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Civil War: Disabled Syrian Refugees Flee across Mountains ‘Strapped to Horses’

With the new controversial deal between Turkey and Europen Union in place, Any refugee caught by the coast guard or the Navy will return back to Turkish soil

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A Syrian refugee family walks towards the new Syrian camp of Azraq, . Image source: VOA
  • Disabled refugees fleeing from Syria because of the civil war, face many problems from moving so frequently
  • Alan and his sister, Gyan, are one of many disabled refugees, and they say it is difficult to move from one place to another but they proved, they are not insurmountable.
  • The brother and sister duo along with the family first began their journey when IS attacked their hometown, Al-Hasakah

For anyone fleeing Syria’s civil war, the journey to safety is hazardous, sometimes deadly. For disabled refugees, the challenges are immense – but as siblings Alan and Gyan Mohammed proved, they are not insurmountable.

Alan, 30, and his sister, Gyan, 28, both have muscular dystrophy and are confined to wheelchairs.

Their extraordinary journey began in 2014 as the terror group Islamic State advanced toward their hometown, Al-Hasakah in northeast Syria.

The entire family tried several times to escape across the border to Turkey, but each time they say they were fired on by Turkish border guards and forced to turn back.

So they fled instead to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A year and four months later, Islamic State fighters swept across the region, forcing Alan, Gyan and their family to escape once more across the hostile, mountainous border with Turkey.

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“When we arrived at the top of the mountains, we took two horses, one for me and my disabled sister and one for our wheelchairs,” Alan said.

With Alan and Gyan strapped to either side of a horse, they eventually reached Turkey, where they paid people smugglers $750 each to take them on a boat to Greece. Alan says their small inflatable dinghy carried 60 refugees.

“Every time I looked around I saw babies, children, crying inside the boat. It was a very difficult moment.”

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The engine cut out soon after they left the Turkish shore. After 4 hours, they were spotted by EU patrol boats and taken to the Greek island of Chios.

Monica Costa Riba of Amnesty International found the disabled siblings and their family living in a makeshift refugee camp an hour outside of Athens. She says their story is inspiring, but it also highlights policy failures.

“This is a remarkable story that shows strength and resilience,” said Costa Riba. “But also it shows the failure of the European states to offer safety to these people that are fleeing persecution and the war in their countries.”

The Mohammed family’s arrival in Greece came just days before the European Union struck a deal with Ankara to return all refugees back to Turkish soil. But the route to Western Europe was now closed, and like 60,000 other migrants and refugees, the Mohammed family is now stranded in Greece.

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“What needs to happen is for the Greek authorities, with the assistance of the EU, to improve the living conditions of these people stranded in Greece. But ultimately, what really needs to happen is for the European governments to accept more refugees in their countries,” said Riba.

The EU’s proposed refugee relocation scheme is delayed amid growing opposition in Europe.

Alan Mohammed passes the time teaching English to refugee children. His family’s escape from terror marks a victory over adversity, but he says his journey is not yet finished. (VOA)

  • Ayushi Gaur

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President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

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Terrorism egypt
The president of Egypt Urges world leaders to take decisive action against states supporting terrorism. Pixabay

Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi Egypt
The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. VOA

The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.

Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.

Upcoming conference

El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.

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This photo provided by the office of Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, dignitaries including Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gather, for a photo during a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Egypt. VOA

He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”

El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.

After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Maritime border agreement 

El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

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Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital.  He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)