Logbook of an italian cooperant in Middle East – and elsewhere

Clash of Civilizations

What they see (sometimes)

Sometimes, they leave everything behind – their home, their family. Sometimes their spouse and their children. They leave kilometres, countries, ecosystems behind.

They have encountered dust, jail, sometimes torture. And fear, all the time – many others couldn’t make it until the end.

Sometimes, they arrive. And then, sometimes, something like this is waiting for them: this landscape, this Volcano, this port facing an old, charming city.

And sometimes, for a second, they forget their fears and pain, while they are gazing at such enchanting landscape.



Humanity VS Technology – the Millennials

A truly inspiring video: Millennials in the workplace, by Simon Sinek. It’s an interview worth the whole 15′ of its duration.

With my former boss, I used to have many conversations on the (ab)use of the devices. Many of the topics we discussed are mentioned by Sinek. One of them is particularly “sensitive” at workplace or when you spend a night with your friends: nowadays, it’s almost impossible not to look at your mobile for more than a minute.


At my farewell party in Iraq, I made an experiment – I called it “the mobile game”. Upon arrival, people were invited to put their mobile in a case with other 4-5 mobiles. The first one who would check on the mobile, should pay the drinks for the whole case. Many people refused to participate.

Mobile 2.jpg

Here goes the full transcript of the interview:

“Apparently, millennials as a group of people, which are those born from approximately 1984 and after, are tough to manage. They are accused of being entitled and narcissistic, self interested, unfocused and lazy – but entitled is the big one. 

Because they confound the leadership so much, leaders will say “what do you want?” And millennials will say “we want to work in a place with purpose, we want to make an impact, we want free food and bean bag chairs.” Any yet when provided all these things they are still not happy. And that is because there is a missing piece.

It can be broken down into 4 pieces actually. 1 Parenting. 2 Technology. 3 Impatience. 4 Environment.

The generation that is called the millennials, too many of them grew up subject to “failed parenting strategies.” Where they were told that they were special – all the time, they were told they can have anything they want in life, just because they want it. Some of them got into honors classes not because they deserved it but because their parents complained. Some of them got A’s not because they earned them, but because the teachers didn’t want to deal with the parents. Some kids got participation medals, they got a medal for coming in last. Which the science we know is pretty clear is that it devalues the medal and the reward for those who actually work hard and that actually makes the person who comes in last embarrassed because they know they didn’t deserve it so that actually makes them feel worse.

You take this group of people and they graduate and they get a job and they’re thrust into the real world and in an instant they find out they are not special, their mom’s can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it. In an instant their entire self image is shattered. So we have an entire generation that is growing up with lower self esteem than previous generations.

 The other problem to compound it is we are growing up in a Facebook/Instagram world, in other words, we are good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I am depressed…

Everybody sounds tough, and everybody sounds like they have it all figured out and the reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it all figured out. So when the more senior people say “well, what should we do?” they sound like “this is what you gotta do!” – but they have no clue.

So you have an entire generation growing up with lower self esteem than previous generations – through no fault of their own, they were dealt a bad hand. Now let’s add in technology. We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text – it feels good. In a 2012 study, Harvard research scientists reported that talking about oneself through social media activates a pleasure sensation in the brain usually associated with food, money and sex. It’s why we count the likes, it’s why we go back ten times to see if the interaction is growing, and if our Instagram is slowing we wonder if we have done something wrong, or if people don’t like us anymore. The trauma for young kids to be unfriended it too much to handle. We know when you get the attention it feels good, you get a hit of dopamine which feels good which is why we keep going back to it. Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink and when we gamble. In other words, it’s highly, highly addictive…

We have age restrictions on smoking, drinking and gambling but we have no age restrictions on social media and cell phones. Which is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet and saying to our teenagers “hey by the way, if this adolescence thing gets you down – help yourself.”

An entire generation now has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine, through cellphones and social media, while they are going through the high stress of adolescence. 

