November 29, 2006

What's in a name? part 2

This is a story from real life, one that will mark you. For those who missed part 1, read it here.
Goodbye mother
Hassan, his wife and two boys were settled in Sarajevo now where he lived an average life of comfort and happiness with his extended family.

Hassan's mother however slowly became unwell and was diagnosed with cancer. A woman in her 50's, she was then cared for by his sister Emina. Things went downwards from there on. His majka (mother in Bosnian) passed away and the family of 7 were devastated.

Unrest in Bosnia
Milosevic comes to power in neighbouring Serbia in the early 90's and the world for Hassan and his family is about to change in more ways than anyone could have ever fathomed. A wave of unrest is spread through the Balkans, some decide to leave, but most of the others like Hassan stayed on beliving that it would probably get better.

The war, one that would last for years, breaks out in Sarajevo by Serb hands and in a short period of time the whole of Bosnia becomes the scene of autrocity, massmurder and genocide.

Finding salvation
Everyone is trying to leave. There are buses taking the men away. Most of the men are murdered. Others manage to flee to neighbouring countries or refugee camps. Hassan's sister Emina escapes with her daughter but her husband is placed in a concentration camp.

Hassan, intelligent and skilled as he was in his profession, was much too valuable for the Serbs to kill. They held Sarajevo under siege for 4 long years, the longest time for a siege in European history. Hassan knew the electrical wiring and system of all of Sarajevo and thus was held hostage together with his family.

His house was occupied by soldiers who made sure his family didn't escape along with everyone else, and everyday like clockwork, they would come early in the morning and pick him up for duty at the electrical power plant in Sarajevo, and after slaving away the whole day walk him back to his two boys and beloved wife.

Refugee in Sweden
Hassan's sister Emina made it to Sweden with her 4 year old girl, and eventually she managed with the help of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations, find her husband and get him to Sweden too. Hassan's other sisters and brothers fled to Germany, but his father, was not as lucky. The Serbs killed him along with most of the men in his family.

Hassan however, was still alive and his sister knew it.

Leaving Sarajevo
The only way for a Bosnian stuck in his own city under siege, to leave the city, was through military escort and/or human rights organisations with letters from other European Governments, picking the people up. Even Serb soldiers would not be able to go against that and would have to let go whomever they held hostage.

Emina, herself traumatized by the news of the death of her and Hassan's father, did whatever she could to try and get Hassan and his family to Sweden. She wrote letters, and she was visited in the refugee camp in Sweden by humanitarian and Swedish government workers who helped her with a letter that would serve as a salvation for Hassan and his family. In it she had to state the exact names of his wife, son and Elvir, his stepson.

Coming for Hassan
An envoy came to pick up Hassan and his family and the letter with all names was presented to the Serbs, with all the names of written on it, but it was rejected twice because Emina had written Elvir's name (Hassan's stepson), with Hassan's surname instead of his mothers surname as is written in his passport.

In all her trauma, Emina forgot that Elvir had mainatined his mother's surname and not his stepfather Hassan's and when she was informed of the letter being rejected she quickly tried to rectify it and got a new letter made. Another envoy was sent.

Hassan dissapears
One day Hassan didn't come back home after his long forced labour at the electrical power plant. The envoy came to get the family, this time with a complete and full letter with all the correct names in it, but of course Hassan was missing. He was to be missed for 30 days, when one morning Hassan's wife gets a call from the Serbs who had taken him and is informed that he is now dead and they wanted to know if she wanted his body, otherwise they would dispose of it.

His murdered body was later thrown by the gate of his home and word was now sent to Emina in Sweden. It was too late. Hassan was no longer. He knew too much, it was too risky to let him go.

Hassan's wife and two children escaped heartbroken with the envoy and were taken to Sweden.

As for Emina, she is tormented everyday having lost her father and most of his family and her beloved brother. She sometimes asks herself, "What if I hadn't written Elvir's name wrong? Maybe Hassan would still be alive."

What's in a name...

Note: Real names used in the story have been altered.

November 28, 2006

Sweet Racism

The new face of racism has arrived and it's colour is Prussian Blue. The American twin sisters Lynx and Lamb Gaede (yes those are actual names), are part of the up and coming band Prussian Blue whose idol is none other than Adolf Hitler.

