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Dagelijks archief 19 december 2013

UN rapporteur accuses Israel of “genocidal intentions”

Richard Falk‘When you target a group, an ethnic group and inflict this kind of punishment upon them, you are in effect nurturing a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal’

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has claimed that “Israel is slouching towards nothing less than a Palestinian holocaust” in his comments about the abuse of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. Maariv newspaper reported that Professor Falk has accused Israel of “genocidal intentions” towards the Palestinians. The legal expert was speaking to Russia’s RT television.

“When you target a group, an ethnic group and inflict this kind of punishment upon them, you are in effect nurturing a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal,” Falk is reported to have told RT.

Not surprisingly, the UN rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories came under fierce attack by Israeli and pro-Israel officials. A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said that Falk is “renowned” for what he called “his extremist and crazy anti-Israeli” positions.

Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird, a well-known supporter of Israel despite its appalling human rights record and obvious contempt for international law, revealed that his country has called for Professor Falk to be removed from his post by the UN. He described his statements as “outrageous and anti-Semitic”, which is rather strange, given Falk’s Jewish background.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Peace in the Quran and Sunnah

Worship the Merciful and spread peace

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Allah the Exalted said:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say words of peace.

Surah Al-Furqan 25:63

And Allah said:

وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ

When they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say: For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace be upon you, we seek not the way of ignorance.

Surah Al-Qasas 28:55

And Allah said:

فَاصْفَحْ عَنْهُمْ وَقُلْ سَلَامٌ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ

So turn aside from them and say words of peace, but soon they are going to know.

Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:89

And Allah said:

سَلَامٌ قَوْلًا مِّن رَّبٍّ رَّحِيمٍ

Peace, a word from a Merciful Lord.

Surah Ya Seen 36:58

And Allah said:

قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكَ رَبِّي إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا

Abraham said: Peace will be upon you. I will ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Verily, He is ever gracious to me.

Surah Maryam 19:47

And Allah said:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلَامًا ۖ قَالَ سَلَامٌ قَوْمٌ مُّنكَرُونَ

Has there reached you the story of the honored guests of Abraham? When they entered upon him and said: We greet you with peace, so he answered: I greet you with peace, a people unknown.

Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:24-25

And Allah said:

وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

If the enemy inclines to peace, then incline to it also and rely upon Allah. Verily, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.

Surah Al-Anfal 8:61

And Allah said:

فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا

So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause for fighting against them.

Surah An-Nisa 4:90

Aisha reported: Whenever the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, would invoke peace while sitting in prayer, he did not sit but long enough to say:

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ السَّلَامُ وَمِنْكَ السَّلَامُ تَبَارَكْتَ ذَا الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ

O Allah, you are Peace and from you is peace. Blessed are you, O Majestic and Generous.

Source: Sahih Muslim 592, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا تَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّى تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَا تُؤْمِنُوا حَتَّى تَحَابُّوا أَوَلَا أَدُلُّكُمْ عَلَى شَيْءٍ إِذَا فَعَلْتُمُوهُ تَحَابَبْتُمْ أَفْشُوا السَّلَامَ بَيْنَكُمْ

You will not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe until you love each other. Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.

Source: Sahih Muslim 54, Grade: Sahih

Abdullah ibn Umar reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Which Islam is best?” The Prophet said:

تُطْعِمُ الطَّعَامَ وَتَقْرَأُ السَّلاَمَ عَلَى مَنْ عَرَفْتَ وَمَنْ لَمْ تَعْرِفْ

To feed the hungry and to greet with peace those you know and those you do not know.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 28, Grade: Sahih

Ammar ibn Yasir, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

ثَلَاثٌ مَنْ جَمَعَهُنَّ فَقَدْ جَمَعَ الْإِيمَانَ الْإِنْصَافُ مِنْ نَفْسِكَ وَبَذْلُ السَّلَامِ لِلْعَالَمِ وَالْإِنْفَاقُ مِنْ الْإِقْتَارِ

Whoever has three qualities together will have gathered the faith: equity with yourself, offering peace to the world, and spending from small amounts.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 28, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

