Abolishing War is Needed

Abolishing War is Needed



‘We must start talking, imagining, designing a world without war’

On 13 August 2021, Italian surgeon Gino Strada, founder of Emergency,  died at the age of 73.  

A surgeon is how  he defined himself when he received the Right Livelihood Award in 2015; a pacifist, or more precisely as he said himself ‘I am not a pacifist, I am against war!’; an activist who spent his life  curing and treating people in war zones; a thinker, who once wrote that wars do not only destroy infrastructure but destroy human relations; a father, a husband. Gino Strada was a model of humility and perseverance that shaped humanitarian health and a culture of peace since the foundation of Emergency in 1994.  

We remember him at several protests and seeing him during a demonstration in 2004 against the war in Iraq, passing by, greeting people with his Emergency T-shirt and white strip of fabric around his harm, symbolising peace. We used to have one on our backpacks, and stickers with the unmistakable red logo of Emergency. Gino’s work and thoughts have inspired generations of people in Italy and abroad; we were among those.   

His last article appeared in an Italian newspaper on 13 August, the day he passed away, commenting on the dramatic events in Afghanistan. Gino Strada spent over 7 years living in Afghanistan, and since 2001 had been campaigning against the war. He wrote in his latest piece: 

Dicevamo 20 anni fa che questa guerra sarebbe stata un disastro per tutti. Oggi l’esito di quell’aggressione è sotto i nostri occhi: un fallimento da ogni punto di vista. Oltre alle 241 mila vittime e ai 5 milioni di sfollati, tra interni e richiedenti asilo, l’Afghanistan oggi è un Paese che sta per precipitare di nuovo in una guerra civile, i talebani sono più forti di prima, le truppe internazionali sono state sconfitte e la loro presenza e autorevolezza nell’area è ancora più debole che nel 2001. E soprattutto è un Paese distrutto, da cui chi può cerca di scappare anche se sa che dovrà patire l’inferno per arrivare in Europa. E proprio in questi giorni alcuni Paesi europei contestano la decisione della Commissione europea di mettere uno stop ai rimpatri dei profughi afgani in un Paese in fiamme.

20 years ago we said that this war would have been a catastrophe for all. Today, the outcomes of that aggression is under everyone’s eyes: a failure, from all points of view. In addition to its 241,000 victims, and 5 million displaced people, internally-displaced and asylum seekers, Afghanistan is today a country on the verge of another civil war, the Taliban are stronger than they used to be, international troops have been defeated and their presence and authority in the area is weaker than in 2001. And above all, it is a country which is destroyed, where those who can, try to escape even though they know that they will go through hell in the attempt to reach Europe. And precisely in the last few days, some European countries have contested the European Commission’s decision to halt deportations of Afghani asylum seekers to their country, which is in flames.

[our translation]

Moni Ovadia recalls a memory of Gino Strada, when once, after one of the numerous heart failures he had, he was planning to go back to Afghanistan, and Ovadia tried to call him and dissuade him from going. Gino’s answer was: ‘I miei malati mi aspettano’ ‘My wounded people are waiting for me’; Ovadia commented that Gino was indeed a personification of the essence of the Oath of Hippocrates. Gino’s life was led by valuing the ‘Other’, whoever the Other was.  

I suoi malati, his wounded ones, the ‘real heroes’ as he used to call them, were at the heart of what he did over the years, and Gino once said, ‘treating the wounded is neither generous, nor merciful, it is only just. It has to be done’ because we need justice if we want to achieve peace. And we don’t help people because we are good people, but just because it is just.  

During the pandemic, Gino, with Emergency, in addition to putting their knowledge and experience of dealing with pandemics in crisis and emergencies, described how ideal – not utopistic, but feasible – healthcare should be. He referred to the Italian healthcare, but we believe his words would resonate in many other countries: 

universal (it cannot discriminate, it doesn’t look at citizenship rights because it has to be available for everyone; and importantly, healthcare should not be for profit, pointing at the importance of relocating resources that in recent years have been allocated to private profit) 

of high quality in all national territories, and independent (not dependent on religious powers and churches) 

welcoming and hospitable – healthcare is solidarity, all of the community should be a part of this, putting the interests of those who are ill first.  

A giant, with a very small ego. Probably that was what made him so unique, he was a man of the people, a man of the field. It is our duty to continue his legacy – whether we do it in war zones, or with our neighbours, at university or at nurseries, selling clothes, teaching languages, working with people, or with computers.  

Whatever we do in our lives, it is our duty to talk and imagine a world without war. Our children deserve this.  

Che la terra ti sia lieve, Gino.  


Watch his moving full speech to learn about war, health, peace, wounds, and broken hopes, and what we must do to conceive a world without war, starting with imagining and talking about it. 

*Andrea Cagli, Associazione Proletari Escursionisti, Italy 

** Diego Lombardi, University for Foreigners of Siena, Italy 

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Peacebuilding and Books as Mirrors, Windows and Doors

Peacebuilding and Book as Mirrors, Windows as Doors


In the fourth episode of our CUSP Podcast series, Prof. Evelyn Arizpe, Dr Giovanna Fassetta and Dr Julie MacAdam joined Prof. Alison Phipps for a discussion on peacebuilding in relation to the work they do as educators, researchers, and members of their communities. 

