Howling Eagle Productions

Dinner in Damascus

How a meal 14 000 kilometres removed from a conflict brought members of Australia's Gold Coast community together.

صار بيننا خبز و ملح

The Arabic quote "We share bread and salt" has a deeper message meaning "we are bonded now, as we shared a meal". By sharing a meal, you share not only food, but also your culture, your story, and your customs.

How a meal 14 000 kilometres removed from a conflict brought members of Australia's Gold Coast community together.

In March 2018, Syrian chefs took over the kitchen at a restaurant on the Gold Coast in Australia and guided their guests on a cultural and culinary experience to the old city of Damascus. Approximately 100 people attended the event, 'Dinner in Damascus'.

While Australia may be a country based on immigration, multiculturalism and diversity, it was the first time the majority of the guests tried Syrian food. The chefs made an immense effort to satisfy every taste bud, starting from the traditional aperitive, Tamir Hindi, that they replicated to taste just like in the Syrian markets. The chefs went out of their way to please the eyes with chopped parsley and fresh pomegranate decorating the meals and every aspect of the food presentation was carefully thought out because food presentation is extremely important.

لعين بتاكل

(it means "the eye eats")

Following the traditional Syrian buffet, guests engaged in listening to story-tellers with origins from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Greece, China and local Gold Coast artists and entrepreneurs. Guests went live to Damascus to hear from the Watad Educational and Musical Group, a scouting organisation utilising art as an educational tool to enhance the lives and provide psychosocial support to children in Syria. Guests also heard about local projects and organisations working together with displaced people and profits were raised to help refugees in the community through the Refugee Association of Logan.

The story-tellers showed immense courage, as did the chefs. It has been said that senses can restore memories and emotions and remembering the taste of Damascus, in a small, far away Australian city is not an easy task.

Some research has been done on the power-infused relations between hosting and being hosted, between giving and receiving, as well as the politics of food and hospitality and how food can create intimate environments, often in contrast to hostile realities, but more needs to be put into practice. The evening aimed to foster feelings of togetherness and connectivity, beyond borders and stereotypes, providing a platform for the people of the community (and far away) to share their stories and their individuality, which the Sheherazade Gold Coast Belly-dance Academy did so well. Guests jumped out of their seats at the sound of the dabkeh and embraced the food, the stories and the dance.

Dinner in Damascus provided guests on the Gold Coast with an intimate and enlightening experience from which everyone both gained something and gave a part of themselves as well. We hope to repeat this experience. Maybe in your city?

Jovana Mastilovic is a PhD Candidate @GriffLawSchool in Brisbane, Australia. Jovana's PhD research analyzes the impact of securitization on access to asylum in the European Union. Originally from Serbia, her passion concerning migration, mobility and security arose from a diverse personal and professional background. Follow her on Twitter @jomana_va

A civil defence rescue worker carries an injured child after an air strike in the rebel-held town of Hamouria in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region, 19 February 2018 Getty Images

Programmatic Activism From Syria

A REVIEW OF THE TWEETS USING THE HASHTAG #SAVEGHOUTA.

Findings from our analysis of the ongoing tweet and retweet activity using the hashtag #saveGhouta help us understand programmatic behavior on Twitter in connection with the current war in Syria and the complexities of the information landscape.

This hashtag has been used in activist campaigns to bring the world's attention to Eastern Ghouta, an area on the outskirt of Syria's capital Damascus where armed rebel groups have been locked in a fight with the Syrian government forces besieging them. Both civilians and opposition fighters are entangled in this dense urban tissue, and civilian casualties from government airstrikes have been rapidly mounting. The tragedy of Ghouta is being promoted for fundraising purposes by groups based in the United States, such as the Syrian American Medical Society. The Society's Facebook verified page prominently features the hashtag on its cover photo and is currently holding fundraisers.

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Might come handy!

The new immigration policy implemented by the Trump administration is threatening the Hispanic community's way of life.

Families are being broken apart and some American dreams are coming to an end. Under the new rules, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were previously protected from deportation are now fair game for federal immigration agents.

Shout! spoke with Juan Cartagena, president of Latino Justice, a New York-based national civil rights organization, earlier last year. He provided some practical advice for undocumented immigrants:

1. “You should carry documentation that proves that you’ve been living in the U.S. for at least two years.”

