Archive | March 18, 2017

U.N. Praises Iran’s “Exemplary” Leadership in Hosting Refugees*

U.N. Praises Iran’s “Exemplary” Leadership in Hosting Refugees*

“It’s a story that’s not told often enough,” said a representative for U.N. high commissioner for refugees

By Nadia Prupis

“The leadership demonstrated by the Iranian government has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open,” Sivanka Dhanapala said on Wednesday. (Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/flickr/cc)


The United Nations praised Iran’s “exemplary” refugee resettlement program this week, saying the country’s decades-long effort to house approximately 3 million displaced Afghans was “a story that’s not told often enough.”

Sivanka Dhanapala, head of the office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Tehran, made the remarks on the same day that President Donald Trump sought to reinstate a controversial 90-day ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, and a 120-day ban on all refugees. The new executive order was blocked from going into effect by two courts.

Roughly 6 million people were displaced from Afghanistan to neighboring countries amid the Soviet War in 1979. Nearly 40 years later, Tehran still shelters 1 million registered refugees, and another 2 million are thought to be living there, making it the world’s fourth-largest refugee population.

“The leadership demonstrated by the Iranian government has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open,” Dhanapala said on Wednesday.

The U.N. also hailed a 2015 directive from Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei that called on education administrators to allow all Afghan children, documented or not, to attend Iranian schools.

“We’ve also worked with the government on incorporating refugees into a government-sponsored health Add New insurance scheme which is a ground-breaking development not just for Iran but globally for refugees,” Dhanapala said.

“In a world where you have multiple bad stories about hosting refugees, I think Iran is really a good news story,” he said.

“It’s a story that’s not told often enough.”


Related Topics:

What Happened to the Refugees Who Helped Snowden Escape Hong Kong (And It’s Not Good)*

The Woman Giving Refugee Kids Free Lawyers*

Mass Sexual Assault by Refugees in Germany was Fake News*

U.K. Quietly Shuts Door on Child Refugees*

Trump Will Sign Order to Build Wall, Ban Refugees, Muslims*

Men tired of Gang Stereotypes Launch cook for refugees Campaign*

Refugees Donate Time and Money to Help Italian Earthquake Victims*

Once a Somali Refugee, She’s Now Running as Somalia’s First Female President*

A Water Crisis Like Flint’s Is Unfolding In East Chicago*

A Water Crisis Like Flint’s Is Unfolding In East Chicago*

The soil and water of this predominantly Black and Latinx city contain dangerous levels of lead.

A sign displayed in a front yard request that residents keep from playing in the dirt or mulch at the West Calumet Housing Complex on September 4, 2016, in East Chicago, Indiana.


By Yessenia Funes

Carmen Garza, 74, moved to the city of East Chicago, Indiana, 41 years ago. She bought her house with her husband and quickly made it home, turning their backyard into a tomato and chili garden every summer. “They were so good,” Garza tells Colorlines in Spanish. “Riquísimos.”

Three years ago, that ended after a neighbour asked the couple why they were growing vegetables in contaminated dirt.

The Garzas quickly abandoned their garden. But they were left with more questions than answers:

“She told me it was contaminated, but she didn’t say of what,” Garza recalls.

The contaminant turned out to be lead, the couple ultimately found out thanks to community efforts to discover this information. And it’s not just in the dirt—it’s in the Garza’s drinking water, too. This is because East Chicago, a predominantly Black and Latinx city of nearly 30,000, is located on the USS Lead Superfund Site.

The former USS Lead facility ran here until 1985. The site was placed on the National Priorities List of the worst contaminated sites in the country in 2009, but the EPA was aware since the facility’s closure that it was contaminating nearby areas, according to this 1985 inspection report. And as a Chicago Tribune investigation in December 2016 unearthed, government officials were warned that this contamination posed a public health risk for decades. Still, they failed to test the soil or begin cleanup efforts until 2014. That soil data didn’t make it into city officials’ hands until May 2016. With it, they saw how severe the problem really was: Some homeowners’ backyards had lead levels higher than 45,000 parts per million, far beyond the federal limit of 400 parts per million.

No one told prospective buyers like Garza—not when she first bought her home or even when government officials came to inspect her yard about 10 years ago to “examine the dirt in people’s yards to clean for the animals,” as she says officials told her. She didn’t find out what was going on until last year when community members from the West Calumet Housing Complex started organizing around the issue.

“Imagine you stop going outside,” Garza says.

“You don’t grill steak outside anymore. What can I do? I don’t have money to move.”

