News

Recent Events in Pictures

Here are more photos from the Liberal Libations fundraiser, the Solidarity Sundays Medicare-for-All presentation and Call Hub training, and the Senator Warren watch party. If you missed these events last month, make sure to  read the October newsletter and see what's planned for October & November. We look forward to seeing you!

Liberal Libations on October 7th:

DAA members enjoying the libations and our hosts, Keith and Kate.


Long time members, Bill & Gloria ...


... and young members, Kira & Ali...


and Janet had the chance to meet and get to know one another.


Our guest speaker Martha with Lin & Ashley


And some liberal ladies discussing...politics?


Solidarity Sundays on September 24th:

Solidarity Sundays Vienna co-founder Tanya opened the event with a discussion of Medicare-for -All


Which led to discussion and multiple looks from Sol Sun co-founder Antje, Nathan, and Sol Sun co-founder Juan.


With some Improv, Juan led brave volunteers through the ropes of phone banking.


Josh made the first online call and Juan set his phone banking goal...


...and the rest of us as well.


After multiple calls, a Democrats Abroad voter picks up and Josh is ready to make sure that she has registered to vote and requested her ballot for the upcoming election.


Senator Warren Watch Party on September 17th:


Watching Senator Elizabeth Warren...


Democratic politics from a different perspective.




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October Newsletter

In this Issue:
Events
  • Young Dems Pub Night with special guest Heather Brown
  • Young Dems Annual Martinigansl Feast
  • Thanksgiving Dinner.
Issues & Actions
  • Give to Win Campaign
  • Call for Global Auction Items
  • Energetic and in the Provinces? We Want You!
Reviews
  • Elizabeth Warren Watch Party
  • Solidarity Sunday #8
  • Liberal Libations #2
Members’ Corner
  • More Podcast Love 

 

Events


Oct. 25th - Young Dems Pub Night with special guest Heather Brown

Pub Night at Beaver Brewing Company






We're headed back to our favorite spot for our monthly pub nights and are excited to have Young Democrats of America International Affairs Director Heather Brown in town to join us.

Heather previously served as Young Democrats of America chief of staff. In addition, she also worked tirelessly on Hillary's campaign and could provide insight to how a campaign is organized.
Please RSVP as 10 seats have been reserved.

  • P.S. Don't forget to pay your bill before you leave!

WHEN October 25, 2017 at 7pm - 11pm
WHERE Beaver Brewing Company
Liechtensteinstraße 69 Vienna 1090 Austria
Google map and directions

CONTACT Ashley E. Arreola
+436503749481



Nov. 11th - Young Dems Annual Martinigansl Feast

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Join us for our annual Martinigansl feast in the heart of Grinzing, where you can find Vienna's vineyards and heurigen restaurants.

The restaurant will need the exact count of people attending and ordering goose, so if you are vegetarian, please make sure you write it in the Facebook discussion, so I can inform them in advance. Hope you can join us!

  • Our reservation is for 10, so we'll need to update it if more people would like to come, so please RSVP via Facebook
WHEN November 11, 2017 at 7pm - 10pm

Nov. 23rd - Annual Thanksgiving Dinner at Restaurant Sperl

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This Thanksgiving we invite our Democratic friends and family to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

We have made reservations for 60 at Restaurant Sperl in the 4th district (not Café Sperl in the 6th). It's a typical Viennese Gasthaus and we’ll have a large private room all to ourselves. There will be a buffet with a 3-course feast including pumpkin soup, turkey with all the fixings – mashed potatoes, roasted red beets and sweet potatoes, green beans, red cabbage, stuffing – and dessert. If you can, please bring a pumpkin or pecan pie. They are always very appreciated!

WHEN November 23, 2017 at 7pm - 10pm


Save the date for these upcoming events!

Nov. 26th Solidarity Sunday #9
Dec 6 - Young Dems
TBA Voter registration tables
TBA DAATalks speaker series

Issues & Actions

Give to Win Campaign

As of October 9th you can be a part of political change - Play a role in the GIVE to WINcampaign. For 4 weeks Democrats Abroad is asking members like you to GIVE your TIME, GIVE your EFFORT, and GIVE your LOVE on social media.

We will also be asking for donations. But, we want to show you what you GET when you GIVE to WIN!

Your gift to Democrats Abroad can sponsor a specific effort. Here are some examples:

  • If you GIVE a sponsorship for your State’s Voter Data You GET: More Voters
The best way to get and keep Democrats in office is to find voters. We need help reaching Americans abroad from your state. Democrats Abroad can mobilize 200,000 voters, but there are nearly 9 million Americans living outside the US. DA can reach an estimated 500,000 additional voters by gaining access to state voter rolls. This information shows where the states are sending their ballots. It is valuable and available to DA, but it costs. Why not sponsor it?
  • If you GIVE… a sponsorship for Healthcare Stories You GET: Policy Change
The universal healthcare stories we've collected are being turned into books that will be sent to Congress and to other healthcare advocates around the US. They will be tools to create dialogue and show how other countries handle their national healthcare systems. Why not sponsor this effort and be a part of creating policy change?
  • If you GIVE a… sponsorships for an Honorary Membership in Democrats Abroad You GET: To Honor a Leading Democrat and Build Important Relationships
Many Governors and Senators have overseas experience that helps them understand the challenges you face as a US citizens abroad. To celebrate their roles as leaders and honor their experiences, DA is offering members the opportunity to sponsor them as honorary Democrats Abroad. DA will visit with each governor or senator and present them with their honorary membership certificate with your name as sponsor on it. Why not sponsor your Congressperson?

But it is not just about the money-

  • If you GIVE… your TIME You GET: To be Part of Political Change
We need fellow Democrats - like you - to give their time to make this fundraising drive a success. We are still looking for volunteers to use our CALLHUB and contact fellow Democrats from this region.

If you are interested please sign up HERE



Call for Global Auction Items

Are you an opera aficionado? An expert on the architecture, art, culture of your adopted city? Or a foodie who loves to share your knowledge? Do you have a holiday house that’s free or a skill you’d like to share? DA will once again host a Global Auction in order to raise funds for our Get Out the Vote (GOTV) activities in 2018 and we need items to auction!

In the past, DA Austria has put together an Austria Package that has included lodging, tours, hikes and other entertainment. We are looking for a member who might have an apartment, air bnb, or other accommodations they would be willing to donate from a weekend to a week for this year’s DAA Package. Remember, the people who visit are other DA members, so it’s a nice way of getting to know other members from around the globe and the proceeds go towards DA Global and DAA getting out the vote in 2018. This has been a BIG seller in prior auctions and we hope to be able to do it again this year!

Please contact Jennifer at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com If you’d like to add to our package or submit your offer through this form and you will be contacted by the auction's primary organizers. The sooner we can confirm commitments, the better results we'll get!

The auction itself is set to run November 12-22. Mark your calendars!


Energetic and in the Provinces? We Want You!
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Many of DA Austria’s members live outside of Vienna and would also enjoy getting together and meeting some fellow Dems, throwing a watch party, phone banking together, or joining one of the many GET OUT THE VOTE events that will be taking place over the next year. That’s why we’re looking for people from Burgenland to Vorarlberg who would like to organize an event. It’s easier than you think and we’ll give you any support you may need. Please contact Jennifer at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com if you think you might like to hold a meet-up or event. We’d love to hear from you!



Reviews

Elizabeth Warren Watch Party
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Fifteen DAA members got together on Sunday, September 17th at the home of DAA Chair, Jennifer Rakow-Stepper, to watch Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presentation to Democrats Abroad members around the globe. International Chair Julia Bryan wrote, “The call last Sunday was an energy-filled round of question and answer. She cheered on our universal healthcare campaign and asked us to keep fighting for DACA. She also answered our questions on RBT (residency-based taxation) with clarity and candor. We are continuing to work with her team to help them understand the issues that affect Americans abroad and thank you for your contributions to the call!” Senator Warren answered questions from attending members Antje Lewis and Dr. Joshua Lange.

Before and after members stayed for chips and salsa and political conversation. Thanks to everyone who made it on a very rainy Sunday afternoon and to Global DA for their organisation!



Solidarity Sunday #8
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What do New Hampshire, New York, Florida, and Oklahoma have in common?

That’s what an enthusiastic group of Dems discovered at the Amerlinghaus on September 24th for the eighth Solidarity Sundays Vienna meeting.

The session began with a presentation by SolSun Vienna co-founder, Tanya Lolonis, about the pros and cons of the Medicare-for-All plan proposed by Senator Sanders and recently supported by Senate Democrat co-sponsors and Democrats Abroad.

Afterwards, we turned to a hands on phone banking training session on the calling platform CallHub with a focus on the current 2017 Special Elections. The beauty of the Call Hub system is that you can commit as much or as little time as you’re able and the calls are free for you, the volunteer.

This training session was a lot of fun. We started with some role-playing of the different situations and soon moved on to the real thing with actual calls. Phone banking volunteers reach out to DA members which, as Juan Cerda shared with us, is a lot easier than making Prop 8 calls for marriage equality as he did in California in 2008.

Historically, Democrats do badly in midterm elections because they don’t vote. We’ll be working hard to change this in 2018 and we’re beginning now. You can even donate your time phone banking to the Give to Win Campaign. There are 795 calls to make in Europe.
Interested to find out more? Click here.



Liberal Libations Two
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On a recent Saturday evening, Democrats Abroad Austria members gathered for a wine tasting Fundraiser at the home of Kate McGrath and Vice Chair Keith Jacomine. The evening had a three country, three wine theme with attendees tasting sparkling, white and red wines from Austria, Hungary and Italy.

We were pleased to also have with us that evening former DA The Netherlands Chair and current Democratic National Committee member Martha McDevitt-Pugh. Martha gave a brief talk on how the eight DA DNC members work to ensure that the interest of overseas Americans are heard in Washington, DC.