Photo by Nicole Harrington

In 1996, Congress passed a law that allowed the government to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants who have not been in the United States for a long period of time without allowing them to see a judge.

Past administrations had imposed limits on immigration officers' ability to do it. For example, under president Obama, ICE officers could only apply that law when an immigrant was arrested within 100 miles of the border and had not been in the U.S. for more than 14 days.

But under the Trump administration's new rules, you must have been living in the country for at least two years before officers are required to provide you with due process protections.

2. “Immigration officers that require consent to enter a private home must obtain permission in a language spoken by the resident.”

Photo by Jordan Andrews

Because of a federal class-action lawsuit filed a few years ago, immigration officers that require consent to enter a private home must obtain permission in a language spoken by the resident "whenever feasible."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 22 latinos that ended in 2013 with a settlement in which federal authorities agreed to establish new policies governing the conduct of ICE officers during raids.

3. “You can deny access to your home if the officer does not have a warrant.”

Photo by Brendon Griggs

4. “You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.”

Photo by Patrick Tomassa

"They have the right to remain silent and ask for legal representation. The constitution holds that due process applies to any person, not only citizens or legal residents," Mr. Cartagena argues.

5. “You are not alone.”

Photo by Omar Lopez

"Latino immigrants are not alone. There are a number of organizations like ours who are prepared to help them. I encourage them to seek our help. President Trump is trying to terrorize our communities, he's trying to oppress people," the president of Latino Justice said.

Soon on Shout! News: #FreeThe20

#FreeThe20: Extended Coverage On Shout! News

In 2015, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, announced the #FreeThe20 campaign, with the goal of freeing twenty female political prisoners abroad. Shout! News wants to see where they are now. These women's stories are coming soon. Get ready to be inspired. Sign up for our newsletter on the top right of this page to be notified when our stories are released.

Today, #WorldDayofSocialJustice, Remember One Of The World's Oldest Social Justice Warriors

You cannot explain Mexican culture without referencing Our Lady of Guadalupe. For Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, it is by far the most powerful symbol of identity.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic apparition of the Virgin Mary. And to millions it's not only a symbol of faith, her image is associated with anything from motherhood, to feminism to social justice."We grew up with her, we are used to seeing her. And as the Mexican-American population grows, the power of her image grows with it." said Latina author Pat Mora in an interview for NBC.

"She is used as a symbol of justice," she added, " she holds an appeal to the poor, to marginalized people. In the modern day, we can see her as representing people standing against oppression, declaring their independence."


To Eileen Truax, a Mexican journalist and author, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a chance for Mexican-American immigrants to embrace their heritage without being perceived as un-American: "To Mexican-Americans, it's an opportunity to be proud of their heritage."

But why? What's her story and how did it become such an important symbol?

Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe?

Our Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the few Marian apparitions that the Catholic Church considers "worthy of belief."

According to the church, the Virgin Mary appeared several times in Mexico before a 57-year old peasant named Juan Diego, who was walking near what is now Mexico City and came upon an apparition of the Virgin Mary. She told Juan Diego that she was the mother of Jesus and that she wanted a church on the Tepeyac Hill.

After he tried to convince the archbishop of what he had seen, Juan Diego was asked for proof.

He then returned to share the request with Mary and she instructed him to climb to the top of the Tepeyac Hill to gather flowers and bring them to the archbishop. At the top of the hill, Juan Diego found Castillian roses which were not native to the region.

The Castillian roses were arranged in Juan's tilma (a type of outer garment) and the Virgin instructed him to open the cloak in front of the archbishop.

When Juan Diego arrived back at the bishop's residence and opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the floor and on the surface of the tilma was the image that's come to be known as "Our Lady of Guadalupe".

Today the Basilica of Guadalupe stands on the site where the apparition is said to have taken place. The Basilica of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world and the third most-visited sacred place, according to Travel Leisure. One of the reasons is that the tilma bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on display.

Pope John Paul II, who canonized Juan Diego in 2002, declared the Virgin of Guadalupe "Queen of the Americas."

Why Is She A Social Justice Warrior?

