The Gazan Youth Manifesto…..Let the “cyber-scream” never be silenced.

The Guardian called it “an incendiary document written with courage and furious energy…  an extraordinary, impassioned cyber-scream.”  It’s the Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change which hit the press in early January. Don’t let its message get lost in all the global insanity which has taken place since then.

It demands to be read, so here it is, in full:

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom.

We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.
There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30rd November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization ( with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare.

It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect. We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our Facebook wall (Gaza Youth Breaks Out — GYBO) or contact us directly:

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.

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“White City” in Afghanistan – Black Heart in Florida

From: Kabul, Afghanistan

As Pastor Terry Jones revels in his victory against Islam while he basks in the Florida sun thousands of miles away savoring both limelight and vindication, the city of Kabul, from where I write, and the rest of Afghanistan has been declared “White City”, which is a United Nations order requiring that all of its personnel remain locked down in their compounds. Although “White City” is technically a UN security alert…its highest security alert…it is a well-known and long-standing signal to everyone else on the ground here, both Afghan and foreigner alike, that extreme danger is at hand and that they too should secure themselves accordingly. Credible rumor has it that the UN will decide in the next few hours whether to completely pull out of the country, despite multiple assertions to the contrary by the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, who is based in Kabul. Given the current situation on the ground, the decision to stay or go seems relatively moot, since what will now be even more heightened security will only serve to eclipse the UN’s current mandate here, such as it is. (To provide political and strategic advice for the peace process; provide good offices; help the government implement the Afghanistan Compact, the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the National Drugs Control Strategy; promote human rights; provide technical assistance; and continue to manage and coordinate all UN-led humanitarian relief, recovery, reconstruction and development activities in Afghanistan.) If the UN mandate’s first order of business is to “provide political and strategic advice for the peace process”, then its presence in this place is wasted, given that the mission was established here almost a decade ago and there is not a peace process in sight for it to advise on and there never will be. All the UN can do here is to try to pick up the pieces after and while the US does its destructive thing in a military mission with no purpose and no end. There should never have been the need for a UN mission in Mazar-e-Sharif in the first place, despite its good works. Those dedicated UN staffers should not be dead. The protestors should have vented their anger peacefully, and Terry Jones should have kept his black hearted blasphemy in Gainesville, Florida, rather than premeditatively and sinfully using it to turn Afghanistan “white.” If Mr. Jones was so hell-bent on making his point, he could have brought his kerosene-soaked Quran to Mazar-e-Sharif himself and set it ablaze in the physical presence of those whom he despises so much, but that would have required a courage about which he knows nothing…. a courage which was reserved for those who were murdered in his place.

As I conclude this piece, my window is open and I am listening to the first call to prayer of the day being beautifully sung at the nearby mosque. Enshallah (God willing), today will be a peaceful day here. Enshallah, the UN staffers who were killed have found their own peace.

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Postscript to an Open Letter to President Obama: Mr. President, Know Thyself

By: Kathleen Kirwin

March 19, 2011

Mr. President, yesterday you proudly and vehemently “raised your voice against the violence of the oppressed” in Libya. You proclaimed:

All attacks against civilians must stop.

Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back… and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya or the “international community will make him suffer the consequences” with military action.

These words and sentiments are familiar to you, Mr. President, since you lifted them from Afghan President Karzai less than a week ago. The only discernable difference is that President Karzai was not railing about Qadaffi at the time—he was talking about you. In point of fact, he was talking directly to you. He spoke to you as he attended the memorials of nine children your military subordinates killed on your behalf and at your command on the 1st of March. [I feel compelled to offer a piece of free legal advice at this time: consider refreshing yourself on the law regarding “command responsibility” and the concomitant criminal liability attached thereto.] In that regard, you and Muammar Qadaffi are brothers.  He is killing civilians as we speak. You are killing civilians as we speak. He is bombing civilians. You are bombing civilians. It is your war which will not allow “water, electricity, and gas supplies to all, or hardly any, areas of Afghanistan.  It is your war which prevents humanitarian assistance from reaching the people of Afghanistan, just as you say Qadaffi’s does. And according to both of you, you justify your respective wars on fighting the threat of Al Qaida, the ubiquitous enemy.