And then came the news of the water contamination in January. The EPA conducted a drinking water pilot study on 43 homes in fall 2016 to see if the excavation work to clean up the Superfund site would affect drinking water lead levels. They tested drinking water before and after excavation. The city, like many other older municipalities around the country, is full of service lines made out of lead. As the EPA states in an FAQ, construction work can sometimes disturb these lines and result in the leaching of lead.

That study found that the tap water in 18 homes before excavation and 12 homes after excavation had lead levels beyond 15 parts per million, which requires government intervention under the Lead and Copper Rule.

Garza’s home was included in the study. The state gave her a water filter after revealing its findings in January, but she still buys water by the gallons and bottles to cook and drink. She estimates she spends $20 a month on them, an expense that she says she is feasible within her budget.

But Garza says her daily routine is unacceptable. She can’t deal with the mental stress of knowing her water is contaminated, that her yard is contaminated and that even the dust in her home is contaminated. In 2002, she was diagnosed with—and beat—colon cancer, only to now face the concern of what will come from her daily showers in lead-tainted water, which authorities say pose no health risk.

“That’s the torment,” she says.

“It’s a constant threat.”

Now, community members are putting this issue onto the national radar so it can get the attention it deserves. East Chicago is forcing all 1,100 residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex to uproot their lives and move so that the city can demolish the building and deal with the lead on which it sits. And while it’s too early to tell how the lead might impact children’s developmental growth, 20% of children younger than seven saw their blood lead levels test greater than 5 micrograms per decileter, The Northwest Indiana Times reports. Parents are already worried that the lead poisoning has made them sick. They’re comparing it to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the predominantly Black city of 100,000 saw elevated blood lead levels in 2015 after unknowingly drinking contaminated water for over a year.

Groups including the East Chicago Calumet Coalition Community Advisory Group and National Nurses United sent a petition to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on March 2 asking the agency to “use its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act … to take action to abate the imminent and substantial endangerment to human health caused by lead contamination in East Chicago’s drinking water.”

Erik Olsen, director of the National Resources Defense Council’s Health and Environment Program, stood before the Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce today (March 16) to testify at a hearing titled “Reinvestment and Rehabilitation of Our Nation’s Safe Drinking Water Deliver Systems” in Washington, D.C., another American city that’s has similar drinking water issues. In the early 2000s, the city had a dramatic increase of lead in drinking water—and also in its infants and toddlers.


“I think we all take for granted where this water that’s in here comes from,” Olsen began his testimony, lifting his cup of water. He sat before the committee and explicitly mentioned the situation in East Chicago. “What’s going to happen to that community?” he asked.

“How are we going to restore confidence in the water supply in East Chicago and a lot of communities across the country?”

Watch the full hearing below with Olsen’s testimony beginning around the 36 minute mark.

These steps—from the petition to the testimony—are putting into motion necessary intervention to protect the health of the city’s residents. While then-Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence rejected the city’s request for emergency declaration in late 2016, current Governor Eric Holcomb approved the request in February. In January, the city also secured a $3.1 million state grant to begin replacing its lead pipes with more standard and safe infrastructure—which the city of Flint is currently doing as well.

Until the pipes have been replaced, city residents must struggle to find answers about how their water got contaminated—and for how long that’s been the case. A group of residents wrote a letter to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in January. “[A]lthough the full picture is only beginning to emerge, this is clearly the City’s mess,” they wrote.

As for Garza, the lingering question remains: “Why?”


Related Topics:

A Fed Set-up: Biggest Mass Shooting in Chicago Since 2014*

In Flint, Level of lead in Children’s Blood Leads to a State of Emergency*

Nestlé Loses more Than $500 Million for Poisoning Maggi Noodles with Lead*



U.K.’s First Sharia-compliant Student Loans Crowd-funding Platform Launches*

U.K.’s First Sharia-compliant Student Loans Crowd-funding Platform Launches*

An interest-free alternative to traditional student loans which aims to enable Muslim students to fund their university education without compromising their faith has been launched in London.

QardHasan is a higher education lending platform that adheres to the principles of Islamic finance. Using the power of community capital, students are able to crowd-fund their student loans for university at zero interest. As well as facilitating access to higher education, QardHasan connects students looking for internships, part or full-time work with opportunities before, during and after university.

With tuition fees and living costs on the rise and the average British student graduating with a debt of £44,000, one of the biggest questions British students face is how to afford the costs of university education.

For over 130,000 Muslim students in the U.K., taking out traditional student loans comes into conflict with their religious beliefs that prohibit all forms of interest. Research conducted by the U.K. Government shows that many Muslim students have been deterred from accessing higher education as a direct result of requiring an interest-bearing loan.

At QardHasan, Muslim students can launch a 40-day crowd-funding campaign to borrow up to
£30,000 by appealing to family, friends, alumni and charitable trusts to invest in their education.

