IS rule in the city of Sarran ended eight months ago
The IS did not murder or behead residents in Sarran, but no lives were completely untouched by tragedy
Displaced families from Raqqa currently survive in refugee camps in the area that run short of basic amenities like food, clean water, and medicine
Syria, August 24, 2017: For 100-year-old Tamam Shaheen, the day Islamic State militants took over her village was not particularly memorable.
“One night Free Syrian Army rebels were occupying our village and the next day it just changed,” she said, sitting on the concrete floor of a one-room house with an unlit cigarette in her hand. “All those bearded people were here.”
During their rule over her village, Sarran, has militants ruined the local economy and forced villagers to adhere to dress codes. They tried, unsuccessfully, to enforce a strict no-smoking policy, but none of this impacted Shaheen’s life greatly.
But even the most benign corners of formerly IS-held territory were not spared personal tragedies. Shaheen’s grandson is now imprisoned amid the post-IS chaos, accused of fighting with the militant group.
“Militants ordered me to wear a veil on my face,” she said. “But I rebuked them. I told them ‘It is not your job to tell me what to wear!’”
Authorities holding 22-year-old Abdulrahman now, she said, are not so easy to rebuke.
In other parts of IS-controlled Syria and Iraq, IS beat husbands and fathers of women who refused to cover their faces. Locals have been imprisoned or even killed for smoking cigarettes.
Militants are now fighting to the death in the nearest large city, Raqqa, 60 kilometers away, but eight months ago in Sarran, IS just left.
Around the same time, Abudulrahman was returning to the village when he was arrested, according to his mother, Wahda Mustafa. The family and neighbors say he is disabled from a car accident and may have accidentally agreed he was guilty of crimes he didn’t commit.
“My son was coming home from Raqqa but the roads were blocked,” said Wahda Mustafa. “They picked him up at a checkpoint, but I don’t know why.”
Stigma after Raqqa flight
During the course of Shaheen’s 100 years, Sarran’s population grew from about four families to roughly 700 people. As IS is slowly being defeated in the region, the village is growing again.
Across a brown field of dust, displaced families from Raqqa crowd into a schoolhouse. Refugee camps in the area are notoriously short of food, clean water and medicine, baking in the desert in the hot summer sun.
But families say they pay a high price for the small comforts of settling in a village rather than a camp after fleeing IS. The displaced Raqqa residents are noticeably more conservative than the villagers, with the women remaining secluded inside, while local women in colorful dresses cook and smoke cigarettes in public.
Raqqa families are shunned and often presumed to be IS supporters, despite multiple investigations concluding they are innocent, according to Khalid Abdullah, 40, a former oil worker from Raqqa and a father of 11.
“I saw beheadings and hands cut off in the city,” he said under an awning near the school. “It was raining mortars when we ran away. But still, they call my son ‘IS’ when he goes out.”
The more lasting tragedies touching the lives of the people of Sarran come not from IS extremism, but from ordinary corruption. Before the war, the Syrian government had mandated that wealthy landowners in the area dole out portions of their fields to local farmers.
The farmers survived by working the land and reaping the profits. Under IS, bribes were paid and profits from the land reverted back to the rich, according to Ayman Kalaf, 19, one of Shaheen’s many grandsons.
Surrounded by other farmers, who nodded in agreement as he spoke, Kalaf described how under IS, his poor village became even poorer and families are still struggling to recover.
“Long ago this area was under a feudal system, with all of the valuable farms owned by the rich,” he said. “But modern governments required owners to divide some of their lands among local farmers. When IS came in, they gave the land back to the rich.”
And while their suffering may not be as dramatic or even traumatic as the suffering of families living under siege or hunted and sometimes slaughtered by IS, villagers say they already lived on the edge of survival in the best of times, and they barely made it through their time under IS.
“I have to take care of my house and children, and I work as a farmer,” said Umm Mohammad, a local women’s activist. “We build our own houses with bricks we make from the earth. Life here is hard.” (VOA)
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS
June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.
Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.
Confusion leads to mistakes
All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”
Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.
Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.
“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.
IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.
IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.
Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.
“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.
IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.
Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.
IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.
Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.
Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.
IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.
Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.
“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.
IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.
Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.
“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)
The dilemma of Refugees in India is nothing dissimilar to that of the world, denied the basic rights, they still struggle for livelihood
According to International law, A refugee is a person forced to leave his/her country in order to escape war, persecution or a Natural Disaster.
Those who suffer harassment on account of race, nationality, religion are also called Asylum seekers
The cornerstone reasons of ‘Refugee Crises’ are war, domestic conflict, natural disasters, environmental displacement, human trafficking and climate change
– by Naina Mishra
June 22, 2017:
As many as there are refugees in India, the status of the growing refugees is substantially poorer followed by a dearth of basic needs such as education, livelihood, sanitation, and health.
The partition era witnessed an exodus of people from one land to another owing to the formation of two different nations – India and Pakistan. The birth of the Independent India is also seen as one of the massive violent instances in the history of migration. UNHCR reported that 14 million people more have migrated at the time of partition as Hindus and Sikh moved to India and Muslims moved to Pakistan. The trauma can be ascribed synonymous to impact of First World War in Britain and Second World War for Japan.
