In Al-Hol camp, a market bustles

Street vendors sell pickles and vegetables in the market of Al-Hol Camp, northeastern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 31 March 2019
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In Al-Hol camp, a market bustles

  • Despite the lively market, the camp has been described by residents and international organizations as a humanitarian hell-scape, lacking basic accommodation and medical facilities

AL-HOL CAMP, Syria: Plump fruits, bright slushies, and hair dye — the coloful market in Al-Hol is an unlikely sight in a Syrian camp overflowing with desperate people displaced as Daesh’s “caliphate” collapsed. Clothing stalls stacked with colorful scarves line the side of a muddy road. Plastic containers display glowing oranges, fresh tomatoes and large, shiny eggplants. Children crowd around pristine slushie and ice cream machines. A young girl eyes a series of colorful cakes laid out in a row.
More than 70,000 people, the bulk of whom escaped Daesh-held territory, pack this overcrowded shelter in northeastern Syria.
They include more than 9,000 foreigners, who are holed up in a fenced section of the encampment, under the watch of Kurdish forces. Syrians and Iraqis stroll freely through the market in the heart of the camp. Some of the camp’s residents have enough money to purchase clothes, fruits and vegetables. Others queue for hours for aid and food handouts. “There are many people who buy, but there are also people who find it difficult, because they can’t afford to,” says Salam, a baker. The scent of freshly baked pastries wafts from a rudimentary stone oven inside the Nour Bakery, where he works. He places a long wooden tray carrying flattened dough topped with minced meat in an oven.
The 24-year-old Iraqi, who has been living in the camp for over a year, says he earns about four dollars a day, which he uses to support his parents and six younger siblings.
Elsewhere in the market, women in all-covering black niqabs stand in front of a stand displaying hair dyes and other trinkets.
Nearby, another stand is inundated with perfume bottles. Despite the lively market, the camp has been described by residents and international organizations as a humanitarian hell-scape, lacking basic accommodation and medical facilities.
According to Save the Children, some 30 percent of children under the age of five screened at the camp since early February suffer acute malnutrition. The World Food Programme says it has recorded several cases of dehydration and diarrhea.
“The needs in the camp are huge,” said Amjad Yamin, a spokesperson for Save the Children. And just a few steps away from the market, the destitution is visible: women queue in seemingly endless rows in front of a WFP warehouse, awaiting food rations.


Iran: US sanctions on Khamenei mean end of diplomacy

Updated 51 min 40 sec ago
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Iran: US sanctions on Khamenei mean end of diplomacy

  • Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of drone attack
  • Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Tehran since last year

Iran said on Tuesday that a US decision to impose sanctions on the country’s supreme leader and other top officials permanently closed the path to diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.
“Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif) is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet.
“Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”

US President Donald Trump earlier signed an executive order that would impose fresh sanctions on Iran, amid increased tensions between the long-time foes.

Trump initially told reporters the sanctions, which will target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office, were in response to Tehran's downing of a US drone last week. Tehran has said the drone was flying in its airspace, which Washington has denied.

Later, Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone.

The US will also blacklist Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and block "billions" more in Iranian assets as part of expanded sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.

Mnuchin told reporters Zarif would be added to an economic sanctions list "later this week," adding that eight top military commanders from Iran's Revolutionary Guards have now also been blacklisted.

The US has also blamed Iran for attacks earlier this month on two oil tankers at the entrance of the Gulf of Oman. Iran, in turn, has denied that it is to blame.

Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Tehran since last year, when the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing of sanctions. Trump’s administration has said the deal struck under his predecessor President Barack Obama did not do enough.

Trump has said he would be open to talks with Iranian leaders, but Tehran has rejected such an offer unless Washington drops the sanctions.

The Trump administration wants to force Tehran to open talks on its nuclear and missile programmes and its activities in the region.

The US also accuses Iran of encouraging allies in Yemen to attack Saudi targets. In a joint statement on Monday, the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and UK expressed concern over Middle East tensions and the dangers posed by Iranian "destabilizing activity" to peace and security in Yemen and the region.