In the contexts in which Evelyn, Giovanna and Julie have worked and are working, especially the Gaza Strip and Mexico, physical violence occurs on a daily basis. Gaza is a context of protracted conflict with an ongoing blockade and recurrent military aggressions; and in Mexico, gender-based violence is acute, in particular the incidence of feminicidio (Castañeda Selgado, 2016). Evelyn, Giovanna, and Julie work in the School of Education (University of Glasgow) and they use different creative methods in their research, with a particular interest in books and literature to build peace in these contexts. 

What do books and literature have to do with peacebuilding?  

The phrase ‘Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors’ was coined by Sims Bishop (1990) to describe how children see themselves in books, and why it is important that they can find themselves represented in books and that they can relate to others’ experiences. Literature may not be the solution to a protracted conflict, but it may change our attitudes towards how we perceive difference, building empathy and community (Bishop, 1990).  

Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.  

(Bishop, 1990) 

(Thanks Julie, for sharing the powerful work of Sims Bishop during the podcast episode!). 

Building a culture(s) for inclusive and sustainable peace, at the community level, perhaps means to focus on the acts of everyday solidarity and care, small acts but constant and multiple. As Evelyn and Giovanna also mentioned during the podcast – these acts increase non-violent options to conflict. That is, as Evelyn highlighted, we are often exposed to media narratives that ‘take us to more violent solutions’ but perhaps we can choose which door to close and which door to open – and offer different doors to walk through.  

Peacebuilding is multifaceted, there is not only single way to undertake the journey.  

In this podcast, Julie, Evelyn and Giovanna talked about multiliteracies, multilingualism, multimodality, a multiplicity of perspectives, multiculturality – multiple sources can spark our imagination. With our work we try to understand what these multiple sources in local contexts are. Peacebuilding is therefore contextualised, shaped relationally, and built step-by-step and day-by-day, not only with our neighbours and immediate community, but with a wider community of people.   

 As educators, we can promote inclusivity and peace, perhaps starting with the classroom context and then going beyond it, in a perspective that highlights plentifulness and positive relations.  


Bishop S. 1990. Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doorshttps://bbk12e1-cdn.myschoolcdn.com/ftpimages/486/misc/misc_227881.pdf  

Castañeda Selgado M.P. 2016. Feminicide in Mexico: an approach through academic, activist and artistic work. Current Sociology. 64(7): 1054-1070. 


Additional Resources on Books 

2021 Ibby Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities. https://www.ibby.org/fileadmin/user_upload/2021_IBBY_Outstanding_Catalogue.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0HBqoiWEaFxGFNCoYqb_EhtKlVePu-5jjTvhL3Rp1W6nihSCsO598B4kc 


The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Conflict Transformation or Conflict Resolution?

Conflict Transformation or Conflict Resolution? 


Rather than seeing peace as a static “end-state,” conflict transformation views peace as a continuously evolving and developing quality of relationship.  
(Lederach, 2003: para 22)

In CUSP we frame our work within ‘conflict transformation’, inspired by the work of Jean Paul Lederach. Lederach the father of conflict transformation, was one of the first scholar-practitioners that started to use and conceptualise conflict transformation as opposed to conflict resolution.  

In the early 1990s, conflict transformation as an idea was not that common among peace studies and theorists. There was rather a focus on conflict resolution and conflict management. In his earlier work, Jean Paul Lederach (1995) explained that, ‘perhaps unintentionally, [resolution] carries the connotation of a bias toward ‘ending’ a given crisis or at least its outward expression, without being sufficiently concerned with the deeper structural, cultural and long-term relational aspect of conflict’ (Lederach, 1995: 201).  That is, conflict resolution may be more short-term, outcome-oriented, while conflict transformation is process-oriented and hence may take much longer. Conflict resolution is concerned with immediate problem-solving activities while conflict transformation looks at identity building and national reconciliation.  

Diamond (1994) argues that sustainable peace needs conflict transformation and conflict resolution, and those activities move on a spectrum, on a fluid continuum. For example, Notter and Diamond (1996) explain that conflict transformation has to do with systems, and systems cannot ‘be resolved’ but we can perhaps try to transform what we cannot completely fix. These ideas are at the basis of conflict transformation which may also be intertwined with conflict resolution. 

Other theorists perceive conflict transformation as totally different from conflict resolution. For example, conflict is considered a ‘motor of change’ and not just something that needs to be fixed (Lederach, 2003). 

