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Harfouch’s Concert At The European Commission

A Hymn To Peace And Humanity Worldwide.

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Omar Harfouch was accompanied by his official violinist, the Ukrainian Anna Bondarenko, and an orchestra of fifteen musicians from different nationalities: French, Belgian, Syrian, Ukrainian and Macedonian. (Photo: Supplied)

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There is an old Jewish saying in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) that can be translated as: “Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the world.”   A similar phrase also exists in the Quran.   Considering this, the time has come for the community of nations to act in order to save human rights defenders, who are repressed across the globe, from the Middle East to the Ukraine.

After the Houthis in Yemen fired rockets at the Israeli city of Eilat and attacked vessels in the Red Sea, it was recently reported that the Houthis in Yemen have sentenced a woman to death for “espionage and aiding the enemy.”   According to Human Rights Watch, Fatima Saleh al-Arwali, a 35-year-old human rights defender, was sentenced to death by the Houthi controlled authorities without having a defense attorney present at the trial.  

According to Human Rights Watch, Arwali’s lawyer learned that the Houthis had charged her with “aid[ing] the enemy [the UAE],” according to the official indictment issued by the Specialized Criminal Prosecution on July 31, which Human Rights Watch reviewed. The documents state that Arwali was “recruited to work with UAE intelligence officers who are overseeing and supervising the war and aggression on Yemen,” and that she agreed to provide them with sensitive information and locations of the [Yemeni] army and popular committees.” The Prosecution did not offer any public evidence to support these charges.  

Human Rights Watch noted that Arwali had previously criticized the Yemenite authorities on her social media accounts, regularly posted about women’s and children’s rights, and about child recruitment into the conflict between the Houthis and the Yemenite government.  “Repression of human rights defenders and women’s rights activists in Houthi-controlled territories is reaching terrifying new levels,” said Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of providing people in their territory with basic necessities such as food and water, the Houthis are suppressing human rights and freedoms.”

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One source told Human Rights Watch that since the Houthis took over Sanaa in 2014, “this happens regularly … when someone is arrested by the security and intelligence department, they bring them to the court and ask them to admit everything [and state that] otherwise they will torture them, so that he or she will confess to the charges.”   After that, the sources said, neither her family members nor any lawyers were able to get in touch with her before her trial on December 5. At the trial, the Specialized Criminal Prosecution sentenced Arwali to death.   

The international community is greatly saddened about the plight of Arwali and other human rights activists throughout the Middle East and the Ukraine, who face systematic repression.  Indeed, Arwali is not the only human rights activist to face such a fate.    The BBC recently reported that the teenage twins of jailed Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi have accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf, as she is presently serving a 10 year prison sentence for her work fighting against the repression of women in Iran.  In a speech that was smuggled out of prison, she denounced Iran’s “tyrannical government.  The Iranian people with perseverance will overcome repression and authoritarianism.   Have no doubt, this is certain.”

She continued: “I write this message from behind the high, cold walls of a prison.  The resistance is alive and the struggle is not weakening. Resistance and non-violence are our best strategies – it is the same difficult path that Iranians have walked until today, thanks to their historical consciousness and their collective will.”  She praised young Iranians who she said have “transformed the streets and public spaces into a place of widespread civil resistance” – referring to the protests that began last year following the death of Mahsa Amini. 

According to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, “The Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 was awarded to the imprisoned Iranian human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi. More than 20 years of fighting for women’s rights made her a symbol of freedom and standard-bearer in the struggle against the Iranian theocracy. In 2003, she joined the Defenders of Human Rights Center, founded by that year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi. In the years that followed, Ms Mohammadi helped imprisoned activists, led a campaign against the death penalty and criticized the regime’s use of torture and sexualized violence.  The freedom struggle cost her dearly. She was arrested 13 times and sentenced to 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. In October 2023, when her selection as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was announced, she was locked in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.”

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The Houthis in Yemen and Iran are far from the only regimes to brutally repress human rights defenders. According to the United Nations, between the start of the war in Ukraine and June of this year, over 20,000 people have been detained in Russia for partaking in anti-war protests and more than 600 faced charges for anti-war activity.  The UN claims that there has been reports that protesters have been raped and faced other sexual violence while in detention.  

It is in this spirit that the European Commission in Brussels decided to host a concert titled “Save a Life, You Save Humanity.” Omar Harfouch, who is the Honorary President of the Organization for Dialogue and Diversity, a pianist and composer, who has been active in peace-building efforts in the Middle East, decided to perform this song in the European Commission in order to highlight the value of preserving human life in a region dominated by war, heartache and sorrow. The song “Save a Life, You Save Humanity” was inspired by the Quran and the Talmud, who both have a phrase declaring “you save a life, you save the world entire.” 

The concert took place in the main hall of the European Commission, during a musical evening organized on the eve of the European summit which brings together all European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, to make crucial decisions concerning the future of Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East.

Very involved in his fight for peace, Omar Harfouch asked political leaders to promise him one thing: that they would each save a life after hearing his music, composed for the occasion. The composer’s new musical work was composed of two parts symbolizing the divisions of today’s world: the first, which tells of a full and happy life, filled with love and tolerance. The second, which describes a life of sadness, destruction, fear, loss of security and hope. And which poses a crucial question: which world do we want to live in: the first or the second?

From the end of the first part, played on the piano with the orchestra, the audience warmly applauded the musicians. At the end of the second part, the audience was on its feet, some people in the audience unable to contain a few tears. The success was such that Omar Harfouch and his orchestra were immediately asked by the ambassadors present in the room to play this composition in all European cities.

Note that during this concert, Omar Harfouch was accompanied by his official violinist, the Ukrainian Anna Bondarenko, and an orchestra of fifteen musicians from different nationalities: French, Belgian, Syrian, Ukrainian and Macedonian.  It was also the first time that a classical music concert took place in an official building of the European Commission in Brussels.  His song calling for tolerance was so moving that here in the Holy Land, I dream of the day when he can also come here to perform his song in a call for peace and harmony, so that this dark Christmas can be transformed into a beautiful bright one, where peoples around the world live in peace and prosperity with each other.

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”     

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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