Qatar, The Man Who Wears Too Much Cologne

Damnation. I have a Birkenstock tan on my feet. I self-consciously run into the swimming pool the moment I notice, pretending the floor is hot as I ooo-ahh my way into the cool water and give a pretend sigh of relief to the family staring at me. As usual, I am too busy being concerned about what other people think that I found myself making the same mistakes, and it was later that afternoon I realised I was once again negligent with the sunscreen. I cursed at myself as I visually toured my body in the bathroom mirror, peering over the tan lines that were all over me from my midriff to the sides of my neck. I look like a harpsichord!

Apart from the self-effacing critique worthy of any thespian tragedy, I will admit spending the incredibly hot day on Banana Island after a ridiculous fifteen hour flight from Melbourne to Doha was exactly what I needed. If it weren’t for the gruesome exhaustion, however, I would likely hate this place. The superficiality, the plastic plants, the buffet of cheesecakes made from artificial powder all of which I avoided. Resorts are not my thing, but maybe it is the type of place for families with children who can enjoy the recreational activities available, or the pretentious who want to relish in their wealth. It can cost a hefty amount to stay there, but luckily they offer day tickets for outsiders like me to visit and for 350 riyal, you can get a ferry to the island and some food and recreational vouchers.

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Syria: The Past. The Present. The Future?

My brief experience recently visiting Turkey has completely transformed me. With all the challenges that I faced, one of the greatest was failing to understand the sheer scale of the devastation the Syrian war has inflicted on so many innocent people. It is well known that while I have an impenetrable and staunch commitment to human rights, I am also extremely empathetic to a point that I almost feel the suffering of others and this pain has vicariously and rather deeply hurt. I felt helpless, heartbroken, desperate and unable to speak to anyone, the indifference only perpetuated the feelings I was having.

With my professional experience in human rights and procurement, I intend to return with close friends and bring with me the funding necessary to assist those who are most vulnerable and in need as we together support one another to face the struggles we are likely to encounter. The most important, however, is to bring an understanding of the history and the politics of the region that has wreaked such havoc and caused so much unnecessary suffering. The civil war in Syria has seen more than half a million innocent people killed since it began in 2011, with 5.7 million refugees fleeing the country and 6.1 million internally displaced. Thousands upon thousands of people have died that have never had the respect and dignity of a burial. What happened in Syria that caused such horror?

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Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Arms Race Continues

In 2017, Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia signed a $110 billion dollar arms deal. It was clearly articulated that the purpose was to strengthen the “long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats.” The long-term security of Saudi Arabia? According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) in Yemen, there have been over 56,000 people killed since 2016 and complicit to this atrocity is neighbouring Saudi Arabia who – along with their allies – marketed the violence to be less intense and thus less of a concern. While they signed this deal, tens of thousands of Yemeni were suffering from starvation and malnutrition as well as well as preventable diseases.

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My Soul Aches For Bethlehem

I always wake up before sunrise, no longer needing any alarm and I rug up in my warm clothing and wander the quiet gardens as the morning beams of light penetrate the atmosphere and colour the clouds with a scarlet glow. It is a time of quiet for me to gather my thoughts, to solidify my disposition and prepare for what is often a long day at work full of meetings and people and reports. Read More

The Rose City

“Make sure,” he said, pointing out into the middle of the bus, “to not give in, okay!” He was one of those tour guides where I was not entirely sure if he was honest or just believable because he spoke with confidence about things we knew nothing about. It seemed as though anything he said – even if it was absurd – must be true only because he said it loudly and with a firm expression. He was the expert after all. “No one in Jordan steals!” was one such comment. Read More

An Aussie Intern in Israel

From the soundless alarm made from the gentle, orange sunrise piercing through the giant tree outside my bedroom window that form shapes on the wall to the random crazy man shouting for no apparent reason on the side of the street. The impolite service, the politics, history, feeling lost in the maze of an unknown language as I stand in shock as people ride hand-made motorised bicycles in the middle of a busy, disorganised road. The combination of young, perfectly tanned girls wearing short dresses that expose their tattoos to women dressed modestly in long skirts and shirts with a scarf over their heads. The dilapidated buildings and infrastructure that is nevertheless functional and the sudden silence during shabbat. On one end I see an overweight, bearded man wearing a payos and hat with a gun strapped around his thigh and on the other I see young, attractive men sipping beers in their board shorts. I am lost in the chaos, overwhelmed by the constant honking of the horns, the failure to understand where to go or what bus to catch. And I love every minute of it. Read More