“We’re telling Muslim students: ‘You don’t have to choose between your faith and your aspirations”, said Tom Woolf, Founder & CEO of QardHasan.

You can come from any background and aim for any career. All you need to do is showcase your potential and hustle like crazy.”


Related Topics:

Ecuador Education Rank Soars, Beating Finland in Quality Access*

My Experience as a non-Muslim going Undercover with Britain’s Sufi Muslims*

Blackburn Muslim Schools Come Top of U.K. Education Progress Table*

Student Collapses in School after Going without Food for 3 Days*

“I came so close to taking my own life again, that I knew it was time to change things”

If University is Trying to Turn you into a Debt Slave, Try these 40 Free Educational Websites*

Busted for Unpaid Student Loan of $1,500*


“I came so close to taking my own life again, that I knew it was time to change things”

“I came so close to taking my own life again, that I knew it was time to change things”

My name is Khadija Abdelhamid.

I want to share my story, so if you’re reading this and you’re feeling suicidal, you want to give up, confused about your current stage in life or even if you’re looking for something to inspire you to get up and achieve greatness then this is for you. My story is simple, but my journey was hard.

I moved to the U.K. with my mother from Sudan in 1997, and my father was already in London. I was six years old and I didn’t speak a word of English. I remember barely being able to read or speak my own mother tongue, Arabic, and I was already being expected to pick up a new language, so I demanded from my parents to send me on the first flight back to Sudan.

I hated the idea of moving away from my family and everything that was familiar to me but eventually I had to get used to it and a few months later, I started going to school. I remember my first day in school like it was yesterday; it was the most unpleasant memory. We were all sat on the carpet floor whilst my teacher was taking the register and I really needed to use the toilet, but I didn’t know how to communicate it to my teacher in English, so I ended up urinating on the carpet.

The whole class found out and they made sure to not let me forget it. Nobody wanted to hang around with me, so I was always alone during playtime and lunchtime and this went on for a few months. My mum’s friend then decided to give me English lessons 3 or 4 days a week at home and I slowly started to learn English and I felt a bit more confident in school. Whilst I was learning to speak English, my teacher introduced me to a girl named Hanin from Libya; she translated for me every lesson and to this day, I am absolutely grateful for all she did for me.

I left primary school in 2002 and started secondary school. I then left secondary school in 2006 and everything between those four years of my life is the reason why I am here sharing my story with you. Secondary school was one of the most difficult, painful and worst years of my life and I’m not over exaggerating. My first day in secondary school reminded me of when I first started primary school or when I first to moved to London, it was being in that whole new environment and not knowing anyone, again.

My life in secondary took a dramatic change when I decided to attempt committing suicide in year 10. I tried to take my life in several ways, jumping off a train platform (I was tempted but never did it), cutting my wrists and I even burnt my hands. I would cut my wrists almost everyday and today I’m lucky that I didn’t damage a major nerve. I would burn my hands with matchsticks and I’m blessed I don’t have any scars left to this day. I eventually reached a point when I was in year 10 and I felt there was too much pressure from home and school and my grades weren’t really giving me hope either.

Secondary school was hell on earth for me for different reasons, one of which was that I was constantly bullied. I was bullied by some of my teachers (emotional bullying) and one particular student (physical bullying). My teachers would remind me everyday that I “wouldn’t amount to much’’ or that I “wouldn’t get far in life,’’ but I refused to believe them because they based my intellect on my grades, rather than my potential. As I said before, self-belief is everything.

When I left secondary school, I left with one GCSE and no 6th Form or College was going to accept me because I had failed my GCSEs. My secondary school had their own 6th Form, so they allowed me to do BTEC courses and from there, I went to study A-Levels. A few months into my A-Level course and my depression reached its peak and I decided to turn to self-harm again because I was being bullied (emotionally) by a group of girls who called themselves ‘Angels and Devils.’ My depression eventually made me lose motivation, so I failed my A-Levels completely. I got a few U’s, a couple of D’s and an X grade, and to this day, I don’t know what that means.

I finished my A-Levels in 2010 and two years later, I had nothing going for me – I didn’t even have a job. I remember one day, something triggered me and I was home alone at the time. I was having the worst anxiety attack and I thought to myself I couldn’t take this any longer. I came so close to taking my life again that my heart started beating with fear. It was from that fear that I ran to my GP and signed up for counselling.