Approximately €500 was raised which will go towards our Get Out the Vote efforts during the 2018 mid term elections.



Members’ Corner

More Podcast Love
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Podcasts are the Netflix of radio — delivering content on-demand straight into your earbuds or radio speaker. They’re growing in popularity and cover topics from the Arts to Comedy to Science to Sports. As a Democrat living abroad, I use them to join in political discussions back home. Two of my favorites in the Trump era:

Pod Save The People:
The “Crooked Media” empire continues to produce podcasts that race to the top of political podcast charts. On “PStheP”, organizer and Black Lives Matter activist De Ray McKesson leads conversations that dive deep into culture, social justice and politics. Wondering about #TakeAKnee issue? Want to hear how people of color are processing Charlottesville? You’ll learn about it here. DeRay was a teacher before becoming an activist, and it shows in his illuminating questions and manner of listening — and he does it all in the most velvety voice you’ve heard since late-night FM radio. Change starts with knowledge. This podcast delivers.

On The Media:
From the NPR stable, weekly "OTM" is a fascinating podcast that examines media and journalism. Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield explore threats to free speech, government transparency, and shine a light on how the news is delivered — and how this shapes our views. After the Las Vegas shooting they looked at how numbers distort our understanding of tragedies, have asked politicians how the attacks by the President on journalism and facts influence how they deal with the press, and used the mystery of the earthquake victim in Mexico who never existed to explore distrust in media and government. Listen, and learn how to filter and understand the news.

Both are free on the iTunes store, Spotify, and Stitcher.

–Tanya Lolonis


 DA Austria

http://www.democratsabroad.org/

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September Newsletter

Welcome back! We hope you have had a relaxing and rejuvenating summer. We, the executive committee and volunteers, spent ours learning languages in France, Italy, and Nicaragua, travelling Stateside to Illinois and Louisiana, and taking the warm months to enjoy all the beautiful sights that Austria has to offer.

Regardless of where we were, we are rejuvenated and ready to get out the vote in the upcoming elections and we hope you are as well! We reconvened on August 31 for our September monthly meeting and it’s looking like a busy fall season. We hope to see many of you at events over the next few months! Mark your calendars for these upcoming events or keep an eye on our website if the dates and details aren’t yet fixed.

Sept 24 - Solidarity Sunday Vienna #8 - Phonebanking Fun! Making Our Vote Count in Special Elections Now
Oct 1 - Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Oct 7 - Liberal Libations - DAAT Fundraiser
Oct 29 - Solidarity Sunday #9
Nov 23 - Thanksgiving Dinner at Restaurant Sperl
Nov 26 - Solidarity Sunday #10

Dates & Locations TBA:

Poster Hanging Pub Crawl
Young Dems Pub Night October, November, December
Voter registration tables
DAATalks speaker series



In the September Issue:

Events

  • SolSun #8 Phonebanking Fun! Making Our Vote Count in Special Elections
  • Liberal Libations - Democrats Abroad Austria Fundraiser

Issues & Actions

  • Are you a Savvy Vote-From-Abroad Voter?
  • Call for Global Auction Items
  • Every Vote Counts! Phone Banking for 2017 Special Elections
  • Energetic and in the Provinces? We Want You!

Review

  • How Democrats Abroad Spent Our Summer Vacation
  • Resistance Summer Poster Hanging Pub Crawl
  • DA Around the Globe

Members’ Corner

  • Happenings Around Town of Interest

Trouble viewing this in email? View this in a browser.


Events

Solidarity Sunday #8 Phonebanking Fun!

Making our vote count in special elections now! The vote is already on and New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Utah and Alabama have state or federal elections right now or real soon. Get phonebanking with us to help your fellow Democrats Abroad from these states to register, request a ballot, and VOTE. Let's flip these elections together!

Phone, phone blue! :-)

RSVP via Facebook here

WHEN: September 24, 2017 at 4pm - 7pm
WHERE: Amerlinghaus
Stiftgasse 8
Vienna 1070
Google map and directions
CONTACT: Antje Lewis · solsun@gmx.at


Liberal Libations #2
Liberal Libations

We'll be tasting a variety of white, red and sparkling wines from Italy, Slovenia and Austria accompanied by a tasty spread of cheeses and charcuterie.

Also joining us for the evening will be Martha McDevitt-Pugh an elected member of the US Democratic National Committee and Chair of the Democrats Abroad LGBT Caucus. Martha lives in The Netherlands and has led a variety of innovative initiatives, including a successful effort to change US immigration law to include LGBT partners.

She chairs the board of Gala, the award-winning ING Bank network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and serves on ING’s Diversity and Inclusion Experts Network.

WHEN: October 07, 2017 at 6pm - 10pm
WHERE: Keith & Kate's Place
Mariahilferstrasse 7/2
Vienna 1060
CONTACT: Keith Jacomine
TICKETS: €30.00


Issues & Actions


Score Vote-From-Abroad Savvy with the Solidarity Sundays Vienna

Unsuppress your vote - from abroad - with our quick QUIZ! Just 13 questions will teach you all you need to know as an overseas voter. Take the Quiz and then either send your results to demsabroadaustria@gmail.com or share the link on our Facebook page with your score and tag it #DAresists! We’ll tally up the results for next month’s newsletter. Brought to you by Democrats Abroad Austria and #solsunvienna


Ready, Set, Go!

Midterm elections season is just around the corner and Democrats Abroad is gearing up to get Democrats elected up and down the ticket. Getting out the vote requires both money and volunteers, and DA’s GOTV Team is working on both. Please help out with the following two actions.


Going, Going, gone! Call for Global Auction Items

Are you an opera aficionado? An expert on the architecture, art, culture of your adopted city? Or a foodie who loves to share your knowledge? Do you have a holiday house that’s free or a skill you’d like to share? DA will once again host a Global Auction in order to raise funds for our Get Out the Vote (GOTV) activities in 2018 and we need items to auction!

When you're thinking of potential items, please keep in mind that physical items will likely have to be shipped somewhere across the globe, but DA members love to travel and vacation homes, tickets, tours, and experiences in your area are popular auction items.

The auction has been very well received by our members and the results have been a resounding success with nearly $50,000 raised in 2015. In the past DA Austria has put together a very popular and high bidding "Austria Tour Package" including accommodations and activities. In order to offer this package again this year we are looking for an accommodation to add. If you have an airbnb or free apartment during the year that you would generously be willing to offer, please contact us at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com. This is a lovely way to meet other DA members from across the globe!

If you have other items to offer outside the scope of our DAA package, please submit your offer through this form and you will be contacted by the auction's primary organizers. The sooner we can confirm commitments, the better results we'll get!

The auction itself is set to run November 12-22. Mark your calendars!


Every Vote Counts! Phonebanking for the 2017 Special Elections

The Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Team is kicking off phonebanking campaigns to support Democrats running in upcoming New Jersey and Virginia State Elections and Florida’s Special Election for State Senate District 40 by reminding overseas voters to request their ballots and vote.

Phonebanking is easy and people are grateful to get a reminder. Sign-up in the link to help the team and if you’re in Vienna join DA Austria on Sunday, September24th for a phonebanking get-together and training. http://www.democratsabroad.org/gotv_phonebanking


Energetic and in the Provinces? We Want You!

Solidarity Sundays Resistance Summer

Many of DA Austria’s members live outside of Vienna and would also enjoy getting together and meeting some fellow Dems, throwing a watch party, phone banking together, or joining one of the many GOTV events that will be taking place over the next year. That’s why we’re looking for people from Burgenland to Vorarlberg who would like to organize an event. It’s easier than you think and we’ll give you any support you may need. Please contact Jennifer at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com if you think you might like to hold a meet-up or event. We’d love to hear from you!


Reviews

How Democrats Abroad Spent Our Summer Vacation

Democrats in Austria and around the globe were busy activating members and letting our voices be heard back in DC. Read here about global Resistance Summer activities.


Poster Hanging Pub Crawl
Poster Hanging Pub Crawl

The first Resistance Summer Poster Hanging event on August 11th went well: we visited several locations and spread the message of Democrats Abroad, all while enjoying good company! Nevertheless, there are still plenty of places to visit and posters to be hung. We welcome volunteers to add locations to the list (like favorite bars in your neighborhood) and also to hang posters yourself! If you would like to help hang the posters please contact david.heckenberg@gmail.com and we’ll arrange for you to get some posters.

A second pub crawl event will soon be added to the website. We hope you will be able to join us in the fun!

Click on the link for the list of bars to hang posters. It’s waiting for you to add your name to it!

About the Google Doc: Please edit the document if necessary. If you have called a new location and they have approved of hanging posters (mention that it’s for Democrats Abroad, as some locations may not want political affiliation), add the name of the location to the “PLACES CONFIRMED” section. If there are any specifics you would like to mention put them in the “WITH DOUBTS” section and even if places decline add them to the “PLACES DECLINED“ section to let everybody know that there’s no need to contact them again. After having hung the posters please add the location to the “PLACES VISITED” section.


Members’ Corner

Happenings OF INTEREST Around Town

Panel Discussion:
DA Austria Chair Jennifer Rakow-Stepper has been invited by the Wiener Bildungsakadamie to join a panel discussion entitled, Fröhlich, bunt und stark gegen Trump. The discussion will focus on ‘the resistance that has developed because of the politics of Trump’s sexist, misogynist, and neglect of human rights policies’ and how his ‘declarations and deeds have strengthened the feminist and civil rights movements and have made the resistance more colourful, joyful and stronger.’ October 2 at 6:00 pm at ega:frauen im Zentrum, Windmühlgasse 26, 1060 Vienna


History buffs and others who would like to learn more about Austria might be interested in the following events taking place in September:

The Vienna Museum and the IWM in cooperation with Time to Talk is sponsoring the “Vienna Humanities Festival” from September 22 to 24 around Karlsplatz - the theme is Revolution. Admission is free.

