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Yazidi Woman, having escaped from ISIS, Awaits Aid

But on her way to freedom outside the Iraqi town of Hawija, Bashar, 18, lost her sight in a blast from a land mine explosion. Her face was severely disfigured

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Lamiya Hachi Bashar
Lamiya Hachi Bashar, VOA

May 7, 2016:
When Lamiya Hachi Bashar escaped the house of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq in mid-April, she thought months of enslavement and IS terror were finally over.

But on her way to freedom outside the Iraqi town of Hawija, Bashar, 18, lost her sight in a blast from a land mine explosion. Her face was severely disfigured.

“Her right eye is pretty much gone, but her left eye can recover,” said Kurdish doctor Husain Bahrari, who treated her. “She also suffers from extensive facial laceration.”

Lamiya Hachi Bashar
Lamiya Hachi Bashar, Youtube

IS violence

Bashar, one of the thousands of Yazidis who have suffered under systematic violence by IS, is facing a bleak future. Her doctor told VOA that her complex injuries require treatment that is not available in Iraq.

“There needs to be a plastic surgery quickly to avoid scars that are unrecoverable,” Bahrari said. “A young girl her age needs that.”

But Bashar is waiting to get an entry visa to Germany and is facing uncertainty about who is going to pay for medical procedures, a German charity attempting to help her said.

She’s ‘traumatized’

“We are trying to get her to Germany, but the visa process is slow and we’re limited on resources,” said Mirza Dinnayi, head of the German-based Air Bridge Iraq. “The poor girl is traumatized and needs to resettle somewhere else. But this is not possible now.”

When IS attacked Bashar’s village of Kojo in August 2014, she and 12 members of her family were taken prisoner.

Around 5,000 Yazidi men and women were captured by the militants that summer. Some 2,000 of them managed to escape or were smuggled out of IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, activists say.

Related Article: ISIS eyes on the land of Tagore and Nazrul (Bangladesh)

“I was kept in a prison with my family for one month before they took me and my two sisters along with hundreds of the girls to [IS capital] Raqqa,” Bashar told VOA.

Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014.
Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014 (Photo courtesy of Bashar’s uncle, Idris Kojo)

VOA could not independently verify Bashar’s story.

While in IS captivity, Bashar said she was sold five times as a sex slave and faced mental and physical abuse. One IS leader in Mosul forced her into making suicide belts and preparing car bombs.

Marriage refused

IS fighters were coming many times to take them,” she said. “He [one IS militant] asked me to marry him. … I told him, ‘I won’t do this and I won’t help you.He hit me with hoses and floor squeegee handles. There was nothing left he didn’t use to beat me.”

Bashar was later sold to an IS doctor in the Iraqi town of Hawija, where she met two other Yazidi girls, Almas, 8, and Katherine, 20. They were able to secretly contact their relatives, who arranged with a middleman to facilitate their escape.

In mid-April, the girls started their dangerous journey to escape IS slavery to Iraqi Kurdistan. An Arab family also accompanied the girls, Bashar said.

Their facilitator took the group out of the city in a car, Bashar said. Their guide told them to avoid land mines that IS placed to stop people from fleeing.

“Katherine stepped on a mine, and all I saw after that was a bright light in front of my eyes,” Bashar said. “I called Katherine and Almas but all I heard was an ‘ah’ from Katherine.”

The girls died at the scene, their bodies left in a field. Bashar, who was injured, does not remember how she was rescued. Family members say her guide took her to the Kurdish Peshmerga.

Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Bashar’s uncle, Idris Kojo)

After initial limited medical treatments, Bashar is waiting at the home of relatives.

The German group trying to help her said it could take six months before Bashar can get a resettlement visa.

“To avoid further delays, we have applied for a three-month treatment visa, which I hope will be ready soon,” charity worker Dinnayi said.

Future medical care

When she is in Germany, there will be donation campaigns to get her the funds she needs for medical care.

However, “I can’t say how long this will take,” Dinnayi said.

