Canadian extremist says Daesh foreign fighters ‘hung out to dry’

Mohammad Ali joined Daesh in 2014, and was captured while trying to flee north into Turkey with his Canadian wife and two children. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019

Canadian extremist says Daesh foreign fighters ‘hung out to dry’

  • Hundreds of Daesh-affiliated men, women and children have streamed out of the group’s shrinking pocket in east Syria in the past two months
  • “The foreigners feel they were left out, hung out to dry, they’ve been used and abused,” he said

HASAKEH, Syria: A Canadian extremist detained in Syria told AFP on Sunday he has been “hung out to dry” by the Daesh group like other foreign fighters and appealed to his government for help.
Mohammad Ali, 28, was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) some nine months ago while trying to flee north into Turkey with his Canadian wife and two children.
He was interviewed at a detention center in the northeastern city of Hasakah in the presence of two members of the SDF, who are holding hundreds of foreign extremists.
Ali, who joined Daesh in 2014 under the nom de guerre Abu Turab Al-Kanadi, said he had been interrogated by the American FBI, CIA and US defense officials, but never visited by a Canadian official.
“Every time I get taken for an interrogation or an interview, I’m hoping it’s with someone from the Canadian government, someone that can clarify my situation and give me a bit of hope.”
“Up until now, nothing,” he said. “I have nowhere else to go... How can they leave me sitting here like this in limbo?“
The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria wants to send the prisoners back for trial, but governments in their countries of origin are often reluctant.
Canada’s foreign ministry said it had opened a communication channel with Kurdish authorities but that there was no agreement on repatriation.
The Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE) non-profit said it knew of 25 Canadians held by the SDF.
Ali was dressed in a grey robe, matching cap and tattered black sandals.
He repeatedly said he was “exhausted” and often paused for long periods before mumbling an answer.
Like many other captured accused Daesh members, he said he joined the group to fight President Bashar Assad’s government.
He first worked in Deash’s lucrative oil ministry for four months because of his previous experience in Canada as an oil worker.
During that time, he used a prominent Twitter account to call on others to join the extremists, but said he was never part of Daesh’s formal media apparatus.
He spent the following three years as a fighter and trainer, but said he always refused to shoot civilians.
“That’s not why I came here,” he said.
AFP could not immediately verify the details of the account he gave of his time in the “caliphate.”
Ali said he began doubting his decision to join Daesh in late 2016, as the extremists began to lose territory and turn against foreigners, including a Dutch friend of his who was executed by the group.
“The foreigners feel they were left out, hung out to dry, they’ve been used and abused,” he said.
He paid a smuggler to take his Canadian wife, who he met under Daesh in Syria, and their two young girls north from Deir Ezzor province to the Turkish border.
Ali said he was planning to go to the Canadian embassy in Ankara but was caught by the SDF before crossing into Turkey.
He said he has been unable to speak to his wife or daughters, or his family in Canada, since being detained.
“All I think about is my wife and kids,” he said.
Hundreds of Daesh-affiliated men, women and children have streamed out of the group’s shrinking pocket in east Syria in the past two months, but journalists and advocates have limited access to them.
Ali said he was not aware of any SDF legal proceedings against him.
Asked what kind of future he was most afraid of, he said he feared being handed over to Syrian regime forces.
He is resigned to serving jail time at home but insisted he should not be considered in the same category as accused British Daesh executioners Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, also held by the SDF.
“Now the foreigners are trying to leave, trying to get back home,” Ali told AFP.
“But a lot of the Syrians and the Iraqis, they’re just melting back into the population, holding down for a while, and when things start again, they will rise back up.
“It doesn’t really take a genius to figure this out. They have pockets in the desert, they have people intermingling with the population, acting as civilians, just biding their time.”


Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

Updated 31 min 27 sec ago

Tel Aviv beaches fall foul in Israel’s passion for plastic

  • Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic

TEL AVIV: In the early morning, when the only sound on Tel Aviv beach is the waves, Yosef Salman and his team pick up plastic debris left by bathers or cast up by the sea.
Working in heat and humidity with large rakes, they scoop plastic cups, cigarette ends, empty sunscreen tubes and soiled babies’ nappies.
Also present, but impossible to separate from the sand, are microplastics, tiny particles of plastic debris that have been broken down by sun and salt.
“When it rains... you can see tons of plastic in the sand,” says Ariel Shay, of the Plastic Free Israel movement, which organizes volunteer beach cleanups.
Despite the activities of environmental groups, Israel remains hooked on plastic.
A June report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ranked Tel Aviv’s coastline as the third most polluted by plastic waste in the Mediterranean, behind Barcelona and southern Turkey.
Valencia, Alexandria, Algiers and Marseille were listed in fourth to seventh places.
With around four million inhabitants, Tel Aviv is Israel’s most populous metropolitan area.
“Every time I go to the beach now, I spend my time cleaning — it’s horrible!” complains Shani Zylbersztejn, with an eye on her nine-month-old daughter, who plays with a plastic fork freshly dug from the sand.
In the upper-crust town of Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv, Limor Gorelik, of the environmental protection NGO Zalul, patrols the sands, offering beachgoers bamboo cups and reusable bags in a bid to wean them from single-use plastics.
Gorelik blames Israel’s passion for plastic on a lack of education and on deeply ingrained habits, such as using disposable tableware for family picnics.
Observant Jews who want a beachfront lunch on Saturdays are forbidden from washing the dishes afterwards, because their faith bans them from working on the Sabbath.
“They’re not permitted to wash dishes so they use disposable plastic,” Gorelik says.
Even plastic waste dumped in the bins that dot the beaches can end up in the sea, carried by the wind or by birds which rip open garbage bags in search of food.
Independent researcher Galia Pasternak has analyzed coastal plastic pollution in Israel.
According to her data, 60 percent of the waste on the beach comes from the bathers themselves.
Some is also borne by currents from Gaza and Egypt in the south or from Lebanon further north.
In 2005, Israel’s environmental protection ministry launched a program offering local councils incentives for proven results in cleaning their beaches.
Subject to regular inspection, councils that meet requirements get funding, while failing authorities face cuts or even court, says Ran Amir, head of the environment ministry’s marine division.

Amir cites the case of the popular Palmahim beach, south of Tel Aviv.
Palmahim municipal council was taken to court and fined over the state of the beach — which has since become “one of the cleanest beaches in Israel today,” he says.
The ministry’s strategy in recent years has also included public service messages on radio and online, along with fines, recycling facilities and education, according to Amir.
“It think it has partially worked,” says Pasternak, who helped set up some of those programs.
Zalul’s Gorelik, however, says Israel is still trailing behind other countries.
She says charges introduced in supermarkets in 2017 for plastic bags — previously given away free — are too low, at just 0.10 Israeli shekels (0.02 euros/ $0.03) each.
“It’s not enough,” Gorelik says, adding that even this modest measure does not apply to small grocery stores.
She points to new European Union restrictions on single-use plastics.
“Europeans are the leaders on the subject,” she says.
“Here, we are very far away.”