they stole our friend from us

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.38.40 pm

With what little money he had (money he hadn’t already spent on lawyers trying to plead his case for asylum) Amir had decided he would buy me a present for my birthday this year. He gave me a small parcel which contained a bottle of perfume.

‘You really shouldn’t have’.

***

We met up another time in the city. I said I was going to a protest and he was happy to simply tag along. At first he seemed out of place but he soon got into it, shaking his head and getting upset at what our government was supporting in the Middle East and in Gaza. ‘How can they do this to the people?’ he said, shaking his head solemnly.

The same question terrifies me presently. Every single person I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks, appears to be in a catatonic state of shock at the actions of this government. It is no longer a joke, something to make a mockery of, something to awkwardly bemoan and bitch about. It has become the terrifying realisation that our lives – every single element of our lives – has been and will be affected by these heinous policies and actions. Worst of all, they’ve stopped trying to hide it or sugarcoat it for the public. There’s no one left to woo and win over. There’s no one left to battle. They act with sheer, sickening impunity.

After the protest, Amir and I had lunch in a Japanese restaurant. The concept of ordering from the table on a computer was a novelty for him. He didn’t want to talk about his case with the government. It upset him too much. Instead we spoke about love and how he wants to meet a nice girl. ‘A nice girl like you!’

I sighed and tried my best to explain the concept of a spinster who lives alone forever. He said ‘someone has hurt you’ and it was the truest thing anyone has ever said. ‘You have to let that go’, he said earnestly.

I am trying to, is what I didn’t say.

Amir also told me that day that my brother Matthew was the best guy had ever known and he wished he could be more like him.

I went to the bathroom and upon returning, I realised Amir had already paid for me. He refused my money. I told him I would pay next time and he laughed and said ‘yeah yeah I will pay then too!’

Amir loves this country and its people. But coming here to seek asylum was the single worst decision of his life because of what the government has put him through.

After the church ceremony at my brother’s wedding a few months ago, he came over to me. Still clutching my bouquet of roses, having just walked down the aisle for my new sister-in-law, he told me how his heart stopped when he saw me like that.

Today my heart stopped at the news that they have taken him back to detention. That the kind young man who welcomed us into his home, fed us and laughed with us, will sleep in a foreign place, with nothing to cradle him but uncertainty and fear.

‘Indefinite detention’ are the words I heard someone say today. I don’t understand what this is. How do you sentence an innocent person to life in prison for trying to seek refuge in our country?

The lawyer wrote to us in an email:

‘This is such an unexpected and distressing development.’

and later:

‘It sounds to me that the immigration officer had already decided to detain Amir before he even arrived. What cowards.’

What cowards indeed.

Amir had told me in this interview that if they try to send him back, he’d take his own life.

Any support you can lend to us during this time would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the kind words to date. We are still trying to figure out what to do next. But so far we are deflated and desperately trying to keep that hope alive.

 

10313526_656767224416640_1035608296968408556_n

GAZA DRINKING GAME

WARNING: MAYBE DON’T PLAY THIS GAME LITERALLY OK*

DRINK EVERY TIME THEY SAY ‘WE DO NOT TARGET CIVILIANS’

DRINK EVERY TIME THE IDF KILLS AN INNOCENT CHILD (BUT DON’T DIE OF ALCOHOL POISONING ON DAY 2).

DRINK EVERY TIME SOMEONE SAYS ‘BUT THE ROCKETS’

DRINK EVERY TIME MARK REGEV SAYS ‘KHAMAS’ IT’S LIKE THE HISSING OF A SNAKE

DRINK EVERY TIME THE US, UK & AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS SAY ‘ISRAEL HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF’

DRINK WHEN NO ONE SAYS PALESTINIANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVES (OK CAN’T MEASURE THIS ONE PUT THE DRINK DOWN)

DRINK EVERY TIME THE MEDIA IS SILENT ON THIS OR BURIES IT ON PAGE 33

DRINK EVERY TIME A CRITIC OF THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT GETS LABELLED ANTI-SEMITIC EVEN THOUGH NO ONE HAS SAID A SINGLE FUCKING THING ABOUT JEWISH PEOPLE AND GO LOOK UP WHAT ‘SEMITE’ MEANS, DIPSHITS, WE LOVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE, SOME OF THEM ARE THE BIGGEST, MOST DEDICATED SUPPORTERS OF THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE.

