Syrians returning from Al-Hol camp stigmatized over Daesh ties

Syrians returning from  Al-Hol camp stigmatized over Daesh ties
Noura Al-Khalif, a former detainee at the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp, at her home in Raqqa, Syria. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 16 June 2022

Syrians returning from Al-Hol camp stigmatized over Daesh ties

Syrians returning from  Al-Hol camp stigmatized over Daesh ties
  • Al-Hol, in the Kurdish-controlled northeast, still houses about 56,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis

RAQQA, Syria: Noura Al-Khalif married a Daesh supporter and then wound up without her husband in a Syrian camp viewed by many as the last surviving pocket of the “caliphate.”

The 31-year-old woman has been back in her hometown outside the northern city of Raqqa for three years but she is struggling to shake off the stigma of having lived in the Al-Hol camp.

“Most of my neighbors call me a Daesh supporter,” she told AFP from her father’s house near Raqqa, where she now lives with her two children.

“I just want to forget but people insist on dragging me back, and ever since I left Al-Hol I haven’t felt either financial or emotional comfort.”

Al-Hol, in the Kurdish-controlled northeast, still houses about 56,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, some of whom maintain links with Daesh.

About 10,000 are foreigners, including relatives of Daesh fighters, and observers are increasingly worried what was meant as a temporary detention facility is turning into a jihadist breeding ground.

Most of Al-Hol’s residents are people who fled or surrendered during the dying days of IS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” in early 2019.

For staying, whether by choice or not, until the very end, they are seen as fanatical Daesh supporters, although the camp’s population also includes civilians displaced by battles against the jihadists.

The stigma is a challenge for Khalif who arrived in Al-Hol from Baghouz, the riverside hamlet where Daesh was declared definitively defeated by US-backed Kurdish forces.

“Al-Hol camp was more merciful to us than Raqqa. I left the camp for my children and their education, but the situation here is not better,” she said.

In 2014, Khalif married a jihadist and lived with him across several Daesh-held regions before the two were separated by the fighting.

She hasn’t heard from her husband since she left for Al-Hol in 2019.

After a few months of living in the camp, Khalif was permitted to leave along with hundreds of other Syrians under an agreement between Syrian tribal chiefs and Kurdish authorities overseeing the facility. More than 9,000 Syrians have since been allowed to exit Al-Hol under such deals which aim to empty the camp of nationals, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Khalif’s homecoming has been anything but sweet. She said she struggles to make a living by cleaning homes and faces constant suspicion.

“Some families won’t let me clean their homes because I wear the niqab (face veil) and because they think I’m a Daesh supporter,” she said.

Raqqa tribal elder Turki Al-Suaan has arranged for the release of 24 families from Al-Hol to facilitate their reintegration into their communities, but he acknowledged that it was no easy task.

“I know their families and they are from our region. But the intolerance that society has toward these people is a reaction to the abuses committed by Daesh against civilians in the area during their rule,” he said.

Raqqa resident Sara Ibrahim warned that there was a danger in stigmatizing people returning to Raqqa from Al-Hol, most of whom are women and children.

“A lot of families in Raqqa refuse to engage with these people and this ... could push them toward extremism in the future,” she said.

Fearing prejudice, Amal has kept a low profile since she arrived in Raqqa seven months ago from Al-Hol.

The 50-year-old grandmother and members of her family were among the last of those who flooded out of Baghouz, where the jihadists made their final stand.

“My neighbors in Raqqa do not know that I was in Al-Hol camp, and I fear people will have a bad idea if they know that I was living” there, she said, a niqab covering her face.


Japan, Jordan foreign ministers discuss Middle East peace

Japan, Jordan foreign ministers discuss Middle East peace
Updated 1 min 9 sec ago

Japan, Jordan foreign ministers discuss Middle East peace

Japan, Jordan foreign ministers discuss Middle East peace

DUBAI: Japan’s Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa met with Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi on Sept. 22.

The two officials met in New York during the United Nations General Assembly and discussed the development of the relationship between Jordan and Japan.

Minister Hayashi expressed his gratitude for King Abdullah II’s visit to Japan to attend the state funeral for former Prime Minister ABE on Sept. 27.

The two also exchanged views on Israel and Palestine, reaffirming their commitment to achieving peace in the region based on a “two-state solution.”

Hayashi said that Jordan’s role in hosting a large number of refugees is important for the stability of the region, and also explained Japan’s support this year through UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) in light of the global food and fuel price hikes that are making life more difficult for the refugees.

In response, minister Safadi appreciated Japan’s position and contribution regarding the Middle East Peace.

The ministers reviewed the Japan-Egypt-Jordan trilateral consultations on the Middle East, the second DG-level meeting of which was held this month, andwelcomed their efforts are coming to fruition and concurred to further promote cooperation among the three parties.

The ministers agreed to hold the third Strategic Dialogue between the foreign ministers in the near future to further strengthen bilateral relations and regional stability, and confirmed that they will continue to work closely together.