Why is this important? Almost every alcoholic discovered alcohol when they were teenagers. When we are very, very young the only approval we need is the approval of our parents and as we go through adolescence we make this transition where we now need the approval of our peers. Very frustrating for our parents, very important for the teenager. It allows us to acculturate outside of our immediate families and into the broader tribe. It’s a highly, highly stressful and anxious period of our lives and we are supposed to learn to rely on our friends.  

Some people, quite by accident, discover alcohol, the numbing effects of dopamine, to help them cope with the stresses and anxieties of adolescence. Unfortunately that becomes hard wired in their brains and for the rest of their lives, when they suffer significant stress, they will not turn to a person, they will turn to the bottle. Social stress, financial stress, career stress, that’s pretty much the primary reasons why an alcoholic drinks. But now because we are allowing unfettered access to these devices and media, basically it is becoming hard wired and what we are seeing is that they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. “Their words, not mine.”

They will admit that many of their relationships are superficial, they will admit that they don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends, but they also know that their friends will cancel on them when something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practiced the skillset and worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress begins to show up in their lives, they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device, they’re turning to social media, they’re turning to these things which offer temporary relief. 

We know, the science is clear, we know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.

These things balanced, are not bad. Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, too much gambling is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with social media and cellphones, it’s the imbalance.

If you are sitting at dinner with your friends, and you are texting somebody who is not there – that’s a problem. That’s an addiction. If you are sitting in a meeting with people you are supposed to be listening and speaking to, and you put your phone on the table, that sends a subconscious message to the room “you’re just not that important.” The fact that you can’t put the phone away, that’s because you are addicted. 

If you wake up and you check your phone before you say good morning to your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse, you have an addiction. And like all addictions, in time, it will destroy relationships, it will cost time, it will cost money and it will make your life worse.

So we have a generation growing up with lower self-esteem that doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress and now you add in the sense of impatience. They’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification. You want to buy something, you go on Amazon and it arrives the next day. You want to watch a movie, logon and watch a movie. You don’t check movie times. You want to watch a TV show, binge. You don’t even have to wait week-to-week-to-week. Many people skip seasons, just so they can binge at the end of the season…

Instant gratification. You want to go on a date? You don’t even have to learn how to be socially awkward on that first date. You don’t need to learn how to practice that skill. You don’t have to be the uncomfortable person who says yes when you mean no and no when you mean yes. Swipe right – bang – done! You don’t even need to learn the social coping mechanism.

Everything you want you can have instantaneously. Everything you want, instant gratification, except, job satisfaction and strength of relationships – their ain’t no out for that. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes. 

And so millennials are wonderful, idealistic, hardworking smart kids who’ve just graduated school and are in their entry-level jobs and when asked “how’s it going?” they say “I think I’m going to quit.” And we’re like “why?” and they say “I’m not making an impact.” To which we say – “you’ve only been there eight months…” 

It’s as if their standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called impact that they want to have on the world, which is the summit. What they don’t see is the mountain. I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain. And so what this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really, really matter, like love or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self confidence, a skillset, any of these things, all of these things take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it, but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult and if you don’t ask for help and learn that skillset, you will fall off the mountain. Or the worst case scenario, we’re seeing an increase in suicide rates in this generation, we’re seeing an increase in accidental deaths due to drug overdoses, we’re seeing more and more kids drop out of school or take a leave of absence due to depression. Unheard of. This is really bad.

The best case scenario, you’ll have an entire population growing up and going through life and just never really finding joy. They’ll never really find deep, deep fulfillment in work or in life, they’ll just waft through life and it things will only be “just fine.” “How’s your job?” “It’s fine, same as yesterday…” “How’s your relationship?” “It’s fine…”

That’s the best case scenario.  

Which leads to the fourth point which is environment. Which is we’re taking this amazing group of young, fantastic kids who were just dealt a bad hand and it’s no fault of their own, and we put them in corporate environments that care more about the numbers than they do about the kids. They care more about the short-term gains than the life of this young human being. We care more about the year than the lifetime. We are putting them in corporate environments that are not helping them build their confidence. That aren’t helping them learn the skills of cooperation. That aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and finding more balance. That isn’t helping them overcome the need for instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or even in a year.