Professor Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of English at Stanford University and at the University of Southern California, will present and discuss her new book, Edge of Irony, Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire Karl Kraus, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, Elias Canetti, Paul Celan at Grillparzerhaus (Literaturmuseum), Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Vienna,on Tuesday, September 26 at 7pm. The evening is hosted by the Wittgenstein Initiative and is free

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DA Austria Intro

Welcome to Democrats Abroad Austria!

DAAT is the official arm of the Democratic Party for U.S. citizens living in Austria and part of a global network that assists Americans living abroad to register and vote. We are an entirely voluntary organization and welcome your expertise and participation!

Through a range of activities and events throughout the year, we work hard to represent and connect our diverse and active membership. Our participation in the Women’s and Science Marches and, in particular, our monthly grassroots Solidarity Sundays meet-ups have helped us build and expand a welcoming community of compatriots. The DAATalks guest speaker series aims to provide a tri-annual platform for interesting discussions on topical events. DAAT recently hosted Melissa Fleming, UNHCR Communications Director and author of the best-selling book, A Hope more Powerful than the Sea and NYTimes best-selling author, Timothy Snyder, who spoke to us about his most recent book, On Tyranny. Finally, social events, such as our monthly Young Dems Pub Nights, annual Thanksgiving Dinner, Fourth of July party, participation in Pride Parade, and FUNdraising concerts and events guarantee that we also have a good dose of fun. 

Democrats Abroad supports all Americans abroad in registering to vote and casting their ballots from overseas. These get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts are at the heart of our political activity, and we rely on volunteers to ensure our members and friends are enfranchised every election, every year. Our absentee votes have been decisive in numerous elections across the U.S.! Together with other DA country committees from around the globe, we're making the specific issues, which are faced by overseas Americans, known on Capitol Hill. 

If you're not yet a member, you can join in just two minutes - under the Join tab above. You’ll receive our monthly newsletter with current issues and actions, events, and reviews. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We look forward to meeting you at a DAAT event soon!



Pictures from the Melissa Fleming DAA Talks

Here are more pictures from the Melissa Fleming event. Many thanks to Melissa, Pari, Abdiwahab, and Sibylle for making this DAA Talks happen!


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RESISTANCE SUMMER SELFIE CHALLENGE

Here is the printer friendly version of the Resistance Summer logoPrint it out and take a selfie at an event, with a neighbor, or at a spot you feel represents your America. 

Tim Snyder spoke to DA Austria on July 5th and his 20 Lessons from the 20th Century  strengthened our resolve to engage in the Resistance Summer.

Get creative! Send your pictures to demsabroadaustria@gmail.com or post it on our FB page by September 4th!

Timothy Snyder (middle) and DA Austria ExComm members taking the Resistance Summer Selfie challenge!

 

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Democrats Abroad Austria July Newsletter

  • EVENTS
  1. YOUNG DEMS PUB NIGHT: ALTE DONAU EDITION
  2. POSTER HANGING
  • ACTIONS AND ISSUES
  1. SOLSUN IS ON SUMMER BREAK - OUR PLANNED ACTIONS ARE GOING ONLINE!
  2. SUMMER OF ACTIVISM: JOIN RESISTANCE SUMMER
  3. RESISTANCE SUMMER SELFIE CHALLENGE
  4. POSTER HANGING MEET-UP
  • REVIEWS
  1. DAA TALKS: MELISSA FLEMING
  2. CLIMATE CHANGE AND TRUMP
  3. DANCING IN THE STREET
  • HAPPENINGS AROUND TOWN
  1. FOURTH OF JULY PARTY
  • MEMBERS CORNER
  1. WE WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU LISTEN TO!
  2. ‘VIELMEHR FÜR ALLE’

  • EVENTS
1. YOUNG DEMS PUB NIGHT: ALTE DONAU EDITION

Alte Donau Pub Night Patio

Summer is here and hot days are ahead, so we are planning our July Pub Night with a cool summer breeze on the Alte Donau We still have some Resistance Summer postcards to send out, so we will have those available for you as well. Please RSVP by either Facebook or via the website. We will have to change the reservation if we are more than 10 people.

Where: Restaurant Zur Alten Kaisermühle

U1 Alte Donau, Fischerstrand 21a

1220 Wien –Franz Josefs Land

When: July 20th, 2017 7 pm - 10 pm.

Contact: Ashley Arreola

+436503749481

ashley_arreola@yahoo.com

RSVP via Facebook

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2. POSTER HANGING

 

Currently we are working on improving our outreach in Austria. Thanks to a Resistance Summer grant The DAA Youth Caucus will be hanging up posters promoting upcoming events and becoming a member. The idea is to hang posters within the first nine districts of Vienna at pubs and bars, and places of interest to the international community. We 'll see how far we get! Join us in this supportive and help hang posters, perhaps in combination with a pub crawl and other fun activities, please contact david.heckenberg@gmail.com, if you have any other ideas or suggestions for the Youth Caucus, fire away and send an Email to the address provided above!

Bring your friends! The more the merrier!

Where: The Golden Harp

Erdbergstraße 27

When: August 11th, 2017 6 pm - 12 am

Contact: David Heckenberg

+43664 3782040

david.heckenberg@gmail.com

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  • ISSUES
1. SOLSUN IS ON SUMMER BREAK - OUR PLANNED ACTIONS ARE GOING ONLINE!

By Antje Lewis, Grassroots Caucus

Solidarity Sundays Vienna participants are spread across the globe this summer, so we’re taking our planned actions online where everyone can reach us.

Keep a lookout here to take part and be sure to keep up with DA’s Resistance Summer! (see below)

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2. SUMMER OF ACTIVISM: JOIN RESISTANCE SUMMER

by Jennifer Rakow-Stepper, Chair

Since the 2016 election, people are not - as Timothy Snyder would say - simply being bystanders. Instead, they have been marching, writing letters, calling their Members of Congress, and holding Town Halls. Small groups and a few noteworthy individuals have set a ball in motion that has managed to be heard and to make a difference in the halls of Congress. The DNC is using this momentum to contact voters in 50 states and around the world. “The mission of Resistance Summer is to educate, organize, and mobilize grassroots energy.“To further the grassroots efforts, Democrats Abroad has given grants to country committees like DA Austria to enable us to print postcards and posters. Please read below about Bruce Murray’s Resistance Summer Selfie Challenge and David Heckenberg’s Poster Outreach Party. Text RESIST to 43367 to stay up-to-date on all the major items of Resistance Summer.

Excitingly, the DNC has now approved Democrats Abroad’s grant proposal for online trainings over the next two months. There will be trainings for Executive Committee members as well as Membership trainings, which will include online seminars on phone banking and canvassing. They will also focus on DA issues such as Residency Based Taxation, the healthcare bill, its potential consequences abroad, and more. These trainings will provide useful skills for reaching out to voters in 2018, so I hope many members will take advantage of this opportunity!

Please contact me at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com if you would like to participate in an online training session and I’ll forward you the specifics as soon as they’re available. Country committees whose members participate also receive funding for banners etc. Join Resistance Summer - it’s a win for everyone!

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3. RESISTANCE SUMMER SELFIE CHALLENGE

by Bruce Murray, Counsel

Tim Snyder's 20 Lessons from the 20th Century can only strengthen our resolve to engage in the Resistance Summer. Become involved! Make a Difference! Your Voice Counts!

Democrats Abroad Austria encourages you to send us a creative Resistance Summer Selfie when you participate in (or host) an event. We look forward to your submissions on or before Labor Day, September 4th. We would like to post them on our Facebook page. The greatest prize we can offer is the future of our democracy. We also are tinkering with plans for more mundane prizes for the best submissions!

So –

  1. Look up a Resistance Summer event near you and attend.

  2. No event in your area? Then invite some neighbours and friends over and host one!

  3. Print out the logo (printer friendly version) and take a selfie at an event, with a neighbor, or at a spot you feel represents your America. Get creative!

  4. Remember to send it to demsabroadaustria@gmail.com

or post it on our FB page by September 4th!

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4. POSTER HANGING MEET-UP

by David Heckenberg, Youth Caucus

We are currently working on improving our outreach in Austria. Thanks to a Resistance Summer grant, the DAA Youth Caucus will be hanging up posters promoting upcoming events and new DAA membership. We will be hanging posters within the first nine districts of Vienna at pubs, bars, and places of interest to the international community. It should take no more than a few days to get it done. The posters will be designed and printed in July so that in August we can put them up. Please join us in this effort - we can combine it with a pub crawl and other fun activities! If interested, please contact david.heckenberg@gmail.com. Should you have any other ideas or suggestions for the Youth Caucus, fire away and send an email to the address provided above!

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  • REVIEW
1. DAA TALKS: MELISSA FLEMING

Democrats Abroad Austria was pleased to launch its new DAA Talks series with Melissa Fleming on June 8th. It was attended by about 70 members, friends, and a group of exchange students from the University of Illinois who heard the heart-wrenching story of a young Syrian woman’s journey to Europe. The audience also gained insight into the numerous challenges that refugees face and information about the UNHCR, who work to assist them. It was a fascinating account, which closed with a lively discussion.

Before the talk began, we had the chance to mingle while enjoying delicious bureks provided by a Syrian friend. We heard from Susanne Summer, who generously provided us the use of the rooms, about the history of the left wing Republikanischer Club. Afterwards, two representatives from “Vielmehr Für Alle” spoke to us about the work they are doing to help refugees build a new life in Vienna (see the article below in Member’s Corner).