You have demanded, backed by an unveiled threat of force, that a sitting president of a sovereign state, Muammar Qadaffi, “stop killing civilians.” The sitting president of another sovereign state, Afghanistan, has demanded the exact same of you–repeatedly–and yet how disparately you deliver and receive the identical message. Your arrogance knows no bounds.

In making that repeated demand as he did last week as he stood with grieving families of dead children, Karzai let it be known that, “This is the voice of Afghanistan.” And notwithstanding that it’s a voice you have ignored, flaunted, denied, and rationalized, for almost three years now, it is the one thing in Afghanistan you have NOT managed to kill or destroy. The Afghan “voice’ is the only “weapon” the people have left and you cannot take it from them. It’s theirs and you can’t have it, no matter how many individual voices you continue to silence by death. It is also the voice of America, but you are as deaf to that voice as you are to President Karzai and his people. But I know you will listen, ever so carefully, to every word and nuance of Muammar Qadaffi in the coming hours, and even before the last word is spoken, you will kill his civilians for him and save him the trouble. You expect, demand, and threaten, while even now your first bombs and those of your “allies” are falling on Libya, that Qadaffi do what you will not– stop killing civilians.

“…I knew that I could not ever again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greater purveyor of violence in the world: my own government.” Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April 4, 1967.

Mr. President, know thyself.

       [Kathleen Kirwin is a trial attorney specializing in high-level civil rights and criminal cases and is currently based in Sarasota, Florida. She also practices international human rights and criminal law and has been an anti-war activist for the past 40 years. Kathleen can be contacted at  Her new website, The Revolutionary Legal Front, is under construction and will be online soon.]

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Peace is not yours to give, Mr. President. But hope is certainly yours to take away.

 As I listened to a friend and colleague in Afghanistan a few days ago, the difference I discerned in his voice from previous conversations was visceral. That he unswervingly and joyfully dedicates his every thought, word and deed to advocating for peace in Afghanistan through peaceful means made his tone and tenor all the more heart-wrenching. Our phone connection was not clear, but I thought I heard him say something akin to: I never thought I would hear myself say that the Afghan people need hope now more than they need peace. What I know I did hear him say clearly shortly thereafter was: “The people have nothing to lose now. They are being killed anyway.”  That you, Mr. Obama, are now singularly responsible for stealing the hope of the ordinary People of Afghanistan is an abomination. That you continue to steal it in the way that you do, however, is a crime of the deepest shame. I have come to know my friend well enough to know that he does not “hurt” for himself because of the hopelessness and pain you inflict, but rather for each and every individual person who makes up the “ordinary” People of Afghanistan: the infants and small children, the youth a few years older, the elders, the women who care for all, and the men who now find themselves having to protect their families against you. Such is the legacy you have created for yourself.

 For his safety, my friend’s name shall remain anonymous, but his sentiments shall not, if I have anything to say about it, Mr. President, which I do.  (See, First Amendment to the United States Constitution: Right to Petition government for Redress of Grievances.)