The name comes from the colour that the gas used during the Holocaust would leave; prussian blue. Holocaust Deniers claim the gas chambers had no blue colour in them. The band needless to say, has the backing of every racist and anti-semite in the States not to mention their manager who is none other than April Gaede, their neo-Nazi supporting mother.

The Gaede family has a blog up with pictures from their ranch. Here is one particularly disturbing picture of how they brand their animals with the nazi symbol. She writes:

"By wearing a Hakenkreuz or "hooked cross" the cattle avoid the cruel and abusive Kosher slaughter houses."

The music sounds like any other american teen pop band, if you don't know the story behind. Here's their song When I'm with you.

Somehow these blonde twin sisters and their family, are a more disturbing phenomena than Bin Laden himself.

November 27, 2006

Is you is or is you ain't?

Most of us grew up watching Tom & Jerry. One episode in particular, Solid Serenade (1946), has stayed in many people's minds. Tom plays and sings the old 1940's classic "Is you is" by Louis Jordan.

Watch it here.

Epidose Updates:
Tom & Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl (episode appears after 1 h 34 min featuring Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.)
The Cat Concerto feat. Hungarian Rhapsody no 2.
Mouse in Manhattan.

Picture courtesy of the ultimate fan site Tom & Jerry Online.

November 26, 2006

Stateless within a State

"In the UAE stateless citizens are denied rights such as documentation, medical, education, banking abilities, traveling and even marriage."
-Excerpt from the Stateless UAE Nationals, the UAE Government & the United Nations Petition

Lend your voice to those who cannot be heard. Sign the petition.

November 25, 2006

Deadly Beauty

What do you all see? Green, lush beauty?
Think again. It is all covered in mines by the Serbs during the war in Bosnia.
This is the only road to the top of this beautiful mountain outside Sarajevo and it is not covered in mines. Anything beyond this road is mine infested. On my trip to Bosnia last summer I spent a week on this mountain gazing at untouchable beauty.

And yesterday Bosnian and British mine disposal experts got their feet blown off in Lebanon, by Israeli mines from the recent conflict.

In 1997, an agreement was signed by 151 States not to use or store landmines. However 40 countries, among them Israel, America and China, did not sign it.

"U.N. experts say up to 1 million cluster bombs dropped by Israeli aircraft during the July-August war against Hezbollah remain unexploded in south Lebanon, where they continue to threaten civilians. At least 24 people have died in cluster bomb explosions since the war ended."

-International Herald Tribune
-Svt (Swedish Television)

November 24, 2006

UAE President shopping in Stockholm

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of The UAE based in Abu Dhabi, has purchased Stureplan, one of the most exclusive areas in Stockholm.

We are all quite amazed over here. Mixed feelings from the Swedes. The UAE however still has a much better reputation in Sweden compared to Saudi Arabia. People holiday in Dubai more and more.

In the package, sold for 4 billion Swedish kronor, he gets:
-Sturegallerian (an exclusive shopping mall)
-Sturebadet (a SPA situated in the shopping mall)
-Sturehof (an expensive restaurant)
-Sturecompagniet (a very famous night club where the stars hang out)

The outcome of this purchase will be quite interesting to follow. This way the two countries will be forced to deal with each other more and perhaps some of the prejudice that exists in Sweden regarding Arabs and Muslims might be adressed.

Picture courtesy of Aftonbladet and FREDRIK HOFGAARD/AFP

November 23, 2006

Jewish Settler Extremism

"A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents. Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks."
-International Solidarity Movement
-Article in the Jerusalem Post.

There is no mention of this terrible act of terrorism by Israeli extremists with the silent approval of the Israeli army, anywhere in Swedish media. If they can smash the face of a blonde Swedish teenage girl with a country like Sweden that supposedly will "back her up", one wonders what they would do to a Palestinian with none of the above?

November 22, 2006

Holy Soap!

Did you know there was a Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice?

This is what they have done lately in Saudi Arabia.

How about helping their fellow male citizens to keep it in the pants on their business trips?

-With thanks to DG for the link to the Comission's website.


Sweden's older population, the 70 plus crew, grew up in a Sweden without immigrants (besides the Italians that came during the 50's), black people, Muslims. No interaction at school, work, neighborhood lead to many of these senior citizens living in a Sweden that is today totally new to them. With people they know nothing of and have the utmost prejudice for.

