Turkey

500000 Syrians will return to Afrin after fighting ends says Turkeys First Lady

 
 

Some half a million displaced Syrians are expected to return to Afrin after fleeing to Turkey during the Operation Olive Branch offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the northwestern Syrian province, Turkey’s First Lady Emine Erdogan announced on Friday, it was reported by Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News.

“The aim of this operation is to ensure safety in the region. When security and stability is ensured in the region with Operation Olive Branch, new flows will be stopped and those who are already here [in Turkey] are expected to be able to go back to their country,” the wife of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a conference in Istanbul.Despite her husband’s concerted show of political and military might in the region, which many believe to demonstrate his designs for the Middle East, Emine Erdogan stressed Turkey’s humanitarian efforts during the Syrian conflict.

“We face a moral issue in Syria, not a political one. People have been losing their homes, their family members and their health for seven years in Syria. International institutions, non-governmental organisations and states need to come together around alarming problems,” Erdogan said.

“Turkey has been hosting nearly four million Syrian refugees for several years. The government, NGOs and people are all doing their best to improve the situation for these people. There is no other country demonstrating this level of unified effort for refugees anywhere in the world,” she added.

“After Operation Olive Branch, nearly 500,000 people are expected to return to Afrin,” she noted. She did not elaborate further on the process of returning Syrian refugees.

Continued fighting in Syria’s northern provinces has spurred new waves of immigration across the border into Turkey, consisting of tens of thousands of families, according to aid organisations.

Reports that Turkish border forces have been shooting indiscriminately at fleeing Syrians led to Human Rights Watch (HRW) to issue an urgent plea to Turkey to end its use of “lethal force” against Syrian refugees, and to stop forcibly returning them back to the unsafe conditions from which they fled.

“Conditions in Syria are not safe for refugee returns,” HRW’s deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih said.

“With hostilities in Afrin contributing to the growing displacement crisis in the country, Turkey should allow the thousands of desperate Syrians seeking refuge to cross the border,” Fakih added.

 

How one family’s loss led to a Syrian family’s home in Cape Breton

Before he died, a Baddeck man decided he wanted his house to become home to a Syrian refugee family

By Wendy Martin, CBC News Posted: Feb 18, 2018

Bill Fraser of Baddeck, N.S., passed away last month, but his empty house will now become a home for a Syrian family of six.

Bill Fraser of Baddeck, N.S., passed away last month, but his empty house will now become a home for a Syrian family of six. (Submitted by Lorna Fraser)

 

Shortly before he entered a care facility a few months ago, Bill Fraser of Baddeck, N.S., was thinking of what might happen to his empty house.

“He said to me, ‘Lorna, what do you think of this family of Syrian refugees? Could that be a nice use of my home?'” recalled his sister, Lorna Fraser.

Bill Fraser thought he would eventually recover from ill health and return to Baddeck. But he died last month.

Now, his sister has arranged to lease his house and has donated most of its furnishings to a Syrian family of six who will arrive in the Cape Breton village later this spring.

 

Esmaeels family

The Esmaeels will soon arrive in Baddeck, N.S., from Jordan. (Submitted by Syria to Baddeck Committee)

 

“Out of sadness comes good things, sometimes,” said Jennifer MacDonald, a member of the Syria to Baddeck steering committee.

She said the committee had been looking for months for a suitable house, but there was little available in the community of 800.

Fraser’s house is ideal, she said, adding that it has three bedrooms and is within walking distance of the school and grocery store.

“It’s also avoided us having to do any sort of major furniture drive,” said MacDonald, “because the house is essentially move-in ready.”

 

Big relief to have living arrangements

The Syria to Baddeck committee began raising money in November 2015 to bring a family to the island. To date, the group has raised close to $40,000.

MacDonald said there have been a number of delays, due largely to a backlog in the private sponsorship refugee program.

 

Bill Fraser 2

Lorna Fraser says her brother Bill Fraser, pictured here, would be pleased that the Syrian family will be moving into his former home. (Submitted by Lorna Fraser)

 

The committee now expects the family, which includes four children between the ages of four and 14, to arrive in March or April.