The mayor of the Yazidi town of Sinjar, Mahma Khalil, said the Kurdistan region has done its best to help thousands of Yazidi victims but has limited resources.

“We ask the U.N., humanitarian organizations and other countries to help them recover,” he said.

Despite her trauma, Bashar remains optimistic and grateful.

I would rather stay here blind than being with them [IS] sighted,” she told 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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UN Official: Over 13 Million People Inside Syria Need Aid

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Islamic State militants
People displaced in fightings between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants are pictured at a refugee camp in Ain Issa, Syria. VOA

More than 13 million people inside Syria still need humanitarian assistance and nearly half are in “acute need” as a result of having fled their homes, of hostilities, and of limited access to food, health care and other basic needs, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday.

Mark Lowcock told the Security Council the number of Syrians who have been displaced within the country for a long time has dropped from 6.3 million to 6.1 million. But he said “levels of new displacement remain high,” with 1.8 million people reportedly forced to leave between January and September.

Since just the offensive began in November 2016 that ousted the Islamic State extremist group from the city of Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital, airstrikes and clashes resulted in over 436,000 people being displaced to 60 different locations, Lowcock said, speaking via video conference from Amman, Jordan.

In the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, he said, heavy fighting and airstrikes continue to cause civilian deaths and injuries as well as large-scale displacement. The International Organization for Migration reported some 350,000 people forced to flee since August, including more than 250,000 in October, he said.

Lowcock said airstrikes on the city of Al Mayadin in Deir el-Zour in mid-October left hospitals and medical facilities “inoperable,” depriving about 15,000 people of health care. He said the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and the World Health Organization reported that the attacks destroyed a cold room where at least 140,000 doses of U.N. provided measles and polio vaccines were destroyed.

“This is a particular setback for efforts to check one of the world’s largest polio outbreaks in recent memory, an outbreak which continues to plague Deir el-Zour in particular, with new cases continuing to be reported,” Lowcock said.

He said nearly 3 million people continue to live in besieged and hard-to-reach areas where the U.N. faces “considerable challenges” in meeting humanitarian needs.

Lowcock said there was an expectation that progress in de-escalating fighting would result in increased humanitarian access but “this has yet to materialize.”

On average, he said, only 10 percent of people in besieged locations were reached with U.N. assistance every month this year.

In the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, “one of the four de-escalated areas where nearly 95 percent of Syria’s besieged population lives,” shelling has been reported in recent weeks and humanitarian access has been severely curtailed for months, Lowcock said.

“Since the start of the year, 110,000 people have received food assistance, out of an estimated population of nearly 400,000,” he said. “Today, the U.N. and partners delivered food, nutrition and health assistance to 40,000 people.”

Lowcock said “an alarming number of child malnutrition cases” have been reported in eastern Ghouta and more than 400 people with health problems need medical evacuation.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, called the situation in eastern Ghouta “atrocious,” saying de-escalation should not mean bombardment.

“What we fear is that the de-escalation zone is becoming a starvation zone,” Rycroft said. “So we call on the Syrian regime and their allies to lift the blockade to allow humanitarian aid to get through.”(VOA)

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Planning to move Abroad for Higher Education? Here is a list of 5 Most Affordable Destinations to Study Abroad

Here is a list of some of the most affordable destinations to study abroad!

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affordable destinations to study abroad
Choosing to study abroad can be a tough call, and you must consider all factors before you make a decision. Pixabay

Planning to move abroad for higher education?

Access to education is one of the most basic rights of people across the world. However, when it comes to pursuing higher education from international universities, it seems like there are only a few who can afford to study at a destination of your choice.

While the thought of moving abroad and living in a new place with people from different faiths and nationalities can be extremely exciting, there are a few things you must responsibly think about before you take a final decision. The cost of tuition fees, food bills, rent are some of the important aspects to think about and plan before making a call.

Still, living abroad doesn’t come cheap. Wondering about affordable destinations to study abroad? We have got you covered!