The event was streamed live and recorded.

You can watch it here .

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2. CLIMATE CHANGE AND TRUMP
–A BAD DEAL FOR THE CLIMATE AND FOR A CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

by Faith Hall Herbold and Andreas Beckmann

Members of Democrats Abroad Austria as well as political and environmental science students gathered once again at the Amerlinghaus on a rainy, sweltering day to discuss climate change and the impact and implications of the United States withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord for the 5th Solidarity Sunday called “Environment without Protection? No.”

Faith Hall Herbold began with a presentation discussing the basics of climate change with the aim of providing the audience with talking points based on scientific data in order to successfully debate the topic in social settings. Climate change is real and is already occurring. 2017 is the second hottest year on record and the earth is in flux with dramatic shifts in weather patterns, ocean warming resulting in acidification, and loss of coastline and habitats -- just to name a few. With the progression of climate change from a warning to an actual reality, we are left with few choices but to adapt to climate change and mitigate the effects. Although individual choices contribute to the rise of greenhouse gas production, a major contributor is industrial pollution. Government at the local, state and federal levels has an important role to play in driving forward the shift to a clean energy future.

Faith passed the rhetorical baton to Andreas Beckmann, who talked about the implications of the U.S. leaving the Paris Climate Accord. The Paris agreement, which was signed in 2015 by 195 countries (the two exceptions are Syria –mired in a nasty civil war –and Nicaragua, for whom the agreement was not ambitious enough!), was seen as the best hope for keeping overall increase in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic impacts. It is important to note that the Paris Agreement is voluntary, depending on peer pressure not only to deliver on but also ratchet up future commitments to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases. By withdrawing from the agreement, Trump essentially has kicked the international community in the teeth –and has very much isolated the U.S. on the world stage.

The U.S.’s exit deals a serious but not necessarily mortal blow to the global efforts to address climate change –indeed, China, India, Europe and Russia have responded to Trump’s announcement with redoubled commitment to the accord. The U.S. accounts for 20% of the commitments to decrease greenhouse gases under the Paris Accord and much of this will be achieved regardless of the actions of the Trump Administration, thanks to economics, with cleaner gas and renewables putting dirty coal power out of business. Indeed, while the U.S. President has explained the withdrawal in terms of financial costs, the bigger risk over the longer-term is that the U.S. is left behind as China, India, Europe, and other parts of the world press forward to a clean energy economy. Fortunately, in the absence of leadership from the White House, a dozen states including California and New York, 333 cities, hundreds of corporations (Walmart and Facebook among others), and many universities have taken the lead and pledged their support for the Paris Accord, and they are doing their part to promote the shift to a clean energy economy.

We ended the session by taking action. Democrats Abroad Organizer Antje Lewis presented instructions on how to successfully use phone banking to contact our state and federal representatives on various issues, and we then wrote cards to our governors, mayors and university presidents urging them to show the leadership that is missing in Washington to deliver the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement.

You can check www.wearestillin.com to see if your governor, mayor, CEO, or university president has already signed up for the future. For all our sakes: thank them if they have and pressure them if they haven’t!

For more information see:

· Climate change and The historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017.

· US states, cities, corporations, universities and colleges committed to the Paris Accord and promoting the shift to a clean energy future.

· Phone banking!

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3. DANCING IN THE STREET

 

by Keith Jacomine, Vice-Chair

On Saturday, June 17th, approximately fifty Democrats Abroad Austria members took to the Ringstrasse to march in the Regenbogenparade. This year our contingent had a decisively carnival feeling as our organizer, Juan David, encouraged everyone to don costumes, glitter and glitz with the theme, "It's Just Absolutely Fabulous!"

This year marked the fifth consecutive time that DAA has participated in this important event.

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  • HAPPENINGS AROUND TOWN

 

by Jennifer Rakow-Stepper, Chair

We all know that there are many advantages to living in a city as beautiful and with such a high quality of life as Vienna, but an often underappreciated advantage is the number of fascinating people who are invited by the US Embassy or academic foundations to hold public talks.

Two such events took place in late June and both, unsurprisingly, touched on the realities and ramifications of fake news and the state of our current body politic. On Thursday June 20th, David Mikkelson, the founder and CEO of snopes.com, spoke at the Amerika Haus about whether the causes of the current distrust in the media are a product of fake news or simply bad journalism and whether this is actually a greater problem now than it had been in the past. Mikkelson explained the spectrum of journalistic behavior and the monetization of news that has caused the current phenomenon. snopes.com doesn’t have a single focus as do other political fact check sites such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact.com, but instead it investigates claims according to how they are trending, email requests etc.

On Tuesday June 22 nd , Timothy Snyder, a Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University, an IWM Permanent Fellow, and, most recently, a New York Times best selling author, was invited by the IWM Institut f ür die Wissenschaften von Menschen (Institute for Human Sciences) to present his most recent book. Breaking conventional borders and reflecting the urgency of his appeal, his 20 Lessons on Tyranny were first published on Facebook and then transformed into posters by students from Kingston University and pasted along a street in East London. The book is “an attempt to distil what I have learned about the 20th century into a guide for action today.”His presentation and discussion with journalist Martin Pollack revealed the importance of the many activist actions that are currently taking place in the U.S. and globally –including our very own Solidarity Sundays Vienna group –from a historical perspective. On Tyranny is billed as “a practical guide to resisting the rise of totalitarianism”and his overarching theme, “Don’t be a Bystander,“struck a chord with an enthusiastic audience.

Although different in context, both talks addressed the polarization of our news sources and our society. Where Mikkelson said, “polarization is the disease,”Snyder posited that the result of polarization was inaction on both ends. To paraphrase –if all is going right, you feel it doesn’t matter to change something. And if all is going wrong, then it also doesn’t matter what you do to change something. Trying to find a place between is where you have responsibility.

As a last note, David Mikkelson accepted our invitation and joined about 20 DAA members on Friday, June 23rd for dinner. Professor Snyder met with about 30 members and friends in Halle Cafe in the Museumsquartier to discuss and sign copies of his book on July 5th. A full review will be in the September newsletter!

If you are interested in getting on the email list for such events, please send your request to the U.S. Embassy for Amerika Haus events at ViennaUSEmbassy@state.gov and the IWM at iwm@iwm.at .

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1. FOURTH OF JULY PARTY

by Marcy Fowler, Treasurer

Democrats Abroad Austria joined up with Americans in International Organizations in Vienna (AIOV) again to celebrate Independence Day in as authentic a way as possible: a big outdoor party complete with food, bands, sports and of course as many American flag themed items as you can imagine. The weather held up well and the large crowd of Americans and friends made for a truly festive event.

DAA yet again sponsored the annual softball game, which was great entertainment for all. Captained by DAA's own Jeffrey Velasquez, the "Stars" team defeated the "Stripes" 2-1 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 6th inning. With most of the game highlights coming in the form of fancy glove work in the field, who says Democrats are weak on defense?

As befits any 4th of July party, there was more food than anyone could possibly eat. Hamburgers, hot dogs and fries from Der Garten in the Prater park along with tables full of pot-luck desserts and snacks brought by attendees. Just the Troubles got the crowd singing and dancing, and made sure everyone went home not just full but also with a smile on their face.

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  • MEMBERS CORNER
1. WE WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU LISTEN TO!

Do you have a favorite podcast? Share it with your fellow members in an upcoming newsletter. Send your submissions to demsabroadaustria@gmail.com

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2. VIEL MEHR FÜR ALLE

By Parissima Taheri

Remember me, Parissima, and my colleague Abdiwahab? On June 8th at the Melissa Fleming talk, we told you about our work for the organization “Vielmehr Für Alle,”which supports young refugees here in Vienna in many aspects of their lives that are critical to a healthy participation in society: education, housing, introduction into the working world and healthcare and a strengthened local social circle. Get involved! No need to speak German, no need to have regular time to dedicate. All we need is YOU – your talents, skills, contacts, ideas, spaces, collaborations – we are open to everyone. I look forward to hearing from you and I’m sure we can inspire each other.

Please contact: parissima.taheri@vielmehr.at

Further info. at www.vielmehr.at

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+

Democrats Abroad Austria June Newsletter

 

In this June 2017 issue

 

Upcoming Events

  • An Evening with Senator Sanders –Livestream from Berlin
  • DAA Talks: Melissa Fleming on the Plight of Refugees
  • Young Dems Pub Night Summer Edition
  • It ’s just Absolutely Fabulous! Join us June 17th for Vienna 's Pride Parade
  • Solidarity Sundays Vienna #5
  • Save the Date - Fourth of July party on the SECOND of July!

 

Issues and Actions

  • An Interview with Melissa Fleming
  • June is LGBT Pride Month
  • U.S. Special Elections in 2017
  • Print, Pose, and Post –Participate in DA ’s Virtual Tax March

DAA Review

  • Taking It To the Streets:  Protest in the Time of Trump
  • Democratic Party Committee Abroad 2017 Global Meeting

Member's Corner

  • Making Resistance Easier
  • Thanks to the Republikanischer Club: Menschlich, Realistisch, Fair

 

 


Upcoming Events

1. An Evening with Senator Sanders –Livestream from Berlin

Please join Democrats Abroad Austria for an early evening with Senator Bernie Sanders via livestream from the Freie Universit ät Berlin on Wednesday, 31 May! The Senator will discuss social renewal in the U.S. and globally in front of a live audience with Christoph Amend, Chief Editor of DIE ZEIT Magazin.

The livestream begins at 18.00. (All are invited to arrive early to purchase food and beverage.)

WHEN: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at 12:00 PM - 03:00 PM

WHERE: Beaver Brewing Company

Liechtensteinstrasse 69

Vienna 1090

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT: Bruce Murray · bamurray1954@yahoo.com

RSVP HERE

 

 

2. DAA Talks: Melissa Fleming on the Plight of Refugees

SOLD OUT!