DRINK WHEN SOMEONE WHO YOU THOUGHT WAS COOL READS THREE ARTICLES, DECLARES THEMSELVES AN EXPERT AND COMES OUT WITH THIS WISE CRACK THAT WASN’T WORTH THE 10-SECOND CHAT IT CAME FROM – ‘BUT HAMAS IS NO BETTER!’

DRINK BECAUSE THEY THEN TRY TO SEND YOU AN ARTICLE ABOUT ‘HUMAN SHIELDS’ WTF AT LEAST FIND SOME ORIGINAL PROPAGANDA THIS FOOTAGE IS FROM SYRIA DO YOU THINK ALL BROWN PEOPLE ARE THE SAME, PROBABLY!

DRINK WHEN THEY USE CEASEFIRES AS AN EXCUSE TO KEEP BOMBING THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF A CEASEFIRE

DRINK WHEN YOU CAN’T WORK OUT WHERE MAINSTREAM MEDIA OUTLETS ARE GETTING THEIR FACTS FROM ARE THEY MAKING THEM UP IT’S POSSIBLE

OH SHIT, THEY’RE PROBABLY FOLLOWING THE IDF’S TWITTER ACCOUNT, WELL THAT’S FUCKING STUPID, LOOK AT THESE SIMPLETON INFOGRAPHICS, DID A FIVE-YEAR-OLD MAKE THEM, GROSS, HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK THE WORLD IS, OKAY THEY ARE PRETTY STUPID, FAIR CALL

DRINK WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH LOL NAH THEY’RE USELESS

DRINK WHEN SOMEONE MENTIONS EGYPT LOL FUCK OFF

DRINK WHEN YOU DON’T HEAR FROM LEBANON, JORDAN AND WHAT I LIKE TO CALL ‘THE OIL COUNTRIES’ – HEY GUYS, LOOK WHERE YOU ARE ON THE MAP YEAH YOU’RE NEXT.

JUST ASK IRAQ, SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN – THEY’RE FUCKED BEYOND BELIEF SEE THE PATTERN YET?

TURKEY YOU’RE ALRIGHT, BUT STOP FUNDING THEIR MILITARY

DID SAUDI ARABIA JUST DONATE MONEY FOR HUMANITARIAN REASONS OR IS THIS SOME KIND OF WARPED REALITY SHOW PRANK, WHERE’S SAUDI ARABIAN ASHTON KUTCHER, I’LL NEVER BELIEVE IT

DRINK EVERY TIME ISRAEL BOMBS AN AMBULANCE, HOSPITAL, HOME, JOURNALIST, ANIMAL, EVERYTHING – ARE YOU DEAD YET, BECAUSE THEY ARE.

*DRINK*

DRINK BECAUSE GIDEON LEVY HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT THESE INJUSTICES FOR LIKE THREE DECADES, HE MUST BE TIRED, POOR GIDEON, HE CAN’T GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT DEATH THREATS, KEEP GOING GIDEON WE LOVE YOU

DRINK BECAUSE YOU JUST REMEMBERED HOW FUCKED UP THE WEST BANK STILL IS, NOT TO MENTION ISRAELI ARABS, OH YEAH AND NON-WHITE JEWS IN THIS COUNTRY, WHAT IS THIS COUNTRY IS ANYONE OKAY, MAYBE THOSE GUYS ON THE TEL AVIV BEACH, THEY LOOK LIKE THEY’RE HAVING FUN

DRINK BECAUSE APARTHEID AND GIANT SEGREGATING WALLS ARE STILL A FUCKING THING

DRINK BECAUSE YOU JUST REMEMBERED THAT EVEN THE SO CALLED ‘TERRORISTS’ EXPRESS MORE CONCERN FOR THE LOSS OF INNOCENT PALESTINIANS AND IRAQIS, JESUS CHRIST.

