HRW warns against secret transfer of militants from Syria

Displaced Syrians, including families of militants, at the internally displaced persons camp of Al-Hol in Al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019

HRW warns against secret transfer of militants from Syria

  • Detention camps in the northeast fill with families of different nationalities

Any transfers of suspected foreign militants and their relatives out of Syria should be transparent, Human Rights Watch told AFP, as camps in the northeast fill with families of different nationalities.

With the crumbling of Daesh, France is now considering bringing dozens of accused French militants, as well as their wives and children, back home from the detention centers and camps run by US-backed forces fighting Daesh.

“We would definitely like to be present (during the transfer), or at least there should be some transparency,” Nadim Houry, HRW’s director of counter-terrorism, told AFP in the northern Syrian town of Amuda late on Wednesday.

“As we speak, there may already be transfers happening. There’s been a total lack of transparency, and bad things happen in the dark,” he warned.

Tens of thousands of foreigners are estimated to have joined Daesh since 2014, but they have streamed out of the militants’ collapsing “caliphate” in recent years.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are bearing down on the shrinking pocket of Daesh territory in east Syria, told AFP they were detaining foreign fighters on a “daily basis.”

The SDF are also holding hundreds of women and children who were born to alleged Daesh militants, including French nationals, in two main prison camps in the north.

Authorities at one of the camps, Al-Hol, say they have received more than 1,000 foreign nationals since fighting against Daesh’s last positions ramped up in mid-December.

On Wednesday, dozens of foreign women and their young children, who had recently arrived from the battered Daesh pocket further south, could be seen waiting in a reception area in Al-Hol.

The women wore black veils covering everything but their blue eyes and called out to their pale, thin children in English and French.

They were waiting to be assigned tents in the cordoned-off section of the camp where foreigners are held, and were not allowed to speak to reporters.

The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria has spent months calling for the foreigners’ countries of origin to take them back.

Those nations are often reluctant, but the issue has taken on greater urgency amid fears of a security vacuum since US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement in December that US troops would withdraw.

Washington has also begun pressuring countries to repatriate foreigners in recent days.

French sources have told AFP that an estimated 50 adults and 80 children could be brought back to France, but authorities have not confirmed any planned transfer.

“While this debate is taking place in France, it’s not clear it has manifested itself in any concrete measures on the ground,” said Houry, whose team plans to visit foreigners in the camps.

HRW is seeking clarity on the numbers that might return, what route they would be transferred through, and whether children would be separated from their parents.

France has a responsibility not to leave its citizens, including children under seven years old, in legal limbo in a “Guantanamo on the Euphrates,” Houry said.

“We are confident that once they actually hit France, there is a mechanism in place,” he said.

“What we’re concerned about is what is going to happen between now and then. We’re in a grey zone.”


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.