  • You must RSVP by May 19th for you and your guests to be on the guest list!
  • Seating is limited and we expect this event to be fully booked. Don ’t wait to reserve your spot!
  • Join us beforehand for light refreshments at 18:30. The talk will begin at 19:00.
  • Donations from U.S. citizens will be accepted.

We are pleased to announce that Melissa Fleming, Head of Communication and Chief Spokesperson at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), currently working as Senior Advisor to the UN Secretary General, and author of A HOPE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SEA will address DAA members and friends.

At the UNHCR, Melissa has led a media team to bring the news and stories of the world 's sixty million refugees and displaced people to the public. Her discussion will highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience she has witnessed on a daily basis and bring to life the story of Doaa al Zamel, a young Syrian woman who was one of the few survivors, together with the baby she saved, of a boating disaster that killed over five hundred men, women and children who were attempting to reach the safety and promise of Europe.

Melissa has recently written a book, A HOPE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SEA, published by Flatiron, which details Doaa 's journey from her war-ravaged country of Syria to her exile in Egypt to her nightmare on the Mediterranean Sea and finally to her new home in Sweden. The refugee crisis is one of the most pertinent topics for discussion right now. We thank Melissa for agreeing to speak with us.

Here is a recent review of Melissa 's book from The New Yorker: Written by an official in the U.N.’s refugee agency, this deeply affecting book recounts the story of a young Syrian, Doaa al Zamel. In 2011, as a shy, stubborn fifteen-year-old, she demonstrated against the regime; after fleeing to Egypt, she stitched bags in a burlap factory, hoping to get to Europe. In September, 2014, she was pulled from the Mediterranean, parched and delirious, with two small children clasped to her chest. She ’d been afloat for four days, after a boat smuggling her to Europe sank, killing five hundred other passengers, including her fianc é. Fleming brings a moral urgency to the narrative. Doaa is now safe in Sweden, but Fleming pointedly asks, “Why is there no massive resettlement program for Syrians —the victims of the worst war of our times?”

Please join us for an evening that focuses on one of the human tragedies of our day …when we become better and more personally informed, we are also perhaps better prepared to help! Go to Melissa Fleming 's Linked in page  for further biographical information on Melissa Fleming.

 

WHEN: Thursday, June 08, 2017 at 06:30 PM - 08:30 PM

WHERE: Republikanischer Club

Rockhgasse 1

Vienna 1010

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT : Jennifer Rakow-Stepper · demsabroadaustria@gmail.com

 

3. Young Dems Pub Night Summer Edition

Summer is finally here, and we can finally return to our favorite summer spot along the Donau Canal. We 're starting a little later since it 's a Friday night. If you can 't find us, ask for the table reserved under Democrats Abroad.

 

WHEN: Friday, June 09, 2017 at 07:30 PM - 11:30 PM

WHERE: Strandbar Hermann

Hermannpark

Vienna 1030

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT

Ashley Arreola · ashley_arreola@yahoo.com  ·+436503749481

RSVP Here

 

4. It ’s just Absolutely Fabulous! Join us for Vienna 's Pride Parade

DANCING IN THE STREETS, FEATHERS, BEADS &MASKS WHAT MORE DO WE NEED TO HAVE A BLAST AT THIS YEAR ’S VIENNA 'S PRIDE PARADE!

Join Democrats Abroad Austria as we march and dance at this year ’s Vienna Pride Parade. Although the Pride Parade begins at 14:00 on Saturday June 17th, participants planning to join the Democrats Abroad Austria contingent in the parade should meet in Rathausplatz at 1:00 p.m. (exact line-up location is TBD). Participants may simply join the group at the beginning of the parade route, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged.

Our parade group is open to all. We urge participants to bring signs —the more colorful and creative the better —and we encourage participants to wear colorful costumes (feathers, beads, masks, fairy tale character, glitter).

You can RSVP for this event using one of the methods below:

  1. The Democrats Abroad Austria Event page
  2. Email Juan
  3. Use Facebook  (For current Democrats Abroad Austria Facebook Group members)

WHEN: Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM

WHERE: Rathausplatz

Vienna 1010

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT: Juan Cerda · juandcerda@gmail.com

 

5. Solidarity Sundays Vienna #5

ENVIRONMENT WITHOUT PROTECTION:

Does the earth stand a chance?

How to live without the EPA, climate protocols, and nuclear disarmament?

Democrats Abroad members Faith Hall Herbold and Andreas Beckmann will lead us through some answers to these questions.

One answer will be to take action, pick up your phone and get your representatives and fellow voters to take action!

Learn about the issues, LEARN TO PHONE BANK. It 's easier to brave the phone banking system when you have a Democrat friend and potato chips at hand. Let 's go! Bring your laptop!

 

WHEN: Sunday, June 25, 2017 at 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM

WHERE: Amerlinghaus

Stiftgasse 8

Vienna 1070

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT: Antje Lewis · ahl@gmx.at

RSVP Here

 

6. Fourth of July on the Second of July in the Prater!

We 're celebrating the Fourth of July once again with Americans in International Organizations in Vienna (AIOV) on Sunday, July 2nd. We look forward to coming together to celebrate this all-American Holiday. Please join us on from 11:00 until dusk at the Cantina at the Prater park, located at the end of the number 1 tram line, Prater Hauptallee station, near the ASKO softball fields.

 

There will be American style hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hotdogs, French fries, beer, wine and soft drinks, games, softball (to watch and to play), and live music with ‘Just the Troubles ’. Come ready to dance and bring an American picnic side dish and dessert to share, and any outdoor games you ’d like to play (Frisbee, football, bocci ball, etc.).

 

Payment: The food and drinks will be purchased from the Cantina; prices will be announced. There is no charge for this event, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the AIOV and DAA.

WHEN: Sunday, July 02, 2017 at 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM

WHERE: Prater

Spenadlwiese

Vienna 1020

Austria

Google map and directions

CONTACT: Ashley Arreola · ashley_arreola@yahoo.com  ·+436503749481

RSVP Here

 


 

Issues and Actions

1. An Interview with Melissa Fleming
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by Ellen Lewis, Democrats Abroad Executive Committee Member

 

The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million .  Just this week, more than 30 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as hundreds fell from a migrant boat off the coast of Libya. Some 60,000 refugees are currently stranded in Greece. In South Sudan, political conflict, drought, and famine have created a dire situation, with tens of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

I sat down with Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the UNHCR, who will be speaking on June 8 th  to DAA members and friends on the plight of refugees. Melissa has written a book, A Hope More Powerful than the Sea, recounting one Syrian woman ’s perilous and dramatic journey to reach safety and a new home in Europe.

The statistics are mind-boggling and the individual stories heart-wrenching. Melissa ’s work is informed by both and during our conversation it became clear that in her position as spokesperson for the UNHCR, she is personally driven by a compassion for and dedication to helping refugees throughout the world.

 

EL: You ’ve worked with the UNHCR since 2008. How would you compare the refugee crisis today with what was happening when you started at the organization?

MF:  It ’s much much bigger, and I think that it has been going up about 10 million a year; I have to look at the exact figure from 10 years ago, but it has just consistently gone up. The Syria conflict is a [major factor], but every year we keep announcing the new figures and it ’s always the [largest] number since WWII. We also still have large numbers of Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, refugees from South Sudan, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo as well. There are now 65 million people who are forcibly displaced; these are record numbers; the organization has continued to grow to meet the demands, the budget has increased fourfold …

READ MORE...

 

2. June  is LGBT Pride Month

June is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) and is currently celebrated each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.  In 1969, the solicitation of homosexual relations was illegal. Gay bars were the only places of refuge where lesbians and gays could socialize without public harassment.  However, gay bars were subject to frequent police harassment. On June 28, 1969, the police entered the Stonewall Inn bar, arrested employees, roughed up patrons, arrested anyone who was not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing.  This time the patrons fought back and rioted against the police brutality.  This act of defiance, the Stonewall riots, are now considered to be the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Now, each year, pride is celebrated throughout the international community to pay tribute to diversity, lgbt rights, and individuality.

 

As a community, we have come a long way from the Stonewall riots and, yes, we may have marriage equality in the United States; nevertheless,LGBT rights are still under siege by the Republican statehouses. In Texas, the State Senate and Assembly passed two anti-lgbt bills: one bill is HB3859, which allows counselors as well as adoption and foster care agencies the ability to refuse services based on religious beliefs.  The second bill, SB2078, targets transgender students in schools. Both bills are now making their way to the Governor ’s desk.  We need you. Please send a message to the Governor, asking him to veto HB 3859 and SB 2078.

 

Internationally, LGBT members are being persecuted and sentenced to concentration camps.  Authorities in Chechnya - a Russian republic - have rounded up at least 100 gay men and placed them in concentration camps  where they are tortured, starved, and often killed. The Chechen ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, plans to " eliminate "all of Chechnya 's LGBT community by the beginning of Ramadan, which begins on May 26. In the face of media inquiries, Chechen spokespeople have claimed that gay men simply " do not exist. "Despite international outrage, Putin and Trump have remained silent. But we can do something: through All Out , we can each donate  to support the efforts of the Russian LGBT Network to get LGBT people out of Chechnya as soon as possible.

 

Closer to home in Vienna, you can also help by supporting and learning more about  Queer Base ,  a program which helps and supports LGBTIQ refugees who have sought refuge in Austria. You can also participate in this year ’s Vienna Pride Parade and show your support: see the event section of this newsletter for more information.