WE’RE ALL FUCKED WHY DIDN’T WE LISTEN TO NELSON MANDELA WHEN HE SAID:

‘“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”

WORLD, THIS IS YOUR HANGOVER.

Silence for Gaza by Mahmoud Darwish

thank you kathleenjoy for originally alerting me to this poem. 

 

Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.

Because in Gaza time is something different.

Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.

It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.

Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.

Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.

The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.

Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.

Gaza is not the most beautiful city.

Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.

Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.

Gaza is not the richest city.

It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.

We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.

We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it – in a dream – perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.

It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.

It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.

It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.

Neither does it want that, nor we.

Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.

What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.

Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).

They might break its bones.

They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.

But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.

It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.

[Translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]

(Original Source: mondoweiss.net)

IS THIS WORTHY OF YOUR UPWORTHY?

This ‘nation’ ethically cleansed a whole population from their land and their homes, created generations of refugees, refused them the right to return, murdered innocent men, women and children, wrongfully imprisoned their children without evidence or trial or justice, annexed them with a wall, humiliated them, put fear in their hearts, denied their cultural history, wrote over their Arabic signs, called them terrorists when they fought back with rocks, bulldozed their homes, attacked them with bombs and phosphorous and war, pillaged their lands, rationed their food supplies, occupied their territories, denied their basic human rights, denied the right to clean drinking water so they could fill up their swimming pools, spewed violent hate speech against their entire race, treated them like animals, took revenge on an entire population for the actions of a few- YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT’

*clicks page*

*blank page*

*

Welcome to your genocide.

‘keep your heart warm’

‘The only thing keeping me going is hoping. I met some really nice people. I love them’.

He leans forward, his face serious, whispering.

‘The Australian people keep my heart warm, alive’.

I stare at him incredulously. At this stage, it’s likely the young man sitting across from me will be deported back to the country he fled from, a place where an inevitable death awaits him. I sit here, knowing that a government that does not represent me is doing everything in its power to prevent him from being granted asylum.

He gazes wearily into my eyes, filled with a small, slightly formidable shred of hope.

I am in pieces.

***

I interviewed Farid* six months ago on a balmy summer’s eve on my balcony. He leaned in close so the iPad could record his barely audible voice. I felt chills despite the warm weather and was a wreck in the aftermath of taking it all in. It took many failed attempts to finally sit down and write it and even more months to work up the courage to post this piece. Recently my  journalist best friend called me to say she had also recorded his story. Afterwards she sat immobile on her floor, unable to move or even comprehend transcribing the interview. We both agreed to hold off on publishing or broadcasting until we had checked with lawyers and made certain that publicising his story would not put his delicate case for asylum in further jeopardy, or make life harder for him in his home country, should the cruellest outcome of sending him back ever occur.

I decided to tell his story either way.

***

He walks with a quiet gait, in an almost trance-like state, lost in thought, distracted and downcast. He won’t talk unless he is spoken to and at first, he responds with quiet, delicate, one-word answers, muffled slightly by his accent.

I fire question after question at him, as though I’m trying to break through some kind of invisible barrier. I don’t know what I’m trying to get out of him or this interview or why I’m even doing it. I haven’t even begun and I am already helpless, limp and lost in a sea of thoughts plagued by the media, by conversations I’m trying to mute in my head, as this young man sits bravely and stoically before me.

‘What makes you happy?’ I ask him later, after questions about the anguish of travelling by boat, of living in limbo and waiting for residency, of escaping his country and the problems he faced and just before he outlines his hopes and dreams of becoming a world champion in the sporting field he has excelled at (it’s because he is so successful in this field that I can’t name the sport, for it will almost certainly give him away), when he responds:

‘I don’t know what you mean?’ he responds humbly and unassuming, as though ‘happy’ is not an option for him.

I have to explain the word ‘happiness’ to him and eventually he answers, smiling for the first time that evening…

We start at the very beginning.

‘How did you get to Australia?’

‘Boat’, he says seriously. ‘I didn’t know it was going to be a boat like that’.

I try not to think about what kind of boat he had in mind. Political problems plagued his local neighbourhood only a few years ago. A powerful local Islamic group made life impossible for him and his family.

