Three-year-old Mirna held a doll in one hand and played with her tangled coffee-colored hair in the other. She flashed a smile and asked, “Tudo bem?”
The ubiquitous Brazilian greeting was expressed with its trademark positivity. Mirna, who was born in Damascus three months after the start of the Syrian civil war, is learning Portuguese fast.
Having arrived in Latin America’s largest city just weeks before, for the first time in her life she was enjoying being out in the sunshine and meeting new people. Before, she remained hidden with her family in their home, hearing it shake with every nearby explosion.
Brazil has approved a record number of refugee applications, including for 532 Syrian nationals, the country’s National Committee for Refugees has announced.
Some 680 applications for refugee status were approved on Wednesday alone, more than all applications given the green light in 2013 the committee, which is linked to the Brazilian National Justice Secretariat, said.
The raft of new approvals – the first since a new resolution simplified procedures set out by the country – means the Brazilian refugee population grew to 6,588, an estimated 10 percent increase.
Karin Fusaro & Luiz Fernando Godinho – UNHCR, 08/06/2013
When Syrian businessman Nidal Hassan flew to Sao Paulo a year ago it was not his first visit to Brazil, but this time he was looking for shelter and a new start rather than business opportunities.
“We didn’t have a choice because our situation in Syria became unsustainable,” said the 53-year-old from the city of Homs, which has been devastated by heavy fighting between government and rebels forces since the Syria crisis erupted in March 2011.
He said that before they left Homs, people had begun searching for food under the rubble of destroyed buildings and, “We ran out of gas and drinking water.” Nidal said he had decided to leave because they were risking their lives by staying, but his older daughter stayed behind with her husband and children.
It is difficult to follow the current debate about “humanitarian intervention” in Syria without being struck by the wearying familiarity of so many of the arguments. Virtually the same points knocked back and forth last year, over Libya, and before that over Darfur, and then a list of crises stretching back to Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s.
What is also striking is how its protagonists routinely talk past one another, assuming the worst possible motives of their opponents and rarely acknowledging the other side might occasionally have a point. If you are opposed to an intervention – no matter how impractical or counter-productive – you are a cowardly appeasing, racist who does not care about suffering in the affected country. If you support it – in any circumstances – you are a neocon imperialist with the white phosphorous of Fallujah on your hands.
During her visit to Washington this week, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rouseff, raised the hope that another type of debate is possible. Brazil has moved from dictatorship to democracy within the collective memory of most Brazilians. Rousseff herself was imprisoned and tortured under the dictatorship. Brazilians can therefore look at events such as the Arab spring, the reawakening of democracy in Burma or events in Zimbabwe, Haiti and Mali with personalised affinity.
Palash R. Ghosh – International Business Times, 02/08/2012
Brazil, a rising economic and diplomatic power in the developing, expressed support for efforts by the Arab League to end the ongoing violence in Syria.
Catherine Ashton, the foreign affairs chief of the European Union (EU) met with Brazilian foreign minister Antonio Patriota in Brasilia on Monday to discuss both the situation in Syria and Iran. The two issued a statement praising Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, citing “how much we support him on the Arab League’s initiative and the importance of seeing that leadership [being] able to support the people of Syria into a future free of bloodshed.”
Patriota also said he supported potential measures in Syria by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as increasing cooperation between the UN and the Arab League.
Brazil has reiterated its rejection of foreign intervention in Syria, where more than 3,000 people have recently been reported killed in the violent suppression of anti-government protesters calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. World leaders are now desperate to find a solution to end the bloodshed in Syria, one of a slew of Middle East nations caught up in the Arab Spring uprisings.
But Carlos Martins Ceglia, director of the Middle East Department at Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, rejected foreign interference in what he called “Syria’s internal affairs” at a meeting with Syria’s new Ambassador to Brazil, Mohammad Khaddour.
Ceglia said that it was in Brazil’s interest to help cooperate with Syria to help it out of the crisis, stressing the need for reform in the country.
In his search for greater international recognition, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad embarks on a landmark Latin American tour on Friday to reinforce economic ties with a continent he is visiting for the first time.
Accompanied by his wife, Asma, the Syrian leader will arrive in Venezuela on Friday before proceeding to Brazil and Argentina, all three home to large communities of Syrian émigrés.
He will also visit Cuba to strengthen traditionally close ties.
“Bilateral relations and developments in the Middle East and Latin America” will dominate discussions in the four countries, the official SANA news agency said, without providing a detailed schedule of the visit.