Author Archives: Vomena

January 6th, 2017 – Civil Liberties under Trump and John Berger


This week, we pay tribute to the renowned British Art Critic, and Palestinian rights advocate John Berger who passed away on January 2nd.

But first, we will talk with Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU in Northern California about potential threats to the civil rights of Muslim Americans under the new Trump regime.




VOMENA: December 2, 2015

Mads Gilbert on His New Book “Night in Gaza”

A question that rarely comes up in Western media: What are the public health effects of the Israeli occupation in Gaza?

gilbertDr. Mads Gilbert is a medical doctor at the University Hospital of North Norway. Since 1981, he has been going regularly to Palestine as a teacher and emergency care doctor at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital. He has worked in Gaza during successive waves of Israeli attacks on the densely populated area. His new book, “Night in Gaza,” contains photographs documenting the horror of last summer’s Israel’s 51 day military assault on Gaza. A trauma expert, he describes how his experiences working under weeks of Israeli bombardment ‘totally changed’ him. This week, we speak with him about “Night in Gaza” and the experience that prompted him to write the book.

Home Yet Far Away: Searching for the Feminine Iran

hyfaAcclaimed Iranian documentary filmmaker and editor Sabereh Kashi turns the lens on herself in her upcoming film “Home Yet Far Away: Searching for the Feminine Iran.” The film follows her over several years on trips between Iran and the United States as she attempts to heal personal wounds and bridge the two cultures. The purpose of making this film, in her words , is “to deepen the American understanding of Iran, and to counter the politicized and one-sided image of Iran in the mainstream media with authentic footage that shows the layers of Iranian society.”

Olive Harvest in Palestine

If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.

Mahmoud Darwish

olivetreeinitiativeIn every pantry sits a bottle of olive oil. In the United States alone over 300,000 metric tons of olive oil were consumed last year. While the olive tree and its oil is prized for its its beauty, taste, and health benefits, in Palestine it is cherished for its resilience, symbolic significance and economic importance.  Olive groves have become yet another site of contention in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. In a segment produced by UC Berkeley students Bita Mousavi and Cierra Remiche to mark the return of Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance’s annual Palestinian Crafts Bazaar, which coincides with the Palestinian olive harvest, we will discuss the history of this struggle as it has played out through the uprooting of and attacks on Palestinian olive trees.

Additional Information

Review of “Night in Gaza” by Middle East Eye

“Home Yet Far Away” Beacon fundraising page

Middle East Children’s Alliance’s Annual Palestinian Holiday Crafts Bazaar


Home Yet Far Away: Searching for The Feminine Iran

hyfaAcclaimed Iranian documentary filmmaker and editor Sabereh Kashi turns the lens on herself in her upcoming film “Home Yet Far Away: Searching for the Feminine Iran.” The film follows her over several years on trips between Iran and the United States as she attempts to heal personal wounds and bridge the two cultures. The purpose of making this film, in her words , is “to deepen the American understanding of Iran, and to counter the politicized and one-sided image of Iran in the mainstream media with authentic footage that shows the layers of Iranian society.” 

You can donate to the making of the film here


VOMENA: November 4, 2015

The Politics of Fear and the Turkish Elections

pg-21-turkey-2-apAfter a summer of bloodshed, intimidation and the arrests of hundreds of leftist activists and journalists and full-blown military attacks against the Kurdish PKK forces, on Sunday, Nov 1st, President Erdogan’s AKP party reversed its recent electoral misfortune by winning the majority it had lost in June’s parliamentary election, and came one step closer to his long-held aspiration of imposing his absolute personal rule over Turkey, through a constitutional amendment.

This week, we’ll speak with Istanbul based political scientist Osman Shanin about the parliamentary election results in Turkey and what enabled Mr. Erdogan’s party, AKP to gain a solid majority after last June’s parliamentary defeat

Additional Information

Turkish Election Analysis in Jadaliyya 

The Guardian on fairness in the elections


VOMENA: October 14, 2015


The Bloodbath in Turkey

A pair of shoes, belonging to a street vendor who was selling Turkish traditional bagel or simit, is placed at the bombing scene during a commemoration for the victims of Saturday's bomb blasts, in AnkaraOn Saturday, two powerful bombs turned a peaceful rally in Ankara into into a bloody nightmare. According to the People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) estimates so far, 128 people have been killed and over 500 injured, some in critical condition The anger against the government of president Erodgan has been evident in the aftermath of the massacre, as tens of thousands of people took to street shouting slogans against the government, chanting “ murderer Erdogan, murderer police.”

