

Syrian Refugee Camp  Alan Kurdi  ISIS Flag

The year started with the horrific massacre of French political cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, by Al Quaeda. Al Shabaab, an Al Queda branch, murders 148 at Garissa University College in Kenya. ISIS – the radical Sunni brand, expands its House of War – exploiting the chaos of the Middle East, to Europe and beyond. Disenfranchised youth from around the World are answering their siren call. ISIS continued its public beheadings, the murder and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of citizens trapped in their grasp and the destruction of historic landmarks,.

No one in their right mind could have predicted the rise of bombastic, bloviating buffoon Donald Trump. His high-jacking of the Republican Party and polarizing of The Angry American Right Wing is breathtaking to contemplate. The GOP Clown Car is full: Space-cadet Ben Carson proves that going off of your psych meds can be a very dangerous thing, and Carly Fiorina demonstrates that grinding Hewlett Packard into the dust was just a warm-up for a Presidential run.  Jeb Bush underscores the fact that Dubya was indeed a doofus. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are embarrassments to their Hispanic roots: Mike Huckabee and rest of this motley crew prove that GOP Jesus is a vengeful, hateful, hypocrite. NEVER in its history has the GOP sunk this low. Teddy Roosevelt is turning over in his grave!

GOP Clown Car Toon (2)    Donald Trump Putin Horse BFFs

Canada’s very own fascists, The Alliance Party-In-Conservative-Clothing, were vanquished by an angry Canadian electorate. Stephen Harper was relegated to the dustbin of History. The Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau – son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau were elected by acclamation. Mine was not one of his votes, but I do wish he and his Cabinet well. They have the Herculean task of undoing nearly 10 years of Harper damage. Especially wish my friend Harjit Sajjan well, as new Defense Minister. Australia’s ruling Liberal Party dumped their despotic leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

HarperTrudeau Cabinet Tony Abbott

But I digress…

Watching American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza romp home in the Kentucky Derby, for trainer Bob Baffert and Owner Ahmed Zayat, had my heart pounding. His victory in the Preakness Stakes left me breathless and fearfully hopeful. But his victory in the Belmont Stakes in early June, accomplished what no other horse has since Affirmed and jockey Steve Cauthen in 1978…They won the Triple Crown. It was the same feeling of elation I had, being at Belmont to see Affirmed win. The Heart of a Champions is biggest of all…

American Pharoah KD WinnersCircle

And then, that Cinderella of baseball teams, the Kansas City Royals – who knew only too well that defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory, made it into the World Series again, looking to end a 30-year drought. What General Manager Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost did for team owner David D. Glass was magical. Salvador Perez, Drew Butera, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Colon, Johnny Cueto, Wade Davis,  Danny Duffy,  Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar,  Alex Gordon, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Eric Hosmer, Ryan Madson, Kris Medlen, Raul Mondesi, Franklin Morales, Kendrys Morales, Mike Mousakis, Paulo Orlando, Alex Rios, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ben Zobrist  all played with The Heart of Champions.

KC Royals

So it comes down to this – Did Kansas City winning the World Series or American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown, stop the bombing in Syria, the carnage in Paris or the chaos in the Middle East? No, they did not. But sport is also  a metaphor for Life.

As that great wit and raconteur, the late and much-missed Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over til it’s over. Terrorism, genocide, refugee crisis’ – man’s inhumanity to man, will always be with us. Thankfully, the Kansas City Royals and American Pharoah continue to write their stories.  There will always be another pennant to chase, a baby champion to create  and an impossible race or game to win.

And there will always be a reason for Hope in The Better Angels of Our Nature.