What Is Aid?

I will take you a bit further, retrospectively, across the borders. I talked about Interzone – a place between borders. It was the place William Burroughs buried himself to complete his patchwork vignettes of autobiographical works. He referred to ghostly strangers in the dark and drew parallels to real events in bug-powder-induced dreams. There was certainly a plentiful supply of bug powder in 1930’s Tangiers where the decadent and disillusioned descended and mingled into an orgy of cultural, artistic and corporate occurrences in ‘International Zone’. This is not Tangiers; this was an almost autonomous region in Turkey called Antakya. There was bug powder of a different kind in this Interzone. I smelt the intoxicating bug powder – it transmogrified the people of different backgrounds into scuttling little insects pushing their different agendas. Some were too marginalized to live in a normal society and take up normal nine to five jobs. I am one of them, too weird to live in civilization, but nevertheless, I can observe and chronicle herein with my own twisted style.

I took a big leap in faith – two months intensively learning the inverted grammar of the Turkish language and making futile links to the War Industry. ‘Time to do some field work’, I thought. The Antakians were a friendly bunch and the odd tourist would clumsily ask for directions. But there were agents at work, agents of war – war profiteerers. Journalists, NGO workers, Activists etcetera are all engaged in the War Industry. They make a living from the existence of conflict. Some dispute the effectiveness of such work; we undermine one another, bicker and put restrictions in the way of the real issues at play. As I escorted my journalist friend, Francesca Borri, to purchase a full Niqaab to get Inside – others were secretly slagging her off and praising her to her face at the same time. What could I do I thought? I couldn’t get away with wearing a full Islamic garb and posing as a lady, or maybe I could, and get detected as soon as my stubble poked out to a hardened Jihadi on the cross-check. Nor did I have the inclination to fork out $1000 to a Syrian driver without the promise of payment from the Media Agencies such as Al Jazeera, the BBC or any other semi-respectable broadsheet. I called in my losses and made my way to the commercial capital of the East.

Gaziantep is the sprawling city on the crossroads of the Silk Road, the heartland of the ruling conservative and authoritarian Turkish AKP party and only 150km from Aleppo in Syria, officially, the most devastated and dangerous city in the world. The sense of war was less palpable in Gaziantep because of the city’s sheer size, but you could easily dodge the vagrant Syrians loitering in between Stalinesque blocks of flats. This also means easily disregarding the conflict taking place less than one hour’s drive away. Such cities stuck in the flux of rapid teenage-spurt-growths and antiquity offer one or two half-decent social areas. I opted for Beyazhan, another Ottoman lodging converted into a stylish outdoor bar with its traditional squared courtyard. In the Hans, you are trapped in Interzone, you can easily eavesdrop or reach out to the neighbouring table, stand in a who’s who of For-Profit and Not-for-Profit organisations. I offered myself, networked and found my way with a couple of employees of a For-Profit organisation. The idea of a Not-for-Profit organisation seemed absurd and pointless; it was like throwing money down a black-hole. ‘Let’s meet the people who are making the real money, while the rest go begging for foreign aid’.

Not-for-Profit is a legal status, a corporate structure like any other – except that instead of making money through profit, they go around asking for it from mainly Western Governments. John Kerry, the Foreign State Secretary of the US just announced his generous stipend of $290m for Syria.(1) Let’s see how many hearts and minds are won in that endeavour through the distribution of military hardware. For-Profit organisations also go around asking for handouts, they just create subsidiaries in the form of Not-for-Profit organisations allowing the For-Profit to conduct other sorts of business within secrecy jurisdictions. While security might be compromised by divulging every form of assistance to one or more sides of a conflict, it is also convenient for such an organisation to be registered in one jurisdiction while operating where the corporate tax rates are low. A Treasure Island or notorious tax haven comes to mind (2).

It is no coincidence that most of the world’s NGO’s are based in Switzerland, a country where you can actually go to jail for breaching banking secrecy laws, or in another case, where I experienced Big Brother calls from +971 (the country code for the United Arab Emirates) and snap-meetings were organised as soon as the next available seat was available on Emirates Airlines. I don’t want to go into too many details because I do not want to betray anyone or any organisation I may have been affiliated with… All I ask is to question the point of Aid given by governments which is amassed by way of taxation when the companies that are receiving the Aid avoid their taxable incomes by way of secrecy jurisdictions and creating Not-for-Profit organisations. Yes… they might be doing a good job, helping the most in need, dying of hunger, in need of medical aid, creating orphanages and we need that. We have a moral duty to help and even interfere with the affairs of other nations, especially when they are on our borders – for the greater good of economic stability so the next politician can be voted in.

(1) http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/kerry-calls-syria-election-a-great-big-zero/2014/06/04/652a9b93-bc29-4f1a-b701-4e614e98c36a_story.html

(2) http://treasureislands.org/

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