 1. GERMANY

With more than 350 universities and institutions offering over 800 courses to make a choice from, Germany makes one of the better and affordable destinations to study abroad. As an emerging education destination, Germany has witnessed an increasing trend of international students with as much as a 14 per cent increase between 2013 and 2015.

Germany is believed to have some of the best academic infrastructures in the world that focus not only on education, but holistic development of the student. The country is also considered to be the one of the top countries to attain specialization in disciplines relating to engineering and technology.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Germany. Pixabay

While knowing a new language is always a benefit, students need not know German for courses opted in English.

Despite being a nation in central-Europe, the cost of living in Germany is surprisingly low when compared to other European countries. According to data available on the internet, Germany has a lower cost of living than Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

As per information by the German Academic Exchange Service, international students are believed to spend about 725 Euros as part of their daily expenses while local students spend about 864 for their expenses.

Apart from low sustenance costs, German universities have little to no tuition fees which make them an attractive choice as one of the affordable destinations to study abroad.

 2. FINLAND

The Finnish education system has been ranked as one of the best in the world. The country offers a wide variety of courses to choose from and a student can go to Finland as a student for a complete academic degree, an exchange student or as a trainee.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Finland. Pixabay

Regardless of your nationality, students are exempted from paying tuition fees at Finnish Universities which makes the country a good choice for one of the most affordable destinations to study abroad. However, there are some exceptions in case of a few master’s degrees and programmes.

Since all education costs are born by the Finnish government, students going to the country for Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees do not have any scholarship. However, students joining Finnish universities for doctoral studies and research can avail certain scholarships.

The country has a reputation for a high cost of living in comparison to other countries but Helsinki is suggested as the most affordable city in the region.

 3. NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has a lot to offer to international students. With cheaper cost of living than nearby places like Australia and reasonable tuition fees, New Zealand has emerged as one of the most affordable destinations to study abroad.

There are 8 universities in New Zealand that comprise a safe and welcoming community and offer high quality of education.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of New Zealand. Pixabay

The country has an extremely flexible education system that can comfortably match the budget of students and offers great value for money. International students can further avail several scholarships that are provided by the New Zealand government, foreign governments, educational institutions, and private sources.

There is no stipulated figure for the annual living expenses incurred by international students as that can vary depending upon the university chosen by every individual student. However, the New Zealand government suggests having up to 15,000 dollars to comfortably cover expenses during the first year of study.

 4. SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is next on our list of most affordable destinations to study abroad.

Tuition fees in South Africa depend upon your choice of university and the education programme.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of South Africa. Pixabay

Nearly all higher education institutes in South Africa comprise of student support offices that help student find and settle into their chosen programmes and accommodations which are available both, on campus and within close proximity to the university campus.

The cost of living in South Africa is relatively low. As per data on the internet, students can estimate an expense of about 980 USD per month, which will include student’s accommodation, food expenses, bills and travel.

These lower costs mean students need not spend exorbitant prices during their student years, in comparison to expenses in other developed countries.

 5. CANADA

Canada has long been one of the preferred countries by people from all parts of the world, courtesy its warm and welcoming society. The country has fast emerged as a preferred location for international students too.

affordable destinations to study abroad
Flag of Canada. Pixabay

Apart from being extremely peaceful, safe and welcoming, Canada is known worldwide for its high standard of living and low cost of living for students.

Canada is known to have some of the cheapest tuition fees for international students when compared to other English-speaking universities. As per data available on the internet, international students bear an annual expense within the bracket of 20,000 to 30,000 Canadian dollars, which includes their tuition and living expenses.

Students enrolled in any Canadian university and aged between 18 and 25 can avail discounts when purchasing their monthly transport pass. Students need not spend much on food bills, either.

All these factors when combined together make Canada one of the most sought after and affordable destinations to study abroad.

Choosing to study abroad can be a tough call, and you must consider all factors before you make a decision. We wish you all the best!

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala