Monthly Archives

March 2017

Written by Mimi Mayo-Smith, 3G Intern

The world premiere for Lost in Lebanon will be held in London, United Kingdom at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on March 12th and 13th, 2017.

“There is nothing like your homeland.

Nothing at all.”

In the global media, we know Syria as a place of conflict. Syria: rife with violations of human rights. Aleppo: a former UNESCO world heritage center now annihilated by bombs, empty of living breath. We do not want to go to Syria, hear about Syria, know Syria.

But Syria for Syrians is another story. Syria for Syrians is home. It is the place where identity and meaning dwells. Yet the war between the Free Syrian Army and al-Assad’s oppressive regime, intertwined with ISIS and Russia’s agendas, has made home a distant ghost for millions of Syrians. Home is now only a memory with faded senses. Thirteen million Syrians can no longer touch, feel, hear or smell their roots.

Lost in Lebanon, a documentary directed by the Scott Sisters and produced by 3 Generations and Jane Wells, gives voice and image to the deep fractures caused by displacement. Yet it is also a story of dignity, hope and beauty that can sprout through the painful cracks of loss.

The fracture is not only geographic but emotional. Lost in Lebanon expresses this complexity through its intimate portrayal of four Syrians stranded in Lebanon. The sounds and visuals of the camera inquire these humans’ feelings, philosophy and legal struggles from the crisis. A crisis they did not create, yet are deeply embedded in without choice.

Lebanon is a country of about 4 million people, but is a refuge for over a million Syrians. In 2014, Lebanon ended its Open Door Policy, giving Syrian refugees very little if not no socio-economic mobility. Yet it would be untrue to claim that Syrians aren’t fighting for change in their “open prisons”.  Although Syrians are stranded in Lebanon, they are the opposite of inactivity. Their eyes carry the depth of life and hope, and they are touchingly graceful in their suffering.  The humans we encounter in the film are not simply “refugees,” but activists fighting for better conditions in their own displaced communities. The film portrays the wisdom of Syrian artists, volunteer teachers, NGO leaders and camp managers in Lebanon with ambitions to give their people and the youngest generation of Syrians an opportunity to survive, to be educated and to belong.

And this is one of the most painful aspects of the refugee experience Lost in Lebanon documents. The political and military agendas of the most powerful governments are denying millions of  Syrians the right to belong.

They are perceived as a “burden”, even if they are humans like you and me seeking peaceful lives.

Their humanity is not only being confiscated through labels, but also through forced conscription (either to the Free Syrian Army or al-Assad’s troops), chemical warfare, exclusive laws and cultural apathy. Syrian refugees have suffered profound trauma and this trauma expresses itself in limitless ways. In Lost in Lebanon, a scene showcases Syrian children in a Lebanese refugee camp rapping about political violence. They are chanting rhythmically about their desire to live simply, ignorant of the world’s political theater armed with choking gases and indiscriminate bombs. The insight these children have on the nature of politics imprinted on me. Their honest expression was beautiful but disturbingly tragic. At seven and eight years old, they shouldn’t be singing about bullets planted in their friends’ backs.

Lost in Lebanon is a unique documentary. Unique in its ability to show the beautiful strength of people forced into suffering by warfare, while specifying how this suffering writes their mind’s everyday language:

When will I go home? When will I see my family again?  Will I  be granted legal residency? Will my passport be renewed? Will I ever go back to school? Will the next generation of Syrians be uneducated and landless? Will there be enough water and food for all of us?

These questions are not created out of a void but are derived from the political structures currently in place. The law of migration is bound to nationalist ideology – an ideology that cannot avoid discrimination and injustice.   Passports should not exist, one of the main Syrian protagonists said. Humans should be free to move anywhere, whenever. I agree with her. One’s homeland should not equate “nation” with a fixed racial/religious/sexual/etc. criteria for its citizens. For Syrians, Syria is a place of meaning, that connotes a belonging and holds the history of one’s self and family. It is a land they would like to return to and rebuild.

On March 6th, Trump signed a new travel ban, refusing entry to 6 mainly Muslim countries, including Syria. A 120 day ban has been put in place to block Syrian refugees from finding refuge in the States. This is a disgrace. People must watch Lost in Lebanon, not only to understand the political situation but to recognize that the humans affected are like ourselves and that our nationalist ideology is oppressive. We need to use our voices to keep theirs resoundingly alive.

________

Lost in Lebanon was reviewed by Cinevue, and was selected as one of their top picks at the HRW Film Festival 2017. To read the review, visit:
https://www.cine-vue.com/2017/03/hrw-2017-our-picks-of-programme.html 

Lebanon revises Open Door Policy. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/06/lebanon-revises-open-door-refugee-policy-201466744881995.html

See Amnesty’s report on Assad’s war crimes: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/syria-fresh-chemical-attack-on-aleppo-a-war-crime/ 

By Maggie McNish, 3G Intern

The genocide that occurred during the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers.  It began in ghettos and in prison camps.  It began with scapegoating certain groups, blaming them for the destruction of the German economy after World War I.  We learn about the Holocaust, and we ask, how could the Germans let that happen?  Well, the answer is inside us, as Americans, because we are currently at risk of letting something like that happen.

