ISIS leader: the group’s rise would not be possible without US prisons

A former jaildbird at Camp Bucca, a US-run prison in southern Iraq, says the rise of the ISIS would not be possible without the US prisons.

In an exclusive interview to the Guardian, Abu Ahmed, now a senior official within ISIS, reveals how ISIS might never have formed if US detention centers hadn’t existed.

Abu Ahmed said that he along with other prisoners quickly realised that far from their worst fears, the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else.” But at the Camp Bucca “we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”

He added that the Abubakr Al-Baghdadi was respected very much by the US army. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State.

“If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

“We had so much time to sit and plan,” he continued. “It was the perfect environment. We all agreed to get together when we got out. The way to reconnect was easy. We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called. Everyone who was important to me was written on white elastic. I had their phone numbers, their villages. By 2009, many of us were back doing what we did before we were caught. But this time we were doing it better.”

The first thing he did when he was safe in west Baghdad was to undress, then carefully take a pair of scissors to his underwear. “I cut the fabric from my boxers and all the numbers were there. We reconnected. And we got to work.” Across Iraq, other ex-inmates were doing the same. “It really was that simple,” Abu Ahmed said, smiling for the first time in our conversation as he recalled how his captors had been outwitted. “Boxers helped us win the war.”

(Source / 14.12.2014)

Cameron’s Syria problem seeks Turkish answers

Ceylan Ozbudak

When British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Turkey this week he was right to argue that the threat of ISIS must be confronted together. His Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister Davutoğlu, said the two countries shared a ‘strong and common political will’ to tackle the challenge posed by foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq. Mr Cameron’s particular focus was on British (or European) Muslims crossing the border from Turkey to Syria.

When asked by a journalist whether Turkey should do more to stop fighters entering Syria, Mr Cameron said the two countries were already working ‘as closely as we possibly can’ to address this threat. But he also had other issues on his mind; he spoke about dealing with people after they returned from Syria, greater intelligence co-operation between both countries and making people safe in Turkey and Syria.

A concrete policy of creating a specialist hotline between intelligence agencies at its highest level was announced. But is all this enough? In my view no, because Turkey is not just another country bordering Iraq and Syria.

First, by the time they reach Turkey it is almost too late. It is not about crossing the border to Syria (Turkey has stoppedhundreds of would-be Islamic militants and sent them back), but about the crossing of the border in their minds back in England. The deeper, more relevant, and long-term challenge is not about stopping them here in Turkey, but to stop them in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Crossing borders

Moreover, it’s not just physically stopping them from travelling to Iraq or Syria, but to stop young Muslims from embracing extreme bigotry. It is because they are extremists they want to go and be a part of the violence: They have crossed a border in their minds. A border, which allows them to take the lives of others. A border which leaves no room for compassion, tolerance and acceptance. This is the border we need to stop them from crossing. Otherwise, even if we assume we somehow stopped all of them from joining the ranks of ISIS, these radicalized minds can inflict the same terror in England.

Turkey is not just another country bordering Iraq and Syria

CEYLAN OZBUDAK

Secondly, Turkey is a modern Muslim country that is closer to European culture than other Muslim countries and can help Great Britain in this effort. British Muslims should look to Turkey for guidance and connections on how to follow Islam in a secular system. After all, Turkey is home to the last caliphate, and experienced a history of Islam which has broad acceptance for all faiths and races at a time when this was regarded a luxury in a good many other parts of the world. Rather than being inspired by extremism in Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere, UK Muslim organizations should be encouraged to develop deeper ties with the Turkish way of practicing Islam. This is not something the states can control with rules and regulations.

Through strict security systems and laws we can stop someone from blowing themselves’ up on a crowded bus. But we cannot stop someone from simply hating women who may be wearing revealing clothes on that bus. We cannot make a bigot appreciate and encourage the arts and sciences through security measures, this is the point we need to work on.

What Turkey can offer

Respect, compassion and love towards all parts of the society cannot be mandated by law, but it can be instilled through education. This education cannot be left to the highest bidder through oil revenues, but must be done by those who have proven themselves’ able to build a pluralist and democratic society through a secular constitution.