MacDonald said it’s a big relief to know their living arrangements are in place.

A man ‘supportive of community’

Lorna Fraser said she believes her brother would be pleased with the outcome.

“He was very much supportive of community, and what community could do for you, and would really want to be helping this family.”

Article from:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/baddeck-home-syrian-family-bill-fraser-1.4539430

Syria is on the brink of partition – here’s how it got there

By Scott Lucas
Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

After nearly six years of uprising, conflict and chaos, the partition of Syria is imminent. President Bashar al-Assad will of course rail against it; his crucial ally Iran will probably resist too, and the marginalised US won’t even acknowledge the prospect. But the lines are nonetheless being drawn.

With pro-Assad forces back in control of Aleppo city, a newly co-operative Turkey and Russia are ready to pursue partition as a short-term resolution. The Syrian opposition and many rebels will embrace it as their best immediate option, and the leading Kurdish political and military groups will settle for whatever autonomy they can get. If things continue shaping up this way, by the end of 2017, Syria will quite probably become a country of four parts.

The Russia- and Iran-backed Assad regime is set to hold much of the south and west, and most of Syria’s cities. There’ll most likely be a Turkish/rebel area, effectively a “safe zone”, in parts of northern Syria; the Syrian opposition will probably control Idlib province and possibly other pockets of territory in the northwest; while the Kurds will have some form of autonomy in the northeast.

A settlement like this has been a long time coming. Neither the Assad regime nor its enemies will settle for just a part of Syria, and both have survived years of intense conflict. The opposition and rebels still control territory from the north to the south; Assad clings on with the help of Russian aerial bombardments and Iranian-led ground forces. All the while, the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia are still defending territory against both IS and the Assad regime.

If the lines of a potential partition were clear some time ago, what stood in the way of recognising them was the challenge of Aleppo city. Without recapturing it, the Assad regime had no hope of claiming an economic recovery (however disingenousouly) in the areas it controlled, let alone in the entire country. But the city was surrounded by opposition-controlled territory; Assad’s military was far too depleted to change the game, and even with outside support, its campaign would be protracted.


The deal

The turning point came in August 2016 when Turkey and Russia began to reconcile. The two countries had always been on opposite sides of the conflict, Turkey supporting the opposition and rebels and Russia Assad. Their relations had been tense since November 2015, when Ankara’s jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border. But within a year, both saw the advantages not only of reconcilation, but of agreeing on what their respective spheres of influence in Syria should be.

A deal was quickly established: Turkey would accept the reoccupation of all of Aleppo city by pro-Assad forces, supported by Russian-Syrian siege and bombing tactics, while Moscow would accept a Turkish military intervention alongside rebels in northern Syria, including much of Aleppo province.

Bashar al-Assad visits his soldiers. SANA/EPA

Bashar al-Assad visits his soldiers. SANA/EPA

Which is where we are now. Civilians and rebels have been evacuated from or allowed to leave the last opposition holdouts in eastern Aleppo city. The Turkish-rebel offensive continues to push back IS, although it is facing difficulties in its assault on al-Bab, the group’s last major position in Aleppo province.

A national ceasefire, brokered by Turkey and Russia in the last days of 2016, but pro-Assad forces are breaking it in offensives near Damascus. The two countries are trying to arrange political talks between the regime and the Syrian opposition later this month in Kazakhstan.

As Andrey Kortunov, director of a think tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, summarised it to Reuters: “There has been a move toward a compromise … a final deal will be hard, but stances have shifted.” The same story quotes a “senior Turkish government official” explaining that the convergence “doesn’t mean we approve of Assad. But we have come to an understanding. When Islamic State is wiped out, Russia may support Turkey in Syria finishing off the PKK.”

So can the Turkish-Russian initiative win over (or put down) everyone else who has a stake in the outcome?

The obstacles

The biggest immediate challenge is in the opposition-controlled areas near Damascus. The Assad regime has already taken back many of the suburbs, but two key areas are still beyond its control: Wadi Barada to the northwest, and East Ghouta and Douma to the northeast.