Lady of Guadalupe chose to appear to a peasant, Juan Diego. She appeared to him and not a more senior member of the church. She also spoke his language, the language of the indigenous Mexican people. By appearing to a poor man and speaking in this way, Lady of Guadalupe showed that she was willing to show the indigenous people that they were welcome in the church and loved by God. Her inclusivity helped spread Catholicism to all people in Mexico.

Syrians unload humanitarian aid sent by United Nations (UN) at Haresta town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on July 2, 2016. Getty Images/Anadolu Agency

No Simple Solution for Syria — A Response to U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford

DO NOT cut aid to Syria.


[Update: Ambassador Robert Ford responded with the following statement on Twitter]

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford proposed a policy recommendation that cuts humanitarian aid to Syria. It's part of a strategy, which pressures Damascus to allow the United Nations to deliver aid to both government and opposition areas. This is simplistic and misguided.

Cutting U.N. humanitarian aid to Syria will only achieve two detrimental objectives for U.S. interests. It will cut the aid currently going to opposition-controlled areas, which will hurt millions of civilians who have no one to rely on for aid but the U.N.

For many Syrians inside government-controlled territories, U.N. aid is what keeps them alive. Only a few aid organizations are currently operating in areas controlled by President Bashar Al-Assad because the Syrian regime blocked aid to communities that support the opposition, according to Ambassador Ford and his co-author. The Syria Trust for Development is an organization that distributes aid provided by the U.N. and is chaired by Asma al-Assad, the president's wife.

However, recipients of U.N. aid are not exclusively composed of the regime and its supporters. In fact, most people, businesses, and organizations that are associated with the regime are under sanctions, meaning they are already denied aid. These individuals and entities have already figured out alternative ways to receive funds — either from the Syrian diaspora or countries who sympathize with Al-Assad. Threats to cut humanitarian aid will not work here.

Al-Assad and his gang don't rely on the U.N. or Western organizations for humanitarian aid. Iran and Russia have been providing the Syrian regime with enough financial assistance to keep it afloat (as a failed state, that is). No matter how many millions of dollars worth of aid the U.N. provides, ambassador Ford and his co-author recommend to cut it off. Yet it's a fact that Al-Assad's survival depends on billions of dollars in credit from Iran. Or the many Iranian investments that have been flooding into areas controlled by the regime.

That financial aid is, one might say, beyond imagination. It fueled the riots that recently took place in Iran. With the U.S. and the European Union exiting Idlib and the areas controlled by al-Nusra Front — under its new name, Hayet Tahrir al Sham, an offshoot of al-Qaeda — expect to see more Russian and Iranian funding rushing to fill that void and used as leverage against U.S. interests.

Furthermore, the U.S. will lose the small but not insignificant leverage it has on Al-Assad. Because the regime's survival does not depend on humanitarian aid provided by the U.N., cutting it off will not be enough to compel Al-Assad to change, as Ambassador Ford would like us to believe.

Kahina Souria is a Syrian expert from Damascus with extensive personal and professional network and experience on military, humanitarian and strategic issues in Syria. Follow her on Twitter.

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China to The Gambia. Google Maps

The Chinese Government Is Helping The Gambia Develop, But At What Cost?

Bijilo National Park

Yukiba Travel Community

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa, but what it lacks in geography, it makes up with good food, friendly people and beautiful nature. One attraction there is the Bijilo National Park, a forest that holds a variety of species of monkeys, birds and plants. In September 2017, the Chinese and Gambian governments announced that China is helping build an International Conference Center in the park to be finished in 2019.

Will The Conference Center Actually Help With Employment?

Bijilo Forest Park

Wikipedia

The theory behind this is that building a conference center will help with youth employment in the Gambia. While youth employment is something that every developing nation needs, including the Gambia, what is the price of removing hundreds of species of wildlife from their homes? While activists tried to prevent the conference center, their efforts were ultimately rendered useless in favor of the center.

How Should Countries Develop?

This ultimately brings up the question of how countries should develop. Should the Gambia develop with the help of another nation essentially paying for a supposed economic improvement? This will theoretically allow them to develop more quickly. Or should the Gambia focus on developing their own tourism industry and not take much help from other countries? This would mean much slower development, but the preservation of some of the elements that make the country special. What do you think?

About The Author

Allison Goulden is a junior at Juniata College majoring in Political Communication. She is the spring intern at Shout! News.