The British Prime Minister rightly mentioned a 60% increase in bilateral trade since 2010. The United Kingdom is the second biggest importer of goods from Turkey in the EU, after Germany. About 1 million Britons take holidays in Turkey every year, while 100,000 Turks travel to the UK for business or pleasure.

PM Cameron was also right to renew his calls for Turkish membership in the EU. Turkey withstood a global economic crisis much better than the European state and has proven itself qualified for membership. He was most welcome in Turkey, and would like to see him come back more often. He should not ignore what Turkey has to offer to his own nation’s security and prosperity; a religious approach to secularism that creates harmony between Muslims and wider society.

Mr Cameron, unlike his predecessors, attended the national prayer breakfast this year. He appointed a minister for faith communities, and unlike Nick Clegg, his deputy, and Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, Mr Cameron is a proud Christian and appears to understand the importance of religion in people’s lives.

He pioneered the government debate in moving away from growing violent extremism, to countering ideology and extremism before it reaches violence. His Munich speech created new ground in the debate. Turkish society genuinely appreciates a leader who is open about their faith.

Despite some historical grievances, the Turkish people look up to the British for their culture, their open society and their understanding of freedom. By keeping Turkey close, England can inspire more democracy and room for open debate in this country.

On the other hand, in order to uproot radicalism, we must uproot the ideas that inspire it. To do that, we need to better understand and use religious ideas, language, and people who stand against ISIS’ toxic and dangerous ideology. In that pursuit, Great Britain needs a Muslim ally. This ally can be Turkey.

(Source / 14.12.2014)

Islamic State adopts Assad’s methods of torture

Exclusive: Prisons run by Islamic State jihadists in Syria are using the same inhumane punishments as those run by the Assad government, victims of both regimes tell The Telegraph

In Syria, the torturers change but the tortures remain the same.

Prisons run by Islamic State jihadists are using the same gamut of punishments on their victims as those run before them by the Assad regime.

The tortures employed are so well known to Syrians they have their own names: jailers can summon up the “German chair”, “the tyre”, or “the flying carpet”; but the favourite now is the “shabeh”, hanging people by the wrists, a practice so deeply ingrained in Syrian life that no one knows what it means any more, though some say it is related to the Arabic word for “ghost”.

Sometimes, even the victims are the same. Of three liberal activists from the north Syrian city of Raqqa who spoke to The Telegraph, one, Jimmy Shahinian, was given the shabeh by the regime, every four days for four months; one, Hazm al-Hussein, was given the shabeh by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The third, who lives in such fear even now he is in exile that he asked only to be known as Samir, was tortured by both the regime and Isil.

Months after his escape, Samir still twitches uncontrollably as a result of the shabeh, and is hoping for a visa to the West so he can receive medical treatment. Even then, the results will not be quick: Jimmy, whose arms eventually came out of their sockets, said it was four months before he could feel his hands again.

“At that time I thought I was going to die – no, in fact, I was sure I was going to die,” Jimmy said. “Mind you, when you were there, you wanted to die.”

As the revolution against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was taken over by jihadists, many of those involved in the initial protests were forced out of the country, bit by bit. Nowhere were the changing fortunes of a city, from Assad dictatorship to rebel revolution to jihadist authoritarianism, speedier or more dramatic than in Raqqa.

Until the beginning of last year, it was so firmly in regime hands, and so remote from the fighting, that families fleeing the battles for Homs and Aleppo poured into it.

It was overwhelmingly Sunni, with an Armenian Christian minority, and had a reputation for being relatively liberal in the otherwise largely conservative north. Many women went unveiled, there were a couple of alcohol shops, and even a casino.


Far from their home town in Raqqa, Syria, liberal activists Jimmy Shahinian (L) and Hazm al Hussein (R). Jimmy was imprisoned and tortured by the Syrian regime, Hazm was imprisoned and tortured by ISIS 

There were also politically liberal activist groups, to some of which all three men, Hazm, Jimmy and Samir, belonged. Many ended up in jail, like Jimmy, a Christian whose family fled the massacres of the Armenian community in Turkey a century ago and who – now that so many co-religionists have fled – regards the regime’s claims to be the protector of Christians with a degree of irony.