Since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, stocks in the private prison industry have soared.  According to Business Insider, by the morning of November 9th 2016, Corrections Corporations of America was up 40% and GEO Groups was up 20%.(1) These statistics raised alarms before Inauguration Day, but worries intensify everyday as the new administration continues to put out policy platforms that promote arrests.

To begin with, private prisons are making money off of the mass deportations that are taking place across the nation right now.  What happens to an immigrant mother when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) officer rips her from her home? What happens to a child who is caught crossing the Texas border alone, hot, scared, and hungry? They are not simply sent back to their country of origin. No, they are detained in a placement facility. They are given an “alien registration number,” not unlike the numbers that were tattooed onto the wrists of Jews.

The Trump Administration is not to blame for this system. Under President Barack Obama, the Senate Appropriations Committee set an immigration detention bed quota, ensuring that at least 34,000 beds would be filled every day. Conversely, less than 500 beds are available for female victims of sex trafficking and less than 20 for male victims.     

Customs and Border Protection runs some of these facilities, like the Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona, which holds undocumented children who cross the border alone. Some media outlets were given a tour of the center in June 2014, and journalists witnessed kids imprisoned in the former warehouse.(2)

Undocumented children fenced in, sleeping on mats surrounded by porta-potties at Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona. Ross D. Franklin/AP

However, I.C.E. also has contracts with a growing number of private prison corporations. A December 2016 report from the Detention Watch Network revealed that 73% of immigrants detained under I.C.E. are being held inside private prisons.(3) Facts like these are explained by the uncomfortably close relationship between prison corporations and government officials.  For example, representatives from Arizona were tied to the lobbying firm ALEC in 2010 when the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act was passed, making it legal for Arizona law enforcement to discriminate based on ethnicity and charge immigrants for not carrying their papers.  ALEC works on behalf of private prison corporations.

What the Trump administration is doing is turning an already bad system into a human rights catastrophe. There is a reason he spent his campaign calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. He wants them in jails.  He wants these corporations to make a profit.

Immigrants are obviously not the only victims of the prison industrial complex, though. The devastating effect that mass incarceration has on black communities is coming to light more than ever before thanks to books like The New Jim Crowe and films like 13th.  The Civil War saw the end of slavery as America knew it, but it reshaped itself in the form of legal prejudice, imprisonment, and free labor.             

Then, we get President Trump threatening to send the feds into Chicago to deal with the violence there.  We hear him uplifting police officers without providing any criticism of the murders committed by cops against black men and women while his supporters shout, “blue lives matter,” clearly unable to comprehend the concept that many Americans really do not believe black lives matter.  His press secretary threatens that “you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws, whatever that means.(4) Trump himself makes statements like, “we’re all citizens of this blessed land, and no matter our color or the blood, color of the blood we bleed, it’s the same red blood of great, great patriot,” alluding to a new ideal of ethnic purity that horrifyingly mirrors Hitler’s dream of an Aryan society.(5)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a concentration camp as “a place in which large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities.”  It would seem as though our country has more than a few of those. Are we going to wait until we are facing our own arrests to care?    

(1) http://www.businessinsider.com/private-prison-stocks-are-soaring-after-donald-

(2) http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2014/06/18/arizona-immigrant-children-holding-area-tour/10780449/

(3) https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/default/files/reports/A%20Toxic%20Relationship_DWN.pdf

(4) Sean Spicer, daily press briefing on 23 February 2017

(5) Donald Trump, address to CPAC on 24 February 2017

Last month, 3 Generations was very fortunate to grow with the addition of three new team members. We are excited to have Sue, Mimi, and Maggie join us.

Meet Sue Kim, 3 Generations’ new Office Manager:

Sue was raised in New Jersey and has called New York City home for the past sixteen years. She has worked in both the private and non-profit sectors but her experiences working in non-profits and independent film production have provided her with her greatest sense of accomplishment and pride. Sue is also a TV and film actress, her credits include Nike’s webseries Margot Vs. Lily, NBC’s Law and Order: SVU and CBS’ Golden Boy. She is happy to be joining the 3 Generations team.

Meet Mimi Mayo-Smith and Maggie McNish, 3 Generations’ new Interns:

Before moving to New York City, Mimi lived in Singapore and Ho Chi Minh city. She grew up with two sisters, numerous cousins and eleven dogs. She is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Environmental studies from NYU. Previously, Mimi interned at the Rainforest Alliance under the Special Events team and helped plan protests for 350.org’s Divestment Campaign in Sydney. She likes reading, writing, and the sound of gongs.
Maggie, a Brooklyn transplant from New Jersey, is a senior at Pace University in downtown Manhattan earning a degree in history with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. In 2016, she worked with the politics team covering the presidential election at ABC News as a media logger. She also interned at the United Nations during the 2016 First Committee session with Reaching Critical Will, an NGO headed by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Her best friend is her pit bull boxer named Woodrow Wilson.

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