Youssef crossed the Sahara desert with a folded school map of Europe in his pocket. “Could you please point [out] Lampedusa in the map for me? I cannot find it.”
"Can there possibly be anything more satisfying than teaching your own language to your own people?" Abdel Salam Wahali remarked to IPS. He is a teacher of Tebu, an ancient language which is experiencing a boom in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Car accident in Omar Mokhtar Avenue in downtown Tripoli. Nobody was injured but there’s a bumper hanging off the back of a car. In just a few seconds, a group gathers around.
"Oil tankers won´t get crude from this port until Tripoli finally meets our demands," says Younis, one of the Amazigh rebels today blocking one of Libya´s largest gas and crude oil plants.
"I got married when I was 14 and I already had four children at 20," recalls Nafia Brahim. In her fifties now, she is working hard so that no other woman loses control of her life.
"The whole region is under control but be careful in the city centre," says a Kurdish militiaman at the eastern gate of Qamishli, 600 km northeast of capital Damascus, confirming rumours about breaches in Syria’s relatively stable northeast.
Kurdish fighters have emerged as a powerful player in the Syrian war thanks to the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG - “People's Protection Units”), a seemingly well-organised armed group which has so far proved capable of defending the territory it claims in northern Syria.
After fleeing the war three months ago, Gulnaz is headed back for Syria to bury her brother within the 24 hours Islam stipulates. But it is far from easy to take the coffin across the Syrian-Iraqi border.
People run back home at dusk, just when the shooting intensifies. To Sha Mehmed the experience is familiar. He was 11 when he left his native Afghan village to settle in this small Turkish town on the border with Syria.
"The soul needs to reincarnate a thousand times before becoming one with god," says Rajab Assy Karim from Ali Saray, 190 kilometres north of Baghdad. Iraq is full of "shortcuts" to the ultimate, and several seem to pass through this tiny desert village.
“Life is almost normal in the centre of Damascus," local resident Hisham says from the predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Bab Touma. "Only the occasional noise of artillery on the outskirts reminds me that we are at war."
Zuhair Hassib did not witness the last and the most ghastly massacre in Syria. Images of last year’s Siege of Homs were enough for the artist to have seen. His paintings have brought those horrors home in a way pictures could never have.
"The Islamists’ announcement that god supported the killing of Kurds in Syria made us react," recalls Farouk Aziz Khadir. This 60-year-old Iraqi Kurd is ready to take up arms to defend his kin in the neighbouring war-torn country. And there are many more like him.
Two teams struggle to find an olive under one of the 11 cups displayed on a tray. The traditional game sin-u-serf
(tray and cup in Kurdish) is only played during the Muslim fasting month. In one of Iraq’s most violent cities, it is nothing less than a challenge to death.
"I witnessed a Turkish tank made in Germany destroying a Kurdish village. Civilians, children included, were wounded, and many were taking shelter inside a besieged church,” said Media, the German nurse who has become legendary in the Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq and is known here only by this name.