Then came the Taxis. In most larger cities, a large number of immigrants or "new Swedes" drive these Taxis. And when you get old in Sweden and have trouble taking the bus or train yourself (especially while going grocery shopping), the government gives you a taxi card where you ride the cab for a small sum.

All of a sudden all these older people have to meet with Mamadou, Abdi, Nima and the likes. They sit together for a longer period of time and the final verdict on their OK'ness will be given in the end; whether or not Mamadou, Abdi or Nima, opened the door to the car and helped the passenger out, carried the groceries all the way to the door.

Like one older Swedish lady said: "I rode with a black fellow today. He was totally black. But he was soo nice to me, he even carried my groceries to the elevator."

Welcome to the 21st century grandma...

November 18, 2006


The hub of World Music is without doubt Putumayo Records. I discovered them in the late 90's and was introduced to Habib Koité (Mali), one of the most talented musicians in Africa.

They produce new records all the time and sign world music artists to their label. They recently founded a new label called Cumbancha and their first signed artist is none other than The Idan Raichel Project.

Currently playing on Al Baal's Stickam Player; Di Goldene Pave, from the album A Jewish Odyssey.

November 14, 2006

The stamp of approval on Hijab

Sweden's new stamps feature two women wearing the headscarf in a very Swedish forestry environment. Notice the moose and pine trees? Artist Irina Gebuhr is behind the new design.

Would you see this in Muslim countries?

November 13, 2006

Saudi Men Spreading AIDS

In a small town outside of Aqaba, Jordan, a group of Beduin women serve as prostitutes for the many businessmen and others visiting Aqaba for conferences and other gatherings.

Among those men there are a large number of Saudi Men (as well as men from the rest of the Gulf Region and world), who frequent these Beduin women. Married men, often with more than one wife.

I met up with a woman working for a humanitarian organisation in Sweden, as she had recently come back from that town outside Aqaba. She compared the state of it to the sights of poverty she had seen in India. She continued telling me about the research with regards to AIDS she had been made privy to.

Cases of AIDS had been found among those Beduin women. When one of the women was asked to estimate how many men she had slept with in her "career" as a prostitute, she rounded it up to a disturbing figure of 700 men. Unprotected sex.

Right now, there are most probably women and children in Saudi Arabia who are infected with AIDS because of their hubands and fathers and they don't even know it.

November 08, 2006

Hall of Philosophers

On a quest for knowledge and truth in life
faced with ourselves in moments of strife
Blue is the shade that colours our eyes
while gazing at rain that pours from the skies
In a Hall of Philosophers to make us wise
we learn that some truths come at a price
We pay with our days we pay with our light
diminshing slowly as we're approaching the night

November 07, 2006

Al Baal playing...

...Into White (1970), by one of the last centuries best singer/songwriters, Cat Stevens, today known as Yusuf Islam after his conversion to Islam in the 70's. The half swedish, half greek singer has yet again taken up his guitar and produced a new album, An other cup which sounds just like he used to back in the day. Read more on his amazingly beautiful and cool official website. His other website featuring more religious content can be found here. Yusuf is back, and this time he has brought Cat with him.

November 06, 2006

A wedding and A funeral

In the year 2004, on dec 28th, Usman, son of one of Gothenburg's earlier Swedish Muslim converts, had gone to Ireland on his honey moon. 22 years old at the time, he decided to head out alone on a treck in the mountains in Killarney.

He never came back to his wife. For two years he was listed as a missing person.

Today he has been found by a local farmer on one of his wanderings. Everything points to an accident, where he had fallen from a cliff. His dead body will be prepared for janaaza, (islamic burial), as I write this post, in Ireland.

The article was all over Göteborgs Posten, Gothenburg's main newspaper.

I remember two years ago when the story of him missing was all over the media and the lips of people who knew him. One never knows how one will leave earth. Imagine being newly-wed and losing your husband or wife on your honey moon? Reality truly beats fiction...

November 01, 2006

Storm and away

First there were winds, and now we in Sweden are hit by snow storms. I am travelling this week and by the looks of it, it doesn't look good. Long distance trains cancelled, airports shut down. Hopefully I won't have to cancel, or worse, meet the storm. But if I do, rest assured, there will be pictures!

Take care everyone.