‏لاَ تَمَنَّوْا لِقَاءَ الْعَدُوِّ فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمُوهُمْ فَاصْبِرُوا

Do not wish to meet the enemy, but if you meet them, then be steadfast.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 2863, Grade: Sahih

Ali ibn Abu Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّهُ سَيَكُونُ بَعْدِي اخْتِلَافٌ أَوْ أَمْرٌ فَإِنْ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَنْ تَكُونَ السِّلْمَ فَافْعَل

Verily, after me there will be conflicts or affairs, so if you are able to end them in peace, then do so.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 697, Grade: Sahih

Abdullah ibn Salam said: When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came to Medina, the people rushed towards him and it was said, “The Messenger of Allah has come!” I came along with the people to see him, and when I looked at the face of the Messenger of Allah, I realized that his face was not the face of a liar. The first thing he said was:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَفْشُوا السَّلَامَ وَأَطْعِمُوا الطَّعَامَ وَصَلُّوا بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّاسُ نِيَامٌ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِسَلَامٍ

O people, spread peace, feed the hungry, and pray at night when people are sleeping and you will enter Paradise in peace.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1334, Grade: Sahih

Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اعْبُدُوا الرَّحْمَنَ وَأَفْشُوا السَّلَامَ

Worship the Most Merciful and spread peace.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 3694, Grade: Sahih

Abu Umamah reported:

أَمَرَنَا نَبِيُّنَا صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنْ نُفْشِيَ السَّلَامَ

Our Prophet commanded us to spread peace.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 3693, Grade: Hasan

Abu Umamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ أَوْلَى النَّاسِ بِاللَّهِ مَنْ بَدَأَهُمْ بِالسَّلَامِ

Verily, the best of the people to Allah are those who begin the greeting of peace.

Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 5197, Grade: Sahih

Abu Ad-Darda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أَلَا أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِأَفْضَلَ مِنْ دَرَجَةِ الصِّيَامِ وَالصَّلَاةِ وَالصَّدَقَةِ

Shall I not tell you about what is more virtuous in degree than fasting, prayer, and charity?

They said, Of course!” The Prophet said:

صَلَاحُ ذَاتِ الْبَيْنِ فَإِنَّ فَسَادَ ذَاتِ الْبَيْنِ هِيَ الْحَالِقَةُ

It is reconciliation between people. Verily, corrupted relations between people are the razor.

In another narration, the Prophet added:

هِيَ الْحَالِقَةُ لَا أَقُولُ تَحْلِقُ الشَّعَرَ وَلَكِنْ تَحْلِقُ الدِّينَ

It is the razor. I do not say that it shaves hair, but rather it shaves the religion.

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2509, Grade: Sahih

Urwah ibn Ruwaim reported: I saw Abu Umamah Al-Bahili greet with peace whomever he would meet among the Muslims and non-Muslim citizens and he would say:

هِيَ تَحِيَّةٌ لِأَهْلِ مِلَّتِنَا وَأَمَانٌ لِأَهْلِ ذِمَّتِنَا وَاسْمٌ مِنْ أَسْمَاءِ اللَّهِ نُفْشِيهِ بَيْنَنَا

This is the greeting for the people of our religion, an assurance of security for the people of our covenant, and the name among the names of Allah that we spread between us.

Source: At-Tamheed Ibn Abdul Barr 91

Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْ أَحَدًا قَطُّ عَلَى الدِّينِ وَإِنَّمَا كَانَ يُقَاتِلُ مَنْ يُحَارِبُهُ وَيُقَاتِلُهُ وَأَمَّا مَنْ سَالَمَهُ وَهَادَنَهُ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلْهُ وَلَمْ يُكْرِهْهُ عَلَى الدُّخُولِ فِي دِينِهِ

The Prophet never forced the religion upon anyone, but rather he only fought those who waged war against him and fought him first. As for those who made peace with him or conducted a truce, then he never fought them and he never compelled them to enter his religion.