The regime’s men caught up with him in May 2011, after they realised he had been printing posters for anti-Assad demonstrations at his computer shop. He was arrested again that September, but the torture only reached its final depths when he was seized on a visit to Damascus in June last year, after rebels had finally overrun Raqqa.

He was held in the Palestine Barracks, a notorious base for the Air Force Intelligence unit which is known as the regime’s first-line security force, for 137 days. His cell was so tightly packed that two men died of suffocation.

The shabeh – the practice has been outlined in Amnesty International reports on the country for years, if not decades – is when the arms are handcuffed behind the back, and the handcuffs then used the hoist the body in the air, putting intense pressure on the shoulder-sockets.

In Jimmy’s case, this seems to have been occasionally combined with the “German chair”, where the body is strapped into a chair, whose back is adjusted to inflict pain on the spine.

“They hanged me upside down in an upturned chair,” he said. “They came and did this every day for four days. This is a traditional way to torture people in Syria – they leave you there hanging for anything from two to 12 hours.”

In the spring of last year, Raqqa had some heady moments of relative freedom. Jihadists among the rebels smashed up the alcohol shops and the casino, and planted the black flag over the Governor’s Palace, which became the headquarters first of Jabhat Al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, and then Isil, when it split away.

But at the same time, the jails were opened – only just in time for some activists, who had been told they would be executed – and liberals were able briefly to come out into the open. They set up a human rights group, Haquna, which hosted weekly philosophical discussion groups to discuss ideas ranging from Aristotle to the founding principles of the European Union, and whether they would be suitable for the Arab world.

There was a new radio station, and news agency. There was even a “guerrilla gardening” environmental awareness group, which planted tomatoes in dual carriageway central reservations and encouraged residents to grow vegetables on their rooftops.

It lasted four months. As the jihadist movement split, Isil took over, driving out first mainstream Free Syrian Army rebel groups, then Jabhat Al-Nusra. The activists knew they would be targeted, and some fled, but others remained.

“They said I was kuffar (unbeliever) and against Sharia, even though I am Sunni,” said Hazm. “In their minds, they have their own project, for Sharia, while others have theirs, for a nation state, and to serve the revolution. For them, there was no difference between us and the regime.”

He was on an empty Raqqa street one day in October last year when three masked men came up behind him, wielding pistols and a Kalashnikov, and put a gun to his head.

“All you think about is pain,” was his description of undergoing the shabeh at Isil’s hands. “You can’t think about anything else. You just have to be patient: if you get angry, they will just take your head off. You know they want to do it.”

He was moved from jail to jail immediately on his “arrest”. Amnesty International has identified five places, including oil installations, used as prisons in and around Raqqa by Isil. Hazm ended up sharing a “cell” – actually, one installation’s control room – with another prisoner.

As with Jimmy at the hands of the regime, he was treated to the shabeh every four days or so, being left each time for around two days: this seems to be the torture’s recommended interval. The accusation was that he was helping the Americans and Turkey against Isil, and the purpose to give them any information that might help their cause, or their interrogation of other captives.

His “extra” punishment was to be beaten with electricity cables, four of them knotted together, as he swung from the ceiling. Samir’s “special treatment” was that for ten hours his wrists were forced into one handcuff. He was also once left suspended for three days consecutively.

That was this year, at the hands of Isil. Two years previously, he had been seized by the regime’s military intelligence, who did not, in fact, use the shabeh, but “the tyre”, in which the victim is forced inside the rim of a large tyre which then holds you immobile as you are beaten. It exaggerates the effects.

Samir had both arms broken, and a leg.

The astonishing cruelty of Syrian prisons has been recorded again and again over the years, long before the revolution, along with the diversity and imagination of the tortures available. “They have made an art form out of torture,” said Samir.

In the “flying carpet”, the victim is strapped down to a hinged board, with the ends brought towards each other, bending the spine. With the relatively mundane “falaqa”, the victim is beaten on the soles of the feet.