 

4. U.S. Special Elections in 2017

On Tuesday, May 23, Democrats had their first Trump era special election wins in the New Hampshire and New York State Legislatures and turned two traditionally safe red states blue. This is great news and illustrates how often-forgotten Special Elections can really matter. Below is a shortened version listing the spring and summer deadlines from an article that noted all of the special elections that will take place in 2017, which was

posted on democratsabroad.org website by DA GOTV committee member, Eileen Weinberg, on February 11, 2017.

 

We ’ll list the fall Special Election deadlines in September. Make sure to register, vote, and spread the word to friends and family back home to help get out the vote! Please click here  for the entire piece; to keep up-to-date about the most recent races, make sure to check out flippable .

 

As overseas citizens, we need to make sure that we go through the process of completing the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register and request a ballot for the handful of states that will be holding special elections for federal offices this year. We want to encourage all overseas citizens to participate in all special elections, as well as in statewide and local elections occurring in 2017.

 

If you are a resident from any of the states and voting districts listed below, please register and request an absentee ballot today at VoteFromAbroad.org . You must complete, print out, sign and send the FPCA to your election office to ensure you will receive a ballot for the election. Please mail your voting materials early enough to account for mail delivery times .

 

California —U.S. House, 34th Congressional District

Special Election on June 6

Seat vacated by the resignation of Xavier Becerra (D) when he was confirmed as Attorney General of California —concerns voters in Los Angeles County (downtown and northeast).

Results of the Special Primary Election on April 4 mean that Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former L.A. city planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D) are set to advance to the runoff election on June 6.  

  • JUN  6  Voted ballot return by fax or mail (postmarked AND received by June 9)

 

Georgia —U.S. House, 6th Congressional District

Special Election Runoff on June 20

Seat vacated by the resignation of Tom Price (R) when he was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services —concerns voters in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton Counties. Ballots will be sent beginning March 4 for those who have requested them.

Democrat Jon Ossoff received 48% of the votes cast for the congressional race between 18 candidates. He will face Karen Handel (R) —the closest contender with 20% —in the June runoff.  

A federal judge has ordered Georgia to reopen voter registration for the runoff election, extending the deadline to May 21, 2017.  

  • JUN 16  Ballot request by email, fax or mail by 5pm
  • JUN 20  Voted ballot return by mail (postmarked AND received by June  21)

 

South Carolina —U.S. House, 5th Congressional District

Special Election on June 20

Seat vacated by the resignation of Mick Mulvaney (R) when he was confirmed as Director of the OMB —concerns voters in Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Newberry, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York Counties.

Democrat Archie Parnell won the party 's nomination in the Primary Election on May 2 by a decisive margin, while top two GOP candidates will runoff in mid-May.

  • JUN 20  Ballot request by email, fax or mail by 7pm
  • JUN 20  Voted ballot return by email, fax by 7pm or mail (AND received by June 22 by 5pm)

 

Utah —U.S. House, 3rd Congressional District

Special Primary Election on August 14  |  Special Election on November 7

Seat vacated by the resignation of Jason Chaffetz (R) —concerns voters in Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, and Wasatch counties as well as portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties.

  • JUL 17  Voter registration by email, fax or mail OR
  • Back-up ballot (FWAB) can be used to register to vote if received by August 5
  • AUG 10  Ballot request by email, fax or mail
  • AUG 14  Voted ballot return by mail (postmarked AND received by August 27) OR
  • AUG 15  by email or fax by 8pm in Utah local time

 

GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN 2017 

New Jersey —Governor

State Primary Election on June 6

Incumbent Governor, Republican Chris Christie is term-limited and not eligible to run for re-election. Six Democrats are in the race for the party 's nomination to run for the November election -- community activist Bill Brennan, former U.S. treasury official Jim Johnson, State Senator (Union County) Raymond Lesniak, former U.S. ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, State Assemblyman (Middlesex County) John Wisniewski, and Borough Council President (Tenafly) Mark Zinna

  • JUN  2  Voter registration/Ballot request for primary by email or fax by 8pm
  • JUN  6  Voted ballot return for primary by email, fax, and mail by 8pm
  • State General Election on November 7

 

Virginia —Governor

State Primary Election on June 13

Incumbent Governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is term-limited and not eligible to run for re-election. The Democratic primary will decide if Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam or former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello will receive the party 's nomination for the November election.

  • JUN  6  Ballot request for primary by email, fax or mail by 5pm
  • JUN 13  Voted ballot return for primary by mail by 7pm
  • Gubernatorial Election on November 7

5. Print, Pose, and Post –Participatein DA ’s Virtual Tax March

June 15, 2017 is the automatic IRS filing extension deadline for Americans overseas. In order to draw attention to our taxation issues, as well as to underscore that President Trump has yet to release his tax returns to the US public, DA ’s Global Action Team is launching a social media campaign that will run throughout the month of June. All you need to do is print, pose, and post to participate!

So, print  out the A4 poster ,  find somewhere iconic, symbolic, or downright mundane to pose  for your photo, and post  it before June 15 to:

takeaction@democratsabroad.org , where it will be queued for the campaign 's launch via DA social media channels on the 15th.

Alternatively, starting June 15, post the picture on our DAA   Facebook member ’s group  or send it to us at demsabroadaustria@gmail.com  and we ’ll post it on our DA website.

D on 't forget to use the hashtags #virtualtaxmarch and #DAresists so that we can find and amplify your photos throughout the month as well!

 


 DAA Review

              1. Taking It To the Streets:  Protest in the Time of Trump

              by Tanya Lolonis, DA Grassroots Member

 

Black Lives Matter, the long-running and recently dismantled Dakota Access oil pipeline protest, the Women ’s March and the March for Science, protests against transgender discrimination bills  —over the past year, and accelerating since the election, Americans are taking to the streets to oppose GOP policies. We ’ve racked up some successes:  the travel ban was blocked by judges after protests delayed its implementation and citizens speaking up at town halls killed the first Obamacare repeal and are endangering Senate passage.

 

And Republicans are pushing back. While we follow national political developments, a flood of bills targeting protest tactics and enhancing penalties for civil disobedience are working their way through state legislatures. Bills designed to discourage the exercise of the right to assemble peacefully are being considered in over 20 states. These “represent an unprecedented level of hostility towards protesters in the 21st century ”(ACLU). Last month, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights wrote the State Department that this legislative activity is “incompatible with U.S. obligations under international human rights law.”

 

A sample:  a North Dakota bill to shift liability from drivers who unintentionally hit protesters to protesters themselves did not survive public scrutiny —but a similar bill has been introduced in Tennessee and bills to jail protestors who block traffic are being drafted in Minnesota and Iowa. Wearing masks and hoodies and heckling politicians in North Carolina are specific targets and in Portland there is an attempt to reclassify demonstrations as “riots.”

 

Our first amendment assures the right of access to sidewalks, public spaces and streets, and protects the right to heckle, too. While the ACLU is fighting back in courts at home, we still enjoy the right to protest in Austria. Attending the Pride Parade is more celebration than protest, but its social and political messages are strong, clear —and protected. We invite you to join Democrats Abroad on June 17th as we march to demonstrate our support of LGBTQI rights and freedom.

 

 

 

DPCA Election Results

Democratic Party Committee Abroad 2017 Global Meeting

by Keith Jacomine, Vice Chair

 

Democrats Abroad country committees from around the world met physically and virtually in Washington DC from May 12-17  to conduct the business of the DPCA, elect new international officers, and hold meetings on Capitol Hill, advocating for issues important to Americans living overseas.

 

The International Officers who have been elected to serve two year terms are: Julia Bryan (DA-Czech Republic) International Chair, Alex Montgomery (DA-Hong Kong) International Vice-Chair, Lissette Wright (DA-Canada) International Treasurer, Jeffrey Cheng (DA-Sweden) International Secretary and Tom Schmid (DA-Japan) International Counsel.  

 

In addition to the election, a variety of resolutions and amendments to the bylaws were voted on, and China was admitted as our newest country committee.  

 

Over the course of four days, attendees heard from speakers including NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, MD Congressman Jamie Raskin, a DA France alumnus, and Congresswoman Holmes-Norton of Washington DC.  Among others, Larry Cohen of the DNC Unity Reform Commission and Chairman of Our Revolution spoke about the importance of unions and progressive values, which kicked off the formation of the Democrats Abroad Progressive Caucus.  Michael Blake, the newly elected DNC Vice-Chair, spoke about the changes taking place under the new leadership of Chairman Perez and Deputy Chairman Ellison.

 

You 'll be hearing more from our new Chair in the coming months on the DPCA 's plans for continuing to advance issues important to us: keep up the resistance to the current administration and prepare for the 2018 midterms.

 


 

Member ’s Corner

 1. Making Resistance Easier

by Marcy R. Fowler, Treasurer

 

Resisting the destructive Trump agenda can be exhausting! Keeping up with the news from back home and taking the time to contact your elected officials can feel like a full-time job. Thankfully, there are many resources and tools emerging that will keep you informed and let you communicate your views from the comfort of your smart phone. Here are a couple of my current favorites:

 

Resistbot is my new favorite way to resist during my daily commute. To start, simply text “RESIST ”to 50409 (note: this is a US number, so using standard SMS from Austria is not recommended) or message Resistbot  using Facebook messenger . The bot asks you some basic questions and then sends your letters to your elected officials via fax. The beauty of the program is its simplicity. With Resistbot, you can quickly prepare a letter and have it nicely formatted and sent automatically. As you get more experienced with the bot, additional options become available; for example, you can add your signature to the letters for a personal touch. Check out the Resistbot website  for more information.

 

To stay up-to-date, on my way home from work I listen to The Daily podcast by Michael Barbaro of the New York Times, which features discussion of the major news items of the day with the journalists who are breaking the stories. The coverage of the recent White House scandals has been exceptional (the 24 April episode  on then-FBI director Comey was particularly absorbing), with insight into just how these incredible stories are uncovered, how the news fits into the broader context, and what it all means. You can listen to The Daily free on the NYT website  or through your favorite podcast app.

