(Speech given in Rome at the Italian Parliament on January 29, 2016)
Friends and Comrades, it is a great honor to be standing here – at the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament.
One year ago I was driving through the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, monitoring the situation in the refugee camps there. Winter was approaching and the mountains on the Lebanese–Syrian border were covered by snow. It was cold, very cold.
Some 20 minutes, after leaving Baalbek, I spotted an extremely humble makeshift refugee camp, growing literally from the road, in the middle of nowhere.
I stopped. Together with my interpreter, I walked inside and engaged several people in conversation.
The situation was desperate. Children were hungry and could not register for schools through the UNHCR or through the Lebanese government, which, by that time, had almost collapsed. Many electronic food cards that were issued to the migrants did not function. Work permits were not offered, and without proper paperwork, local social services could not be used. In brief: a total disaster.
I was told that in this area, some Syrian migrants had already been starving.
This was Bekaa Valley, a tough place to start with, and full of ancient traditions, clans, gangs and narcotic-business. Refugees were expected to keep their heads down, or else…
Before I left, two little girls, two sisters, approached me. Both had swollen bellies, suffering from malnutrition. Both were dressed in rugs. Both looked deprived.
But after spotting my cameras, they were mesmerized, smiling at me, showing tongues, laughing.
Their country was in ruins, their future uncertain.
But these were just two little girls in the middle of the mountains, two girls excited about each and every little detail of life. Such innocence! Such hope! People are people, and children are children, everywhere, even during wars.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed too many of them; too many wars. Too many barbarities performed by NATO, by the Empire, by the United States and Europe.