Obviously, there are also the usual add-ons – male rape, sometimes with kebab skewers, and starvation. The defector known as “Caesar”, a police photographer, earlier this year revealed graphic evidence of the deaths of 11,000 people in regime cells since the start of the uprising.

Meanwhile, in Raqqa and elsewhere, Amnesty recorded that torture in Isil prisons had also reached “chilling” levels. Prisoners, though, generally say the regime’s torture is worse.

The cause and effect is no mystery. It is a universal phenomenon that the tortured can become torturers. Hazm said his incarceration and punishment was overseen by an Isil “emir” known as Abu Luqman, head of security in Raqqa. Although he wore a mask, Abu Luqman is well known, and Hazm recognised his voice immediately.

His real name is Ali al-Shawaq, and he is a lawyer from Raqqa. A well-known Islamist radical, when the revolution broke out, he was serving time in the regime’s notorious Sednaya prison.

Along with many other Islamists who went on to form militant cells, he was released under an amnesty in June 2011, a still controversial move many secular activists say was a deliberate attempt by the regime to give the uprising a jihadist flavour, to win support from the West.

If it was deliberate, it worked. On a more mundane level, it meant that a new wave of jailers, well-versed in torture, could be unleashed on those who argued for democracy, even after the regime’s troops had withdrawn.

As Hazm said, Abu Luqman was almost certainly treated to the shabeh himself, in his long years inside. He knew how to do it.

“The shabeh,” he said, “is like a contagion.”

(Source / 14.12.2014)

Syrian Coalition Commends the Establishment of Independent Media Outlets

Khalid Saleh, Head of the Media Office, praised the efforts made in the founding conference of the independent media outlets, pointing out that “laying the basis for independent media is a step in the right direction and demonstrates real awareness on the part of the youth who have taken on this much needed project.” Saleh also said that “the Syrian media activists have presented a unique experience worthy of respect, appreciation and the support required to bring it to a professional level. There is a pressing need to provide advice to the media activists who has took on this project aimed at establishing independent media outlets free of the decades-long political restrictions imposed by the Assad regime. Moreover, it is vital, in this critical and crucial phase of the Syrian Revolution, to win the world and Arab public opinion as the media battle today is as important as the battle on the ground. There is also a pressing need to put the suggestions and tips made during the meeting into effect without any delay. This necessary step at this stage of the revolution and must have been taken a long time ago. This project aims puts the media outlets of the revolution on the right track in keeping with academic and professional standards. It is worth noting that 40 media activists and journalists from all parts of Syria have finished four-day training courses on correspondence and video reporting that meet international standards. The training courses were supervised by the Organization of Independent Media Activists and in collaboration with “Tamkin” Foundation for the training of human resources. Due to the difficult conditions experienced by the media activists based in Syria, the training courses were organized through online video conferencing under the supervision specialized experts. The conferee called for creating a unified multi-lingual media body with joint board of directors, for employing the expertise of professional media personalities, and for working to enhance the credibility of the revolution’s media outlets. They also called for unification of the media terminology used by the Syrian media activists, the creation of commination groups in the European countries, and the qualification and training of media workers to report from Syrian territory. Hadi al-Bahra, president of the Syrian Coalition, said earlier that “the media battle today is as important nowadays as the military battles waged by the FSA against the Assad regime. The targeted audience will not be limited to the rebels and dissidents, but will also include the few regime supporters as Syria is for all Syrians without any distinction based on race, sect or belief.” Bahra calls on the media experts “to develop a comprehensive strategy to produce informative, balanced and inclusive speech capable of steering the homeland after the fall of Assad regime. The role of the Syrian Coalition with regards to the media projects will be limited to supporting media activities and directing them without interfering with the vision and the content of the new media outlets.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 13.12.2014)

Syria’s Greek legends

From timid refugees to bold storytellers, Syrian women in Beirut use the Greek tragedy of Antigone to share their experiences of war

Isra’a Shahrour tells the story of her flight from Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus

A group of women are sat side by side in a long line, each wearing a red hijab over a black dress. They take it in turns to walk to the front of a stage and stand beneath a spotlight. As each woman comes to stand, looking out into the darkness, a man’s voice reaches forth – sometimes sounding angry, sometimes not so angry. The woman then returns to her seat.

