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Civilians Flee Syria’s Aleppo as Battle for Manbij Continues

The U.S. military reported 11 airstrikes near Manbij, targeting Islamic State tactical units and fighting positions

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Members of Syria Democratic Forces battle Islamic State militants in Manbij, July 29, 2016. Image source: VOA
  • An anti-IS militia is battling the militants in the city, street by street, as coalition forces tighten a circle around Islamic State’s stronghold in the city
  • The special U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura urged Russia to let the world body take charge of any humanitarian corridors in and around Aleppo, allowing civilians to escape the embattled city
  • De Mistura said he was awaiting clarification from Russian authorities on how the plan would work while reiterating the U.N. position that no civilian should be forced to leave Aleppo

Syrian state media report dozens of families have been fleeing the besieged city Aleppo after government forces opened a humanitarian corridor. The city had been sealed off for weeks as Syrian forces bombarded the city. U.N. officials and aid groups have demanded the Syrian government open routes to the city for aid deliveries, warning the estimated 300,000 people there are facing dire food shortages.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State forces has reported more airstrikes on a key city outside Aleppo, where militants have been fighting to retain control of the city centre.

The U.S. military reported 11 airstrikes near Manbij, targeting Islamic State tactical units and fighting positions. The coalition also reported some nine strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

VOA’s Kurdish Service reports that fighting in the centre of Manbij is continuing amid the airstrikes. An anti-IS militia is battling the militants in the city, street by street, as coalition forces tighten a circle around Islamic State’s stronghold in the city.

Manbij Map. Image source: VOA
Manbij Map. Image source: VOA

One fighter told VOA he saw the bodies of several militants killed in Friday’s clashes on July 29, which started in the afternoon and continued after dark.

Separately, the U.S. military is assessing the third allegation into civilian casualties caused by a coalition airstrike near Manbij.

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Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Friday, July 29, that assessment of those claims is in an “early phase.” Rights groups claim about 25 civilians were killed by an errant airstrike Thursday, following two similar incidents that are already under investigation.

The Pentagon official said the military’s own internal reporting triggered an investigation of the incident. He added: “We will continue to work hard every day to execute our mission while doing our best to minimise the risk to innocent civilians, and to be transparent and accountable about those efforts.”

Aleppo humanitarian corridor

Although Syrian state media reported the Aleppo humanitarian corridor open on Saturday, U.N. officials have expressed scepticism that it will be useful while fighting rages on.

The special U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Friday urged Russia to let the world body take charge of any humanitarian corridors in and around Aleppo, allowing civilians to escape the embattled city. Russia has proposed opening up four corridors – to be administered by Russian and Syrian government forces – to allow civilians and fighters willing to lay down their weapons to leave rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

But scepticism remains over the plan.

“How do you expect people to walk through a corridor, thousands of them, while there is shelling, bombing, fighting,” De Mistura said.

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“The clock is ticking for the Aleppo population,” the U.N. envoy said, adding there is probably only enough food in Aleppo to last three weeks. “There is a strong sense of urgency, and that sense of urgency, I want to believe, was one of the reasons, if not the reason for the Russian side to come up with an initiative.”

FILE - People queue for bread in the rebel held al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, July 14, 2016. Image source: Reuters
FILE – People queue for bread in the rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, July 14, 2016. Image source: Reuters

De Mistura echoed calls by the U.N. humanitarian aid chief, Stephen O’Brien, for a 48-hour humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow emergency deliveries of food and other supplies into Aleppo, which has been cut off by pro-government forces since July 17. He also praised a statement from the International Red Cross that welcomed the Russian proposal, but noted such corridors should have the “consent of all parties on all sides.”

De Mistura said he was awaiting clarification from Russian authorities on how the plan would work while reiterating the U.N. position that no civilian should be forced to leave Aleppo.

Details of Manbij investigations

A coalition spokesman announced Wednesday that the U.S. military was formally investigating claims that an airstrike in Manbij on July 19 killed between 10 and several dozen civilians. The military also is assessing whether avoidable civilian casualties occurred during a July 23 strike on a village east of Manbij.

The coalition has conducted more than 520 airstrikes in support of the SAC push to reclaim Manbij from Islamic State fighters. Until now, the U.S. military has said its operations against Islamic State militants have resulted in 55 civilian deaths and 29 civilian injuries.

According to a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, there has been a total of 202 allegations of civilian casualties during operations against Islamic State, but only 59 of those have been deemed credible by the military.

Asked if the U.S. would stop conducting airstrikes until its investigations of the civilian casualty claims are complete, Cook told reporters that halting strikes would only leave local coalition-supported forces vulnerable to attacks by Islamic State extremists. (VOA)

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U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Demands Equal Pay with Men’s Team

From its earliest days, women’s soccer didn’t get much respect from sport organizers

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United States' Megan Rapinoe, center, celebrates team's victory with teammates after the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands. VOA

From its earliest days, women’s soccer didn’t get much respect from sport organizers.

Take the first World Cup in 1991, which wasn’t even called the “Women’s World Cup.” Sponsored by Mars Inc., the candy empire, the event was branded the “1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&Ms Cup.”

