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Beyond Borders : Syrian Refugee Re-unites with Family After a Year, Shares Kisses Through Wired Fences in Cyprus But Hopes to go ‘Home’ Someday

Survival in Syria has become increasingly difficult- the refugee revealed that natives have to either be a jihadist, or align with President Bashar al- Assad, or anyone else, and steal or kill

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Refugee
Ammar Hammasho from Syria, who lives in Cyprus, kisses his children who arrived at the refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia, outside Nicosia, Cyprus (VOA)

Cyprus, September 14, 2017 : After more than a year of separation, Syrian refugee Ammar Hammasho was finally, albeit briefly, reunited with his wife and four children through a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire in Cyprus.

Hammasho, who is from the war-ravaged Idlib region, fell to his knees and kissed each of his three eldest children through the three-meter-high barrier encircling a migrant reception center at Kokkinotrimithia, west of the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

The youngest son of the Syrian refugee, Jumah — named after their second-born who was killed in an air raid in 2015 — was held up by his wife, Shamuos. He kissed the protracted palm of Sham, his tiny daughter, who was dressed in a black frock neatly tucked in at the waist with a belt, small white jacket and pink sandals.

“The policeman told me to wait half an hour to finish the count. I couldn’t wait, I saw the kids through the fence and I did this,” he said, waving his hands over his head.

“The kids ran over. I just wanted to see them, for my heart to go back into its place,” the 34-year-old construction worker told Reuters on Wednesday.

The reunion came on Sunday, just hours after Hammasho’s wife and their children — aged 7, 5, 4 and 18 months — came ashore with 300 other Syrians in northwestern Cyprus after a 24-hour trip on a small boat from Mersin in Turkey, in what was one of the largest mass landings on the island since the Syrian war began.

Refugee
Ammar Hammasho from Syria, who lives in Cyprus, kisses his children who arrived at the refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia outside Nicosia, Cyprus (VOA)

Hammasho knew his family was trying to leave Syria, but didn’t know precisely when.

“When I read on the internet that about 250 were heading to Cyprus I knew it was them,” he said with a smile.

‘I will go home’ after war

Hammasho had taken a similar route one year ago, landing in Cyprus on Sept. 6, 2016. Working as a construction worker, he managed to amass the $6,000 to pay a trafficker to get his family to Cyprus.

He now has “subsidiary” protection status, which is one step short of being recognized as a refugee.

“I’m told they will be back with me on Friday, or maybe Sunday,” Hammasho said from a tiny bedsit in Limassol, a sprawling coastal city 100 km (60 miles) away from the reception camp.

ALSO READ Ground Report: How ISIS is ruining lives of people in Syria and Iraq

Speaking in the distinct Cypriot Greek dialect, he has the benefit of language and friends, having already worked four years in Cyprus from 2004 to 2008.

“I thought the minute I left [in 2008], that would be that. I built a house [in Syria]. I got married. I bought a field. Sixteen skales,” he said, using a Cypriot measurement term to describe his 1.6 hectares.

“I worked day and night, do you understand? Now I [still] have a field. But my house is dust.”

Hammasho’s second-eldest child, Jumah, was almost five when he was killed. Remaining in Syria was simply not an option, he said.

“Look, in Syria right now you cannot live a life. I don’t have a home. I lost a baby. … I don’t want to dirty my hands with blood, do you understand?

“If you want to eat bread … you have to have blood on your hands. You have to be either a jihadist, or be with [President Bashar al-] Assad, or anyone else, and steal or kill. And if you start that, you are finished. That is what life is like there now. I can’t do it. There are those who can.”

The table is strewn with his identification papers and the classified sections of newspapers, pinned down by an untouched pot of Arabic coffee.

His bedsit is small. Hammasho is looking for a house so he and his family can start anew. But he says it will only be temporary until the family can return to Syria one day.

“As soon as it stops, I’m leaving. I will go back to my field. I have a machine to extract water. I have fields to water. It’s my country and I will go home.” (VOA)

 

 

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We Will make you Zero To Hero: This is how Jihadist ISIS Lures Western potential Recruits

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats has concluded that ISIS often targets Western recruits with heroic outcomes

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ISIS actively Lures Recruits from the West for its Jihadi Agenda
FILE - Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, north Syria, June 30, 2014. VOA

Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard.

That’s the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it’s not necessarily all about Islam.

Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter’s standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.

ISIS targets Western recruits with Hollywood style heroism
Islamic State is recruiting Westerns by using Hollywood-style cinematics, like that seen in the story of “Wonder Woman,” in which a character learns his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero. VOA

“It’s the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that’s in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,” Pape said.

Heroic storytelling

The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.