Source: Hidayat Al-Hayara 237

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Syria: Nobody can stop Assad from running again

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaking during an interview with Turkish media in Damascus, on Oct. 4, 2013
DAMASCUS (AFP) — The Syrian government said Thursday that nobody can prevent the country’s embattled President Bashar Assad from running for re-election next year.

“Nobody has the right to interfere and say he must run or he should not run,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said, shortly after Russia criticized statements that he wanted to seek another term.

“President Assad in my opinion should be a candidate but he will decide when the time comes for him to decide,” he said.

“I shall ask the opposition: why a Syrian national does not have the right to be a candidate? Who can prevent him? Any Syrian national can be candidate,” said Muqdad.

“The ballot boxes will decide who will lead Syria … President Assad enjoys a big majority while (France’s) President (Francois) Hollande has only 15 percent support of the French people,” he argued.

Russia earlier Thursday issued a rare criticism of its ally Assad over the 2014 presidential election.

“Exchanging such rhetorical statements just makes the atmosphere heavier and does not make the situation calmer,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Bogdanov said Assad and all parties should steer clear of stoking tensions ahead of peace talks planned to take place in Switzerland in January aimed at ending the conflict raging in Syria since 2011.

“We believe that ahead of the peace talks there should be no statements which someone may not like and can cause emotions and a reaction in response,” he added.

While the opposition insists on Assad’s ouster, three years into an armed conflict that has cost more than 125,000 lives, the Syrian regime has repeatedly said he would run in 2014 polls.

Assad himself said in a television interview in October: “I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t run in the next election.”

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Mubarak’s sons and senior aide acquitted of corruption charges

 

Gamal Mubarak and Alaa MubarakShafiq was accused of facilitating the sale of state-owned land to Jamal and Alaa (Pictured) in 1995 using a publicly funded association that he led at the time

Cairo’s criminal court acquitted on Thursday the sons of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Gamal and Alaa, as well as former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, on charges of corruption.

Shafiq was accused of facilitating the sale of state-owned land to Jamal and Alaa in 1995 using a publicly funded association that he led at the time. According to the complaint filed against them, the two brothers purchased the land for a much cheaper price than the market rate.

In the same session, the court also acquitted four retired generals who had served as board members of the association.

Both Alaa and Gamal will likely remain in detention, as they are facing a separate trial on other corruption charges. It is not clear whether or not Shafiq, who ran for the presidency in 2012, plans to return to politics. After he lost the election to President Mohammed Morsi, he fled to Abu Dhabi.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Free Gaza Australia Delivers Petition to Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Sydney

Gaza's Ark

Today at 11.30am, representatives from Free Gaza Australia have organised to meet with the Consul General of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Sydney who will receive a petition* of more than 11,000 names and addresses.

“The petition calls on Egypt’s interim government to:

  • Re-open the Rafah crossing to travellers going in and out of Gaza, with reasonable security checks and no artificial limits
  • Halt the destruction of the tunnels until Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing to commercial traffic, including fuel and construction materials
  • Work to open Gaza‘s borders with both Egypt and Israel on a permanent basis, as well as to allow Palestinians to travel and trade via air and sea – thus ending the blockade and allowing the residents to build a normal economy.”

Free Gaza Australia will be joined by representatives from several Palestinian support organisations and Egyptian nationals and other individuals. James Godfrey of Free Gaza Australia said, “this is an opportunity to reiterate the urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how important it is for Egypt to stop destroying tunnels, and to maximise Palestinian use of the Rafah crossing to help alleviate the suffering in Gaza. This is even more urgent given the recent flooding, after heavy rain and Israeli controlled dams being opened.”

Whilst the overall blame for the blockade of Gaza rests predominantly with Israel and its international supporters, like the current Australian Government, Egypt with a population which overwhelmingly supports the Palestinian people’s rights to justice and peace has a vital role to play in bettering the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Eyad Sarraj dies at 69; Palestinian human rights campaigner

The Gaza strip’s first psychiatrist, Eyad Sarraj established a community mental health program and called for a popular movement to break the cycle of violence.

Eyad SarrajDr. Eyad Sarraj in 1996.