 As you may or may not recall, you based your campaign to be the president of this nation on the premise and promise of “hope.” The ironies here abound. The ironies are sickening.  I am not unaware that you inherited a “war” already in progress in Afghanistan on your first day in office. But such inheritance is not a defense to any concern of mine.  And nor was it, nor is it, apparently, any concern of yours. You were eager for this war and you championed it. You campaigned to be the supreme military commander of it. You criticized your predecessor for not paying enough attention to it. You committed to send more troops to it even before having the elected authority to do so, and you touted it as the “good war”, in juxtaposition to Iraq, the ostensible “bad war.” More ironies abound. More ironies sicken. You are not a man of peace, as my friend is, Mr. President, and your award last year would have made Alfred Nobel throw up. A man of peace would be wise enough to know that peace cannot be imposed where there are no enemies except for the enemies one makes trying to impose peace. Peace cannot be dictated from afar, it cannot be lectured, it cannot be strategized, it cannot be politicized, it cannot be threatened,  it cannot be bought, and it certainly cannot be bombed into existence. Peace is not yours to give to Afghanistan, Mr. Obama, and it never will be, no matter if you stay there until kingdom comes. Peace is a choice and it is a choice you have no standing to make in that place. Peace will come, or not, to Afghanistan and to every Afghan, from within, by and through their own choices, not by the erstwhile beneficence of whether you choose to war there on any given day in their name. Your only possible contribution to peace in Afghanistan can be to get out of the way of the only people capable of creating peace there. Simply get out of the way, for peace will never come…. choices can never be made… while you murder and maim, while you occupy, destroy and desecrate a people whose hope you have stolen

       [Kathleen Kirwin has recently returned from Afghanistan. She is a trial attorney specializing in high-level civil rights and criminal cases and is currently based in Sarasota, Florida. She also practices international human rights and criminal law and has been an anti-war activist for the past 40 years. Kathleen can be contacted at  Her new website, The Revolutionary Legal Front, is under construction and will be online soon.]

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The 2011 Taliban Spring Offensive: Obama’s Obligation to Protect Afghan Civilians Under International Humanitarian Law

On Saturday, March 30th, the Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under its nom de guerre, The Taliban, declared the launch of this year’s spring military operations (the “Spring Offensive”) against the “invading Americans”, their foreign allies, internal supporters, high ranking officials of the Karzai government, including cabinet members and lawmakers, as well as heads of foreign and local companies who work with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In response to, and in anticipation of, the Taliban’s announcement, NATO officials in Brussels have advised that international forces in Afghanistan have tightened security, security services employed by “westerners” working in Afghanistan have issued lockdowns and travel restrictions, the Afghan government has tightened security across the country and security has been increased at military bases. In Kabul, extra police have been stationed at the checkpoints known as the “ring of steel” which surround every entryway into the city by vehicle and foot; and the United Nations is relocating some of its staff after receiving “credible threats” of increased attacks in a number of locations around the country. That being said, it is with considerable irony that the spring offensive also brings with it the opportunity for the United States to begin to obey the laws which govern its presence in Afghanistan, however unlawful and however late, and its legal duty to protect, not kill, Afghan civilians. Much as it thinks and acts otherwise, the United States is not above the laws of war. It is just seldom held to account in a legal forum for thinking and acting so. That will change.

The United Sates is currently in command of 150,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, including NATO forces. This number does not include, however, the thousands of soldiers in the Afghan National Army, and it certainly does not count the untold number of “contractors”, mercenaries and CIA types in the country. The number of Taliban in Afghanistan who actually engage in warfare, as opposed to ideology, is unknown, but suffice it to say that the differential between the number of US led forces and the number of Taliban they chase after is significantly disproportionate. Add to that the exponential increase in the equation given the never-ending supply and lethality of the military weaponry that the US has at its disposal in Afghanistan and the differential becomes enormous and concomitantly insane.

Notwithstanding this crushing military advantage, the Taliban has the US, et al, on the defensive. But that didn’t stop coalition spokesperson, Lt. Col. John Dorrian, from boasting (defensively) that the upcoming planned use of violence by the Taliban was a mere “propaganda ploy.” In response to Lt. Col. Dorrian, a Taliban spokesperson responded (offensively) that: “The war in our country will not come to an end unless and until the foreign invading forces pull out of Afghanistan.” In a situation such as this, an invasion by foreign forces of a sovereign state, the most committed wins and it is not an unreasonable presumption that those who have been invaded are the most committed. And so they are winning, ten years on, by keeping the US in the longest war in its history against an erstwhile enemy it cannot even recognize. Tens of thousands of US commanded soldiers chase lone shadows across a vast landscape and shoot blindly, literally and figuratively, into the dark.

