It's Springtime for Sufis

Below the snowline violet crocuses and wild strawberries are bursting through the turf of Kosovo’s alpine meadows. Under the tree line opportunist hellebores and purple primroses are reaching for the sun before an all-enveloping tree canopy obscures light to the woodland floor. Snow is slowly melting on the mountaintops, feeding streams to the valleys below – where the rich biodiversity of above is equally reflected in Sufi rituals in the plains below.
There are more than sixty active Tekkes of seven Tarikats (Sufi lineages) in Kosovo: the Kaderi, Rufai, Saadi, Shazeli, Nakshibendi, Sinani and Halveti with an eighth, the Melemi Tarikat, waiting in the shadows. Each Sufi Tarikat occupies it’s own niche, but relates to the same family – Sunni Islam – not as a severed limb, but as a Sufi branch – one with choice, a way in and a way out, without hidden surprises.
Natural symbolism enriches their lexicon:
“We are Muslims and like other Muslims, we are in the same sea. Others swim, we prefer t…

The Brits in Kosovo

On Saturday the 12th of June 1999, in a shoe factory on the outskirts of Skopje, General Sir Mike Jackson received a telegram from the Queen; it read:
"I have nothing but admiration for the way in which you have carried out your duties over recent weeks during this difficult time of preparation and improvisation in caring for the refugees. I have no doubt that much greater pressures now lie ahead as you prepare to move into Kosovo as part of KFOR with the eyes of the world on you. I am confident in your ability to rise to these challenges and I am proud of every one of you, as are your families and friends who watch and wait. My thoughts and prayers are with you all."
And rise to the challenge they did, but you don't need to take my word for it.
It's exactly ten years since the British had any sort of substantial presence here in Kosovo yet from my window in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the Union Jack can still be seen flying along side the Stars and Stripes. Today t…

Mediating migration – a transformation – from observation to direct action

Three years ago, from a roadside in Kabul, I witnessed one of many refugee camps clinging to the outskirts of the sprawling city. The people inside were the survivors of another freezing winter in which young an old alike had frozen to death due to the hard choices between buying wood, food or clothing. They were the ‘internally displaced’ of southern Afghanistan, fleeing from fighting in Helmand between Taliban, local groups, and troops from my own country. Without means of provision, without employment, without hope and without freedom of movement, they, like the many others, were confined to scratching out a survival as best they could. Without security, and concerned about how justifiably unwelcome and Englishman might be, the nearest I got to the camp was to briefly walk to the circumference, where a group of kids were gleefully playing with a plastic yellow duck in a dirty open sewer. The innocence of children, who know no better than to keep playing is something I would see aga…

Freedom at 4am: Misadventures in Afghanistan

Book Available on Amazon
Freedom at 4AM is a true life tale of cultural clash in Afghanistan: from the political to the personal, from the spiritual to sexual. Set against a backdrop of history, geopolitics, religion and misadventure this immersive story climaxes with a unlikely call to prayer under life threatening circumstances...

"A powerful, sharply observed story of Marc Perry's experience working for an NGO in Kabul. He vividly conveys the underbelly of seediness and corruption of internationals; working in the shadows of violence, and death. Very readable - once the reader started, difficult to put down".
Donald Reeves MBE.

I was honoured to be one of the first people to own a copy and to read it. It was compelling, terrifying, eye-opening and heart-breaking. I’m extremely proud to know and to have worked with such a talented and brave journalist.
Lottie Gross, Editor, Rough Guides. 

What impresses me is that you’re fair to Afghans and Afghan culture, even as…

Greek Street Views on #Brexit

Only eight months ago the people of debt-ridden Greece were asked to vote in their own EU referendum. Their issue was whether to accept a bail out deal offered by the so-called Troika. Their question: “Should the draft deal put forward by the EU, ECB & IMF, be accepted?” Was not as straight forward as the one facing the British public: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
But stakes were portrayed similarly – as a knife-edge decision between being in or out of the EU. If Greeks voted NO the threat was they would be cast adrift with a return to the Drachma or, at the very least, a German engineered time-out from the union. Despite a NO vote of 60%, rejecting the terms, the Government of Greece accepted tough fiscal conditions and stayed in the EU. So what would an-albeit unscientific sample of Greeks think of the Brits leaving?
Marc Perry traveled to Northern Greece to find out:

Visa free travel for the people of Kosovo.

Visa free travel is something all of us in Europe take for granted, all of us that is, except the people of Kosovo – a Republic that arises from and with the direct support of European nations and others.
So why would you liberate a bird only to trap it?
Political expediency – the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper and immoral.
‘If you put criminals in prison, we will let your people free,’ is the brinkmanship applied by european bureaucrats.Apart from the guilty there isn’t a citizen of Kosovo who wouldn’t like to see the criminally corrupt locked up. Europe has even given Kosovo an agency to help with the locking up – EULEX, and brokered a deal to set up a special court for war related crimes.If there are failings in implementation then they are at the very least, of mutual institutional imperfection and not of the people.
Cue statements running: “We have made progress but…”
But the people of Kosovo have heard it all before, and their patience…

A way station on the refugee road

What started as a trickle is still a ceaseless torrent.
When refugees first arrived in Macedonia they walked or cycled illegally across the country. In the north a local mosque helped safeguard them from traffickers and kidnappers, giving them rest, food and a place to sleep.
Driton, a big-hearted volunteer with a ready smile, has been with them almost from day one. He describes some of the people who have passed recently – an old woman masking her anxiety from her niece by telling her that, “Tomorrow they will have their own room where they will play together and gun shots will not disturb them.” And, “Children with Down’s syndrome, others who have lost their limbs, parents that as soon as they see trees around them they remember their yards…and then they can’t hold their tears”. And how, he asks, can he be worried? ”When from all these people that are in trouble I hear the words May God Bless you and all your friends who help us on our difficult days.”
Flat pack shelters provide the …