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.”


Libya recovers five bodies, picks up 185 migrants

A total of 900 migrants have been intercepted or rescued by the Libyan navy since Wednesday. (AFP/File)
Updated 37 min 34 sec ago
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Libya recovers five bodies, picks up 185 migrants

  • The bodies were recovered from an inflatable boat packed with migrants that got into trouble
  • Two coast guard patrols carried out different operations on Friday, picking up 91 migrants in one group and 94 in the second

Tripoli: Libyan coast guards have recovered the bodies of five migrants and picked up 185 survivors off its western coast, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The migrants, who were rescued about 24 km off the town of Qarabulli, were trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in two boats, the Libyan navy said Saturday. Those who lost their lives were from Sudan, Nigeria, Chad and Egypt.

The bodies were recovered from an inflatable boat packed with migrants that got into trouble, the coast guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.

A day earlier, three children and nine women were among 94 migrants rescued on Friday when their inflatable dinghy sank 12 nautical miles from Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli.

“The migrants are from different sub-Saharan countries including three children and nine women,” he said.

Two coast guard patrols carried out different operations on Friday, picking up 91 migrants in one group and 94 in the second, Qassem said.

A total of 900 migrants have been intercepted or rescued by the Libyan navy since Wednesday as departures pick up due to favorable weather.

Usually in such cases the migrants are taken to detention centers pending repatriation.

Libya’s western coast is the main departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe, although the number of crossings has sharply dropped since last July due to a more active coast guard presence with support from the EU.

Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.

Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.

Earlier this month, Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe haven.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try on Sunday to persuade other EU leaders to agree on a common policy on migrants, although her chances of winning support from all 28 member states are deemed slim.