China military to train Assad troops

Smoke rises behind Aleppo's historic citadel, controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad, as seen from a rebel-held area of Aleppo, Syria, on August 18, 2016. China says its military has agreed to train Assad's troops “to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria.” (REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)
Updated 25 August 2016
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China military to train Assad troops

BEIJING: China’s military will provide training for Syrian armed forces, a spokesman for Beijing’s defense ministry said Thursday, adding it would take place on Chinese soil.
Beijing is a longstanding backer of the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, which has engaged in a bloody war that has left more than 290,000 people dead and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.
Last week senior Chinese military official Guan Youfei met with Syria’s defense minister in Damascus and said he wanted closer military ties with the Syrian government, state media reported.
“The Chinese military will provide the Syrian side with medical and nursing professional training,” defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters at a monthly briefing.
The training would take place in China, he added, and was intended “to ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
The Chinese military has already provided Syrian authorities with medical equipment and medicines “to help reduce the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people,” Wu said.
“For a long period of time, China and Syria have helped each other. And China has been pushing for a political solution of the Syrian conflict and we have always supported the independence of Syria,” he added.
As well as supporting Assad’s government, Beijing is close to Moscow, which has carried out strikes on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, as have Assad’s forces.
After Guan’s visit to Damascus, China’s state broadcaster questioned the authenticity of a harrowing video showing a stunned-looking four-year-old boy covered in blood and dust after an air strike in Aleppo, alleging it may have been faked as part of a Western “propaganda war.”
The footage brought worldwide attention to the plight of children in the bloody siege of the city, and sparked diplomatic disagreement, as Russia denied carrying out the attack, and Chinese media said the group that shot the video had links to the British military.


Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

Iraqis wait at the Nineveh governorate building in Iraq's second city of Mosul to resolve issues related to their identity documents. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

  • During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers
  • When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract

MOSUL: When Shahed was born in 2015 her father tried to notify Iraq’s civil registry. The problem was, their city of Mosul was held by Daesh group and the office had been shut.

Three years later, 39-year-old Ahmed Aziz has yet to officially register his daughter’s birth, the certificate for which bears the seal of the so-called caliphate.
Under the late summer sun, the taxi driver braves a long queue outside Mosul’s reopened civil registry, hoping that by the end of the day Shahed’s name will finally appear in state records.
The little girl was born just a year after Daesh swept across the country, seizing swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
“The civil registry was closed,” said Aziz, holding the IS-stamped document issued by a hospital in Mosul.
But since Iraqi forces ultimately regained control of the city in July 2017 after a bloody months-long campaign, residents have flooded the city’s reopened offices.
Thousands of children like Shahed had been born under Daesh rule, and the extremists had systematically blown up civil offices and archives.
“I saw this massive rush to get to the public offices, so I preferred to wait a bit before going there too,” said Aziz.
As a result, his daughter does not yet officially exist.
During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers.
Some lost their identity documents as neighborhoods turned into battle zones, others as they fled the violence.
Many of those who remained were given documents from Daesh’s proto-state — ministries and courts created by the jihadists to register births, marriages, deaths and trade agreements alike.
None of that paperwork has been recognized by Iraqi authorities.
When Zein Mohammed got married in 2014, he and his soon-to-be wife had to present themselves at an IS court to seal the deal.
What should have been the best day of the now 29-year-old civil servant’s life was instead a test.
“I appeared in front of the judge with my fiancee — she was covered head-to-toe in black,” he told AFP.
Under Daesh rule, Mosul’s residents were forced to bow to the jihadists ultra-conservative demands.
Women were compelled to fully cover themselves in black veils and long robes, and civil cases were heard by courts that dealt out death sentences and corporal punishment for “sins..”
“The judge issued us a marriage certificate bearing the IS seal,” said Mohammed.
When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract.
Now, packed in among the crowd outside Mosul’s civil registry, Mohammed is hoping to finally regularize their marital status.
Iraqi civil servants are working around the clock to meet the massive demand, compiling files, verifying identities and registering official documents and certificates.
It is a titanic job, often slowed due to additional safeguards imposed by Iraqi security services in the former IS stronghold.
To weed out fake IDs and spot jihadists seeking to slip through the cracks, “intelligence services check each document,” head of Mosul’s registry office General Hussein Mohammed Ali told AFP.
But the added security measures have not hampered progress.
“More than a million certified documents and more than 2,000 passports have already been issued,” he said.
Mustafa Thamer, a 23-year-old student, is applying for his first passport even though he has no plans to travel soon.
“We say we must have a passport so that we can leave whenever we want,” he told AFP.
“We lived under IS occupation and we no longer trust the future of the city,” he said.
“Anything can happen in Mosul.”