Humanitarian voices in Sittwe, Myanmar

Posted on: February 1, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces", Refugee humanitarians

“What do we want?  Justice. Equality. Peace and freedom.” –Kyaw Kyaw, Rebel Riot     Humanitarian voices in Sittwe I recently talked with a humanitarian working in Myanmar, and we chatted about some recent events in the local poetry and music scenes that give reason for cautious hope. He forwarded a link to some graphic, compelling, and highly political videos recently produced by Turning Tables Myanmar. From their web page: Turning Tables Myanmar works to empower marginalized youth by providing the means to process and express their hopes, dreams and challenges, through the Creative Arts of music and film. We strive to address the root causes of inequality and provide support to a wide range of challenges in Myanmar from gender-based violence, tribalism, extremist groups, youth in urban slums and the communities in which they reside. The five videos, under the umbrella title “Transition This”, are all extraordinarily well done and…

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Confronting the lie of civilization through poetry

Posted on: January 28, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces", Refugee humanitarians

“My words are taller than the walls put between Buddhists and Muslims. My words are stronger than the hatred designed for me…My words build bridges between ethnic communities. My words fight against injustice and ignorance. My words have no religion. My words are for humanity. My words know no borders. My words are for peace and harmony.” -from the poem My Words by Rohingya refugee, Mayyu Ali   “Humanity is the only true nation.” -Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health   “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…” -Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights         A measure of our humanity According the the UNHCR there are over 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.  About double that number, over 140 million,…

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Mobile and wifi access a basic human right? Yes!

Posted on: November 15, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry, Refugee humanitarians

“The first thing a refugee asks for upon arrival at a camp is not water or food, but the Wi-Fi password. A smartphone has become a basic humanitarian need because it allows displaced people to connect with loved ones they’ve been separated from.” -Turkish telecom CEO Kaan Terzioglu at DAVOS, 2018   Mobile and wifi access a basic human right? Just now I am writing in a local coffee shop, surrounded by colleagues, students, and staff at my university, literally 100% of whom are connected via cell and/or wifi. In the global north where I live connectivity is essential, even vital, for day to day life. Is the same true for the rest of the world, especially those who are now refugees?  More specifically, in our globalized world, is cell and wifi access essential and therefore a basic human right? I’ll argue absolutely yes. Rohingya denied Over two months have passed…

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#RohingyaGenocideDay

Posted on: August 23, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Updated 25 August   “I would like to be part of an effort to promote unity and peace across the world. I feel that people often see the worst in each other and changing this outlook might help resolve conflicts.” –Khing Maung Soe, refugee humanitarian   “I want to send messages to my people and to the world through my poems. My poems are the real voice of Rohingya women that need to be heard. They too deserve equality.”  –Shahida, Rohingya refugee   “In contrast to those who suggest that we act as soon as the whistle blows, I suggest that, even before the whistle blows, we ceaselessly try to know the world in which we live — and act. Even if we must act on imperfect knowledge, we must never act as if knowing is no longer relevant.” -Mahmood Mamdani in Saviors and Survivors   Too many calls for our…

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Ro Anamul Hasan, Rohingya poet

Posted on: August 23, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

25 August 2017 “The day I can never forget, even in the hereafter.” –Ro Anamul Hasan Ro Anamul Hasan, Rohingya poet Harsh memories On this #RohingyaGenocideDay, I have been asked to share the voice of yet another Rohingya refugee humanitarian and poet. You can read about other Rohingya poets here. Below you can experience two of Anamul Hasan’s poems, and, scrolling down, you can hear his voice as he explains why he writes. Like the other young men and women I have profiled, Anamul Hasan is a ‘refugee humanitarian’, and has worked with MSF as an interpreter, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) doing field visits and data entry for IOM. These international humanitarian organizations are doing a good job, he tells me, though it can never be enough. Like many of his friends, he struggles to make meaning of his life and uses poetry to remember and to lay bare his memories and…

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Volunteer Rohingya workers = ‘refugee humanitarians’?

