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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

    Disgrace to humanity

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Turkey Fines Facebook $280,000 Over Data Breach

Facebook expects the fine to be in the range of $3-5 billion and has kept aside $3 billion in legal expenses related to the investigation

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Turkey’s Personal Data Protection Authority has fined Facebook 1.65 million Turkish liras ($280,000) over data breach.

About 300,000 users in Turkey may have been affected by the data breach that exposed their personal photos in September last year.

According to the Turkish watchdog, Facebook failed to timely intervene to take proper technical and administrative measures during the 12-day existence of the bug last September.

According to a statement from Facebook in December, the company had discovered a photo API bug that allowed third-party applications to access the photos of Facebook users, reports Xinhua news agency.

At the time, Facebook said that the bug “might have exposed the non-public photos of 6.8 million users to around 1,500 apps built by 876 developers”, reports ZDnet.

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FILE – A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

The watchdog said it decided to fine the social network for failing to react in a timely manner and fix the bug, but also for neglecting to notify Turkish authorities of the incident.

The Turkish watchdog is also investigating Facebook for a September 2018 data breach, when unknown hackers exploited three bugs to steal the personal details of 50 million users — later adjusted to 30 million.

In March, Facebook disclosed yet another security incident, admitting to storing hundreds of millions of users’ passwords in plaintext, along with plaintext passwords for millions of Instagram accounts.

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In the US, Facebook is facing a hefty fine from the Federal Trade Commission over data privacy scandals.

Facebook expects the fine to be in the range of $3-5 billion and has kept aside $3 billion in legal expenses related to the investigation. (IANS)