In a nutshell, in his Little Book of Conflict Transformation (2003) Lederach explains these main points:  

  • We need to accept that conflict is normal, it exists in our lives, and we cannot get rid of it.  
  • Conflict can be a motor of change. This is quite shocking as usually, we want to resolve conflict as quickly as possible. However, conflict transformation work recognises that conflict can be an opportunity.  
  • We can build something new out of conflict. We don’t just need to negotiate and find solutions, but we can create new ways of interacting and imagining. How does a future without conflict look? How do we get there? Lederach says that we can try to keep our eyes on the horizon, we cannot reach the horizon, but it is what can stimulate us to move forward.
  • Solving the immediate conflict might be necessary, but we need to get to the roots of conflict. We can continue digging deeper so to walk towards the future without conflict and to try to understand the roots of someone’s perceptions.  
  • Conflict must be out in the open. At times we might need to escalate conflict before starting to work within that. That can be challenging, and it requires open and honest conversations. The process is not linear, we might represent it as a spiral as you might move forward but you may also be pulled back – in constant movement.

In order to transform conflict, change needs to happen at several levels:  

  • Personal, to fully develop individuals’ potential and wellbeing.  
  • Relational, as we can’t transform conflict on our own. Relations to our and others’ emotions are also important and need to be foregrounded.
  • Structural, to understand root causes.
  • Cultural, to identify cultural patterns and build upon those within contextual and cultural settings. 

These bullet points are a very simplified version of Lederach’s (2003) work, but we have used them in our work within CUSP. For a more exhaustive account of conflict transformation, we invite you to consult Jean Paul Lederach’s books. 


Diamond, L. 1994. “On Developing a Common Vocabulary: The Conflict Continuum.” Peace Builder, Vol.1, No. 4, Spring, p. 3. 

Lederach J.P. 2003. The little book of conflict transformation. Good Books 

Lederach, J.P. 1995. “Conflict Transformation in Protracted Internal Conflicts: The Case for a Comprehensive Network.” In Kumar Rupesinghe, ed., Conflict Transformation. New York: St. Martin’s Press.  

Notter, J. & Diamond L. 1996. Building Peace and Transforming Conflict: Multi-Track Diplomacy in Practice. The Institute for Multi-Track diplomacy: Occasional Paper Number 7. 

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

3. Feelinguistic deficiency’ of trauma dramatic monologue of a linguist in occupied Palestine: To be Free


In this latest blog for Cultures of Sustainable and Inclusive Peace our Co-I Nazmi Al Masri attempts to find words for the horror he and his family and colleagues are experiencing through 11 days of bombardment by the Israeli Government on the Gaza Strip. At a time when preparations had been made to celebrate Eid, to be with family and friends in peaceful congregation, he finds himself at a loss for words, or more accurately, needing to use his full powers as an Applied Linguist to create new words for the fact that he has lost his ability to express his feelings about the reality unfolding around him. There is no peace in the language Nazmi is using here. It is the language of trauma, a poetic expression using academic resources of an applied linguist both up against the limits of speech but at the same time articulating in new ways what trauma, fear, anger, injustice produce in someone used to being able to find words in English and in Arabic for the experiences of peace, and for the experiences of inclusion. Nazmi’s words are staccato, like the bombs; they shatter; like the bones; they bleed; like the bodies; they make use of ellipsis and neologisms as part of articulating the loss, and the radical unwanted change that such loss visits upon the human community.

Feelinguisitc Deficiency is both a descriptor and also an injunction to those of us who enjoy peace, or who experience this war in different, bureaucratised forms, to feel our own linguistic deficiencies and inadequacies in expressing the full horror at the violence being done to a people, over decades, in Palestine.  

*This blogpost was written on the 22nd of May, during the attacks on Gaza.

Feelinguistic deficiency’ of trauma dramatic monologue of a linguist in occupied Palestine: To be Free


“Sorry, although I’m an applied linguist with an education and psychology background, I can’t do anything, I can’t do nothing, I can’t identify or specify my current feelings, I can’t describe my feelings for these 11 days. I feel that I may have caught a Feelinguistic Deficiency.”, I said to myself and to many of my local and international colleagues and friends who asked me, “How are you, hope you and family are safe” via email, WhatsApp, messenger, or other social media used to express solidarity and support the peace of mind of Palestinians living under occupation, besieged and exposed to Israeli attacks in Gaza, Palestine for 11 days.

I can hear my partners in Scotland exclaim: ‘Feelinguistic Deficiency’?! Astonished by hearing this term, Feelinguistic Deficiency, for the first time and knowing, my, Nazmi’s resilience and ability to create new context-based words like “Palestinise, projectise”,

I notice a big smile: “Feelinguistic Deficiency, what is this Nazmi? What do you mean?

Honestly and frankly, I could not give a specific explanation to this question but I started thinking about it and I am trying my best to give more explanation of what this term may mean.

To feel positive or to feel negative isn’t a question

To feel a mixture of feelings isn’t a question

What exactly a Palestinian feels under day and night airstrikes, from artillery and sea and the international community watching the killing and destruction of an illegitimately besieged Gaza for decades. It’s not easy to describe these feelings.

