Australia to repatriate ‘most vulnerable’ children in Syria camps

Australia to repatriate ‘most vulnerable’ children in Syria camps
Children sit by their belongings while waiting to leave the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp in Hasakeh governorate of northeastern Syria. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 October 2022

Australia to repatriate ‘most vulnerable’ children in Syria camps

Australia to repatriate ‘most vulnerable’ children in Syria camps
  • Canberra’s plans to recover dozens of women, children come after years of suffering in prisons for Daesh members

LONDON: Vulnerable Australian children stuck in Syrian prison camps for Daesh members will be the first nationals repatriated home under the government’s plan, the Guardian reported.

While the most unwell children will be prioritized for return, some mothers face the risk of arrest when repatriated to Australia on terror charges.

There are some 60 Australian women and children in the detention camps in northeastern Syria, with all of them sharing links to former Daesh fighters who traveled from Australia to fight for the terror group. 

They have all been held for over three years in the camps, with almost 40 of them children, many born to Daesh brides since the start of the civil war in Syria. Some were even born in the Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps, where shocking conditions have caused several to die of frostbite, sickness and at the hands of violent inmates. 

Up to 30 people from the most vulnerable families will be prioritized by Canberra’s repatriation plans, with the main focus going to the sickest children or women who are believed to have been trafficked into the country by coercive Daesh fighter husbands.

The operation is expected to begin soon, with further repatriations following in the coming months as winter approaches.

The Guardian reported that many of the women set to return to Australia could face arrest back home.

Donald Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University, told the newspaper’s Australian edition: “That the majority of those in the Syrian camps are children raises Australia’s obligations under the convention on the rights of the child and the obligations to protect those children in circumstances when it is possible to do so.”

Rothwell added that because the adults are subject to Australian criminal law, they could be prosecuted for terroristic associations and actions.

“Any charges relating to those matters could be brought upon the adults entering Australia where they could potentially face arrest on landing,” he said.

The Guardian’s sources, who remained anonymous, said the operation was being conducted to support Australia’s national security interests as they would have the right to return at some point in the future, but leaving them in the camps raises the risk of further radicalization, putting Australians in danger.

The repatriation operation will be Canberra’s first since 2019, when the previous administration recovered eight orphans, including a pregnant teenager.

Most of the Australians are held in Al-Roj camp, which is located near the border with Iraq. The women in Al-Roj camp, who face the risk of arrest and further limits on their freedom back home, have volunteered to be subject to government control orders when they are returned.

The repatriation plans follow calls from the Syrian Democratic Forces, who run the Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps, and the local de facto government of northeastern Syria, which have urged Western governments to recover their citizens.

The shadow home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, said she opposed these plans while serving in the previous administration due to a perceived security risk.

“I wasn’t prepared to risk Australian officials going into Syria … to get these people out.

“And I was concerned about the risk of these people coming back to Australia, because they may not have been deradicalised and could well have been radicalised,” she said.

But the government’s environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said there would be “an ongoing expectation that our security and intelligence agencies will stay in contact with them and monitor them” once nationals are recovered from Syria.


Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage
Updated 10 sec ago

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage
  • Under an agreement signed on Tuesday in Rabat, they will cooperate in efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural property

RABAT: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will work with authorities in Morocco to protect heritage in Sub-Saharan African countries, under a partnership agreement signed in Rabat on Tuesday.

In particular they will cooperate in efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural property. They will also share their expertise in the protection of cultural artifacts with specialists in museums, promote the role of museums in African societies, create inventories, and train heritage-conservation experts.

The agreement was signed on behalf of Mohammed Mehdi Bensaid, the Moroccan minister of youth, culture and communication, and Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general.

 


Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

 Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’
Updated 11 min 11 sec ago

Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

 Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

TEHRAN: Tehran and Baghdad Tuesday identified fighting “terrorism,” maintaining mutual security and extending economic cooperation as key priorities during the new Iraqi prime minister’s first official visit to Iran.

Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani was received by President Ebrahim Raisi, who expressed hopes of bolstering ties that have lately been hit by tensions over Iran carrying out cross-border strikes against exiled opposition groups.

Al-Sudani came to power last month, after a year-long tussle between political factions over forming a government following an October 2021 general election.

“From our perspective and that of the Iraqi government, security, peace, cooperation and regional stability are very important,” Raisi told a joint press conference.

“As a result, the fight against terrorist groups, organized crime, drugs and other insecurity that threaten the region depends on the common will of our two nations,” he said.

Al-Sudani said that “our government is determined not to allow any group or party to use Iraqi territory to undermine and disrupt Iran’s security.”

Since nationwide protests erupted in Iran more than two months ago, Iranian officials have accused Kurdish opposition groups exiled in northern Iraq of stoking the unrest and the Islamic republic has repeatedly launched deadly cross-border strikes.

Such strikes — targeting Iranian-Kurdish groups in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region — resumed this month, even after Iraq’s federal government summoned Iran’s ambassador in late September to complain about cross-border missile and drone hits that killed at least seven people.

Iraq has announced in the past week that it will redeploy federal guards on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, rather than leaving the responsibility to Kurdish peshmerga forces — a move welcomed by Tehran.

Al-Sudani added that the two countries’ national security advisers would hold consultations to “establish a working mechanism for on-the-ground coordination to avoid any escalation.”

Al-Sudani also thanked Iran for its continued deliveries of gas and electricity, which have been in short supply in Iraq, while he also pointed to discussions on a “mechanism” to enable Iraq to pay Iran for these services.


Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
  • Family trip back home to India brings delight to employee
  • Super app had 10th anniversary in July

DUBAI: Hailing app Careem has celebrated the completion of 1 billion rides across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

The billionth journey was completed by Captain Razak Uppattil, who has completed 10,500 rides since joining Careem four years ago. 