At this point the rehearsals for the coming production of ‘Antigone of Syria’ have entered the technical phase and the director, Omar Abusaada, is checking each of the women actors to see if their costumes are fitted correctly.

In the slightly damp Al Madina Theatre on Beirut’s Hamra Street, the chorus of women, all of whom are Syrian refugees now based in Beirut, have never acted before, but under the direction of fellow Syrian Abusaada, and the British/Syrian Aperta Productions, the women have found themselves not only telling the story of Sophocles’ Antigone, but their own stories from the Syrian conflict.

Hiba Sahly, 23, rehearses her lines. “I think it’s great and important. She says of the project: “It’s important to get our voices heard. Hopefully it will be a success” 

An opportunity to share

“This play is two things for me,” said Wesam, 32, one of the female actors. “An opportunity to convey my voice to different people, and second, an opportunity to have room to share these stories of pain and suffering.”

In the course of the play, Wesam, like the others, will convey a story to the audience. While still in the Yarmouk refugee camp for Palestinians in Damascus, her husband asked her if she would sell the necklace he had once given her as a gift. “We were all bankrupt there,” she said, “but I said no, I wanted to keep this necklace as a last, last resort for me and my daughters.”

After they managed to leave Damascus, leaving behind the parents of her husband, her mother in-law was killed by a sniper, causing her to regret her decision. “I carry this guilt that I could have made a difference.” Like the other women involved in the play, who range in age from 16 to 58, Wesam has found that being in an environment where she can share her experiences with people that are willing to listen is a relief.

For dramaturge Mohammad Al Attar, Antigone serves as “a fantastic frame story”, one that allows the women to use the characters of the play, along with their own tales, to speak out.

Using the Greek tragedy as the representation of a current political situation is not something new. Written in approximately the 4th century BC, it tells the story of Antigone, a woman who defies the law of a new ruler, Creon, by burying her brother Polyneices. Her actions not only go against “the state” but her sister disowns her.

The themes central to Sophocles’ work – the family, state control, citizenship and civil disobedience – are indeed the perfect backdrop for the representation of a country torn apart by civil war.

From timid refugees to bold storytellers, Syrian women in Beirut use the Greek tragedy of Antigone to share their experiences of war. One of the performers, 29 year old mother of 5, Wardia at the end of a long day’s rehearsal 

Director Abusaada feels these themes are wholly relevant to the situation many Syrians find themselves in today. “In this play you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong,” he said. “I think a lot of Syrians are questioning themselves like that.”

Abusaada, who at the start of 2014 directed refugee women in Jordan in a production of ‘The Trojan Women’ by Euripides, said that for the women involved the chance to express themselves outside their daily lives has revealed a change not only in their thoughts about the situation they find themselves in (refugees in Beirut), but in their approach to life. “Most of the women once they started working saw themselves in her [Antigone],” said Abusaada. “She’s acting against authority, being strong.”

With her perfectly tinted eyebrows, make-up and a pink headscarf covered in tiny skulls, Dar’aa native Ruba, 18, is delighted to be taken away from the monotony of her life at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp. Normally working in a beauty salon, or staying at home with her family, she said that being part of the chorus in Antigone, along with her mother, has given her the strength to deal with daily life.

“It’s like a prison [the refugee camp], going out each day is like a window, a relief from this life,” she said. “Coming here we put aside the burdens of life at home and we have a good time. It helps to go back to life to deal with that life.” Signed up by her mother for the play, Ruba said that the acting is something she would pursue again if given the chance.

Of family and freedom

After being involved in a similar project last year in Jordan, Hal Scardino and Aperta co-founder Itab Azzam decided that Lebanon was the next port of call. When the call was put out through the NGO Basmeh & Zeitooneh, 41 women turned out to hear what Aperta Productions had to say for themselves and their proposed project.

As the workshops for the play progressed, the number of women would diminish by a few a week; some would leave because their husbands wouldn’t let them continue, others stressed time commitments. This week 22 women will take to the stage.