Wadi Barada is home to the al-Fijah springs, which provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Since mid-December 2016, the Assad regime’s forces and Hezbollah have been trying to overwhelm it with bombing, shelling, and ground assaults. In the process, the pumping station for the springs has been damaged, cutting off or limiting water to about 5.5m people.

Damascus faces a water crisis. EPA/Youssef Badawi

Damascus faces a water crisis. EPA/Youssef Badawi

At the same time, the Syrian Army and its allied militias are trying to take more territory near Douma, which is the centre for the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam. Turkey is critical of the offensive, Russia is staying silent, and the Iranian government and possibly its military are backing it.

Then there’s the Syrian Kurdish movement. The PYD would like to unite its area in the northeast with a Kurdish canton in the northwest, while Turkey would like to push back any Kurdish zone of influence and elevate other Kurdish groups over the PYD. With the Assad regime opposed to Kurdish autonomy of any sort, the only agreeable option may be containment: Turkey will probably accept a Kurdish area east of the Euphrates River, limiting any zone of control or potential military advance. The PYD, knowing it has no powerful backing, will accept the offer, even if it isolates the Kurdish area in and near Aleppo city.

A Kurdish YPG fighter in northeastern Syria. EPA/Mauricio Morales

A Kurdish YPG fighter in northeastern Syria. EPA/Mauricio Morales

As for Assad himself, the Syrian opposition continues to demand that he step down – but few others are bothering any more. The US effectively gave up the cause in 2012, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have gone quiet, and Turkey seems not to care much. He may one day be offered the chance to step down peacefully when elections are arranged, but in the meantime he will stay where he is.

Confronted with the increasingly effective Turkish-Russian axis, a US official opted for condescencion: “So this country that essentially has an economy the size of Spain, that’s Russia, is strutting around and acting like they know what they are doing. I don’t think the Turks and the Russians can [negotiate] without us.”

This is pure bluster. For three years now, Russia has been feigning co-operation with the US, and in the process has deftly manoeuvred its Western rival onto the sidelines. If Washington pushes back too hard, it could wreck its relationship with Turkey – which grants it access to key airbases – and end up framed as the main obstacle to a major breakthrough.

The events of the last seven months have only reconfirmed what’s been clear for some time: there is no optimal solution to the Syrian crisis. Partition is far from ideal, and it may only be short-term — but at this point, it’s the only viable alternative to endless slaughter, displacement, and destruction.

Article from: http://theconversation.com/syria-is-on-the-brink-of-partition-heres-how-it-got-there-70825

Its Syrian Genocide not Syrian Civil War by Assad Regime

Dear Politicians around the world, if you are not too busy, please watch this video!

Stop the bloodshed in Syria, save the rest!

A Syrian bodybuilder in prison: Rife with contagious disease starvation

While in prison for nearly two-and-a-half years, Shahabi went from 273 pounds to just 97. Photo courtesy of Ibrahim Shahabi

While in prison for nearly two-and-a-half years, Shahabi went from 273 pounds to just 97. Photo courtesy of Ibrahim Shahabi

 

A Syrian bodybuilder in prison: Rife with contagious disease, starvation, ‘I buried prisoners with my own hands’

A recent SNHR report estimates the number of arrests by all parties over the course of the Syrian war at 215,000 people, the vast majority detained by Assad regime agents.

One of these detainees was Ibrahim Shahabi, a well-known bodybuilding champion from Aleppo. He was arrested at his gym on charges of selling pharmaceuticals without a license in late January 2011, charges Shahabi calls “preposterous and totally untrue.”

And so began 30 months of a prison sentence that left those who did not die so hungry that they ate pieces of the wall. Shahabi’s description of prison life resembles the Middle Ages in every way, down to the guards fearing contagious diseases from the increasingly ragged prisoners: “They would throw us our measly rations from the bottom of the cell door, and if someone died, they would throw us the key from the cell window so we could bury the victim in the yard,” he tells Syria Direct’s Alaa Nassar.