To commemorate the milestone, the Dubai-based super app gave Uppattil a trip back home to visit his family in India.

He said: “It’s the people that I get to meet from all over the world that I really enjoy.

“I have three children back home in Kerala, India, and I am so excited I’ll see them soon.”

Genera Tesoro, who was Careem’s 1 billionth passenger, was given a year of ride-hailing trips to mark the milestone. 

Careem, which marked its 10-year anniversary in July, is now operating in more than 100 cities in 14 countries. It recently expanded its fleet in Qatar by more than 50 percent ahead of the World Cup.

 


US-backed force in Syria wants ‘stronger’ American warning for Turkiye

US-backed force in Syria wants ‘stronger’ American warning for Turkiye
Updated 21 min 18 sec ago

US-backed force in Syria wants ‘stronger’ American warning for Turkiye

US-backed force in Syria wants ‘stronger’ American warning for Turkiye

BEIRUT: The head of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Tuesday he still feared a Turkish ground invasion despite US assurances and has demanded a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments along the border.

Turkish officials said the army needed just days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria, which they have been attacking with long-range weapons and warplanes for days.

The bombardments come after months of threats by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of a new ground invasion against Kurdish forces, which he considers to be terrorists.

“There are reinforcements on the border and within Syria in areas controlled by factions allied to Turkiye. We noticed this and, yes, this is new,” SDF chief Mazloum Abdi said by phone from Syria.

Syrian Kurdish forces have received backing from Washington for years, but have also coordinated with Syria’s government and its ally Russia, both seen as foes by the US.

Abdi said he had received “clear” assurances from Washington and Moscow that they opposed a Turkish ground invasion but wanted something more tangible.

“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkiye,” he said. “Turkiye has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyzes the positions of other countries.”

The SDF and Ankara have traded accusations over who is violating a 2019 deal, brokered by the US and Russia to clear Kurdish militants out of border areas in exchange for Turkiye refraining from invading.

Abdi said his force had not been asked to withdraw from any further zones and would refuse if asked, adding that the main brokers of that deal were too preoccupied with Moscow’s war in Ukraine to enforce it properly.

“Everyone is busy. The Russia-Ukraine war has had a negative effect impact on these countries’ commitments in this region,” he said.

The SDF would not rely on Syrian air defenses, Abdi added, after previously telling reporters he hoped they would help defend his forces from Ankara’s air strikes.


Lebanese troops called in to halt drug turf war

Lebanese troops called in to halt drug turf war
Updated 29 November 2022

Lebanese troops called in to halt drug turf war

Lebanese troops called in to halt drug turf war
  • Lebanese troops were forced to step in to end the fighting in an area adjoining the Burj Al-Barajneh camp for Palestinian refugees
  • Clashes initially broke out when Hassan Jaafar, an alleged Syrian drug dealer with a Lebanese mother, began arguing with members of a rival family

BEIRUT: Rival drug-dealing families using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades brought mayhem to the streets of a southern Beirut neighborhood during a series of violent clashes on Tuesday.

Lebanese troops were forced to step in to end the fighting in an area adjoining the Burj Al-Barajneh camp for Palestinian refugees after members of the two families became embroiled in a dispute over drug trafficking.

Clashes initially broke out late on Monday when Hassan Jaafar, an alleged Syrian drug dealer with a Lebanese mother, began arguing with members of a rival family living in the same area, known as the Baalbekien neighborhood.

Samir Abu Afash, an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah movement in Beirut, told Arab News that Jaafar started “shooting randomly in the direction of the camp” due to a dispute with other gunmen.

“We feared that something was planned against the camp,” he said.

Abu Afash said that the PLO has pledged not to interfere in Lebanese affairs, or involve refugee camps in any disputes between the Palestinians and the Lebanese.

“So we contacted the Lebanese army and Hezbollah to stop the clashes. But the fights continued throughout the night and intermittently until the army intervened in the morning and entered the haven Jaafar had formed years ago for his gang and arrested two people. Jaafar remains at large.”

He added: “Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have repeatedly stressed that they do not provide cover for Jaafar, and when they do intervene, he usually lays low for a while. Jaafar was able to make a name for himself in the area and managed to bring in prohibited materials into the camp, including building materials for example, along with drugs.”

The army is believed to have seized stolen items, including motorcycles, during the raid.

Burj Al-Barajneh camp is home to over 35,000 Palestinian refugees, as well as some Syrians and Palestinians who fled from Syria.

Lebanese security forces are combating drug dealers in neighborhoods adjacent to the camp. According to a security source, dealers and distributors encourage people from the site to sell their drugs.

Havens for drug dealers and fugitives are common in various Lebanese regions, especially in Hezbollah areas in the southern suburbs of Beirut and in northern Bekaa, although the party claims to have nothing to do with them.

The problem appears to have worsened in recent months, with drug dealers even threatening the security services.

Lt. Col. Ibrahim Rashid, head of the regional anti-narcotics office in Tripoli, said that statistics showed an increase in the numbers of drug addicts and dealers since 2016.

The problem is placing greater strain on Lebanon’s security and judicial systems, he said.

“Drug users pose a threat to the lives of others, as well as to the security of society in their pursuit of theft, fraud, criminality and aggression,” he added.

Lebanon North investigative judge Samaranda Nassar told a recent seminar on Lebanon’s drug problem that rising rates of addiction are leading to an increase in thefts and murders around the country.

“We are confronting new types of drugs intended for young ages and adolescents, as well as digital drugs that are no less dangerous than traditional drugs in their effect on confusing the human brain,” she said.

“Stricter penalties need to be imposed on drug dealers. I am determined to take appropriate decisions and punish criminals.”