So we thrust them into corporate environments and the worst thing is they think it’s them. They blame themselves. They think it’s them who can’t deal. And so it makes it all worse. It’s not them. It’s the corporations, it’s the corporate environment, it’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do. They were dealt a bad hand and it’s the company’s responsibility to pick up the slack and work extra hard and find ways to build their confidence, to teach them the social skills that their missing out on. 

There should be no cellphones in conference rooms. None, zero. When sitting and waiting for a meeting to start, instead of using your phone with your head down, everyone should be focused on building relationships. We ask personal questions, “How’s your dad? I heard he was in the hospital.” “Oh he’s really good thanks for asking. He’s actually at home now.” “Oh I’m glad to hear that.” “That was really amazing.” “I know, it was really scary for a while there.” — That’s how you form relationships. “Hey did you ever get that report done?” “No, I totally forgot.” “Hey, I can help you out. Let me help you.” “Really?” — That’s how trust forms. Trust doesn’t form at an event in a day. Even bad times don’t form trust immediately. It’s the slow, steady consistency and we need to create mechanisms where we allow for those little innocuous interactions to happen. 

When we are out with friends, as we are leaving for dinner together, we leave our cell phones at home. Who are we calling? Maybe one of us will bring a phone in case we need to call an Uber. It’s like an alcoholic. The reason you take the alcohol out of the house is because we cannot trust our willpower. We’re just not strong enough. But when you remove the temptation, it actually makes it a lot easier. When you just say “Don’t check your phone,” people will just go to the bathroom and what’s the first thing we do? We look at the phone.

When you don’t have the phone, you just check out the world. And that’s where ideas happen. The constant, constant, constant engagement is not where you have innovation and ideas. Ideas happen when our minds wander and we see something and we think, “I bet they could do that…” That’s called innovation. But we’re taking away all those little moments. 

None of us should charge our phones by our beds. We should be charging our phones in the living rooms. Remove the temptation. We wake up in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep, you won’t check your phone, which makes it worse. But if it’s in the living room, it’s relaxed, it’s fine. Some say “but it’s my alarm clock.” Buy an alarm clock. They cost eight dollars.

The point is, we now in industry, whether we like it or not, we don’t get a choice, we now have a responsibility to make up the shortfall. And help this amazing, idealistic, fantastic generation build their confidence, learn patience, learn the social skills, find a better balance between life and technology because quite frankly it’s the right thing to do.”

A perfect timing: the story of a hero of our times, a Syrian refugee.

On the same day Trump came out with the Syrian-refugees ban, this book was published in the US: ‘A hope more powerful than the sea’.


The story is about Doaa, a 19-year old Syrian from Daraa, the city where all began. She was forced to leave her city and to take the perilous trip at sea, where the ship was attacked by pirates and 500 people drowned. But she saved herself and a small baby. Becoming a hero.


The book is written by Melissa Fleming, UNHCR Spokesperson that had met Doaa in 2015, after the shipwreck, while she was hosted by a family in Greece. “On behalf of those 500 people who drowned, can we make sure that they did not die in vain? Could we be inspired by what happened, and take a stand for a world in which every life matters?” This convinced her to write this book. And  just like the movies, the book came out exactly when Syrian refugees were banned from entering the US. Perfect timing to read the incredible story of the Syrian diaspora, through the eyes and the emotions of a simple girl who passed through the worst that could happen in a lifetime, and yet became a hero. It is such an inspirational story. You can find the book here.

Altro che l’ecumenismo – i migliori auguri pasquali

Sulaymaniyah, Domenica di Pasqua, 05:00 AM.

Nella parrocchia di Deir Maryam Al-Adhra, che si trova in mezzo a un labirinto di viuzze nel centro di Suli, e al momento ospita alcune famiglie di rifugiati iracheni, i fedeli si preparano alla messa di Resurrezione.

Croce Pasqua

L’audience è cosmopolita: su una fila siedono una ventina di indiani, su un’altra altrettanti filippini, e infine la maggioranza è composta dai profughi iracheni che più che parrocchiani, sono i veri e propri abitanti della chiesa.