I was seen within the next 24 hours. I took counselling for six weeks and at the end of my sixth session, my counsellor told me I showed no sign of self-harm or suicidal thoughts so she recommended for me to either take anti-depressants or to take further counselling, but I refused both. She then told me to work on my self-esteem and I felt that was the safest suggestion, so I decided to try it out. I left her office that day and made a promise to myself that one day, I would be successful, significant and become an inspiration to others. I had to start my life from the beginning so I decided to sign up for college and taking my counsellor’s advice on board, I started working on my self-esteem. I was on YouTube one day and I came across a motivational speaker called Eric Thomas and through him, I discovered personal development.

Eric Thomas inspired me to reinvent my life. I then started my own YouTube Channel called Dose Of Inspiration in 2016 where I motivated and inspired young people to follow their dreams and from the same platform, I also share my own life lessons and experiences. I called my channel Dose Of Inspiration because it was the ‘’doses’’ of personal development that helped me, rather than the anti-depressants. Last year April, I released a spoken word poem about my journey with Mental Health on my YouTube Channel called “Dear Depression.” The video reached 95 countries in 6 days. I then gained media attention and did interviews with The Huffington Post, BBC, The Independent, Reuters TV, Islam Channel, British Muslim TV and Ahlulbayt TV.

Today, I am an entrepreneur, a public speaker, a YouTuber, a spoken word artist and most importantly, I am a mental health activist. I recently started organising my own networking events for young people in London to empower and encourage young people to follow their dreams, regardless of their current background, circumstances, environment or skills. I want to provide them with the support I never had growing up when I was in secondary school and college. My event was called ‘Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Dreams’ and in November 2016, I won an award for being the most active young person in the community throughout London.

I want you to remember you are very, very special and there isn’t anybody in this world that could ever replace you, your talents and most importantly, your story. Your story is your armour, your strength and your message to the world and you should never ever allow someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.

I never did.

I remember reading somewhere that the difference between school and life is that school teaches us a lesson and then gives us the test, but life gives us the test and then teaches us the lesson. Also, did I mention that I finally graduated in 2016? I graduated with a 2:1 degree despite failing in secondary school and having no A-Levels. It took me six years to graduate and four college failures to get into University so never, ever, ever give up and always strive to be the somebody nobody thought you could be.

I believe that we all have the capacity to achieve our goals and dreams if we decide to take that first step of self-belief. Self-belief is the key to ultimate success, it’s the foundation and whatever we decide to plant for our foundation we will eventually reap what we sowed.


Related Topics:

Imminent Starvation Resulting from U.S. Led Wars: U.N. Officials Warn of Worst Famine Crisis Since World War II*

U.N. to Send 4,000 Soldiers to South Sudan despite Govt. Opposition*

100+ Year Old Took up Running to Beat Depression Wins the Fastest 100M*

Politics as Therapy: They want us to be just Sick Enough not to Fight Back*

Antidepressants Change the Functionality of the Brain*

Laughter the Best Medicine in Depressing Times

Common Sense from ‘Experts’ on Post-Natal Depression

The Effects of Fluoride on Consciousness and the Will to Act*

Syrian Air Defense Shoots Down one of 4 Israeli Warplanes Targeting Military Site near Palmyra*

Syrian Air Defense Shoots Down one of 4 Israeli Warplanes Targeting Military Site near Palmyra*

The General Command of the Army and the Armed Forced announced on Friday that the Syrian air defense downed one of four Israeli warplanes that violated the Syrian airspace and targeted a military site in the eastern countryside of Homs.

According to a statement by the Command, the four Israeli aircrafts violated the Syrian airspace in al-Breij area through the Lebanese territories at 2:40 am.

The Israeli warplanes targeted a military site near Palmyra in the eastern countryside of Homs, said the Army’s Command, confirming that the Syria air defense forces confronted the enemy’s aircrafts and shot down one of them inside the occupied territories, hit another and forced the other two to withdraw.

“This blatant Israeli act of aggression came as part of the Zionist enemy’s persistence with supporting ISIS terrorist gangs and in a desperate attempt to raise their deteriorating morale and divert attention away from the victories which Syrian Arab Army is making in the face of the terrorist organizations,” the statement read.

It stressed the Army Command’s resolve to repel any attempt by the Zionist enemy to attack any part of the Syrian territory, affirming that any such attempt will be directly confronted with all possible means.


Related Topics:

U.S. Marines Invade Syria, helping ISIS and Turkey*

SAA Seizes 2 Shipments of NATO Weapons to Al Qaeda Near Damascus*

Rothschild Makes Dismal Admission — His Financial World Order Now “Threatened”*

U.S. Deploying Thousands More Ground Troops to Kuwait to Fight in Iraq and Syria*

Trump-Israel Struggling to Save ISIS to divide and Conquer Syria and Iraq*

Israel Bombs Syrian Military Airport near Assad’s Presidential Palace*