Saving the grapes of Raqqa: 50-year-old woman fled home impatient to water her vine

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50-Year-Old Syrian Warda al-Jasim (L) fills a plastic bucket with water for her grape vine, upon returning to her home five weeks after leaving, in western of Raqa on July 15, 2017, during an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. The US-backed coalition has captured around 30 percent of Raqa city since it entered the IS bastion in June after a months-long operation to capture territory in the surrounding province. (AFP)
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50-Year-Old Syrian Warda al-Jasim waters her grape vine, upon returning to her home five weeks after leaving, in western of Raqa on July 15, 2017, during an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. The US-backed coalition has captured around 30 percent of Raqa city since it entered the IS bastion in June after a months-long operation to capture territory in the surrounding province. (AFP)
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50-Year-Old Syrian Warda al-Jasim carries water for her grape vine, upon returning to her home five weeks after leaving, in western of Raqa on July 15, 2017, during an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. The US-backed coalition has captured around 30 percent of Raqa city since it entered the IS bastion in June after a months-long operation to capture territory in the surrounding province. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2017
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Saving the grapes of Raqqa: 50-year-old woman fled home impatient to water her vine

SYRIA: Since she fled her home near the jihadist stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria more than a month ago, Warda Al-Jassem has been impatient to return — to water her vine.
Saving their grapes has become an obsession for the 50-year-old and her husband since fighting forced them to flee.
Their house is in Jazra, a western suburb of Raqqa, the Daesh group’s de facto Syrian capital from which a US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters is battling to oust the jihadists.
Al-Jassem and her husband, who have taken refuge in the Al-Andalus area some 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Raqqa, could not stop worrying about their grapes.
Accompanied by neighbors, she headed home over the weekend for her first visit since Daesh was forced from the neighborhood in early June.
Due to a heart problem, her husband could not join her.
“Since we left here, the only thing he wanted was to know what had happened to the vine,” she said.
“Every day he’d say ‘The vine is thirsty, it has to be watered’.”
So “I came back to water it,” she said.
The blue-eyed woman, her head covered with a black embroidered veil, eyed a trellis hung with yellowed grapes and parched vine leaves.
“They were dying of thirst,” she said.
Much of the fruit had faded, but some grapes, still green, seemed to have survived the intense summer heat.
A determined look on her face, Al-Jassem turned over the earth with a shovel. Then, using a bucket, she poured water at the bottom of the trellis to try to save the rest of the vine.
Only then did she smile, her mission accomplished. She urged her friends to gather those grapes that were still edible.

Inside the house, she hastened to recover a few precious items: bags of dried mint and other seasonings — and a multi-colored bra.
Before leaving again, she filled a plastic bottle with heating oil from a barrel on the patio.
Jassem’s house may have been spared the violence that has descended on Raqqa, but the home of her neighbor Maryam Mustafa one street away was not so fortunate.
When she got home, Mustafa saw fighters of the anti-Daesh Syrian Democratic Forces lounging on her patio.
Inside, her washing machine was broken, the family’s clothes were scattered around and even the crockery had disappeared.
The living room was unrecognizable: gone were the television set, her vases and the traditional Arab seating cushions on the floor.
“I came home and found only destruction,” a shocked Mustafa told AFP.
“Everything was either stolen or broken,” the young woman said, the lower part of her face covered with a colorful veil.
The SDF fighters assured her that this was how they had found the house on their arrival the day before.
“I’m not accusing anyone,” Mustafa said.
She too sought to retrieve what personal items she could — blue and orange abayas and a white woollen shawl, along with a few toys and shoes belonging to her daughters.
Daesh jihadists forced women in Raqqa to wear all black, cover their faces with a full-face niqab veil and their bodies with the traditional long robe or abaya.
Mustafa thought about the war rumbling just a few kilometers (miles) away, and was silent for a moment.
“People are dying in their homes while our children are safe,” she said.
“We must thank God. Everything can be repaired.”


Minister’s ouster unlikely to slow Sudan’s push to get off US ‘terror’ list

Updated 20 April 2018
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Minister’s ouster unlikely to slow Sudan’s push to get off US ‘terror’ list

  • Ghandour was fired a day after he said in parliament that Sudanese diplomats abroad had not been paid in months.
  • Analysts say his sacking is not expected to derail ties between Khartoum and Washington.

Khartoum: President Omar Al-Bashir’s dismissal of Sudan’s foreign minister, Khartoum’s top negotiator with Washington, is unlikely to affect efforts to have Khartoum removed from a US “terrorism” blacklist, experts say.
On Thursday, Bashir sacked Ibrahim Ghandour, who headed negotiations with Washington that in October helped lift a decades-old US trade embargo on Khartoum.
His dismissal comes amid an economic crisis in the African country and his replacement, who has yet to be named, is set to inherit a complicated case load.
Ghandour, the first official to publicly raise concerns over Sudan’s economic crisis, was fired a day after he said in parliament that Sudanese diplomats abroad had not been paid in months.
But analysts say his sacking is not expected to derail ties between Khartoum and Washington, which have warmed since the sanctions were lifted.
“Ghandour’s loss will be felt, but his going won’t change Khartoum’s policy direction,” Magnus Taylor, Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
By dismissing Ghandour, Khartoum is not changing its “moderate” policy toward Washington, he said.
“Generally, Sudanese are focused on getting themselves out of the SSTL,” Taylor said, referring to Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
Although Washington lifted sanctions imposed in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support of militant groups, it has kept Sudan on the blacklist along with Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Officials say the US terror tag prevents international banks from doing business with Khartoum, in turn hampering Sudan’s economic revival.
Ghandour had been pushing for Khartoum’s removal from the blacklist in a bid to obtain much needed foreign loans.
“He was useful for negotiations with the US because people thought they can deal with him as he was reasonable, eloquent and intelligent,” Taylor said.
“But Sudan will bring someone else who can do that kind of job.”