In fondo ci siamo io e due amici che sono riuscito a convincere a fare la levataccia: una cristiana ortodossa e un musulmano, alla sua prima messa in assoluto e affascinato da cerimonia e somiglianze/differenze con l’Islam, tanto da rimanere ben oltre la colazione offerta dalla parrocchia, a fare una domanda dopo l’altra al povero Father Jens.

Pasqua 2016

Colazione dopo la messa

Quindi sì, da una parte mi è mancata la “solita” tradizione frascatano/romana. Ma dall’altra, la ricchezza è stata tripla!

Le foto son “rubate” dalla pagina FB della parrocchia che vi consiglio di visitare:


Via Crucis 2016

‘Refugees’ and ‘migrants’ – Frequently Asked Questions (by UNHCR)


  1. Are the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ interchangeable?

No. Although it is becoming increasingly common to see the terms ‘refugee‘ and ‘migrant‘ used interchangeably in media and public discussions, there is a crucial legal difference between the two. Confusing them can lead to problems for refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as misunderstandings in discussions of asylum and migration.

2. What is unique about refugees?

Refugees are specifically defined and protected in international law. Refugees are people outside their country of origin because of feared persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order, and who, as a result, require ‘international protection’. Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable, that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as ‘refugees’ with access to assistance from states, UNHCR, and relevant organizations. They are so recognized precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they therefore need sanctuary elsewhere. These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.

3. How are refugees protected under international law?

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts the right of everyone to seek and enjoy asylum. However, no clear content was given to the notion of asylum at the international level until the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees [the ‘1951 Convention’] was adopted, and UNHCR was tasked to supervise its implementation. The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as regional legal instruments, such as the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, are the cornerstone of the modern refugee protection regime. They set forth a universal refugee definition and incorporate the basic rights and obligations of refugees.

The specific legal regime protecting the rights of refugees is referred to as ‘international refugee protection’. The rationale behind the need for this regime lies in the fact that refugees are people in a specific predicament which calls for additional safeguards. Asylum-seekers and refugees lack the protection of their own country.

The provisions of the 1951 Convention remain the primary international standard against which any measures for the protection and treatment of refugees are judged. Its most important provision, the principle of non-refoulement (meaning no forced returns) contained in Article 33, is the bedrock of the regime. According to this principle, refugees must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life or freedom would be under threat. States bear the primary responsibility for this protection. UNHCR works closely with governments, advising and supporting them as needed, to implement their responsibilities.

4. Does the 1951 Convention need to be revisited?

The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol have saved millions of lives and as such are one of the key human rights instruments that we rely upon today. The 1951 Convention is a milestone of humanity developed in the wake of massive population movements that exceeded even the magnitude of what we see now. At its core, the 1951 Convention embodies fundamental humanitarian values. It has clearly demonstrated its adaptability to changing factual circumstances, being acknowledged by courts as a living instrument capable of affording protection to refugees in a changing environment. The greatest challenge to refugee protection is most certainly not the 1951 Convention itself, but rather ensuring that states comply with it. The real need is to find more effective ways to implement it in a spirit of international cooperation and responsibility-sharing.

5. Can ‘migrant’ be used as a generic term to also cover refugees?

A uniform legal definition of the term ‘migrant’ does not exist at the international level. Some policymakers, international organizations, and media outlets understand and use the word ‘migrant’ as an umbrella term to cover both migrants and refugees. For instance, global statistics on international migration typically use a definition of ‘international migration’ that would include many asylum-seeker and refugee movements.

In public discussion, however, this practice can easily lead to confusion and can also have serious consequences for the lives and safety of refugees. ‘Migration’ is often understood to imply a voluntary process, for example, someone who crosses a border in search of better economic opportunities. This is not the case for refugees who cannot return home safely, and accordingly are owed specific protections under international law.