Immediately following  the horrific attack,  the government censored news coverage and banned all photographs and any associated images “that create fear and panic”. Officials warned that any Turkish media organizations violating the ban would face “permanent blackout.” This week, we’ll have a conversation with Istanbul based political scientist Dr. Osman Sahin about the massacre in Ankara and the increasing frequency of attacks on peaceful gatherings in Turkey. (Photo:

The Extent of Racism in Israel

.In the past week, the images of palestinian protesters being executed by Israeli soldiers have been circulating widely on social media. One of the most shocking videos shows a 13 year old Palestinian boy in east Jerusalem bleeds to death, a Jewish settler verbally abuses him while the Israeli police watch. This rampant racism has not spared the African migrants fleeing the destruction of the Sudan and other war torn areas. Independent journalist and filmmaker David Sheen has been closely following the development of widespread and officially sanctioned Anti-African racism in Israel. In a recent article for Middle East Monitor he writes “With public sympathy for the asylum-seekers all but extinguished, the government passed a law permitting it to round Africans up off the streets, out of Israeli cities, and into desert containment camps. Once there, the government applies its stated policy to “make their lives miserable“, in order to pressure them to grudgingly agree to be deported back to the tortures they originally fled from, instead of languishing in these jails for what might be the rest of their lives.”

In a two part interview, David sheen spoke with khalil Bendib about  the dehumanizing and racist discourse in Israel against Palestinians, Africans and other non-Jews by top Israeli political and religious leaders, and the vigilante attacks they inspire. (Photo: Atlanta Black Star)

David Sheen will be speaking about racism in Israel in San Jose on October  21st, Berkeley, October 22nd and Oakland on October 25th.

Additional Information

Jadaliyya’s coverage of Turkey

Osman Sahin on Twitter

David Sheen in Middle East Monitor

David Sheen speaking in the Bay Area


VOMENA: October 7, 2015


Battlefield Syria: Omar S. Dahi on the Conflict

putin-russia-will-continue-to-help-syria-if-the-us-attacksLast week,  Russian jets started carrying out airstrikes in Syria. This brings the total number of countries who have bombed Syrian territory in 2015 to an unbelievable 13.The military buildup in Bashar al-Assad’s western coastal heartlands and Moscow’s military intervention has  brought a new dimension to an already catastrophic civil war driven by internal and external state and non state actors. In this episode, we have a conversation with Omar S. Dahi about the latest military intervention by Russia and the future of what remains of the Syrian nation-state. Omar Dahi is an  associate professor of economics at Hampshire College. He also serves on the editorial committee at the Middle East Report, co-editor of the Syria page for Jadaliyya e-zine.

Amir Soltani on His New Film Dogtown Redemption

photo-originalThe new documentary film, Dogtown Redemption, delves inside the lives of West Oakland’s poor and homeless recyclers. Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush  follow the lives of three homeless people trying to eke out a living by recycling other people’s trash. One of the questions the filmmaker raises is who owns our garbage and what makes otherwise marginal characters important voices in a conflict over race, class and public space in a modern American city.  Amir spoke to us about why he spent several years working on this  particular story.

Dogtown redemption will be screened at this year’s Mill Valley film festival on Satruday Oct 10th and Thursday Oct 15th.  Please tune in next week to hear  our extended conversation with  Dogtown redemption’ co director  Amir Soltani

Additional Information

Jadaliyya’s Syria page

Mill Valley Film Festival


VOMENA: September 9, 2015

The Humanitarian Catastrophe in Yemen

yemen-bombing_3251011bThree years after a popular uprising forced an end to Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-years of autocratic rule in Yemen,  the country is embroiled in a bitter civil war and is the target of a Saudi led military intervention. The ongoing conflict has catastrophic consequences for the population.  It has been more than five months since the Saudi led regional coalition began a bombing campaign,  coupled with an air and naval blockade of Yemen, ostensibly to force out Houthi forces and their allies and restore the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who  had assumed power in the wake of  Saleh’s departure. Reports indicate that upwards of 4,500 have been killed in the fighting so far, at least 500 of  them children. 21 million Yemenis are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance now, the highest number anywhere  in the world.

