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)
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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.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.


Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
Updated 12 August 2022

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
  • Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labour union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a "social contract" to tackle national challenges
  • The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page

TUNIS: Tunisia’s government and both its main labor and commerce unions agreed on Friday to start talks on Monday over economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue program.
State news agency TAP reported that Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labor union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a “social contract” to tackle national challenges, citing a government statement.
The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page.
The labor union, which represents a vast syndicate of workers, has been a staunch critic of IMF economic reforms proposed by the government, including subsidy cuts, a public sector wage freeze and the restructuring of state-owned companies.
It previously said, such reforms would increase the suffering of Tunisians and lead to an imminent social implosion.
Tunisia is seeking $4 billion in IMF support amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, though diplomat sources told Reuters any IMF program approved would be unlikely to reach that level.
The IMF wants the UGTT, a powerful union that has a million members and has previously paralyzed parts of the economy in protest, to formally agree to government reforms.
Efforts to secure the IMF bailout have been complicated by Tunisia’s political upheavals since President Kais Saied seized most powers a year ago, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree.
Last month, he pushed through a new constitution formalising many of the expanded powers he has assumed in a referendum. Official figures showed that 31 percent of Tunisians took part, but opposition groups have rejected the figure, calling it inflated.