‘They have the power to kill and put people in jail. They’re with the government but they have their own rules’.

He had a prominent position in his community and in the city council, so he was often in their direct line of fire. When his life was threatened and he was in danger of being captured, tortured and imprisoned by the group, he made the decision to leave his home country. Farid made the trip by plane and arrived in Indonesia.

He spent two months there. He quickly discovered that people could be waiting up to one or two years for the UN to make a decision about their case and to send them somewhere safe. He stayed in a house with ten people living on top of each other. That’s when he started to hear that Australia was a good place to go, that it was safe for refugees.

You have no idea where you’re going but suddenly you’re travelling in a van squished together with ten people. You spend 25 hours in that van, with no end in sight.

‘You’re feeling shit and you don’t know where you’re going or how long it takes. You just go, no other option’.

This is only the prelude to the now infamous boat journey. Eventually he makes his way on to a small, rickety boat, where the worst experience of his life gently beckoned towards him. He recalls that there must have been 70 people in the boat.

Until that day he had never been on a boat in his life.

They were on the sea for two days before arriving in Christmas Island. In that time the experience was so harrowing, that his only thought was of throwing himself into the sea.

I ask him to tell me more about the boat. His face transforms now into a slightly crazed expression.

He tells me how you have hope before you get on the boat, but when you are on the sea, the wild crazy sea, squished in with desperate people you don’t know, you start to feel bad, you start to regret the decision to get on the boat in the first place. But you are here now, terrified as it rains and as you rock back and forth on choppy waters. You had no idea it would be like this and you don’t know where you’re going. 

‘Did you know the boats can sink?’ I interject.

‘I hear about this when I am already on the boat!’ he cries out.

‘You are thinking you might get lost at sea and you hear the screams of the children’.

 ‘I can say I died in that time. You want to die. You don’t have a choice to go back, Even if it capsizes, you have to finish the journey or you die’.

He describes how the boat nearly crashed on Christmas Island and I shudder at the thought. I grip the chair beneath me when he tells me how they were seen to be coming towards the island but no one helped them.

They try to call the Australian police and plead with them.

‘Why are you not coming to catch us?’ they cry into the phone, hearing indifference on the other end. I dwell on the incorrect use of the word ‘catch’ for some reason. It reminds me of fish.

The Australian personnel kept them on the water from 9pm to 9am.

‘Oh what, doesn’t anyone work the night shift?!’ I scoff, my sarcasm flying over his head. I am getting worked up but he doesn’t even notice. He is back there now on that boat.

Eventually the royalty emerge from their thrones to rescue the 70 odd, desperate people. They ‘catch’ them and take them straight to detention.

He spent 4.5 months in detention. After that he was moved around like cattle. One month on Christmas Island, six weeks in Darwin, two months in detention in Broome. He relays the numbers like clockwork, as though this isn’t valuable time in a young man’s life.

‘It’s like prison. It’s a waste of time’.

‘There are people who have been there for three or four years. They were suicidal, crazy. They see people get released, while they stay, not knowing why.’

 ***

Something miraculous happened along the way. He starts to talk about one of the detention centres being a more open and friendly place. His face lights up when he mentions his sudden turn and interest in Christianity during his time in Darwin. He joins a group who teach him about the Bible and charity work. He seems  visibly uplifted when he talks about this class and how it allowed him to leave Detention in order to talk to other people. The cynic in me wonders if Christianity’s appeal was in the slight hint of freedom it afforded them, but I start to realise that its drawcard was bigger than that. It gave him a sense of purpose and belonging during a time that was deadening and devoid of life.

‘I have good feeling with Christianity and I like it. They are nice people, very helpful…and…why not?’

Farid converted to Christianity during his time in detention. The religious Islamic group that he had escaped from found out about this because in his words, ‘they hear everything’. The real reason is that Farid has a high profile back home. He was a national champion in his chosen sport. Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever for extreme religious groups to find out things you don’t want them to know. They go to his family’s house and make a scene, swearing and threatening them.

It ends in them stabbing his brother. I ask how he felt about this and he shakes his head and stays silent.

