Designer causes anger by dressing models in Syrian regime uniforms

Syrian fashion designer Manal Ajaj poses on the catwalk with models wearing army uniforms of the Syrian regime at the end of her fashion show in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2017
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Designer causes anger by dressing models in Syrian regime uniforms

BEIRUT: Syrian fashion designer Manal Ajaj shocked her audience at a show she presented on Wednesday by dressing young Lebanese male models in army uniforms of the Syrian regime.
Lebanon, which hosts 1 million Syrian refugees, has tried to stay neutral in the Syrian conflict.
And it was only 12 years ago that the Syrian Army ended its three-decade presence in Lebanon after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.
The audience included Ajaj’s friends, Lebanese and foreign celebrities, and media figures. “This is the second show for Ajaj in Beirut,” Johnny Fadlallah, whose company L.I.P.S. Management organized the event, told Arab News.
“I didn’t understand what happened at the end of the show. I was engaged with preparations at the backstage. I heard some criticism and some praise for the show, and most critical people were from the media. They asked me why Ajaj was a fanatic supporter of the Syrian regime,” he said, adding that her show last year focused on Syrian suffering under Daesh.
“I don’t understand politics. I simply support the party of beauty and fashion. I know Ajaj is a supporter of the Syrian regime. She lives in the UAE, but she has a workshop in Damascus.”
Lebanese fashion journalist Hadia Sinno told Arab News: “I was surprised, like many others, about what happened at the end of the show, when young men came on the catwalk wearing Syrian Army uniforms.”


Russia: Extremist alliance will not withdraw from Idlib zone

Militants in Syria’s Idlib failed to meet a deadline to leave a planned buffer zone ringing the country’s last rebel bastion. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2018
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Russia: Extremist alliance will not withdraw from Idlib zone

  • Sporadic fighting continued to be recorded in places with a residual terrorist presence, primarily in Idlib: Russia
  • Turkey has designated HTS, which is led by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (JFS), a terrorist organization

ANKARA: Turkey has failed to persuade the rebel alliance Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) to withdraw from a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib province that was agreed by Ankara and Moscow in September, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“Sporadic fighting continued to be recorded in places with a residual terrorist presence, primarily in Idlib… Militants continued shelling western Aleppo,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
On Thursday, Turkish and Russian officials met in Ankara ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Istanbul on Nov. 19.
Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council, said although there are serious problems with implementation of the Idlib agreement, Russian officials stressed that the process requires time and effort.
“Russia doesn’t want to push Turkey because there’s a much more important thing: Constitutional dialogue between the Syrian opposition and government, where Turkish-Russian dialogue plays a decisive role,” he told Arab News. 
“(Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan publicly undertook obligations to clear the (Idlib) zone from terrorists,” Akhmetov said. 
“Ankara is also having a hard time with the US regarding the Syrian Kurds. I think Russia will find ways to exploit this situation.”
Turkey has designated HTS, which is led by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (JFS), a terrorist organization.
Under the Turkish-Russian deal, rebel groups, including HTS, were to withdraw from the demilitarized zone by mid-October.
Ankara has repeatedly indicated its readiness to use force against radical groups if they refuse to withdraw.
Turkey has reinforced its military presence in Idlib with armored vehicles and equipment. It has 12 military posts in the province.
Enes Ayasli, a research assistant and Middle East expert at Sakarya University in Turkey, said the most obvious setback of the Idlib deal is that moderate rebel groups in the province now back HTS if there is a clash between it and Syrian regime forces.
“Their focus is now on repelling regime forces even if it means violating the deal,” he told Arab News. 
“Turkey in this sense seems to have failed to separate moderate groups completely from extremists.”
An intensification of fighting between the regime and extremists may cause the deal to collapse completely, Ayasli said.
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an increased rate of violations of the Idlib demilitarized zone.