Though I endured 3 destructive Israeli wars on Gaza in less than 7 years (2008-9, 2012, 2014), I feel the current ongoing aggression (Monday 10 – Thursday 20 May, 2021) – on besieged Gaza (December 2008 – May 2021) is different and more difficult for logical and practical reasons. I am unable to describe it well due to having ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’.  Maybe this is why it is different and difficult…

Credit: Alison Phipps

This fourth aggression by the Israeli government occupation forces on more than 2 million Palestinians (about 70% are refugees) living in an overpopulated, tiny Gaza happened after I survived 3-months of health problems, and then before my full recovery, my 100-year father (May Allah have mercy on him) passed away. He got Coronavirus and was hospitalised in the ICU for 17 days during which I was taking care of him all the time. He had been living with me and my family in our house for 27 years, since I had graduated from Manchester University and came back to Gaza in February 1994.

Living, chatting, visiting relatives, eating, performing worships Fasting Ramadan and Mondays and Thursdays performing prayers in the mosque, and performing Haj and Omra and doing this and that … created a special bond of close mutual love, gratitude, friendship, attachment and … and … To me he is not only my kind, wise, passionate and resilient and determined father but also my closest friend, best brother, most experienced consultant, most talented advisor, role model and a big story of success for all Palestinians and humans … and  … Maybe all these events and the dots (and …) could be some symptoms of having Feelinguistic Deficiency.

Similar symptoms may have started to appear when I could not receive sufficient support and comfort or express my flooding feelings of love and attachment to my father and to others in the context of lockdown. (Curfews, in the Palestinian context, are those imposed by the Israeli government, who cite security reasons, on Palestinians.)

Chatting with my family and staying in all the time watching and reading and discussing news and being asked several if questions (e.g. Dad! what might happen if . . .  ? What are we going to do if  . . . .? gave me opportunities to contemplate and reflect on this new phenomenon, ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’.  I started thinking and writing these related questions and thoughts using synonyms, antonyms, collocations in the context of aggressions and wars.

I started monologuing and sometimes soliloquising, if I were asked next time about my feeling, I would say

“I am ok so far but unsure what might happen in the next minute , or the next hour , or even worse this night, as with most Israeli airstrikes hit 100s of Palestinian houses after midnight to create more … and  …. and …. among Palestinian families and children – ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’

Suddenly a heavy, loud bombardment killed my train of thoughts and I rushed to changing TV news channels, searching my mobile, and online news agencies on my laptop instantaneously to find which family was bombed in my hometown, Deir El-Balah, located in the middle of Gaza Strip. In less than 3 minutes, I got this heart-breaking news:

“An Israeli airstrike killed a wheelchaired father with a physical disability (Eyad Salha, 33), his pregnant wife (Amani, 33), and their 3-year old daughter (Nagham) in Deir El-Balah – ‘They were getting ready to eat lunch when a missile struck their home.’

My ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ jumped and dropped down to its lowest level to start again and again monologuing painfully, agonizingly, uproariously, distrustfully, disgustedly, angrily, distressfully, . .. .. … and ….. and  ….

To feel or not feel, that is the question.

To feel and to experience physical, emotional and . . . feelings is . . .

  1. What do I feel these days? Can I tell and describe my true feelings comprehensively?
  2. Am I naturally and increasingly worried and awfully and desperately anxious or am I completely, fairly calm and apparently, outwardly quiet?
  3. Am I genuinely terrified and terrorised mentally, psychologically and physically or am I a powerful fearless academic who is steady and has firm self-assurance?
  4. Am I badly, bitterly and deeply upset and profoundly, seriously and terribly angry or am I sadly and (mildly) or hugely disappointed or deeply and increasingly dissatisfied?
  5. Am I profoundly and unbearably sad and wretchedly and woefully unhappy or am I pretty and absolutely hopeless or rather helpless and feel the suffering of loneliness and being isolated and deserted by . . .?
  6. Am I very emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially and personally stressed distressed and agonised?
  7. Am I mentally, physically and visibly tired having had 11 sleepless, terrorising nights or a high or low spirited Palestinian who needs to sleep more hours (if I can due to . . . and . . .) to have more pleasant dreams to be true?
  8. Am I less or more active, less or more productive and less or more creative these 11 days because . . . and . . .?
  9. What specific feelings do I have to express and describe to myself and to my warm-hearted, generous-spirited friends and colleagues who have kept in touch with Palestine in solidarity and support to safety, justice and peace?
      • Possibly some of these feelings or possibly all of them combined and mixed.
      • Possibly a mixture of some of these feelings and some other feelings I have never experienced, felt or known.
      • Possibly none of these feelings but some feeling called ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ that make me unable to exactly describe my own specific feelings in the context of non-stop war and aggression that make the state of mind confused, indescribable and traumatised, and . . . and . . . .
  1. Has this ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ been caused by flagrant routine and systematic violation of basic human rights of 14 million Palestinians day and night?
  2. Has this ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’’ been generated by the deaf ear and blind eye of the hypocrite ‘leaders of the free world” who never talk about the Palestinian dream of having a free Palestine: no occupation and no repression or oppression?