Blurring the terms ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ takes attention away from the specific legal protections refugees require, such as protection from refoulement and from being penalized for crossing borders without authorization in order to seek safety. There is nothing illegal about seeking asylum – on the contrary, it is a universal human right. Conflating ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ can undermine public support for refugees and the institution of asylum at a time when more refugees need such protection than ever before.

We need to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. We need to ensure that the human rights of migrants are respected. At the same time, we also need to provide an appropriate legal and operational response for refugees, because of their particular predicament, and to avoid diluting state responsibilities towards them. For this reason, UNHCR always refers to ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ separately, to maintain clarity about the causes and character of refugee movements and not to lose sight of the specific obligations owed to refugees under international law.

6. Do all migrants really always ‘choose’ to migrate?

The factors leading people to move can be complex. Often the causes are multi-faceted. Migrants may move to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. They may also move to alleviate significant hardships that arise from natural disasters, famine, or extreme poverty. People who leave their countries for these reasons would not usually be considered refugees under international law.

7. Don’t migrants also deserve protection?

The reasons why a migrant may leave their countries are often compelling, and finding ways to meet their needs and protect their human rights is important. Migrants are protected by international human rights law. This protection derives from their fundamental dignity as human beings. For some, failure to accord them human rights protection can have serious consequences. It may result in human rights violations, such as serious discrimination; arbitrary arrest or detention; or forced labour, servitude, or highly exploitative working conditions.

In addition, some migrants, such as victims of trafficking or unaccompanied or separated migrant children, may have particular needs for protection and assistance, and have the right to have those needs met. UNHCR fully supports approaches to migration management that respect the human rights of all people on the move.

8. Are refugees ‘forced migrants’?

The term ‘forced migration’ is sometimes used by social scientists and others as a general, open-ended term that covers many kinds of displacement or involuntary movement—both across international borders and inside a single country. For example, the term has been used to refer to people who have been displaced by environmental disasters, conflict, famine, or large-scale development projects.

Forced migration’ is not a legal concept, and similar to the concept of ‘migration’, there is no universally accepted definition. It covers a wide range of phenomena. Refugees, on the other hand, are clearly defined under international and regional refugee law, and states have agreed to a well- defined and specific set of legal obligations towards them. Referring to refugees as ‘forced migrants’ shifts attention away from the specific needs of refugees and from the legal obligations the international community has agreed upon to address them. To prevent confusion, UNHCR avoids using the term ‘forced migration’ to refer to refugee movements and other forms of displacement.

9. So what is the best way to refer to mixed groups of people on the move that include both refugees and migrants?

UNHCR’s preferred practice is to refer to groups of people travelling in mixed movements as ‘refugees and migrants’. This is the best way to allow for acknowledgement that all people on the move have human rights which should be respected, protected, and fulfilled; and that refugees and asylum- seekers have specific needs and rights which are protected by a particular legal framework.

Sometimes in policy discussions, the term ‘mixed migration’, and related terms such as ‘mixed flows’ or ‘mixed movements’, can be useful ways of referring to the phenomenon of refugees and migrants (including victims of trafficking or other vulnerable migrants) travelling side-by-side along the same routes, using the same facilitators.

On the other hand, the term ‘mixed migrant’, which is used by some as a shorthand way of referring to a person travelling in a mixed migratory flow whose individual status is unknown or who may have multiple, overlapping reasons for moving, is unclear. It can cause confusion and mask the specific needs of refugees and migrants within the movement. It is not recommended.

10. What about refugees who leave one host country and enter another? Aren’t they actually best described as ‘migrants’ if they travel onward from the first country they stayed in?

A refugee does not cease to be a refugee or become a ‘migrant’ simply because they leave one host country to travel to another. A person is a refugee because of the lack of protection by their country of origin. Moving to a new country of asylum does not change this, so it does not affect a person’s status as a refugee. A person who meets the criteria for refugee status remains a refugee, regardless of the particular route they travel in search of protection or opportunities to rebuild their life, and regardless of the various stages involved in that journey.

UNHCR – 15 March 2016



Intervista a Marco Rotunno su “Il Mamilio”


Per chi se la fosse persa…

Sosso disfazioni / I can get (yo) satisfaction