Bruce Willis in movie Die Hard 4.0
FILE – U.S. actor Bruce Willis poses for the photographers during a photo call for his new movie “Die Hard 4.0” in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2007. VOA

The group’s success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS’ heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. “We have a pattern that’s emerging,” Pape said.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren’t sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS’ message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.

Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida’s. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.

“However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,” Katz said. “At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.”

Promise of martyrdom

When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.

The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.

Pape said he knows he’s challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group’s message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.

How else can one explain Western attackers’ loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS’s strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.

“This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,” Pape said, recalling Eastwood’s 1970s performance in High Plains Drifter about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. “When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he’s not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he’s saving. He’s saving it because he’s superior,” Pape said.

“That’s Bruce Willis in Die Hard. That’s Wonder Woman. … Hollywood has figured out that’s what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,” Pape said. “IS has figured out that’s how to get Westerners.”

12-step guide

Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler’s 12-step guide titled “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.” The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.

Step No. 1 in Vogler’s guide is portraying a character in his “ordinary world.”

An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida’s Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: “Let us tell you the story of a real man … Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.”

Vogler’s ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.

In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.

‘Zero to hero’

Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn’t surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the “zero to hero” strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.

Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.

“I’ve never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,” Levitt said. (VOA)

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Lost and Never Found : UN Experts Find Direct Link Between Enforced Disappearances and Migration, Claim Thousands of Migrants are at a High Risk

While enforced disappearances are widespread, it is not possible to document its scale and scope because the practice is hidden and takes place in secret.

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Enforced disappearances
Migrants line up as they wait to be evacuated from a makeshift street camp, in Paris, France Friday, July 7, 2017. Paris authorities are evacuating some 1,500 migrants from a makeshift street camp as Europe faces an upsurge in new arrivals. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) (VOA)

Geneva, September 14, 2017 : U.N. experts says thousands of migrants are at high risk of enforced disappearance. A special report by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances accuses states and the international community at large of turning a blind eye to the crime, which generally goes unreported and unpunished.

The report, presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, finds a direct link between enforced disappearances and migration. In some cases, it says, individuals may migrate because they may be at risk of enforced disappearance from their own governments or they could be abducted during their journey for political or other reasons.

It explains enforced disappearances can occur when a migrant is in detention or going through a deportation process. It can be a consequence of smuggling or trafficking.

ALSO READ Refugees and Migrant children more vulnerable to Deportation and Exploitation today: UNICEF

While the phenomenon is widespread, the vice chairman of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearance, Bernard Duhaime, told VOA it is not possible to document its scale and scope. That is because the practice is hidden and takes place in secret.

He adds it occurs in almost all parts of the world. For example, he notes cases of enforced disappearances in Libya and among refugees fleeing Syria.

“There are similar instances in South Asia, as well, in particular with the phenomenon of the migration of the Rohingyas. There are also examples documented … migrants crossing through Central America and through Mexico, as well who disappear.… The report refers to networks of traffickers and smugglers in Sudan, Eritrea – in that region, as well,” Duhaime said.

Experts warn the increasingly dangerous routes migrants follow expose them to greater risk of becoming victims of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.

The report calls on governments to gather all information about people who disappear in or while transiting their countries and to do what they can to locate missing migrants. (VOA)

 

 

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World Riddled with Genocide, War Crimes and Ethnic Cleaning; ‘We Must Do More’, Asserts UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The UN Secretary-General believes that more efforts and stringent action must be taken to reverse the prevailing negative trends and save civilians from different crimes against humanity

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Wikimedia
  • UN Secretary-General asserted that more efforts must be made to prevent growing crimes against humanity
  • He asserted that the need of the hour is to save civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate attacks happening all over the world
  • Antonio Guterres is the present UN Secretary General

United Nations, September 7, 2017 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for more efforts to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Civilians, including women and children, are being killed either deliberately or as victims of indiscriminate attacks, resulting in the high number of refugees and internally displaced people,” Guterres told a UN General Assembly informal dialogue on the responsibility to protect civilians on Wednesday.

“We must do more, and we must do better, to reverse these negative trends,” he said.

He said the UN must give greater attention to conflict prevention and he gave strong commitment to improving the capacity and coordination of the UN in atrocity prevention, Xinhua news agency reported.

The responsibility to protect still generates some discomfort for a number of UN member states. The main concern is that the principle will be used to impose international approaches on national problems, in ways that may harm national sovereignty, he noted.

“I have deep respect for national sovereignty. Indeed, the success of the UN in implementing its mandates depends on national actors being able to deliver on their sovereign responsibilities,” said the UN Secretary-General.

“Our shared challenge is to use the principle of the responsibility to protect to achieve the goals that were originally envisaged. I am convinced that open and constructive discussion among concerned states can overcome any remaining differences,” he said, adding that the UN member states have the primary responsibility to protect their populations.

“But should national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, then we must be prepared to take collective action, in accordance with the (UN) Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis.” (IANS)