“They weren’t paid. They got $10 per diem a day. They were wearing hand-me-down uniforms. They weren’t staying in the best hotel rooms,” says Eileen Narcotta-Welp, an assistant professor of sport management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “They were literally eating Snickers and Pepsi to kind of fuel them through the 1991 game.”

The U.S. women won that tournament.

US, Women, Soccer
FILE — Brandi Chastain celebrates her game-winning shootout kick for the U.S. team against China during the Women’s World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., July 10, 1999. VOA

Today, female soccer players get paid, but not enough, according to a lawsuit the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) filed against U.S. Soccer, their employer, alleging, “institutionalized gender discrimination.”

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), also commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States.

The lawsuit alleges that female players each earn a maximum of $99,000 for a season, while the men make an average of $263,320.

In the 28 years since that first World Cup win, the U.S. women’s team has been wildly successful, taking home four Women’s World Cups in all, including the 2019 title captured on Sunday in a 2-0 victory over The Netherlands, four Olympic gold medals, and eight CONCACAF Gold Cups.

 

The U.S. men haven’t fared as well, failing even to qualify for the most recent men’s World Cup in 2018. In fact, throughout the tournament’s 89-year history, the U.S. men have never earned a World Cup.

And yet, despite a lackluster record, the U.S. men are paid significantly more than the women.

For example, there was a $730,000 gender pay gap in 2019 U.S. World Cup bonuses, according to The Guardian.

The world champion women’s team members — who were honored Wednesday in a ticker-tape parade in New York City — will earn a maximum of $260,869 each after winning the World Cup and going on a victory tour. But if the U.S. men had accomplished the same feat, each of them would have earned more than $1.1 million.

 

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FILE — In this Oct. 10, 2017, photo, U.S. player Christian Pulisic, (10) is comforted by assistant coach Dave Sarachan after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Couva, Trinidad. VOA

Each member of the U.S. women’s national team earned $90,000 in bonuses for reaching the quarterfinals. But if they’d been eligible for the same bonuses as the U.S. men, they’d have raked in $550,000.

Total prize money for all teams involved in the 2018 men’s World Cup added up to $400 million, while the women’s prize money total for 2019 is $30 million.

In a court filing in response to the lawsuit, U.S. Soccer argued that the difference in pay between the men and women players is “based on differences in aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”

The compensation issue was on the minds of fans in the crowd at Wednesday’s parade salute to the women’s championship team.

 

“They’re doing the same hustle,” says Jaida Brown, a spectator. “They’re out there in the media and they’re inspiring people, and that’s what I feel like it’s all about, so they definitely should get equal pay as a man.”

“The whole team has been very powerful, and it’s just really empowered me,” says Yvonne Duck, another who turned out for the parade. “As a woman, I really feel strongly that they should be paid equally. It’s so unfair.”

David Gibbs attended the parade with his two daughters, including a 9-year-old who plays soccer. He coaches her team, in addition to coaching in the recreational soccer league he plays in.

“The whole issue of them getting equal pay is something that they do in the workplace,” Gibbs says. “Why not in the sports arena, as well?”

 

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United States’ Megan Rapinoe scores the opening goal from a penalty shot during the Women’s World Cup final soccer match on July 7, 2019. VOA

Since winning the World Cup in 2015, the U.S. women’s soccer games have earned more revenue than the men, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the women generated $50.8 million in revenue between 2016 and 2018, while the men brought in $49.9 million.

The women’s earning power also extends to merchandise. Nike says the U.S. women’s soccer jersey is the top-selling soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever to be sold on Nike.com in one season.

Not only are the women paid less, but U.S. Soccer has used their success to try to jump-start interest in men’s soccer. In 1999, in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer scheduled men’s games right before the women’s matches in hopes of drawing more attention to the men.

“They did this kind of combination package to get people to watch the men’s game because they knew that people were going to come and watch the women,” says Narcotta-Welp. “I think that the USSF has consistently used the women as a way to propel the men’s team into visibility — financial visibility, spectatorship visibility,” she says.

But no matter how well the U.S. women perform for the masculine-oriented FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, it’s all still about the men’s game. According to Narcotta-Welp, FIFA won’t take U.S. Soccer seriously until it fields a formidable men’s team that can compete on the international stage.

“You don’t see FIFA pressuring other federations to invest more in the women’s soccer game,” she says. “They probably look at the United States and say, ‘Well, you’re riding high. You’re tough. You don’t need to do as much because your women’s game is already there.’”

After the U.S. women secured their second consecutive World Cup victory in Lyon, France, last Sunday, fans in the grandstands chanted, “Equal pay, equal pay.”

The U.S. women’s team filed their lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March, but agreed to focus on the World Cup first and then begin mediation on the issue of equal pay after the conclusion of the tournament.

For Narcotta-Welp, the general solution is simple, especially considering what the U.S. women’s soccer team has done for the sport.

“The women’s team in all of its iterations, literally has brought the game of soccer not only into conversations within American households, but this team is also the first to successfully market and sell soccer to a naive and seemingly indifferent American sports market,” she says. “At this moment, they are cultural icons and should be paid as such.” (VOA)