SDF begins operation to drive out Daesh from Hajjin

A member of the Asayish, Kurdish internal security police forces, walks by a government forces' pick-up truck as she arrives at the site of clashes with regime forces in Qamishly, northeastern Syria, on September 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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SDF begins operation to drive out Daesh from Hajjin

  • The SDF had broken into Hajjin from its northwestern edge and taken control of part of the area, while opening a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to flee
  • Daesh declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq

QAMISHLI: US-backed fighters have launched a fierce assault against a dwindling pocket of territory held by Daesh in East Syria, said a commander and a war monitor.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have been closing in for months on the town of Hajjin in eastern Deir Ezzor province.
On Monday, they began an offensive for the Daesh-held town itself.
An SDF commander said the assault, relying heavily on artillery and US-led coalition airstrikes, had killed at least 15 Daesh fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the Daesh death toll was at least 17.
“Our forces today began attacking the last bastions of Daesh in Hajjin, with intense artillery and air support,” said the SDF commander.
“The clashes will be fierce in Hajjin because Daesh has reinforced their positions, but we will take control of it,” said the commander.
The Britain-based Observatory said the SDF had been amassing fighters and equipment and beefing up their positions for weeks ahead of the attack.
“The operation to end Daesh’s presence in this pocket began today, with the heaviest airstrikes, artillery fire, and ground attacks in months by the SDF and the coalition,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF had broken into Hajjin from its northwestern edge and taken control of part of the area, while opening a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to flee.
Daesh declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq, but various separate offensives by the national armies of both countries, Kurdish forces and international backers have seen the extremists’ territory shrink dramatically.
In Syria, Daesh controls part of Deir Ezzor as well as some territory in the south.
The SDF, founded in October 2015, has been backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, artillery, and special forces advisers.
It ousted Daesh from swathes of Syria’s north last year, including from their main bastion Raqqa.
In Deir Ezzor, the SDF is battling Daesh on the eastern side of the Euphrates River while Syrian regime troops backed by Russia battle them west of the river.
In July, a coalition official said a few hundred IS fighters remain in the eastern pocket.
In a purported new audio recording released on August 22, Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi remained defiant.
“The caliphate will remain... and is not confined to Hajjin,” he said.


Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

Updated 20 September 2018
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Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

  • The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani
  • Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe

GENEVA: Members of a prominent tribe told an audience in Geneva on Thursday how they were stripped of their nationality and suffered torture, forced displacement and deportation in a 22-year campaign of systematic persecution by authorities in Qatar.
“My story is about wanting my rights, and I hope my story reaches your hearts,” said Hamed Al-Ghufrani, whose family was forced to flee Qatar for the UAE in 1996.
Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe, and had his nationality revoked in 2005. 
His 14-year-old son spoke of being a “stateless person” and called on the UN to end the persecution so he could return to Qatar.
The press conference at the Swiss Press Club, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, came two days after the Al-Ghufran delegation staged a protest in front of the UN building in Geneva during the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.
About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.
“They have taken away our social, political and economic rights,” said
Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribal elder. “The Al-Ghufran tribe has been subjected to unjust treatment.
“I left on a vacation in 1996, and now I can never go back to my country. I can go to any place on this earth, but not my home, not Qatar.”
Members of the delegation produced passports, certificates and other documents to show that their right to Qatari citizenship was being denied.
“I ask for my rights. Our people have been asking for our rights for a very long time now and no one has even explained to us why this is happening to us,” said Hamad Khaled Al-Araq.
Jaber Hamad Al-Araq, the tribe member fired twice by Qatar Petroleum, said: “The consequences of revoking our citizenship came in waves. They took away health care, education and public services. They took away all the tools that would allow us to live in Qatar with dignity, as human beings.”
Many of the tribe have suffered from depression and other medical conditions as a result of their ill-treatment. “I was rejected many times for jobs because of the injustice we face,” said Jaber Mohamed Al-Ghufrani. “They would reject me, the interior ministry office would reject me, just for being from the tribe. We are marginalized, without value, and left on the sidelines in our own country.
“I am responsible for my family, consisting of my wife and children, and we have faced many injustices that led us to have psychological trauma. We have suffered enough.”
Abdul Hadi Jaber Al-Ghufrani, another member of the tribe, told the press conference: “All members of the Al-Ghufran tribe without exception suffered from the decision to revoke their nationality.
“Those who remained in Qatar are unable to work, travel, or act like normal human beings, they cannot trade, they cannot even give their identity.
“Those who were expelled and forcibly displaced live in exile. They cannot apply or work in any job where they can get money for they basic needs, and most of them have no official identity papers. They can no longer see their families and loved ones.
“We are here to demand our rights and we will not stop until we get our rights. From today for the next 20 years, we will not stop.”
The youngest member of the delegation, Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri, 14, said: “My nationality was revoked when I was less than one year old.
“I did not have the right to grow up in my own country, I was not given the right to stay there. I wish to return to my country and enjoy my rights as a citizen.”