 

If you have any tips on other tools or sources that may be of interest to Dems Abroad, please email me at RationalResistanceAustria @ Gmail.com.

 

2. Thanks Republikanischer Club

DA Austria Executive Committee would like to thank the Republikanischer Club for generously allowing us to use their rooms for our first DAA Talks event with Melissa Fleming on Thursday, June 8th. The day before our event, the Republikanischer Club will be hosting an event focusing on the theme of Austria ’s migration policies. Perhaps some of our German-speaking members would like to attend. Below is the information from their website .

–Jennifer Rakow-Stepper, Chair

 

Mittwoch, 7. Juni 2017, 18 Uhr, im Republikanischer Club:

Menschlich, Realistisch, Fair –M ögliche Eckpunkte einer (Österreichischen) Migrationspolitik?

 

Ein Freundeskreis engagierter B ürgerinnen (Anton Dobart, Helmut Bachmann, Christine Stromberger, Gottfried Wagner, u.a.) und der RC laden zu einer Podiumsdiskussion.

 

Es diskutieren:

  • Max Koch (Vorsitzender SOS-Mitmensch)
  • Alev Korun (Nationalratsabgeordnete, Die Gr ünen, Sprecherin u.a. f ür Migration und Integration)
  • Josef Lentsch (Direktor NEOS Lab)
  • Mehrdokht Tesar (Sektion 8 )
  • Moderation: Martina Handler (Politikwissenschaftlerin, Mediatorin und Beteiligungsexpertin)

 

Sind fortschrittliche Allianzen in der Politik Österreichs (der EU) denkbar f ür eine bessere, humane und realistische Migrationspolitik? 'Ideale 'Politik gibt es nicht, einfache Antworten auch nicht. Wie kann ein wirksamer politischer Dialog zwischen politischen Parteien, mit NGOs und den B ürgerinnen und B ürgern gelingen? Gibt es mehrheitsf ähige Schnittmengen, um einen Paradigmenwechsel einzuleiten? …

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Melissa Fleming

 photo melissa_zpsubcgvesu.jpg

by Ellen Lewis,

Democrats Abroad Executive Committee Member

 

The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million.  Just this week, more than 30 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as hundreds fell from a migrant boat off the coast of Libya. Some 60,000 refugees are currently stranded in Greece. In South Sudan, political conflict, drought, and famine have created a dire situation, with tens of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries.

I sat down with Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the UNHCR, who will be speaking on June 8th to DAA members and friends on the plight of refugees. Melissa has written a book, A Hope More Powerful than the Sea, recounting one Syrian woman’s perilous and dramatic journey to reach safety and a new home in Europe.

The statistics are mind-boggling and the individual stories heart-wrenching. Melissa’s work is informed by both and during our conversation it became clear that in her position as spokesperson for the UNHCR, she is personally driven by a compassion for and dedication to helping refugees throughout the world.

 

EL: You’ve worked with the UNHCR since 2008. How would you compare the refugee crisis today with what was happening when you started at the organization?

MF:  It’s much much bigger, and I think that it has been going up about 10 million a year; I have to look at the exact figure from 10 years ago, but it has just consistently gone up. The Syria conflict is a [major factor], but every year we keep announcing the new figures and it’s always the [largest] number since WWII. We also still have large numbers of Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, refugees from South Sudan, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo as well. There are now 65 million people who are forcibly displaced; these are record numbers; the organization has continued to grow to meet the demands, the budget has increased fourfold…

EL: Given the disproportionate number of Syrian refugees taken in by neighboring countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, what can the UNHCR do to get the wealthier nations of Europe to show more compassion and take in their ‘fair share’?

MF: 86% of refugees are [taken in by] developing countries…for example, Lebanon, with a population of 4 million, has 1 million refugees; we’re saying, “Please, this tiny [country of] Lebanon can’t do this alone. Provide funding but, in addition, take some of these refugees to your countries.”

EL: Is this also the case in parts of Africa, as with Jordan and Lebanon, in which the neighboring countries end up taking in the majority of refugees?

MF: Yes, and of course they’re struggling themselves with their own issues and often they allow the refugees to come in [to the country], but they relegate them to a camp where they have to live in tents and they can’t work, so we really try to advocate for them.

EL: So you go into the camps?

MF: Oh, we run them - that’s where we’re really operational, but we also operate in towns and cities and villages. Most refugees are in towns and cities and villages and we operate everywhere. For example, in Lebanon there are no refugee camps. They refuse to allow the establishment of refugee camps for Syrians. In Lebanon, you have what are called ‘camps’ in sections of Beirut. What they don’t want are official camps, like in Jordan and Turkey – [in Lebanon] they’re basically rented pieces of land where they can pitch a tent…we supply the tents but the government wants the whole thing to be temporary. That’s why I’m always saying it’s so political. When you have so many people coming into your country, it is a hot potato political issue. The UNHCR is in the middle trying to advocate for them, not just to have a place to be sheltered but also so that their kids can go to the local school, that they have the ability to access health care and work; we don’t always succeed. Local governments, elected leaders, are responsible for their own population and they see the refugees as guests so they want to make sure that they don’t present liabilities…

EL: On behalf of Democrats Abroad Austria, I wanted to ask you to talk a bit about the present U.S. government’s stance on refugees and the implications of the U.S. President’s policy, which does not champion the cause of refugees and which sought to order a ban on specific groups.

MF: The U.S. is one of the leaders in taking refugees, over decades, with huge bipartisan support. When the Trump Administration came into office, one of its measures related to refugees was to cut that program in half – to 50,000. The second measure was to put a hold on refugees coming from certain countries, which includes Somalis, for example, many of whom were already screened and ready to come…so many of them are kind of waiting in limbo – Syrians [as well]. We’re hoping that the ban will be...

EL: Is this related to the ban?

MF: Well, they’re reviewing the resettlement screening procedures to see whether they’re vigorous enough. We’ve said there’s probably no more vetted human being coming into the United States than a refugee. It’s a two year process of vetting. It’s done partly by UNHCR but mostly by the United States and the different arms of the government, so fine if they want to review that – it’s their security – and we’re hoping that maybe they’ll [only] introduce a couple more steps but this is…

EL: Who does the reviewing actually?

MF: You name the arm of the U.S. government and they’re involved, from the State Dept. to the FBI to the Homeland Security (laughs) to all of the different…

EL: And while they’re reviewing it, it’s on hold?

MF: It is. UNHCR identifies the refugees for resettlement and they send our criteria; this means that these are vulnerable people who are not doing well in the refugee environment where they are living because they are, for example, victims of torture, women who’ve been raped, single mothers with children living in a very difficult refugee environment, kids with a terrible medical condition…

EL: Does the UNHCR develop the criteria? They write up the criteria?

MF: We’ve had these criteria for decades; it has been ‘our’ criteria. And the countries accepted it. I remember there’s this one child in Lebanon who had a condition where he couldn’t grow and in Lebanon he couldn’t be treated. In Syria, he was actually being treated but there was one medication he needed and he was resettled to Finland where he’s getting all the health care he needs and he’s growing again. So just sometimes that kind of simple help… it’s transformative for the refugees. For the United States it has also been… refugees form the fabric of the United States. For example, the Vietnamese are the largest refugee population, the Vietnamese boat people - those were massive resettlements and they’ve become a part of U.S. society.

EL: Does an organization like yours, when facing an agenda like President Trump’s, feel somewhat powerless or is there some sort of mechanism that can either compensate or fight this kind of…?

MF: Well, we look to other countries, we look to the private sector to compensate…we don’t know if the funding will be cut, we hope not, so we’re working with – we’re reaching out to the Trump Administration, we’re trying to demonstrate the importance of what we’re doing and why it’s in the U.S. interest to fund it.

EL: Do you work a lot with NGOs?

MF: Oh yes, we have a lot to do with NGOs, operationally - we have so many [operations], we would not survive without NGOs as what we call our implementing partners…

EL: So does the UNHCR have political influence, does it have the ability to…?

MF: Yes, at the national level and at the international level; we have offices in over 140 countries and we have huge operations. In Syria we have over 400 staff but in places like Jordan we have many more than that. We have [major] operations - we’re basically caring for hundreds of thousands of people. In countries like Austria we don’t have an operational role, we have more of an advocacy role, working with the government – when they introduce new laws, we see the drafts, basically to keep governments who signed up for the International Refugee Convention, to keep them in line.

EL: Well, actually, that links to another question about the EU decision in March 2016. You’ve made the statement that the EU needs the “political will” to step up to the demands of the refugee crisis. How do you and your agency view the EU’s controversial March 2016 decision to block refugees from moving into Europe?

MF: Well, we believe that refugees have the right to seek asylum, this is international law; however, the influx into Greece was not managed well by the EU. That resulted in large numbers of refugees going to countries like Austria and Germany and Sweden because they heard here they could get protection, they could get the chance to start over. What should have happened would have been a managed arrival of the refugees: registration centers, screening, distribution...We believe fundamentally that this is an international responsibility, refugees are an international responsibility. If you as powerful governments are unable to stop the wars, then you should be taking responsibility for the victims, and that does not only mean paying them to stay away but also being willing to take in your share. Refugees won’t also feel compelled to take these illegal routes with smugglers who are not only notorious for risking people’s lives and not caring at all but just profit-oriented…you’re basically looking at a huge crime network that is actually evil. We would prefer that governments invest in the refugees where they are and the government's support them and take their share via resettlement or student visas. For example, there are so many university students who [sadly] had to break off their university [studies], who broke off their high school studies – they’re sitting in a refugee camp having to do labor and they see no future. They can’t go back home because the war is still going on. These scholarship programs – and there are some – are transforming young people’s lives and are also investing in the future of their country.