11 questions and 11 dreadful and aggressive days and night against Palestinian families that killed 66 children, 33 women, 17 elderly family members and other civilians in the name of the fallacy of ‘the right to self-defence’ but no rights are mentioned that would mean a free Palestine and an end to the occupation, root of all human right violations. How can we accept these double standards, supported by democratic states such as the US and Europe, in the face of clear United Nations injunctions and rulings?  I feel that this inequality in terms of whose human rights are protected and violated is also perpetuated with the complicity of superpowers and top media agencies and channels. These countries and media agencies may have another form of ‘Feelinguistic deficiency’ related to not feeling ashamed of moral bankruptcy and/or related to all of these: “justice promotion deficiency, ethical and moral deficiency or deficit,  moral disorder or  “inclusive and sustainable peace promotion deficiency ”

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

 Are we all vulnerable? Reflections on the term ‘vulnerability’

 Are we all vulnerable? Reflections on the term ‘vulnerability’


‘Vulnerability’ is a contested term. In our project, we work with youths, children, minorities, women, people who have escaped wars and conflicts; those are usually identified as ‘vulnerable groups’. However, overall, within our team we tend not to use this word much, perhaps because the idea of vulnerability is often associated with the stigma of victimhood and risk. 

Vulnerability’ comes from Latin, ‘vulnerare’, a verb that means ‘to hurt’, ‘to damage’, ‘to offend’, but also ‘to break a principle’. In late Latin it was used also as in ‘to break a law’. The adjective then followed, ‘vulnerabile’, as in English ‘vulnerable’. Vulnerability as an analytical concept emerged in environmental sciences (Wisner, 1993) in relation to the effect of natural or economic disasters on human beings (Virokannas et al, 2020). After that, it was rapidly used in other fields, e.g. in health, social care, and policy making (Virokannas et al, 2020). 

Interestingly, in a recent literature review which aimed to shed light on the conceptualisation of vulnerability, Virokannas and colleagues concluded that, after reviewing over 80 journal articles on the topic of vulnerability, that the term was used in a ‘self-evident manner, referring to certain people or groups’ (Virokannas et al, 2020: 335).  Many of the articles mentioned in the review, presented a critique of the term ‘vulnerable’: this could be stigmatising, it could deny the agency and voice of those perceived as vulnerable, and may lead to the responsibility of the state, to prevent vulnerability, being overlooked. However, there are other scholars, especially philosophers, who talk about a universal, human vulnerability. For example, Martha Fineman (2010) writes that human vulnerability ‘arises from our embodiment, which carries with it the imminent or ever-present possibility of harm, injury, and misfortune’ (p. 267).  Fineman argues that vulnerability is both universal and particular, and that the relationship between individuals and society and institutions should be unpacked as to understand the social processes that generated vulnerability and the responsibility that the state carries towards its citizens as to alleviate the causes and consequences of vulnerability. 

Martha Nussbaum also argues that vulnerability is a common trait of humanity: she calls for ‘a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable, and who discard the grandiose demands for omnipotence and completeness that have been at the heart of so much human misery’ (Nussbaum, 2004:17). She acknowledges that all of us as human beings are more vulnerable at some point of our life, for example as a newborn, an elderly person, when we fall ill etc. However, she says, there is no harm in admitting we are ‘needy and vulnerable’, and this does not mean that we should not act to reduce the causes and consequences of vulnerability, nor that the state and its institutions are not to be held responsible about their citizens’ vulnerability. 

The debate on the term is fascinating, and many more things could be said. However, perhaps, for our purpose here, the main point would be that either you choose to use or not to use the word vulnerable, it is interesting to be aware of the whole debate and see whether there is space for common-ground and mutual understanding.  


Nussbaum, M. (2004) Hiding from Humanity: disgust, shame and the Law. Princeton: Princeton University Press 

Virokannas E., Liuski S, & Kuronen  M(2020) The contested concept of vulnerability – a literature review, European Journal of Social Work, 23:2, 327-339, DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2018.1508001  

Fineman, M. A. (2010). The vulnerable subject and the responsive state. Emory Law Journal, 60(2), 251–275. Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 10-130. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract = 1694740 

Wisner, B. (1993). Disaster vulnerability: Scale, power and daily life. GeoJournal, 30(2), 127–140. doi:10.1007/BF00808129  

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

2. Palestinian Babies

CUSP would like to thank Nazmi Al Masri, our Co-Investigator, who worked tirelessly throughout the conflict to capture Palestinian stories and document what was taking place in the Gaza Strip from 14th May 2021 – 21st May 2021. These blog posts were written during the conflict.

Palestinian Babies


Angered and saddened by the continuing brutal killing of its children and their mothers, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) gravely and grimly call upon all humans, all peace and justice loving humans and peoples:  

Please listen to me and to my soft gentle voice,  

Please listen to my truthful pen and fact-based writing,

Please listen to my broken and tearful heart but brave and peace-longing, 

Thank you for listening to a sample of my One Thousand and One[1] real stories, 

Kindly lend me your ears and open your heart and mind,

Kindly read these recent and current fact-based stories happening in Gaza in May 2021, 

They are very similar to thousands of real stories that happened before, during and after Nakba[2] (catastrophe) of 1947-49).  

In the war of words which accompanies the bombs falling terrible things are said, over decades.  