Eyad Sarraj, a Palestinian human rights campaigner who dealt with the mental health damage caused by political oppression and challenged both Israeli and Palestinian abuses, has died. He was 69.

Sarraj died Tuesday at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he had been undergoing treatment for leukemia, according to his brother, Hakim.

Trained in Egypt and Britain, Sarraj became the Gaza Strip’s first psychiatrist and established a community mental health program in 1990. The program focused on the most vulnerable groups, such as children and victims of torture and other abuses, and served as a foundation for his human rights work.

Sarraj spoke extensively about the toll on mental health exacted by Israel’s rule over the Palestinians. Israeli occupation, he wrote in 1997, has left the Palestinians “exhausted, tormented and brutalized.”

He was briefly jailed in the 1980s by Israel, which occupied Gaza from 1967 until 2005, and in the 1990s by the Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government then led by Yasser Arafat.

Sarraj later served as chairman of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, taking on a role of ombudsman for ordinary Palestinians.

“We need a popular movement to break the cycle of violence,” Sarraj told The Times in 2001. “Our society is conditioned to respond with violence. Violence brings more violence, and will for generations. We need a breakthrough.

“What we need is an urgent call for all forms of shooting and killing to stop. The leaders are not doing it. We need the masses to do it…. We need a Palestinian Gandhi.”

In recent years, Sarraj and other political independents worked at reconciling rival Palestinian political camps — the Islamic militant group Hamas that has ruled Gaza since a violent 2007 takeover and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who administers parts of the West Bank.

After Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in the winter of 2008-09, Sarraj told United Nations investigators that post-traumatic stress disorders were widespread among Gaza’s children, according to his biography.

Sarraj won greater recognition abroad than at home. He received the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders in 1998 and the Olof Palme Prize awarded by Sweden’s labor movement in 2010.

Sarraj was born in the town of Beersheba in British-ruled Palestine in 1944, and fled with his family to Gaza during the 1948 war over Israel’s creation. He studied medicine in Alexandria, Egypt, and earned a degree in psychiatry in Britain.

Besides his brother, Sarraj’s survivors include his wife, Nirmeen Kharma, and three sons.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Highland Regional Council condemn Israeli illegal occupation and siege

Highland Regional Councillors voted today in full Council to condemn “the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank and for its continuing illegal blockade of Gaza”. The Councillors, departing from UK Government policy, also welcomed “the decision of the United Nations on 29 November 2012 to grant ‘non-member observer State’ to Palestine.” This decision of the Council provides a basis for current work across the region to extend the BDS campaign.


Scottish Zionist leaders reacted to the impending vote in their usual irresponsible and reckless manner, defending Israeli crime by manipulating the fears of Scottish Jews. Three days before the vote, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities spokesperson Linda Martin warned darkly in the local press of possible physical attacks on Jews if Israel was criticised.

Ms Martin claimed somewhat disingenuously that “The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities has no collective view on Israeli policies.” Their claimed neutrality towards Israel’s crimes is manifestly untrue, however, since SCoJeC’s leaders never criticise any Israeli massacre and miss no opportunity to smear criticism of Israel with wholly fabricated claims of anti-semitism. These antics have laid SCoJeC’s leaders open to severe criticism from within the Scottish Jewish community.

Ms Martin is reckless: she and SCoJeC claims to be “concerned at recent research findings that reveal verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Jewish people in Scotland because of their perceived identification with Israel”. Such efforts to implicate the Scottish Jewish community in the crimes of the state of Israel have been vigorously repudiated by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. She also claims that “disproportionate criticism levied at Israel by some politicians makes people feel alienated and vulnerable.” There is, however, no reputable research in the public domain that Scottish Jews are “physically…attacked because of their perceived identification with Israel”. Perhaps Ms Martin can point to some, bearing in mind that Zionists have a long record of exaggerating and welcoming real anti-semitism to support their efforts to persuade Jews to emigrate to Israel/Palestine. Political Zionists, open supporters of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing, also whinge loudly when they come in for the severe criticism their racist and violent policies deserve.

Highland Regional Council covers over a third of the Scottish mainland and is the seventh out of thirty two Scottish councils population size.