Shahabi, who had family and friends active in the Free Syrian Army (FSA), was one of seven detainees released during an FSA-regime prisoner exchange in July 2013.

After leaving prison 176 pounds lighter along with several unhealed broken bones and other injuries, Shahabi is now back to training. Today he lives in Turkey, and is competing again in international bodybuilding competitions—under the revolutionary banner.

Q: When was your arrest? What were the charges against you, and why was your release delayed if these charges were fabricated?

I was born in 1977 in the city of al-Baab a-Shamali in Aleppo province to a well-off family. I opened a gym after finishing my compulsory service in Syria and I too was doing well.

I was arrested on January 28, 2011 and sent to the central prison in Aleppo after being accused of illegally selling pharmaceuticals without a license. These accusations are preposterous and totally untrue. I was a member of the Syrian Sports Federation and a certified international referee. I had won more than 15 awards in Syrian and Arab bodybuilding competitions.

Before my arrest, I was traveling and studying in Europe. I was learning how to design women’s shoes and training young people in gyms. In 1996, I came back to Syria to see my parents after a long time away, but the authorities stopped me at the airport and immediately dragged me off to perform my compulsory military service, believing me to be a deserter.

I spent five years in the military and subsequently in prison as a punishment for fleeing my service. After I finished my prison term, I decided to open a gym in Aleppo and settled down in my hometown. That is, until 2011 and the arrest.

At the time of my arrest, I was at my gym, which I opened in the Hanaano district [a neighborhood in northeast Aleppo city]. I was arrested on drug smuggling charges. Obviously, I had absolutely no connection to this. I was an international athlete and won international medals across Europe and in Syria.

With regard to my delayed release, the prison officials cheated everyone out of their money. Every single dollar that was spent to secure our release was in vain; the regime did not release a single person. On the contrary, we were exposed to the worst types of abuse and torture in prison, and I was one of those victims. Just compare the pictures and videos of me from before and after my arrest and you will see the violence and starvation that I faced in prison.

While in prison for nearly two-and-a-half years, Shahabi went from 273 pounds to just 97. Photo courtesy of Ibrahim Shahabi.

Q: Tell us about what you experienced in prison.

One time I tried to escape along with 13 other prisoners, but once we reached the prison wall, the sniper locked in on me. The guards arrested me along with 10 prisoners, though three were able to escape. They later appeared on Al Jazeera together where they talked about their suffering in the prison. Meanwhile, we returned to our cells where the guards tortured us and broke our bones. Despite these incomprehensible struggles, I did not surrender; rather, what I saw and what I experienced in the prison strengthened my resolve and my determination not to become a victim of these heinous crimes.

Since the beginning of the revolution and our arrest, we were isolated from the rest of the prisoners in an attempt to portray us as terrorists. There were approximately 630 prisoners, with five people to a cell, rooms no bigger than 1 x 1.5 meters. After our failed escape attempt, each person was individually isolated.

During this time, people died, whom I buried with my own hands. In the end, only one other person besides me survived. It was only because of my athletic physique that I was able to bear the physical pressures, psychological torture, and the slow death in comparison to those prisoners who were less fortunate.

The guards forced us to bury our dead in the prison yard out of their fear of getting infected by our diseases.

I don’t know where to begin in describing the regime’s brutality towards its political prisoners; it’s unspeakable. The methods of torture were unimaginable, something that no human mind can comprehend. Even as we filed out after being tortured, one by one we would be struck without reason with metal rods—blows raining down on our heads and bodies with reckless abandon.

I came out of prison with three fractures to my head, one to my shoulder, and a deformed back all due to these beatings. Since leaving prison, I have undergone 11 plastic surgery operations for my back, and still I suffer from the fractures that I sustained while in prison. The operations, which are still ongoing, have cost $30,000.

As prisoners, we received monthly rations of one loaf of bread and two liters of water. That’s it. In spent 30 months in this environment with many prisoners. I came in weighing 124 kilograms (273 pounds). By the time I left, I weighed only 44 kilograms (97 pounds).