“Palestinian babies and children are born evil and deserve to be killed even if they are in their bedroom or in their mother’s womb! It is lawful to kill as many of them and their mothers by using American-made SMART Weapons that drop bombs (rockets) on houses wiping out whole families”,  

Not only are there no consequences for these acts, but there is the insinuation that this is just about Palestinian propaganda. 

“No, no, not true at all, it is just Palestinian propaganda!” seem to claim the occupation forces. 

In fact, for the Israeli propaganda, Palestinians do not exist. We all remember Golda Meir, Israel’s Prime Minister between 1969-1974, who during an interview with the Sunday Times said: “It is not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them, they did not exist.” (Shlaim, 2001, p.311)[3]

But we do exist. During the Nakba, commemorated annually on the 15th May since 1948, we remember the thousands of Palestinian families who were forced to leave their land and live until now as refugees in neighboring countries, and also within Palestine in several areas including the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip[4].

Photo Credit: Alison Phipps

Oppressed, isolated and besieged for more than seven decades, Occupied Palestine tells this most recent Nakba related story: “No sleep, no sleep, no sleep”

Scared, young Palestinian children rightly resist: “No I do not want to go to bed”. 

Their inner feelings say: “going to bed means loneliness, darkness, killing (death), injured and disabled, fear and worries and many other negative feelings and hidden thoughts fly in our mind.”  

Through continuing soliloquy, they know for sure that the threatening and deafening roaring of Israeli warplanes[5] do bomb residential towers and houses on the heads of families and children as happened to some of their classmates, neighbours and relatives. 

Sometimes, they speak out: “No place safe mum, no place safe mum, no place safe mum” 

These feelings and soliloquies of self-conflict continue day and night causing short and long-term impacts on children’s and parents’ mental health alike. It must be taken into account that almost 50% of Palestinians living in Gaza are under 18 years old. 

Similarly mums have their own self-conflict soliloquy, if not more worried than their children, for their children’s safety, for their own safety, for their husband’s safety and for their parents (grandparents’) safety as my youngest son, Kareem 15, said:

Children are pure in heart, they express their ideas innocently and truthfully:    

“Our mums hide their feelings, they feel sleepless, anxious, tense and apprehensive and concerned about their very young children’s mental and physical safety.”  

It is the end of Ramadan and second day of Eid, Friday 14 May 2021, when one mum, Yasmin (31) decided to take her children to visit her sister Maha (36) who also has children. So, the 2 sisters and their young children can socialise, have fun and temporarily forget about the war and bombardment.

All 11 met in Yasmin’s house in the Beach (Shateh) Refugee Camp in the north west of Gaza city. Both families (Abu Hatab) were enjoying their Friday evening and celebrating Ramadan Eid at a low profile due to the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza. All their children were very young, the youngest was a 2-month old baby and the eldest 14 years old.

About midnight, suddenly, brutally, and I’d say without humanity, Israeli warplanes dropped at least three large bombs on these 2 mums and all 9 children entertaining Eid (Feast).

The bombs completely levelled the house to the ground, flattening it on the heads of these children and their mums.

The bombs killed the 2 mums and all 9 children except the youngest, baby Omar, whose was found under the rubble of the destroyed 4-story building. Almost all night, the rescue workers worked hard, carefully and slowly until the very early hours of Saturday 15 May 2021, when they miraculously found and rescued this baby alive and screaming under the rubble.

Omar was taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza city after surviving this air strike:

“Maybe, this baby, Omar, stayed alive to be a witness to what happened to the rest of his family”Aljazeera reported[6]

The baby’s photos and story, which have been published on several websites, show how the baby is extremely shocked and devastated. His cries shout loudly:

“I need my mum, I need her love and I want her to warmly hug me. I need her to affectionately take care of me. None is like mum, I cannot live without her”[7].

Baby Omar’s face kept telling me innocently and angrily:

‘My family was killed without humanity. They killed my mum, and all my brothers and sisters, knowing this house was full.’

Baby Omar’s screams on his face refute the Israeli propaganda that these attacks do not target civilians, children and women, as senior Israeli advisors reported.

Omar’s cries give 2 facts:

  • Last night (14th May 2021), an air strike on Beach [Shateh] refugee camp in Gaza left scores of people dead. One family, the Abu Hatabs, lost 10 members, eight of them children. Five of the children attended United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools, bringing the total number of UNRWA school children confirmed to have been killed since the escalation in hostilities began in Gaza to thirteen. [so far and in 6 days of aggression] (UNRWA)[8]
  • Among the 145 Palestinians killed over the 6-day aggression so far are 41 children and 23 women (totalling 64 – 44%) and at least 1100 injured: 313 children and 206 women, (totalling 519 – 47%)[9].

The baby Omar’s screams in the face of the silence of international community and governments say:

shame, shame, shame

on all violations of basic human rights

on all forms of double standards,

on all hypocrite politicians and foreign policy makers

on all dishonouring of the 45 Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), especially:

  • Article 6 (life, survival and development) Every child has the right to life [including Palestinian children]
  • Article 19 (protection from violence, abuse and neglect)
  • Article 22 (refugee children) . . . governments must provide them with appropriate protection and assistance
  • Article 23 (children with a disability) . . . Governments must do all they can to support disabled children and their families [not to kill them].