The Highland Council vote took place without any preparatory work beforehand and thus casts a very bright light on the current state of British opinion at local government level. Zionists are acutely aware of the pariah status of Israel in popular opinion across the world and throughout the UK. How much longer will Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and the Charities Commission be able to protect the apartheid state from popular opinion as Israel crosses red line after line of sustained criminality?

Mick Napier
Wanlockhead
19 December 2013

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Searching for light on Gaza’s dark streets

Men sit by campfire in flooded urban area

There’s no sign that life in Gaza is returning to normal.

After fifty days, is Gaza’s latest power crisis coming to an end?

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank sent a shipment of 450,000 liters of fuel to run Gaza’s only power plant. The fuel comes from Israel but the consignment has been financed by Qatar.

Despite the delivery, the problems persist. So does my own anxiety.

I am writing these words late at night. We have had our electricity turned back on in my home in al-Maghazi refugee camp — after a power outage of nearly 11 hours.

The power cut started shortly after noon — at the moment my children began to return home from school. I want them to have lighting to do their homework, so I saved some for them in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) battery. Then I drove to a nearby town.

I sat down in a coffee shop. It was a sunny day, a welcome change from the severe storms we had last week.

Trying to remain patient

I did some work in the coffee shop, hoping that power would soon be restored to my family. No such luck. When I got back home, I had to postpone my own work, so that my children could attend to their revisions. The storm meant that they lost four days of school, so I want them to catch up.

Shortly before 7pm, my UPS battery ran out. My son Mohammed was still busy with his homework at the time.

I tried to remain patient, hoping that electricity would be returned swiftly, as the power company had promised. Within an hour, though, we were plunged into darkness.

Mohammad picked up his mother’s cell phone, using its light to resume his homework. I went out in the street to collect a light from a nearby store. I got one for Mohammad, too. He looked up at me and smiled as I gave it to him.

It got colder. Since the storm, all of my children gather together in the same room, to try and stay warm. We can’t turn on an electric heater because of the power cuts.

The Qatar-funded fuel is supposed to reduce the power cuts to eight hours per day. Until now, they have generally lasted for 12 to 16 hours. Sometimes we have been without power for 18 or 20 hours.

Preoccupied

Normal life — life before the latest power crisis — is hard enough in Gaza. So far there are no signs we are returning to normal life.

Instead of being able to think about work and raising our families or being able to enjoy ourselves, we are preoccupied with finding enough power to meet our basic needs.

What have I done to deserve being deprived of electricity? Like tens of thousands of other heads of households, I regularly pay bills to the Gaza electricity company.

Moreover, thousands of private sector workers, as well as businesses, UN staff and nongovernmental organizations pay their electricity bills.

This raises a fundamental question: where does our money go?

Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority, and the Hamas-led administration in Gaza have had a long row about who is responsible for the electricity problem.

Hamas says that taxes levied on the industrial fuel required for the Gaza power plant aretoo expensive. Why should Gaza’s 1.7 million people be left without electricity because of a tax dispute?

Grateful for storm?

Are we supposed to be grateful for the storm that damaged numerous Palestinian homes last week? It was in response to this extreme weather that Qatar funded the delivery of fuel here.

If we are to resist the siege of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine, we need electricity.

For us to be able to resist, we must have light and power. Without it, our children can’t do their homework properly, our doctors can’t perform many operations and our journalists are hampered from telling the world the truth about Gaza.

We face many vital tasks. Completing them is extremely difficult if we constantly have to search for light on a dark street.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Foreign Jihadists in Syria: Tracking Recruitment Networks

Monitoring jihadist social-media networks reveals where fighters are coming from, where in Syria they are fighting, and how best to stem their continued recruitment in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Tunisia.

The clandestine nature of the various networks responsible for sending Sunni fighters into Syria makes it difficult to ascertain exactly how many foreigners have entered the war and from which countries. Yet social-media sources affiliated with jihadists often post death notices for slain fighters, providing a unique, though incomplete, picture of where they are being recruited and where in Syria they fought. Tracking and analyzing these notices can help broaden Washington’s understanding of foreign recruitment networks, the largest of which appear to operate in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Tunisia.