The trauma was described synonymously to impact of First World War in Britain and Second World War for Japan by Historian Gyanendra as reported by Indian Express.
The refugees who left their property, houses, and families in the pursuit of better living in India have faced bigotry here as well.
According to 1951 census report, 7.249 million Hindus and Sikhs (and very small numbers of Muslims) were obligated to move to India from Pakistan directly after partition.
Existing Situation of Refugees
There are millions of refugees in India from different parts of the world. Nearly twenty-five thousand refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine stay in miserable condition in Delhi. Deprived of the legal framework, these refugees in India have only the UNHCR card as their only identity in India.
In addition to this, India still remains non-signatory to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, which help define the legal obligation of states to protect refugees. The World Refugee Survey by US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reports the number of refugees in India to be 456,000. However, the numbers of refugees who have registered with UNHCR are about 200,000.
The populace of India is broadly divided into Indian Nationals and foreigners. All the refugees are housed under foreigners, and hence there is no differentiation between Illegal migrant and Asylum speaker as defined by the section 2A of Indian Foreigners Act. In the absence of a specific refugee law, refugees are fundamentally protected under the Constitution of India only.
Submerging Cultural Identity of Tibetans
India has observed an exodus of more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees over the last 50 years following the 14th Dalai Lama footsteps. Nehru agreed to provide assistance to Tibetan refugees believing that they will soon make a return to their land. Now, the Tibetan Diaspora maintains a government in exile in Himachal Pradesh. Migration of people from Tibet in India is a serious concern as it poses threat to their identity and culture.
Lost Paradise of Kashmiri Pandits
Caught up in the armed resistance to Indian rule broke out in the Kashmir valley in 1989, the Hindus of Kashmir – Kashmiri Pandits who lived there for centuries were forced to leave their homeland.
On being asked by BBC to an old man the reason behind leaving Kashmir, he replied “Our people were killed. I saw a girl tortured with cigarette butts. Another man had his eyes pulled out and his body hung on a tree. The armed separatists used a chainsaw to cut our bodies into pieces. It wasn’t just the killing but the way they tortured and killed.”
Many refugees in Jammu are living in abject conditions in refugee camps.
Struggle of Bangladesh between East and West
At the time of Independence, Bengal was partitioned into India West Bengal and Pakistan East Bengal. Pakistan faced political disturbance right from its inception, which resulted in disintegration and emergence of Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. The brutal oppression of Pakistani Army upon the supporters of Independence of Bangladesh led to an exodus of refugees from East Pakistan to India.
The year 2001 saw many Bangladeshi Hindu families crossing the border into India to escape repression in Bangladesh.
Desire for Belongingness: Pakistan Hindu Refugees
There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in many Indian cities including Surat, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Bikaner. The year 2011 witnessed influx of the first few Hindu families from Pakistan, which settled Majnu ka Tila in Delhi and the league has continued since then. The police, here at the refugee camps have assaulted them and at times even seized their carts on repeated occasions.
In 2015, Government of India granted citizenship to 4300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Trepidation of War: Afghanistan
Afghan refugees in thousands of numbers have been coming to India since 1979 after the Soviet-Afghan war in the country. Approximately 60,000 Afghan refugees have fled to India since then. The government does not recognise Afghan refugees in India as refugees till now but has permitted UNHCR India for them.
Unprivileged Rohingya Refugees
Described as the least wanted and one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are deprived of the right to free movement and higher education.UNHCR estimates there are 5500 registered Rohingya refugees spread across India living in makeshift camps in precarious conditions without proper sanitation, food and education. The government of India has allowed UNHCR India to operate a program for them.
Why India Needs The Refugee Law?
Although India is an abode of a high number of Refugees, the country lacks legal framework and resources for their sustenance and there is no such term like “Refugee law India”. India has ignored the topic altogether hitherto. Countries like India that believes in peace, harmony and global brotherhood are a natural haven for refugees. Conversations about India’ asylum policy have risen with government highlighting human right abuses in Baluchistan. It remains the duty of the state especially one with a democratic setup to keep its doors open for people in distress.
The problems of Refugees in India is nothing dissimilar to that of the world. Women and girls face sexual violence. Despite being provided with the security by GOI, refugees still strive for livelihood in India as there are minimum laws to protect refugees in the country.
A Clear framework on entry, accommodation, rights and, responsibilities of refugees needs to be implemented. Clear roles for agencies, database and monitoring to refugee and asylum seekers should be monitored.
The government considered Tibetans and Sri Lankans in settlements and refugee and provided assistance to them, but since it regarded other groups as economic migrants, especially Bangladeshis, it did not provide them with aid.
Currently, it is religion specific and country specific. Since independence, India has kept a humanitarian stand on refugees, despite its own security concerns and economic challenges and population pressure. The need of an hour is to enact a uniform legislation and comprehensive guideline before they face crises like that of EU.
– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: Nainamishr94