Omar will remain a truthful witness to violations and a dishonouring of human rights and protection of children acts. We hope to see his smiles in a few years when justice and peace are a practice in Palestine where no more mothers and children are killed for any reason.

Omar says: I became well known on all local and international media and in all languages. I do hope that no child passes through my experience and I do hope every human can do something to end occupation and all violations of human and children rights.


[1] In line with One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ‎, ʾAlf Laylah wa-Laylah) – often known in English as the Arabian Nights.

[2] The ‘Nakba’ – Arabic for ‘catastrophe’ – refers to the displacement of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians who lived in the area that became the State of Israel in 1948. Several historians, both Israeli and Palestinians, have extensively investigated the archive documents and oral sources in relation to the 1948 war and the displacement of Palestinians.

[3] Shlaim A., 2001. The iron wall. Penguin Books.

[4]The forced evictions of Palestinians across East Jerusalem and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, as the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian refugees write, ‘is occurring within the context of Israeli settlement construction and expansion, illegal under international humanitarian law.’ In Gaza, 70% of the 2million population, is made of refugees.
You can read more in the following report by UN, accessible here https://www.unrwa.org/enduring-palestine-refugee-crisis-nakba-sheikh-jarrah-gaza

[5] Please consult the work of Primo Levi ‘If this is a man’, and of Hannah Arendt ‘The Banality of Evil’ for a deep discussion around ethics and responsibility. Primo Levi, for instance, who was a Holocaust survivor, wrote about the responsibility of the soldiers who were just following orders from above and they killed thousands of people as a result. I similarly invite reflections on pilots’ and soldiers’ responsibility in killing and bombing civilians.

[6]Aljazeera English: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/15/at-least-ten-killed-in-insraeli-strike-on-gaza-refugee-camp

[7]‘To read more about Omar’s family and the story, please consult https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/15/at-least-ten-killed-in-insraeli-strike-on-gaza-refugee-camp

[8]UNRWA Decries deaths in Beach refugee camp Gaza, 15 May 2021: https://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/official-statements/unrwa-decries-deaths-beach-refugee-camp-gaza

[9] Ministry of Health, Palestine.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

1. Why did they kill my dad -Baba?

CUSP would like to thank Nazmi Al Masri, our Co-Investigator, who worked tirelessly throughout the conflict to capture Palestinian stories and document what was taking place in the Gaza Strip from 14th May 2021 – 21st May 2021. These blog posts were written during the conflict.

As the bombs rained down on the Gaza Strip, the work of CUSP shifts from building cultures of sustainable peace, to using language to testify to the suffering of war, the bloodshed and loss of civilian life. For our Palestinian partners in Gaza, this is now the place from which building sustainable peace must begin. The terms of our work have been violently reset here.  

In this piece, our Palestinian partner Nazmi Al Masri offers his reportage and tells the story of the killing and grief. He skillfully renders the immediacy of the destruction of peace and its effects in prose, the sentences factual and staccato reflecting the desperation, the reaching for evidence which is part of the necessary foundations for the justice which builds sustainable peace.  

The work on this piece is joint – editorial safety and authorial safety in a context where killing has become indiscriminate. We offer his words as part of the work of cultural justice as it unfolds, in extreme distress.  

Why did they kill my father?


Aya’s quotes have been taken from this article, first published in Arabic by Aljazeera, you can read the article here. For the purpose of this piece, some stylistic interpretation has been used.

“WHY did they Kill my father?”  

Cried sadly Aya Muin Al-Aloul who miraculously escaped certain death when Israeli warplanes, in just a few minutes, fired about 50 heavy bombs on Aya’s house and neighbouring residential buildings at Al-Wehda Street in GazaPalestine 

Stealing the Palestinian homeland for more than seven decades is never sufficient for Israeli occupation forces.  

Just one hour after midnight on Sunday 16 May, 2021, Israeli warplanes stole and killed the dreams and lives of 2 Palestinian doctors (Muin Al-Aloul and Ayman Abu Alouf), and 40 children, mothers and fathers who were in their homes.  

Credit: Alison Phipps

On this Sunday, heavy Israeli bombing caused an “earthquake” in the heart of Gaza City. Aya sadly describes this man-made earthquake:

“I was sitting with my parents in their room, as usual since the outbreak of the war, and suddenly there were aggressive and terrifying explosions. Our apartment collapsed completely and I started removing the debris from my body, God has given me the strength to survive.” 

“Our flat was full and surrounded by blackness, and the dust and smoke emanating from the explosions blocked my nose and almost killed me by suffocation . . .  I feel now that I have died and resurrected.”  

“I heard my mum calling me from under the rubble. In those moments I did not realize where I was, I tried to remove the rubble and save her, but it was not easy” recalling this heartbreaking tragedy.  

“I screamed with all strength, ‘help us, help us’ and as an ambulance was driving with full speed around the place, I blocked its way to seek help, and I did not know that my father was martyred,” Aya said, with tears falling from her eyes. 