HOW MANY HAVE BEEN KILLED?

Since the Syrian uprising turned into an armed rebellion, jihadists have announced the deaths of more than 1,100 fighters on their Twitter and Facebook accounts and, to a lesser extent, on password-protected forums. Although other foreigners have been killed in Syria, their deaths were reported by non-jihadist rebels, Western media, or Arabic media and are not included in this assessment. The figures below also exclude foreigners who have fought on the Assad regime’s side.

To be sure, the information gleaned from jihadist sources is self-reported, and some data might therefore be suppressed for political reasons, especially reports of Iraqi involvement. That said, it still offers a worthwhile snapshot of an otherwise murky world.

The most striking revelation in the latest data is the huge rise in overall death notices. Previously, jihadist sources had posted only 85 such notices as of February 2013, and only 280 as of June. In other words, the vast majority of the more than 1,100 notices have come in the past half year.

WHERE ARE THEY COMING FROM?

Arabs dominate the list of foreign jihadists who have died in Syria, and nine of the top ten countries represented are from the Arab world.

Death notices have mentioned fifty different nationalities in all, including twenty in Europe or elsewhere in the West. Yet Westerners make up only a miniscule amount of the total.

One of the most important trends in the past half-year is the rise in both the total number of Saudi foreign fighters and the number of Saudis killed (which far outpaces all other national groups). Only some 20 percent of the 1,100 death notices state group affiliation, so this data provides only a small window into which groups foreigners are joining. Of these, however, the vast majority name Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham — the two militant opposition groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United States. Other fighters were also reported to be members of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, Katibat Suqur al-Izz, Liwa al-Umma, and Harakat Sham al-Islam, among others.

More than 60 percent of the notices offered more specific information about the fighter’s town or province of origin, providing insight into certain foreign networks. For instance, fifteen fighters were described as hailing from the Saudi province of al-Qassim, and it is possible that they came from the provincial capital of Buraydah, as the notices for twenty-two other fighters indicated. The largest network in this data set is from Riyadh, however, raising questions about whether the Saudi government is being duplicitous and/or looking the other way regarding significant jihadist activity in its capital.

Unsurprisingly, the next three most-mentioned cities are in Libya, a key hub for many fighters en route to Syria. Groups such as Ansar al-Sharia in Libya have provided training for Libyans, Tunisians, and other North Africans. In addition, many Syrians have traveled to Libya for training, then returned home to use their new skills against the regime.

Fighters from Tunisia, the third-ranked source country, were more evenly distributed among a wider range of towns and provinces than Saudi and Libyan fighters, most of whom hailed from a handful of locations. This suggests that recruitment networks may have penetrated a wider swath of Tunisian territory, and more deeply. It also suggests that facilitation and logistics networks supporting Syria-bound fighters may have been grafted onto the existing rural and urban networks established by local jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.

WHERE ARE THEY FIGHTING?

Some 760 of the death notices provided location of death. Foreign fighters have died in twelve of Syria’s fourteen governorates; only Tartus and Quneitra were not represented. Some of the biggest losses came late this summer in the campaign called “Cleansing of the Coast,” which was fought in Latakia, part of the regime’s Alawite heartland. Of the eighty-eight foreign jihadists killed in that governorate during the war, fifty died in August alone. Overall, though, the largest death toll occurred in Aleppo governorate, a rebel stronghold and site of some of the war’s fiercest fighting.

CONCLUSION

A survey of 1,500 media, government, and jihadist sources in multiple languages indicates that between 3,400 and 11,000 foreign fighters have entered Syria since the uprising turned into an armed rebellion. Some of them have been arrested, others killed, and others have returned home. Although more specific data beyond country of origin is not available for all of them, simply knowing the cities or provinces where many of them come from can provide a basic framework for stemming the overall flow, allowing local governments to be more precise in deterring or stopping individuals from going to Syria or to training locations in other countries. In particular, the United States should prod Turkey regarding the ease with which foreign fighters transit its territory.

