The good Aussies flying to conflict zones

(Photo: Christmas day in Ainkawa IDP camp with friends and colleagues, December 2016)

The Point Magazine, February, 2017: We have all read the stories about Australians traveling abroad to conflict zones to join terrorist groups like ISIS. However, very little attention has been dedicated to Australians traveling to conflict zones to help communities to learn and heal.

One of these notable Australians is independent journalist and ESL (English Second Language) teacher, Vanessa Powell.

Women’s rights campaigner tackles gender violence in Kurdistan Region


(Johanna Higgs giving a presentation to a group of students at the University of Kurdistan Hawler. Source: Supplied)

Rudaw English: Johanna Higgs is a women’s rights researcher who has travelled to at least 108 countries in the world. Now she is in the Kurdistan Region investigating sexual violence against women in the region.

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What It’s Like Inside An ISIS Tunnel


Huffington Post, December 22, 2016: About 30km east of Mosul, the car I’m travelling in pulls up to a stop. “Get down,” my friend and fixer Kosar says to me. “Come, come.” He opens the car door and I hesitantly jump out.

Three Kurdish Peshmerga are standing in front of us, seemingly awaiting our arrival. I’m in the village of Shaquli. Iraq. Although I wouldn’t call it a village. It looks like what used to be one family’s home and piles of rubble. The evidence of coalition airstrikes is immediately apparent. The caved-in structures and a large crater in the ground are a dead giveaway.

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Iraqi Kurdistan: Khanke IDP Camp

I visited Khanke IDP Camp in Duhok governorate in September 2014 as part of a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation.This was the largest camp in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time, sheltering internally displaced Yazidi people, many of whom had escaped from Shingal. Conditions in the camp were rather bleak, overcrowding and an upcoming winter presented fears about how people would cope. On the day I visited a terrible sand storm whipped up.

WOMADelaide: Ramzi Aburedwan


© Georges BARTOLI. Al Kalmanjati le violoniste en arabe est une association franco palestinienne soutenue par le conservatoire d Angers qui a pour but de faire connaitre et d enseigner la musique classique dans les villes et les camps palestiniens. Elle est animee par Ramzi Abredwan gamin de la premiere intifada qui est devenu un virtuose du violon alto en France et qui revient regulierement avec des musiciens etrangers en Palestine rencontrer des enfants. Ramzi Aburedwan dans les rues du camp de refugies de El Amari a Ramallah ou il a grandi.


February, 2015:  “I always dreamed to play music, but I never really had the opportunities. My family were poor, so I just kept the dream, just for me…” says Ramzi Aburedwan, the viola playing virtuoso set to perform at WOMADelaide.

He speaks to me over the phone from Brussels where he is now on tour with his band Ensemble Dal’Ouna.

Born in Bethlehem in 1979,Aburedwan grew up in Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. His grandparents were forcibly relocated there in 1948, the beginning of the struggle for over 100,000 Palestinian people.

As a child, he was witness to the first intifada – the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation from 1987 to 1992. A photograph of an eight-year-old Ramzi, poised to throw a stone at an Israeli tank has been immortalized through time.

It was at the aged of 16 that almost by accident he had the chance to participate in a music workshop. There he chose his instrument the viola thinking it was a violin. He started to play and later took up the bouzok, a long-necked stringed instrument he will play at this years WOMADelaide.

It is against all odds that Aburedwan has gone on to become a world-renowned musician.

“It was very difficult, especially freedom of movement… the Wall, the checkpoints, the cutting of Palestinian territory”, he says.

The desire to travel outside of Palestine left him tired, and losing energy.

Despite the challenges of being a musician in an occupied territory Ramzi has chosen to remain in Ramallah. He splits his time between his homeland and performances abroad.

But there is no normal life playing and teaching music within Palestine.

“Everything is controlled by the occupation”, he says, including the ability to bring instruments in from abroad.

He describes the camps as hard places, crushing of creativity.

“[They are] very tight, small places with no playgrounds for kids, dark colours… no green ground for the kids, no trees, no infrastructure, nothing” he says.

“Thinking that it will only last for one week, or one month and then they can return to their homes”. Sadly this is not the case.

“We were obliged to create some play, for us when we were kids”, he says.

He has clearly overcome the bleakness of this landscape with beautiful music.

His ability to move between western classical and Arabic styles of music is a testament to his mastery.

Audiences will take delight in discovering the Arabic scales in his music which he says can be surprising for Western ears.

Be sure he will woo the crowd with searing tunes and heartfelt melodies of his beloved Palestine at this year’s WOMADelaide.

WOMADelaide, Mar 6-9, 2015, Botanic Park, Adelaide,


Iran: Marshlands

It may be surprising to some, the geographically diversity of Iran. The Mesopotamian Marshes stretch across the south Iraq, Kuwait and the southwest corner of Iran. The marshes are a unique wetland ecosystem, under constant environmental threat. Home to Iranian Arabs, who speak Farsi and Arabic, some still live traditional lifestyles in the marshlands keeping water buffalo, cultivating date palms, and cutting reeds.