Rent Your Home To People In Need Through EmergencyBnB

​Are you wondering how exactly you can help refugees and others in need? Have you heard of EmergencyBnB yet?

EmergencyBnB is a platform like AirBnB but aimed at refugees, human trafficking victims, people who were impacted by natural disasters, and victims of domestic violence. The website was founded by Amr Arafa, an Egyptian immigrant living in Washington D.C. He wanted to "build a site that makes us a more solid society."

But How Does It Work?

If you have a space to share, you can register on the website as a host. If you are in need of a place to stay for a couple of days for free, you can register and get in contact with hosts. The website is mostly aimed at people who have to be away from home for, for example, asylum hearings, refugees, victims of human trafficking or people running away from abusive relationships.

To prevent people from taking advantage of the situation, you have to show documentation to the host: a refugee passport, a police report or a restraining order. EmergencyBnB has currently 13,000 users in the world.

A Success Story

Andrea Powell is the founder and executive director of Fair Girls DC. Fair Girls works with the victims of human trafficking. Fair Girls identifies victims, helps them out of their situations, helps them learn skills to be independent, and finally finds them places to live. Fair Girls recently used Emergency BnB to find two girls a home and the girls are now safe and happy.

How You Can Help

The world needs more stories like Andrea's. Sign up to host someone who needs a place to stay at emergencybnb.com.

About the Author

Allison Goulden is a junior at Juniata College where she is majoring in Political Communication. She is the spring intern at Shout! News.

Photo courtesy to TED.com

International Day Of Women and Girls in Science: An Interview With Dr. Janet Iwasa

February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. According to un.org, a study conducted in 14 countries shows that the "probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor's degree, Master's degree and Doctor's degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%." This means that throughout the scientific field, women are underrepresented worldwide. Thankfully, Dr. Janet Iwasa, who we had the pleasure of interviewing, has experienced a diverse, equal environment in which she conducts her research- primarily in molecular animation. Dr. Iwasa says that while she has never felt that she faced any road blocks in her field due to her gender, she has felt an absence of role models in the field and wishes that there were more role models of women in science who had families and were also running labs. Luckily, we get to see ladies like Dr. Iwasa doing amazing things every day.

What's it like to be a TED Fellow?

Dr. Iwasa's accomplishments in molecular animation have led her to becoming a TED Fellow, where she has gotten to see a diverse range of research, not only in science, but in dance, art and entrepreneurism. She says that she is inspired by all these different individuals working to make a change in their respective fields. In molecular biology, Dr. Iwasa has made big changes. From her start with learning about the protein kinesin and being inspired by its eventual animation, Dr. Iwasa used that inspiration to use animation as a tool to better understand molecular biology, specifically in research. Up until this point, animation was used primarily for undergraduate education and public outreach. Dr. Iwasa found that animation and research fit very naturally together. Since then, she has worked on animating HIV and animating some of the first life forms on Earth. She also has a website where she shows her animations, www.onemicron.com

What Advice Would You Give To Young Girls Who Are Interested In Science?

Dr. Iwasa wants young girls to know that the biology they learn in schools is so different from what studying biology is like in the real world. She says that it is important for people to not get intimidated by the rote memorization that students might experience in classes. She encourages students to try and visit or intern at a lab where they could explore more practical applications of biology. Dr. Iwasa also mentioned that she has been extremely impressed by her colleagues in the scientific community as of late. She has been inspired by scientists working to improve the public's understanding of science and maybe even running for office. When we asked if she was planning to run for president, unfortunately she said no! Hopefully one day she reconsiders.

A Great Role Model

Politics aside, young women worldwide are lucky to have a role model like Dr. Iwasa. She is an inspiring woman who has achieved so much in a field where women are overall underrepresented. Hopefully in the future there will be more work environments like Dr. Iwasa's graduate school lab, with equal representation between men and women. Until then, hopefully scientists will continue their mission for more transparency in the sciences and making information more accessible, as well as continuing to promote equal opportunities for women in the field.

Thank You, Dr. Iwasa

I am incredibly thankful to have gotten the opportunity to speak with Dr. Iwasa about her work and views on gender in science.

Allison Goulden is a Political Communication major at Juniata College. She is the spring semester intern at Shout! News.