Suffering painful physical and mental wounds, Aya describes her 66-year father: “my dad (baba) is compassionate, a human and distinguished psychiatrist, killed with smile on his face showing his pleasantness and goodness.” 

On her bed in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Aya extends her hand and grabs her mother’s hand, who was lying on a nearby bed with wounds, and in a shocked voice and fully distressed tone, Aya asks: “For what guilt did they kill my dad? “ 

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

CUSP - Palestine

CUSP - Palestine

Cultures of Sustainable and Inclusive Peace is linked to two of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development – or SDGS – SDG 5 – on women and girls and SDG 16.

SDG 16 is especially important in the context of our work on the theme of conflict transformation and protracted conflict.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Find out more about Goal 16 here: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal16

What is the role of cultural organisations?

The role of cultural institutions, as opposed to political and intergovernmental organisations, is vital in promoting ways of imagining peace and pathways to justice. Whilst political and legal institutions are vital for upholding laws and making laws, cultural institutions are where peace and inclusion can be imagined, promoted and built effectively.

Equally, cultural change indexes shift in conflicts and their transformation as well as creating new points of conflict. We focus especially in CUSP on how this manifests in the roles played by women and girls. We do this under the auspices of our funders and also the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and Arts at the University of Glasgow.

Find out more about the work of the UNESCO RILA Chair here: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/unesco/

To do our research we focus on the meso-level. We are working with and funding partners at the level of the community and with NGOs working in towns, cities, villages to build institutional capacity. We are employing researchers in context to inquiry, participate and analyse the cultural and artistic processes and roles played by cultural institutions and their works – libraries, books, stories, poetry; dance halls, choreography, performance; drama, theatres, ritual; photography, exhibition space, artworks.

Because we are working in contexts of ongoing, protracted conflicts, it is also the case that our work can be subject to renewed conflict and war. This is the case with our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestine joined UNESCO on 23rd November 2011: https://en.unesco.org/countries/palestine

Artwork made from pieces of spent artillery used in previous aggressions against Gaza; made by Art Students at Al Aqsa University, Gaza, Palestine.

Our Partners in Palestine

Our partners in Palestine were subject to bombardment, the targeting of civilian populations, medical workers and journalists as part of the greatly intensified hostilities of 2021. This is in addition to the attacks on al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and the evictions for the purpose of illegal settlements in Sheikh Jarrar: https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm These “Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms.”

As part of our work to continue, even in the most extreme conditions of fear and warfare, to imagine peace, as determined by UNESCO in it’s Preamble, we offer this series of witness accounts from our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in The Gaza Strip.

“Since wars are made in the minds of people then it is in the minds of people that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Read more about UNESCOs Constitution here: http://www.unesco.org/new/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/history/constitution/

A Word of Warning

The accounts make for very difficult reading, and are fearful and outraged in tonality – as is the case for expressions and cries of pain, and of what has been seen.

We know from the scholarship on trauma healing and the building of a sustainable peace, founded on justice, that the atrocities and violations of international law rely on witness statements, on the work of academics who can furnish details and report from what they see and experience (Atkinson, 2002; Bloom, 2006, 2010, n.d.; J. P. Lederach, 1995, 2003, 2005; J. P. L. Lederach, Angela Jill, 2010; J. P. N. Lederach, Reina; Culbertson, Hal, 2007; Weingarten, 2003)

We affirm our solidarity and support from CUSP with our partners in Palestine and continue to call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and an end to the military operations that are detrimental to peoples mental and physical wellbeing. We urge for the building of institutions of peace, inclusive of women and girls, to promote individuals’ wellbeing and the development of the Palestinian society (as per UNRWA mandate).

We refer readers to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights: Palestine’s statements and work in this area: https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/sp/countriesmandates/ps/pages/srpalestine.aspx

We call for an end to the present hostilities and for the Responsibility to Protect: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml


Atkinson, J. (2002). Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines – the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia. Melbourne: Spinifex Press.

Bloom, S. L. (2006). Organizational Stress as a Barrier to Trauma-Sensitive Change and Systems Transformation. Retrieved from

Bloom, S. L. (2010). Bridging the Black Hole of Trauma: The Evolutionary Significance of the Arts. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 8(3), 196-212. doi:10.1002/ppi.223

Bloom, S. L. (n.d.). Trauma-Informed Systems Transformation: Recovery as a Public Health Concern. In W. M. Steele, C. (Ed.), trauma-Informed Prectice for Children and Adolescents. New York: Routledge.

Lederach, J. P. (1995). Preparing for Peace: Conflict Across Cultures. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Lederach, J. P. (2003). Conflict Transformation. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Lederach, J. P. (2005). The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Peace Building. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. L., Angela Jill. (2010). When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys through the soundscape of healing and reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. N., Reina; Culbertson, Hal. (2007). Reflective Peacebuilding. A Planning, Monitoring, and Learning Toolkit. In: University of Notredame.

Weingarten, K. (2003). Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Every Day–How We Are Harmed, How We Can Heal. England: Penguin

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).