Posted on: August 18, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

“They are absolutely humanitarians, we couldn’t do anything without them. I am thrilled you are using that term. Using the term ‘humanitarians’ is not only empowering but essential to their sense of identify, resilience and self-reliance. With all the trauma they have experienced in the past, the ongoing protection concerns in the present, and their lack of durable solutions or ability to plan for the future, this is vital in their protracted displacement.” -Emily Reid, DRC Honoring volunteer and CFW Rohingya workers as ‘refugee humanitarians’ Humanitarians There are over 500,000 women and men responding to humanitarian crises around the world. Since 2008, each August 19th humanitarians around the globe observe World Humanitarian Day. The theme for this year’s World Humanitarian Day is #WomenHumanitarians, and stories highlighting the heroic efforts of female humanitarians can be found on the UN web site. But who are these ‘humanitarians’ being honored? Certainly they include women…

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Many voices needing to be heard

Posted on: August 6, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

“I would like to be part of an effort to promote unity and peace across the world. I feel that people often see the worst in each other and changing this outlook might help resolve conflicts.” –Khing Maung Soe, refugee humanitarian “Thus, the ultimate choice for a man, inasmuch as he is driven to transcend himself, is to create or to destroy, to love or to hate.” ― Erich Fromm, The Sane Society Many voices wanting to be heard In the last two months it has been my great pleasure and honor to meet (via WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime Messenger, etc.) many Rohingya refugees that now call Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh their (hopefully temporary) home. There are many poets in the camps, both men and women, and even writing groups that meet regularly. It is safe to say there are many hundreds of Rohingya poets who have collectively written thousands of…

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What is in a name? Introducing ‘Ro Pacifist’

Posted on: July 24, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

  “Nothing except writing poems can reduce my stress and sadness”. –Ro Pacifist   Refugee/humanitarian poets The are many poets among the Rohingya refugees ‘temporarily’ living in Cox’s Bazar, Banglasdesh, and the number is growing, especially among the young. Most use pen names, largely doing so as a protection against possible persecution were they to be identified by the Myanmar government which would have power over them in the increasingly unlikely event they were repatriated. That said, there is safety in numbers, and the fact there are more and more Rohingya poets every day publishing on Facebook and elsewhere makes the chance that any one person is singled out less likely. There is very little in their poems of which the world has not already been made painfully aware; the atrocities against the Rohingya are well documented. These poets sometimes gather in writing groups within the refugee camps, supporting each…

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Refugee/humanitarian, Shahida

Posted on: July 19, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Update 28-7-19 Shahida is a volunteer and is paid by IOM through the Cash for Food program.  She is featured here in a segment about the recent talks between Myanmas officials and Rohingya refugee leaders produced by Al Jazzera. “I want to send messages to my people and to the world through my poems.” -Shahdia Refugee/humanitarian, Shahida In recent posts it has been my honor to present, with comment, poems written by several young Rohingya men, all refugees who have found temporary contract work within the humanitarian sector in Bangladesh. Long overdue, I now introduce a woman, Shahida.  She describes her command of English “not very good”, but I have been able to learn a great deal about her through our text conversations and by reading her poems. Below I present some of her writing and report what I have learned from her. Here is how she introduced herself to…

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Interpreting the poetry of Rohingya refugees/humanitarians

Posted on: July 12, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Interpreting poetry through word clouds In my last several posts I have presented the poems of three young Rohingya men, calling them refugee/humanitarians. Here are the links for posts on Arif, Ro (here and here), and Zayed (here and here). Word clouds as tools Recent academic research into the use of word clouds indicates that presenting complex text into word cloud form can facilitate critical thinking, and current discussions about the pedagogical/teaching efficacy of using word clouds is both interesting and robust. Word clouds, of course, are but one tool that can be used to analyze textual content.  That said, using this particular tool on the poetry of Rohingya refugee/humanitarians yielded some stunning results. Using a basic word art generator I entered the text from all of the poems in my last several blog posts, the emotional words from Arif, Ro, and Zayed. I chose the shape of the word cloud…

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