Posts Tagged ‘awareness raising’

Right of Return Conference

June 20th marked this year’s World Refugee Day. CEPAL participated in this event by holding a conference to spread awareness on the Palestinian Right of Return. The conference was co-hosted with SPHR-Ottawa (Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights) .  CEPAL and SPHR’s goal was to generate a better understanding within the Ottawa community of the challenges facing Palestinians refuges barred from re-entering Palestine.

The Palestinian Right of Return refers to the legal and moral right for        Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland. This is an often overlooked issue in the on-going Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and one that is of utmost importance.

The conference began with  a “Right of Return 101” workshop presented by Samah Sabawi. Ms. Sabawi’s workshop gave an in-depth overview of the history of the Palestinian conflict. The presentation focused on the legal and moral issues surrounding Palestinian refugees’ right to return to Palestine. Ms. Sabawi also screened a documentary outlining the issues of forming a government for Palestinians within the occupied territories.

There were two guest speakers featured in the conference, including CEPAL’s Shauna Trainor. Ms. Trainor presented her experiences as a volunteer within the Bourj al-Barajneh camp in Lebanon in 2006. She explained many of the hardships faced by the inhabitants of the camp and offered an interesting insight into the experiences of international volunteers. The other speaker was Mr. Monzer Zimmo, a Palestinian refugee and respected  member of the Ottawa Palestinian  community. He focused his lecture on the realities of Palestinian community within and outside of the occupied  territories, as well as shared some of his personal experiences as a refugee. His passion and knowledge pertaining to Palestine and the Palestinian Right of Return was inspirational. It was a sincere pleasure to listen and learn from Monzer Zimmo.

Beats for Palestine

On June 4th, CEPAL launched the first of what we hope to make an annual benefit and Palestinian solidarity concert in Montreal, Beats for Palestine, in partnership with Project Hope.  Spoken-word artist Remi Kanazi, reggae master Mark Mahoney (aka Jah Faith), and hip-hop up-and-comers KinZ joined forces at Le Petit Campus to make the evening a promising success.  Project Hope offers a similar educational exchange to    CEPAL’s in Nablus, in the West Bank. For more information about Project Hope, visit  Samples of the artists’ work can be found on MySpace and YouTube.

By: Gus Constantinou

You knew something out of the ordinary was occurring by the quartet of young boys posing as musicians milling about the street below. Three of the boys were holding durbakehs (Arabic drums) and one was cradling what looked to me to be bagpipes. The musicians’ hair was carefully slicked back, their jeans carefully ironed, their shirts impeccably pressed. A small group of women and children had begun to gather round the band, seemingly confirming our suspicions that something exciting was underway. Quite suddenly a cue was given and the boys began to drum in a frantic, yet unified rhythm.

No sooner had the high-pitched bagpipe played its first note than the women began to ululate in unison with the drums, throwing their hands into the air, and beginning to dance. From a room just below our balcony a woman in a white hijab emerged with one hand in the air, the other holding the hand of the man in a dark suit that followed her. Yet another woman emerged to going the group, this one in a green hijab. The trio danced in a circle to the cheers of the gathering that was growing by the second. As the music swelled, the trio went around the circle a few more times and then led the procession to awaiting automobiles. We ran to the back of the small apartment whose rear balcony provided us a perfect view of the ongoing ceremony. It was in this rear area where we had waited on several occasions for taxis to pick us up. It was also from this aerial perspective that I tried to compare this wedding scene with those back in Canada.

In Canada there isn’t water and sewage running through the streets. In Canada, there aren’t a myriad of electrical wires hanging from the roofs of crumbling and crowded buildings, pock-marked with shells from a not-too-distant war. In Canada, the bride and groom do not await their automobile by the camp garage dump. And in Canada, there isn’t a highway being constructed directly, almost as to appear inside, my family’s home and neighbourhood.

And yet in Canada, we do not celebrate this heartily.

Our neighbours do not take the time out of their busy lives to throw rice down on dancing brides and grooms and proclaim ‘Mabrouk!’ Our whole community and neighbourhood do not get excited and involved when a wedding procession noisily appears. Of all the places in the world that I have been, it has only been here, in this camp where people have allowed me to live and teach, that people resist by refusing to let their surroundings get the best of them. Just like in my Canadian home, despite its differences with the camp, a wedding is going on. And just like back home, perhaps even more so, there is much celebrating to be had!

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