One of the women tells the story of her brother’s disappearance. Participants in this project find talking about their experiences of the war cathartic 

The progress the women make is not just in their expression of freedom either. Scardino spoke of an actress who told him that since the project started she hadn’t hit her son once. “She said she didn’t just see a change in herself, but a change in her son, and there was no reason to hit him,” he said.

During the rehearsal break and over a quick lunch of zaatar manousheh, some of the women take the opportunity to rehearse their lines while others take turns to shepherd a large number of small children that have broken free from the nursery located in another room of the theatre. Scardino said that the children have been working with artists while their mothers performed in the play – they too learning to express themselves, through drawing. He added that this is one of the few places these children of refugees have to roam free.

For Scardino, the change in behaviours is not surprising, given the power of art to unite people. However, he is still taken with stories of how being involved in such a project can help people. “Women started to tell their stories early on,” said Scardino, “but you notice over the course of time how much they omitted as more and more information comes out. They were still incredibly fearful of sharing certain details.”

As Syrians in Lebanon, as refugees away from home, many of the women who will appear on stage this week have shared their experiences on Aperta’s website. The common themes of racism and depression run through their stories, however, the overriding feeling that comes across is that being part of the Antigone production has given all these women a sense of hope and encouragement for the future.

This encouragement has touched the women’s families also. “My husband is very happy for me, about what I’m doing. He has seen how I have changed, become happier,” said Wesam. “When I go home and have homework for this, he helps. He is eager for the day of the performance so he can feel proud.”

Isra’a Shahrour, 22, during an rehearsal exercise used to encourage focus. She dreams of one day returning to Syria to visit her father’s grave 

More than 2,000 years after Antigone’s character made a choice to honour her family over the wishes of her state, so to do these women of Syria now make a choice to express their love of family and freedom.

‘Antigone of Syria’ is at the Al Madina Theatre in Beirut, from 10-12 December

(Source / 12.12.2014)

IRAQ – SINJAR UPDATE: YEZIDI SHRINE ON MOUNT SINJAR ATTACKED BY ISLAMIC STATE VEHICLE SUICIDE BOMBERS

By Peter Clifford              ©                  (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

While tens of thousands of Yezidi, driven out of their ancestral homes in Iraq by the marauding Islamic State, face seemingly endless life in exile, the harsh weather in northern Syria and Iraq closes in on their refugee camps.(EDITOR: It may be the Middle East, but, yes, they have snow there and freezing temperatures.)

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

 

Yezidi Refugee Woman Displaced From Sinjar

Up on the top of Mount Sinjar, where some of the harshest conditions will be experienced, the Yezidi HPS defence force, supported by the Kurdish YPG and PKK, are still holding out around their shrine at Sherfadin.

On Wednesday three Islamic State vehicles approached the Sherfadin shrine, a truck loaded with explosives followed by 2 armoured Humvees.

After heavy fire from rocket propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), the suicide bomber was killed and the truck exploded before it reached its target and the many civilians still at the enclave.

4 Yezidi defenders were injured in the attack and a further 4 x IS fighters killed. The 2 x IS Humvees retreated under fire.

This was the first time IS had attempted to attack the shrine with suicide bomb vehicles but their attacks have clearly intensified over the last month according to the defenders.

On Tuesday, IS attacked the shrine with 4 Humvees but were repelled, and on Monday the Jihadists were also beaten back from the village of Sikeniye on the lower edge of Mount Sinjar , south-west of Sherfadin. 15 x IS Jihadists were reported killed.

This video shows IS weapons and ammunition captured by the Yezidi, (caution dead body at end) HERE:

Yezidi sources claim that there are still as many as 9,000 Yezidi living in tents and other shelters on the top of Mount Sinjar.

Below the mountain, US Central Command (Centcom) reports that between 8th – 10th December it made 4 airstrikes near Sinjar (Shingal) city, destroying 4 x IS-occcupied buildings, 3 x IS storage containers, 2 x IS fighting positions and also struck an IS guard tower.

Local sources say that a further 2 Coalition airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, near Sinjar city destroyed 2 more IS vehicles and killed 6 x IS Jihadists.