EL: So actually, you’re saying the ideal scenario is resettlement in the sense that you take people from where they start so that they don’t have to make these dangerous journeys and risk their lives…

MF: Yes,there are two reasons that were cited by refugees for coming to Europe. Some of them would not have been resettlement cases. People who wanted to work or who said I want to put my kids in school. Only half the Syrian refugee children are in school and when you get to the secondary level, it’s only one in four and when you get to the university level it’s only one percent, so when they don’t see any chance of returning to Syria because the war is not being solved and they’re sitting in a place that does not provide school for their children, all of a sudden, they see Europe which…maybe there’s a dangerous journey, but once I get there…

EL: But they wouldn’t be considered resettlement potential?

MF: Not if they’re not considered [or classified as] ‘vulnerable’.

EL: Vulnerable in the sense…?

MF: Of course they’re vulnerable but not all 5 million people – there are 5 million refugees, many of whom are in a situation which is poor [but do not meet] our vulnerable criteria.

EL: But they’ve also lost their homeland…

MF: Yes, well in that sense, everyone is vulnerable but, realistically-speaking, we believe that 10% of all refugees should be resettled because they are vulnerable in the extreme sense.

EL: so 90%...

MF: But actually not even 10% get resettled; only about 1% get resettled because that’s the number of places that are available.

EL: Wow, only 1%? And these are the vulnerable?

MF: What you call vulnerable. And you’re right to say aren’t all refugees vulnerable but what we’re talking about are the extreme vulnerable, people who will not survive well in those neighboring countries…

EL: Right, but in the long term, what that says is that while the war carries on and they have no home to go back to, that 90% or, more practically-speaking, 99%, are supposed to just be supported by neighboring countries ad hoc…?

MF: Yep. It’s just that geography dictates…

EL: Realistically, it will naturally follow that a large portion of these ‘non-vulnerable’ people will set out in dangerous circumstances…

MF: Of course, unless you invest more – this is what we’ve always been saying: the UNHCR only gets half of the budget that we say is needed. So what gets cut? Education for the kids, decent living conditions, etc. So, if you were to invest more in these neighboring countries plus increase the level of tolerance –  if the neighboring countries of say, Lebanon and Jordan, were to see that the international community says thank you Lebanon, thank you Jordan -  we’re going to be doing infrastructure projects in your towns and cities, we’re going to start a new economic zone so that we can help your people plus the refugees in coming up with ways to stimulate the economy, start new businesses and we’re going to build schools that will benefit your children and the refugee children, then you would not have as many people saying I can’t deal with this, this is not a life.

EL: What if a neighboring country took the same stance that many European countries take, which is that these are not our people so we won’t take them; if the neighboring countries didn’t have them, then where would they go?

MF: And that’s one of UNHCR’s biggest roles is to advocate for borders to be open. Now those countries because of years of lack of help, years of lack of investment, they’ve pretty much closed their borders so Syrians who need to get out now have a really hard time. There’s almost nowhere to go so that’s why you have so many people displaced inside Syria.

EL: It’s tragic. But wasn’t that forseeable on the part of the EU? There is a lack of political will. Given the Turkey Agreement and the decision about keeping the refugees in Greece or sending them back to Turkey –  wasn’t it ultimately that the EU didn’t step in ahead of time to help?

MF: Yes, if there had been systems in place for regular processing of people, nobody would have really noticed that this was a crisis. Europe is huge.

EL: So it really is that Europe did not…

MF: know how to handle it.

EL: take responsibility? Also, it wasn’t spread around. Mostly Germany and Austria – other European countries weren’t taking their share…

MF: Well, but people weren’t coming to those countries. The mechanism was not in place. What they did in retrospect was not working very well because public opinion has turned and large numbers of people, about 50,000 refugees are stuck in Greece and they’re supposed to be relocated now under a quota system to other European countries.

EL: Is this agreed to by the EU?

MF: Yes, but it came into place too late. There’s a registration system now, there’s an asylum system, there’s a relocation system but there are many countries now who are not participating – the Eastern European countries aren’t taking any.

EL: I wanted to ask you about the situation in the Mediterranean Sea and the Malta Summit - what was the UNHCR’s reaction to the decisions of the EU about refugees crossing from Libya?

MF: We basically said that the conditions in Libya are not [acceptable] for them to handle it.

EL: The loss of lives in the Mediterranean sea of African refugees and migrants is tragic and yet the EU wants to outsource border control to the Libyan coastguard who, again this week, has been shooting at the refugee boats. How does the UNHCR handle this situation?

MF: Our High Commissioner just went to Libya and met with the government, visited detention centers, increased our staff there and has said to the EU that it’s not the time to establish anything; we have a hard time because of the lack of security there so it’s really hard to provide [safe] conditions for people. I mean we agree with the UN when they say let’s address the root causes more as to why people are fleeing, increase information because they’re being sold a complete pack of lies. They have no clue what the journey is like, but they also think that when they reach Europe, it is this dreamland for people leaving for economic reasons. So information needs to be put out there…many say if they had known this or that…

EL: And the rescue operations, is the UNHCR involved in any of that?

MF: No, we don’t do rescue but we’re involved in Italy in all of the ports of arrival, but it’s the Italian Navy and the NGOs.

EL: Do you officially keep track of the…casualties?

MF: Yes, we do it together with IOM.

EL: Through your work, do you often have personal contact with the refugees themselves?

MF: I make a point of speaking to refugees because my job is to communicate on their behalf and people are numbed by statistics, so I find it extremely important to my advocacy communications work to meet with refugees wherever I am, to listen to their stories, and to use their stories to convey their messages to a wider public. That’s why I wrote this book.

EL: Actually, in your book A Hope More Powerful than the Sea, you tell the story of a young Syrian woman’s journey as a refugee from Syria. What difference does it make to tell personal stories?

MF: It really makes an enormous difference…the only way you can create a bridge of empathy to others is through stories. Individual stories, in particular, of one person – it’s proven in Sociology and Behavioral Sciences – really affect people the most; they allow people to really delve into the story and to start understanding the situation but to also feel sympathy.

EL: Actually, is it difficult sometimes to think of the number of people who are out there whose stories somehow don’t reach your organization? How do you get to them?

MF: I do think there is helplessness. Our organization pretty much knows about all [refugees] because we do the registration of most refugees in the world.

EL: Does the UNHCR intervene if refugees [are threatened]? For example, in Greece there were stories that on some of the islands of – when they were being held there because of the decision not to send them on, they were being mistreated by locals…

MF: Oh, absolutely.

EL: So, the UNHCR is present in those situations?

MF: Yeah, I mean, we were reluctant to get involved in Greece because we thought it was an EU responsibility and this is a rich continent, but when it was clear that it wasn’t happening, we now have a team of 150 staff in Greece so we’re quite operational there. I mean the frustration is when we don’t have the means to help the people who need it. We’re constantly restrained by budget and not enough countries willing to resettle.

EL: Does the UNHCR or do you think they can affect that…is there some way to get more active in changing the political will and the decisions of countries around the world?

MF: Yes, well, it depends…we really analyze how governments react and if some would be completely allergic to a public campaign… most countries feel very proud and a lot of countries welcome refugees but then they don’t have the means to take care of them and things turn really difficult, so it’s very delicate. You have to be careful about how you approach it.

EL: It’s interesting though because none of that seems to enter the realm of human rights violations by countries, of abandoning their responsibility.

MF: Well, if it’s at a border, then it is against international refugee regulations – if you push people back into a war zone, it is against the International Refugee Convention.

EL: How important is the role of communications in making a difference to the refugee crisis?

MF: I think it’s hugely important because, first of all, it’s a population of 65 million, most of them don’t have their own voice and they are without their country, without their language, they’ve often lost the most important things in their lives, so they really need people to speak for them…and with [xenophobia on the rise], communications plays a huge role in building empathy and trying to change the narrative.

EL: On a positive note, just this month the world’s first solar farm in a refugee camp has switched on, providing renewable energy to 20,000 refugees living in northern Jordan. Can you tell us more about the project and others like it? How did this partnership between the Ikea Foundation and the Agency come about?

MF: We’ve been trying to use ecological ways and sustainable ways of housing refugees and electricity costs at a refugee camp in the desert are enormous – we knew this from other camps. We live kind of hand-to-mouth with our budgets so it’s often – we get the money we spend and an investment like this needs a company or a foundation like the Ikea Foundation to help us finance the infrastructure.

EL: You’ve been there?

MF: Yes, I’ve been there and it’s hot during the day, it gets pitch dark at night and when it’s hot, you want to turn on a fan, you want to drink a cold drink…and now they’re able to do that and at night the kids can study by light and now people are out and they have little restaurants, so it really makes an enormous difference. The costs – the upfront costs – were a lot, but the cost of running the camp now and the electricity grid in the camp is so much less than in the other camp in Jordan. [Ideally], we don’t like refugee camps. We prefer refugees to be integrated into the cities, to go to local schools…it’s undignified [to remain in a camp]. Refugee camps should be used for emergencies and be temporary. You’re separate from the population, you’re living in an isolated situation, there’s no economy. We reluctantly build refugee camps, but we rely very much on the government, what the government is willing to do.

EL: Just personally, how hard is it for you emotionally and personally – obviously you have the happy ending stories but there’s just plenty of the news that you have to keep putting out there that is so tragic. Do you take it in much?

MF: I think we all have mechanisms but it does affect me a lot. In particular with Doaa’s story because the more I unraveled it, the more tragic it became and I kind of took in her…it’s almost like a secondary trauma that you go through. There’s always a sense that you wake up in the morning or you go to bed at night and you’ve never done enough because the problem is so massive.