Enter the civilian population of Afghanistan of 30 million people. Some of the poorest people on the earth who have had brutal war thrust upon them for over 30 years by the world’s self proclaimed superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. They are not Taliban, they are not warlords, they are not drug traders. They are shepherds and farmers and students and shopkeepers. They work hard just to survive, much less live. They are a beautiful people. They are a peaceful people. They have nothing, yet they share all they have. They want to live without war, no matter who brings it. They are not collateral to anything or anyone, yet they are treated as such by everything and everyone. The term “collateral damage” should be stricken for all time.

The Taliban’s announced escalation of attacks during the now current spring offensive, combined with the coalition forces’ long-standing pattern and practice to occupy, bomb, drone, night-raid and engage in all manner of extrajudicial killing and destruction of property, can mean one thing and one thing only: Afghan civilians will die. Notwithstanding that the Taliban warned the Afghan people that they “should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centres of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of Mujahideen against the enemy”, and that they will pay “strict attention…to the protection and safety of civilians during spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan”, Afghan civilians will die. Afghan civilians have already died and it is only the third day of the offensive. The best the United Nations could do was issue this inanely bizarre and time-warped statement concerning the spring offensive and its consequences for Afghan civilians; “Our mission is to make sure that civilians and Afghan people are not affected by now 11 years of conflict. What we are worried about, and I think every Afghan is worried about, is whether the Afghan people and the Afghan civilians will be again the victims of a long conflict.” It should be noted that the UN Head of Mission in Afghanistan offered these 10 years too late comments to Reuters from “his heavily guarded compound” in Kabul. Afghan civilians do not have the luxury of living their lives in heavily guarded compounds like the UN, the Afghan army, and, most especially, like the American and NATO forces do. They don’t live behind blast walls and barbed wire. Most live and work in rural provinces, exposed and isolated. If they arm themselves for self-protection against the myriad of those in their own country who either seek to kill them or who negligently kill them, especially the US and NATO, they are labeled “suspected insurgents”, which is all it takes to be murdered in Afghanistan by the military. “Suspicion” of being an “insurgent” in one’s own country is the burden of proof which justifies civilian death in Afghanistan under its occupier, the United States of America. As Commander In Chief of the US military, and as the de facto head of both the United Nations Security Council and NATO, President Obama has mandatory obligations toward all Afghan civilians under international law which, heretofore, have been ignored and dismissed for 10 years with complete impunity. The time for that impunity must end and it must end now before one more Afghan civilian dies, no matter who pulls the trigger or drops the bomb. It is the ultimate responsibility of the Commander in Chief to ensure that his military subordinates comply with the International Humanitarian Law requirements of DISTINCTION, NECESSITY, PROPORTIONALITY, AND HUMANITY, among others. The United States must realize, or be made to realize, that it must afford the Afghan population the presumption to which it is entitled under international law: that each person be treated as a civilian if their status as a combatant is unclear. That is a legal lesson about which the US needs severe schooling. That is a legal mandate which should, in one stroke, shut down the drone program.

War and litigation are not a good fit, but sometimes a necessary one when the law goes unheeded by those who wage the war in the first instance. This is one of those times. The United States and its collaborators have been violating international law in Afghanistan for a decade. I can’t do anything about what the Taliban or the warlords do to their own countrymen and women, but I can at least try to make my country do what it is supposed to do and not do what it isn’t supposed to do in Afghanistan pursuant to international humanitarian law so that civilians stop being killed and stop living in fear of being killed, at least by the United States and those under its command. Mr. President, on behalf of the civilian population in Afghanistan, I will see you in court.

[Kathleen Kirwin recently returned from Afghanistan with a delegation from Voices for Creative Non-Violence. She is a trial attorney specializing in high-level civil rights and criminal cases and is currently based in Sarasota, Florida. She also practices international human rights and criminal law and has been an anti-war activist for the past 40 years. Kathleen can be contacted at]

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