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province
Updated 26 min 30 sec ago

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province
  • Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16

TEHRAN: Authorities in a northern Iran province have arrested 450 people during more than 10 days of protests following a young Kurdish woman’s death in morality policy custody, state media reported Monday.
Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that in Tehran for allegedly breaching rules mandating hijab head coverings and modest dress.
“During the troubles of the past days, 450 rioters have been arrested in Mazandaran,” the northern province’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
They “have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran,” he added.
Local media reported that protesters were shouting anti-regime slogans, and Karimi said they were led by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents.”
On Saturday, authorities in the neighboring Guilan province announced the arrest of 739 people, including 60 women.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll.
Photos published Monday by the Tasnim news agency showed protesters in Qom, a holy Shiite city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Security forces have released these images of “lead instigators,” Tasnim reported, asking residents to “identify them and inform the authorities.”


Lebanon expects US mediator offer for maritime border with Israel within days

Lebanon expects US mediator offer for maritime border with Israel within days
Updated 26 September 2022

Lebanon expects US mediator offer for maritime border with Israel within days

Lebanon expects US mediator offer for maritime border with Israel within days

DUBAI: Lebanon expects a written offer from US mediator Amos Hochstein concerning the demarcation of a maritime border with Israel by the end of the week, Lebanon’s presidency tweeted on Monday.
Lebanon’s deputy speaker of parliament Elias Bou Saab met with Hochstein last week during a visit to New York and briefed President Michel Aoun on the outcome, the presidency added.
Hochstein has been shuttling between Lebanon and Israel — enemy states with a history of conflict — in a bid to forge a compromise over the maritime boundary that would allow both to explore for offshore energy reserves.
A deal would defuse one potential source of conflict between Israel and the heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.


Lebanese banks reopen partially after weeklong closure

Lebanese banks reopen partially after weeklong closure
Updated 26 September 2022

Lebanese banks reopen partially after weeklong closure

Lebanese banks reopen partially after weeklong closure
  • Lebanon’s talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout have progressed sluggishly

BEIRUT: Banks in crisis-hit Lebanon partially reopened Monday following a weeklong closure amid a wave of heists in which assailants stormed at least seven bank branches earlier this month, demanding to withdraw their trapped savings.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon said last Monday it was going on strike amid bank holdups by depositors and activists — a sign of growing chaos in the tiny Mideast nation.
Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks had last closed for a prolonged period back in October 2019, for two weeks, during mass anti-government protests triggered by the crisis. That year, the banks imposed strict limits on cash withdrawals, tying up the savings of millions of people.
The country’s economy has since spiraled, with about three-quarters of the population plunged into poverty. The Lebanese pound has lost over 90 percent of its value against the dollar.
The frustrations boiled over this month, with angry and desperate depositors — including one armed with a hunting rifle — started holding up the banks. One of them, Sali Hafez, broke into a Beirut bank branch with a fake pistol and retrieved some $13,000 in her savings to cover her sister’s cancer treatment.
However, only a handful of bank branches opened Monday — accepting only customers with prior appointments for corporate transactions. The partial reopening was to continue indefinitely, until banks can secure the safety of their employees.
Crowds of anxious Lebanese gathered around ATM machines.
“I’ve been here for three hours, and they won’t let me in or schedule an appoint,” Fadi Al-Osta told The Associated Press outside a bank branch in Beirut. “The security guards can let us in one at a time and check for weapons. Isn’t that their job?”
George Al-Hajj, president of Lebanon’s Federation of Bank Employees Syndicates, said branches have downsized, to have a larger number of security guards per branch.
“Our goal isn’t to harm anyone, but we want to go to work feeling safe and secure,” Al-Hajj said. “We’re also human beings.”
Tensions were simmering in the southern city of Sidon, where State Security forces armed with assault rifles stood outside some bank branches. Some police officers and army soldiers, whose salaries have lost over 90 percent of their value, unsuccessfully tried to break into a bank branch to collect small cash bonus recently granted by the government.
Lebanon’s talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout have progressed sluggishly, with authorities failing to implement critical reforms, including restructuring the banking sector and lifting banking secrecy laws. Last week, a visiting IMF delegation criticized the government’s slowness to implement desperately-needed financial reforms.


Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response
Updated 26 September 2022

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response

Iran says US trying to violate sovereignty over unrest, warns of response
  • Iran has said the United States was supporting rioters and seeking to destablize the Islamic Republic

DUBAI: US attempts to violate Iran’s sovereignty over the issue of protests triggered by the death of a woman in police custody will not go unanswered, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, after she was detained by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict restrictions on women’s dress.
The case has drawn international condemnation. Iran has said the United States was supporting rioters and seeking to destablize the Islamic Republic.
“Washington is always trying to weaken Iran’s stability and security although it has been unsuccessful,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told Nour news, which is affiliated with a top security body, in a statement.