Of course, any such efforts raise multiple challenges for Washington. In countries such as Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia, for example, the local government may not have the means or capability to deal with the problem. And in countries like Saudi Arabia, officials might not have the political will to act given their government’s particular interests in the Syrian conflict. Therefore, Washington should make sure to keep track of the problem itself even if other governments do not cooperate fully. This means taking note of where potential future threats might emanate from once foreign fighters return home, since not all of the jihadists recruited in the areas noted above will end up with their own death notices.

(Source / 19.12.2013)

Syrian opposition activists on the run as they become target for al-Qaida linked militants

 

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    In this picture released Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, and posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, a member of the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gives a lecture at the Engineering College in the northern city of Raqqa, Syria. The growing muscle of an al-Qaida linked Syrian group is casting a grim shadow over northern Syria, where extremist militants have turned their attention to seizing activists who cover their country’s war on its front lines.

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    In this picture released on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, and posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, members of the al-Qaida affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) visit with students at a college in the northern city of Raqqa. The growing muscle of an al-Qaida linked Syrian group is casting a grim shadow over northern Syria, where extremist militants have turned their attention to seizing activists who cover their country’s war on its front lines.

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    In this undated picture released Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, and posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, a militant fighter exercises at an unknown training camp in Syria. The growing muscle of an al-Qaida linked Syrian group is casting a grim shadow over northern Syria, where extremist militants have turned their attention to seizing activists who cover their country’s war on its front lines.

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    In this undated picture released on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, and posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, Abu Hurairah a member of Mujahidin, who fight with Syrian rebels groups against the Syrian government forces, holds two cats at an unknown place in Syria. The growing muscle of an al-Qaida linked Syrian group is casting a grim shadow over northern Syria, where extremist militants have turned their attention to seizing activists who cover their country’s war on its front lines.

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    In this undated picture released on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, and posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, a member of Mujahidin, who fight with Syrian rebels groups against the Syrian government forces, poses for a picture standing next to a missile at an unknown place in Syria. The growing muscle of an al-Qaida linked Syrian group is casting a grim shadow over northern Syria, where extremist militants have turned their attention to seizing activists who cover their country’s war on its front lines.

BEIRUT –  Shortly after the revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011, Imad al-Souri quit his computer job to help the protests. He uploaded online videos of the marches and sneaked banned loudspeakers to demonstrators to amplify their voices calling for Assad’s downfall.

Not anymore.

The 28-year-old al-Souri recently fled to Turkey, fearing he would be killed or abducted by Islamic militants who are now the most powerful force in the rebellion and who are increasingly targeting those seen as opposed to their extremist ideologies. It’s not an idle fear — dozens of activists have been abducted by radicals and, like, al-Souri, dozens of those who shaped the initial uprising against Assad have fled.

“They want to liquidate me because I am a secular person,” said al-Souri, speaking via Skype from his apartment on the Turkish-Syrian border, which he shares with two other activists who also fled. “They are waiting for me to return to kill me.” He spoke on condition he be identified by the nickname he uses as an activist for his own protection.

It’s a depressing turn for anti-government activists. At the start of the uprising, they worked in secrecy because of Assad’s ruthless security services. Now they fear some of their once-presumed protectors: rebels who took up arms initially to defend protesters from the violent crackdown by Assad’s forces.

The trend was highlighted by two reports issued Thursday.

The rights group Amnesty International said in a report that one of the most powerful militant groups, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is running secret prisons in territory it controls, carrying out torture and summary killings.

Children as young as eight are held along with adults in seven ISIL-run detention facilities in Aleppo province in the north and Raqqa province in the east, it said. Many detainees are held for challenging ISIL’s rule, crimes like theft or for committing purported “crimes against Islam,” such as smoking cigarettes.

Also, a United Nations panel investigating human rights violations in Syria reported increasing hostage-taking operations by rebel groups, specifying ISIL — an act it described as a war crime. The panel also accused the Syrian government of possibly committing crimes against humanity — a more serious offense — for systematic disappearances of Syrians who are detained by government forces or pro-government militias and never heard from again.