This week, we’ll have a conversation with San’a-based political analyst Hisham Al- Omeisy about the ongoing ramifications of the seemingly unending  war in his country of Yemen. (photo:

Golden Thread’s Re-orient Festival

In 2016, the Bay Area based theater company,  Golden Thread Productions will celebrate its 20th anniversary. For almost two decades, Golden Thread Production has created a space for cultural exchange, while exploring the diverse Middle Eastern cultures and identities. From  September 10th to Oct 4th  Golden Thread’s Re-orient 2015, will bring to stage eight short plays  in two repertory series from around world. Torange Yeghiazarian, Artistic Director of Golden Thread Productions will tell us about Re-Orient 2015, a festival of short plays which kicks off tomorrow and runs through October 4th at Z below in San Francisco. 

Additional Information

BBC on the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen

The Guardian’s coverage of the Yemeni War 

Golden Thread’s Web Page 


VOMENA: September 2, 2015

A Perfect Metaphor? The Trash Crisis in Lebanon

garbagerisisOn Tuesday, Lebanese security forces arrested and beat up protesters staging a sit-in at the office of the environmental ministry in Beirut. For the past two week tens of thousands of people have been protesting over government’s inability to provide basic services, demanding an end to the widespread corruption and sectarianism embedded in the political sectarian structure; and Garbage has become a perfect metaphor for the rot of a chronically  dysfunctional political system like the one holding sway in Lebanon. According to various reports, at one point,  an estimated 8000 to 22,000 tonnes of rubbish piled up on the streets. The movement, called “You Stink”, has tapped into the general anger at the scale of corruption and paralysis of the confessional system in Lebanon. (photo:

This week, we spend the hour with Ohio university assistant professor of history Ziad Abu-Rish to  discuss what the garbage crisis reveals about the political and economic structure of the Lebanese state.  

Additional Information

September 1st sit-in

Politico on the crisis and “Trashy politics” 

Lebanon’s garbage crisis reveals political paralysis



VOMENA: August 12, 2015

Continuing Coverage of the Turkish attack on the PKK

Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

In a televised speech on August 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that his government would continue its military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ” until weapons are laid down … and not one single terrorist” remained within his country’s borders. The statement came nearly two weeks after the Turkish government had announced a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against Daaesh or the Islamic State militants in Syria and the PKK strongholds in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. Turkey’s air raids have predominantly targeted the PKK, which accuses the Turkish state of using its campaign against Daesh or the Islamic State as cover for taking on the Kurdish rebels. The PKK militants have also responded by attacking Turkish security forces. The renewed fighting takes place two years after the Turkish state and the PKK agreed to a ceasefire, which was supposed to bring an end to three decades of bloody conflict between the two sides.

This week, We bring you the second part of our conversation with professor Kamran Matin,  a senior lecturer in International Relations at Sussex University, about the ongoing attack on Kurdish positions and the future of the Kurdish movement in the greater Middle East.

The Francophone school in Oakland

Over the past few centuries, the French language, just like English and Spanish, has spread all over the globe conveying values both positive and negative, of knowledge and emancipation, as well as conquest and oppression. Today, communities across the globe are reclaiming the empowering aspects of this rich language and culture, and Oakland has just opened its first independent charter Francophone school. This week, we speak with Algerian-born school director Mohammed Ben Mohammed Daoudi and his co-director René Waneka.


VOMENA: August 5, 2015


Kamran Matin on the Continuing Turkish Attacks on the PKK

s200_kamran.matinIn 1919, the Kurds brought their demands for an autonomous state to the Paris Conference in the wake of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Nearly a century  later, the Kurdish question remains unresolved in the four countries in the Middle East where most Kurdish people live today: Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. As it has been widely reported, following an IS suicide bombing in the Turkish border town of Suruc  which killed 32 people mostly very young students, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), reacted by killing two Turkish police officers, which served as a pretext for an all-out Turkish attack on PKK bases in the Qandil mountains of Northern Iraq.

This week, We’ll bring you the first part of our conversation with Sussex University professor Kamran Matin about the ongoing attack on Kurdish positions and the future of the Kurdish movement in the greater Middle East.

Henry Norr on the Accusations Against Alison Weir

henrynorrOver the past two decades, the Marin County based organization If Americans Knew has worked tirelessly  to  advocate for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.  Recently, the organization and its founder, Alison Weir, has come under attack by another local peace group, Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP is a liberal organization which was born in Berkeley at about the same time as If Americans Knew, and  until recently had collaborated with IAK.

We speak with well known Berkeley peace activist, Henry Norr, who has worked with both groups, to try understand what is behind this dispute among ostensible allies.


Additional Information

Kamran Matin in Open Democracy

Jadaliyya’s Turkey Page

Jewish Voice for Peace’s statement on Alison Weir

Alison Weir’s response to the Jewish Voice for Peace accusations


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