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

 

Yezidi Fighters at Sherfadin, Mount Sinjar

Between 5,000 and 7,000 Yezidi women and children are still missing, trucked away by the Islamic State in vehicles they seem to have brought for the job. Around 100 have managed to escape.

Amsha Ali Alyas, a 19-year-old Yezidi woman managed to breakout of the room where she had been locked in and ran away with her 1 year old son. Her family never expected to see her again. You can read her story, HERE:

Matthew Barber, a graduate student at Chicago University, has made a study of the Yezidi and was in the region when some of the women disappeared. He has been widely attacked on Twitter by IS supporters who claim that “the abductions never happened”.

Matthew’s researches show that it was a deliberately policy on behalf of the Islamic State to capture the Yezidi women to use as “sexual slaves” during warfare, twisting medieval interpretations of the Koran to justify their evil actions.

You can see and hear Matthew’s view of the situation in this interview with Joshua Landis, here:

The photograph of the Yezidi woman in this Yezidi report was taken by Kurdish photographer Warzer Jaff. “I am fascinated with the deep sadness in their eyes,” Jaff says. “You don’t see one single happy face.” You can see more of his photographs, HERE:

IRAQ and SYRIA NEWS

Map of Mount Sinjar, Sherfadin to North-East

Syria Detainees Endure ‘Nightmare’ Underworld

W460

Activist Mohsen al-Masri spent two years being dragged between prisons controlled by the Syrian security services, enduring savage beatings and being hanged from the ceiling for hours at a time.

But one of the worst horrors he recalls came when his guards started spraying insect repellent around the cell.

“Cockroaches started coming out of everywhere,” Masri says. “The cockroaches started to walk on our faces. The wardens put them inside our clothes.”

Masri is one of thousands of former detainees in Syria’s sprawling prison underworld. He describes a litany of torture that has been not only barbaric but also systematic.

Survivors and lawyers say there are now more than 100 detention centers holding around 200,000 people jailed since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in 2011.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, up to 12,000 people have died in these prisons.

Mohammad Samaan, a 33-year-old activist from Damascus, remembers reading George Orwell’s “1984”, the novelist’s dystopian vision of life under an all-knowing dictatorship, in the days before the uprising.

“When I became a detainee myself, I discovered that there is such a world, and it is in Syria,” he says.

“Nothing, no amount of reading or listening to other people’s stories could have prepared me for the horror of detention,” adds Samaan, who now lives in Beirut.

Speaking quietly as he pulls on a cigarette, Samaan says he was jailed twice for activism against Assad’s regime, enduring physical and psychological torture on both occasions.

An interrogator at one of Damascus’s feared security branches told him: “We torture people because we are sadists. We enjoy torturing people.”

“He electrocuted me and told me to write down everything I knew. He tried all he could to break me. I have never been so terrified in all my life,” the brown-haired Samaan says.

- ‘Nothing is arbitrary’ -

Masri, 36, says he also endured psychological torture.

“They would insult my wife, and they would tell me they would go to the house and rape her,” he recalls.

At the scores of security offices where detainees are usually first held for questioning, food, water and medication shortages are particularly extreme.

Round-faced Masri weighed more than 100 kilos (220 pounds) when he was first detained. By the time he was released he had lost more than half his body weight.

Like most detainees, Samaan and Masri — who spoke to Agence France-Presse on condition their names were changed — were transferred from secret detention in Damascus to the infamous Adra and Saydnaya jails after trials they dismiss as farcical.

Masri’s case was heard before a military court despite his non-violent activism.

“The regime doesn’t respect its own laws when it comes to the detainees,” says one Syrian human rights lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

“There are four security agencies in Syria, and each does all it can to prove it is more brutal than the next.”

The lawyer described a hellish network of jails, security offices and secret detention centers across the country.

“In Damascus alone there are 30 to 40 security offices, which are illegal, as well as an unknown number of secret detention sites,” he says.

- ‘Memories haunt me’ -

In June, Assad issued an unprecedented amnesty covering tens of thousands of people detained throughout the conflict under Syria’s notorious anti-terrorism law.

But only a handful of high-profile prisoners of conscience have been freed.