Hardline Islamic rebels are casting a dark shadow over parts of the country where they have wrested power. Abductions of moderate religious figures, humanitarian workers, human rights defenders, journalists and activists have increased since the spring, according to more than dozen activists and officials from human rights organizations interviewed by The Associated Press.

According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, some 60 opposition activists have been abducted since spring, most from ISIL-dominated areas in the north, and 22 are still being held.

Bassam al-Ahmad of the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian group that tracks human rights violations, estimated around 40 activists kidnapped, including his own colleagues. Another collective, the Aleppo Media Center estimated that in just November, at least 150 activists fled the country, three were killed and ten were abducted. The group did not have detailed figures for other months.

The numbers vary for several reasons. It’s difficult to define who is a Syrian activist. Some activists are quickly released, making it difficult to keep track of the fluctuating numbers.

Most recently, Razan Zaytouni, Syria’s leading human rights lawyer and an icon of the country’s secular revolutionaries, was abducted along with her husband and two other prominent activists from a rebel held Damascus suburb. Nobody claimed responsibility for the Dec. 10 abduction, but it came after Zaytouni denounced ISIL for abductions in a recent article.

The abductions and the flight they have sparked are deeply hurting the ranks of media activists who emerged at the start of the uprising and have risked their lives to chronicle all aspects of the war. Their video footage uploaded to the Internet has been crucial in understanding the scale of the conflict, which has killed over 120,000 and driven more than 7 million from their homes since it began.

Many of them have now become openly critical of jihadi extremists, documenting their abuses — and turning themselves into targets.

In rebel-held areas, hardline rebels frequently storm activist media centers, smashing and confiscating equipment, and in some cases, beating or abducting workers. Activists now fear even carrying cameras. Others have gone underground, taking on new fake names. Others refrain from reporting information that could anger the fighters.

That means even less information is emerging from Syria, already the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, with some 30 foreign and Syrian journalists missing and 55 killed in the conflict.

“It’s more and more difficult to know what’s going on in the north, and that’s what (ISIL) wants,” said Soazig Dollet, of Reporters Without Borders.

Al-Souri was targeted after he joined a demonstration in Aleppo against a jihadi religious court. After a series of phone calls warning he would be killed, he was ordered by a mystery caller to leave Aleppo in 24 hours. Al-Souri said he promptly fled on Oct. 28.

“The regime is shelling every day, and people are dying — but nobody knows of them, because activists fled,” al-Souri said.

Amid growing infighting in rebel ranks, ISIL has also gone after activists affiliated with more moderate rebel factions to silence them.

Among those is Murad al-Shawagh, who worked as a spokesman for the Northern Storm Brigade that was crushed by ISIL in the northern town of Azaz. He fled Aleppo in October Syria after his close friend and activist Omar Diab Hajouli — better known as Hazem al-Azazi — was shot dead after being detained twice by ISIL.

“If I decide to return to Syria I will have to change my looks, my name, my accent and the way I dress,” al-Shawagh told AP from Turkey.

The missing include Abdul-Wahab Mullah, a prominent activist seized from his home by gunmen on Nov. 7 after he met with colleagues to discuss the growing menace of rebel violence.

A week later, gunmen stormed the office of Rifat al-Rifai, who works for the Zaman al-Wasl news website and has been critical of Islamic militants. Al-Rifai fled to Turkey, fearing for his life.

Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed was gunned down outside his home on Oct. 29. Saeed was an important source of information for international media, including the AP and was critical of Islamic extremists.

Activists said the spate of kidnappings in Aleppo and Raqqa coincided with ISIL’s muscling into those areas, and that released activists identified their captors as ISIL gunmen.

For those who remain in Syria, it’s a life of fear, said Fadi, an activist in Aleppo province. He spoke quietly about ISIL abuses from inside a hospital, asking he be identified only by his first name for fear of retaliation.

“If somebody hears me, if I speak — with ISIL, it’s an execution,” he said.

“We want to go back to the time when we were in a revolution (against Assad),” he said.

(Source / 19.12.2013)