Having converted to Christianity, it seems his life back home is in peril. If he goes back, he could be executed. Farid is eventually placed in Sydney, where he is embraced by a small Australian community who love and adore him, making it all the more devastating when his application for asylum is rejected after being handed to the new and, let’s face it, atrocious Liberal government (and handed from one case worker to the next, each time making it more and more difficult for Farid to plead his case).

They started to ask him about things he couldn’t possibly remember and drill him for details from two years ago – names, dates, the exact name of that guy and that small thing that happened on that street. They assume from the outset that you are lying and the onus is on the desperate, fleeing refugee, to have to prove that you’re not lying – you’re simply traumatised by the entire experience, obviously. After facing rejection time and time again, he sends a letter to Scott Morrison pleading his case but like all things to do with Scott Morrison, it is futile.

He whispers to me that if they send him back, he will end his own life. I believe him when he says this. Months later, news broke of Leo Seemanpillai’s tragic death. My hand flew to my heart. I know this story, I think, and it’s closer to home now than ever before – because this story has become our home, the home we have built for ourselves on our great and sprawling, hostile continent.

I am now so acutely aware of the agonising impact this ordeal has on the mental health of such resilient people and I am afraid for them and for the future of this country.

‘I didn’t know you were going to ask me about the bad boat’, Farid remarks as we walk to the car.

‘I thought I was going to talk about my sport. But I am happy to talk with you about these things. It is like talking to the psychiatrist – I feel better now!’

We laugh and I hug him goodbye, feeling more useless than ever.

***

My new friend watches on, helpless to the unfolding calamity, caught between worlds, unable to go back, unable to stay, unable to breathe freely without the impending sense that he is neither welcome nor safe.

All the while my heart is gradually breaking in one long calamitous slow take, like shards of crystal shattering across the island.

We are long overdue for our revolution.

***

*names have been changed

Tiny Answers (part 2)

@Omar asks:

If you could live inside the head of any living person for an hour, and only an hour, which person would you choose, at what hour, and why?

Jesus, this is a hard one. My first thought was my brain’s hero Noam Chomsky but my own brain would be so overwhelmed by the Chomsk brain, I’d probably have brain failure for the both of us (HEAVENS FORBID).

My second thought was Terrence Malick, because I’d really like to know if there are dinosaurs up there and whether it’s just one giant wheat field. I then thought I would choose to enter Obama’s brain at the hour when he went to George Bush’s opening of his museum thing and gave that speech about this being an admirable man. Hahaha. Nice joke Obama, but what are you REALLY thinking here?

While we could almost easily imagine what was going on inside George W Bush’s head (tumbleweed, fat midget on a swing, dancing monkeys), we have absolutely no fucking idea what’s going on inside Obama’s head and that is pretty scary. Not even Daniel Day Lewis can work this guy out, although I’m sure he’ll try.

Obama is a charming enigma. I’d like to go inside his head and see if he feels remorse for his drone program, which routinely kills ‘terror suspects’ and innocent civilians. Does he feel bad about that whole escalating the war in Afghanistan? What’s his next move? Is he really going to ‘intervene’ (read: invade) Syria? Probs, why not, it’s been a while since the US publicly declared war on a nation.

WAIT. This just reminded me. Can I go inside George W Bush’s head as well? To that exact moment when he’s reading to the little kids and someone whispers in is head about the Twin Towers being hit by planes?

Spoiler alert: more tumbleweed. Not a whole happening up there on planet Bush brain.

Thanks for the (surprisingly difficult) question Omar! We’ll be back next week for more of ‘Ask Tiny’.

‘prejudice always obscures the truth’

Juror #8 in 12 Angry Men (my #1 film):

 

Juror #8: It’s always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don’t really know what the truth is. I don’t suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we’re just gambling on probabilities – we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don’t know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that’s something that’s very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it’s sure.’

And on that note I introduce you to one of the few sane voices of reason out there, the Atticus Finch to my Juror #8, Glenn Greenwald, as he asks why is this terrorism?