Human rights activist Sema Nassar says the regime refuses to release peaceful activists who played a key role in the 2011 uprising because “it fears the impact” they might have if freed.

Syria’s conflict began as a peaceful movement demanding democratic change, but evolved into a civil war after the regime unleashed a violent crackdown against dissent.

Activists say most of those who led the uprising are now dead, in jail, or missing.

Those who did survive detention say they can never forget what they endured.

“Memories come back to haunt me every day, when I eat, when I sleep,” says Samaan. “It’s so awful in there. Some things you just can’t talk about.”

(Source / 12.12.2014)

Terrorist attacks with gas cylinder bombs cause civilian injuries in Daraa

gas cylinders-explosives

Daraa/ Damascus, SANA- A number of civilians were injured in terrorist bomb attacks that hit three residential neighborhoods in the city of Daraa.

According to a source in the southern province, terrorists fired 11 bombs, made from gas cylinders packed with explosives, from their dens in the neighborhoods of al-Arbaeen, Daraa al-Balad and al-Naziheen in the city.

The attacks, the source told SANA reporter, also caused material damage to the citizens’ properties and the Bakery in one of the targeted areas.

The source confirmed to SANA that units of the Army and the Armed Forces later fully destroyed 6 of the dens from which the terrorists launched the bombs.

A citizen killed in terrorist attack on Damascus countryside

Meanwhile, A citizen was killed and another was wounded in a terrorist attack with mortar on Damascus central prison in Adra, Damascus countryside.

A police source told SANA that a mortar shell, launched by terrorists, fell near the prison building, killing a citizen and wounding another.

Earlier, two mortar shells fired by terrorists caused material damage in the surrounding of al-Najma square and al-Abed St. in Damascus.

A source at Damascus Police Command told SANA that a mortar round fell at the roof of a residential building in the surrounding of al-Najma square while another shell landed on a residential building near al-Rayyan restaurant causing material damage. No human causalities were reported.

Last Monday, three civilians were injured in Harasta Suburb in three mortar shells fired by terrorists. Material damage in a number of shops and cars was reported.

(Source / 11.12.2014)

Syria demands int’l action to curb Israel over killing of Palestinian minister

ziad-abu-ein-Israel

Damascus, SANA – Syria demanded on Thursday that the international community take serious action to curb the terrorist practices of the Israeli government.

An official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry called in a statement to SANA on the international community to take a “serious” stand to terminate the Israeli “orgy” of terrorist acts which menace the security and stability of the region.

The source expressed Syria’s vehement condemnation of the Israeli occupation forces’ assassination of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ain, who was head of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Commission in the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian official died after being hit by Israeli troops and inhaling tear gas during a protest in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

While decrying the Israeli crime as “brutal”, the source said it once again attests to the aggressive nature and the organized state terrorism governing the manner of the Israeli government.

A manner that, the statement added, has been quite evident whether in Israel’s continuous suppression of the Palestinian people or its close cooperation with the armed terrorist organizations in Syria.

The Foreign Ministry source voiced Syria’s condolences to the family of the “martyr” as well as its support and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to regain their legitimate rights and having the international resolutions on the right to establishing an independent Palestinian state with its Jerusalem as it capital be enforced.

(Source / 11.12.2014)

On Human Rights Day, Syrian Coalition Calls for Supporting Syrians’ Democratic Choices

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, Nora Al Ameer, Vice President of the Syrian Coalition, calls on civil and human rights organizations and activists across Syria to take action to support the Syrian people’s demands for democracy and freedom. “While there are dozens of parties that support the Assad regime with militias, weapons, money and diplomatic backing, the international community has so far failed to support the Syrian people’s choice for democracy only choice words and promises. And while today the world is observing Human Rights Day, dozens of Syrians are killed every day at the hands of the Assad regime which turned Syria into a battlefield on which regional and international powers are settling scores at the expense of the lives of the Syrian people. She also stresses that “the Assad regime’s criminality and brutal campaign against the Syrian people has opened the door for the rise of many extremist organizations,” calling on the free world to “save what’s left of the principles of human rights in Syria.” According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, approximately 200,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the revolution, including 17,000 children and 15,000 women.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 11.12.2014)