 

paraphrased: 'shut yo mouth bish, he innocent until proven guilty'

paraphrased: ‘shut yo mouth bish, he innocent until proven guilty’

but we always forget

Like the Anzacs, I didn’t mean to go to Gallipoli. It just happened.

photo of a photo of the trenches in Gallipoli, Turkey. Don’t need instagram, it’s real lomo.

I was passing through Çanakkale, a town and seaport in Turkey on the coast of the Dardanelles. There wasn’t a whole lot to do, although I amused myself by taking long walks, perusing the markets and befriending locals. I still remember one family owned restaurant that plied me with food and coffee until the early hours of the morning, laughing and chatting about the world and how similar we all are and refusing to take any money as I came to leave.

I was travelling alone, which seemed like a mad, crazy idea for a 21-year-old female at the time. Apart from a few incidences I rarely felt unsafe and I never felt alone. I was lucky to be staying in such a hospitable, beautiful and welcoming country which stole my heart right out from under me.

The hostel I stayed at was themed almost entirely around Anzac Day. Yeah. I know. But in my defence I was limited in my accommodation choices due to a stubborn refusal to plan anything prior to travelling. I remember deliberating with myself for 10 minutes over whether  sleeping on the street was a viable option, before deciding I could deal with the rampant patriotism for a few nights. They showed the Gallipoli film on repeat, which was okay, because I liked that film the first 5 times. But by the 20th loop I was ready to go in there and shoot Mel Gibson myself.

It would be an understatement to declare I was somewhat guilt-tripped into going on their little packaged tour to visit Gallipoli and the Troy site. It must have been some kind of hidden disclaimer about staying there, that one was forced to submit to Tourist Nirvana, hanging their soul up on a rack as they left each day for their tour. Troy is three hours of my life staring at abandoned, speculative soil that I’ll never get back. I did have much respect for the giant wooden horse used in the Troy film however, displayed in the centre of town. I do like a good horse gag.

I’ll admit though, the trip to Gallipoli surprised me, rocked me a little. I relished in our Turkish tour guide and his explanations of the Turkish side of battle. I remembered the friends I had met earlier in my trip explaining to me that in Turkey, Anzac Day is a non-event. I already knew why. Why commemorate a tragedy, even if you are the victor? And then why commemorate it when you have epically failed?

I took photos of the trenches using film. I documented deep mounds of soil missing in the ground where humans hid, young boys, waiting for the slaughter. You can see the tall trees against the grainy black and white. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of a battlefield.

I like this photo of an imposing and commanding Ataturk statue. His famous speech was carved in stone. I concurred with everything Ataturk statue said (my massive crush on the blue-eyed leader should be noted. Stone cold fox. Literally).

Ataturk – stone cold fox.

I can’t remember if I felt any emotions that day. It’s likely I did, because I recall my left wing friend chastising me for selling out to cheap nationalism. There was just something in the air. An unexplainable sadness, a tiny tug in the heartstring, a little sigh asking why.

I remember a beautiful, pristine beach. I would have liked to swim there. It looked like the beaches back home. This is where they had intended to land, all those boy soldiers. As our tour guide took us further, we eventually came across a jagged cliff side of rocks. This is where they landed. That has to suck, I thought. Suddenly the air felt cold, despite being the middle of summer. I had no desire to swim here.

The graves were hauntingly beautiful, littered throughout the site. It felt wrong taking photos, so I just stared out at the sea.

There is a fervour that sweeps us up; cradles and comforts us, like a thick string of emotive nationalism connecting us, if only we could just hold on. But we are not perfectly aligned or defined so easily and we did not land on a beautiful beach. We are jagged rocks leading up to a sharp cliff’s edge. War, or senseless murder, is what happens when we as a collective nation allow ourselves to be thrown off the cliff into the dark waters of war below. We shouldn’t forget what happened, this is true. But as we rode back to the main town, I could only think of words etched out on a brochure and echoed across the sea.

‘The toll in human destruction was high, yet the Gallipoli campaign ended up mattering little in the overall breadth of World War I.’

Human destruction – this alone is our greatest enemy, and we don’t need to travel back in time or across continents to find it, although I’m glad I did.