Worms were eating at my friends. Those who managed to cling to life were filthy beyond imagination. We had such little water and were not allowed to bathe, which led to the spread of tuberculosis and diarrhea, which I suffered from. Having bread and water, this was a dream for us. We were eating the wall out of sheer hunger. Throughout all of this, it was forbidden for any guard to speak with us.

Q: Can you describe the process of being tortured?

For the first six months, the torture was every hour. It came in so many ways, without mercy or compassion. However, after tuberculosis, diarrhea, and other infectious diseases came into the barracks, the guards refrained from entering out of fear that they too would be infected. They would throw us our measly rations from the bottom of the cell door, and if someone died, they would throw us the key from the cell window so that we could leave to bury the person in the yard.

Q: How did you learn of the deaths of your friends? How did you inform the prison guards of the news?

I would shout loudly and continuously until they responded. We were all isolated, trapped behind bars, and so everyone was accountable for the person in the next cell over. We would call to the next cell, and if the person responded, he was alive. If he didn’t respond, that meant he was dead, in which case we’d call the guards so that we could bury him.

One of my relatives was an assistant officer in the prison, and he was shocked when he saw me still clinging to life. I didn’t take advantage of his being there because the guards were prohibited from entering except for one Alawite officer [names officer.]

It’s also worth mentioning that my relative left with the Red Crescent and defected during the course of our release.

Q: When and how were you released?

I was released on July 10, 2013 following negotiations that the Red Crescent mediated between the opposition and the regime. Seven people were released from prison, myself included, in exchange for three officers, including a shabiha commander.

My name was the first one to be submitted for release given my close ties with the Free Syrian Army. Several of their leaders, particularly my brother in the a-Tawhid Brigade, were demanding my release.

Q: How did you rebuild your life following your release?

After my release from prison, I left Aleppo and went to Turkey on April 2, 2014. I got back into sports and physical training, and, thanks to God, began working as a trainer at a sports club in Istanbul.

I’ve coached five Syrian champions in Turkey, including Hassan a-Nasan, Mahmood Hassan, and Hassan al-Khalid, who have performed very well on the national level. I am now training to participate in the European Bodybuilding Championships under the Free Syria banner.

I have been very vocal in my dissent against the regime, and when I participate, I will raise a photo of Erdogan because he is the only one who has supported me in my recent competitions.

Q: Describe the challenges you faced as an athlete before the revolution. Contrast that with your participation in the Public Authority for Youth and Sports, an organization funded and supported by both the opposition in exile and the Turkish government.

Regarding the pressures that we faced before the revolution, the regime always played dirty and trampled on our rights. For example, every year in the city of Basil in Latakia province, there was a tournament called “Mr. Beach.” These Alawite guys would participate, and, of course, every year they would come in first place in the tournament even if the competitors had better bodies.

We also never received any of the prize money that the Sports Federation provided for the athletes. It was either stolen or distributed to the Alawite athletes.

Today, the situation is completely different. It’s possible for us to voice our opinions, work together, and do everything in our power to comfortably train our young men and women with the support and cooperation of the Public Authority. We are working to foster a new generation of professional athletes, far removed from the disgusting politics of the Baath Party, which robbed us of our rights.

I have promised that I will establish myself once again and come back to my fitness club stronger than ever. This last year I have been training a team called “Free Syria” for the bodybuilding championships, and for the second time in a row, we got first place in Turkey, and our people are getting ready for the European championships. This year, I will participate in the tournament in Spain.

Q: Can you describe what it is like dealing with countries in order to participate in the athletic championships? Who is funding you and the Syrian teams?

Funding and support comes from the Turkish Sports Federation. I will participate in the world championships through Turkey, joining the league and training participants, given that I do not own a club. In addition to being an athletic trainer, I work on the side as a designer of women’s shoes for Schuster’s Shoes. After I finish my day with the company, I go down to the gym and start training. When I was in Italy, I was working as a women’s shoes designer before I ever entered the field of professional sports.

Q: How do you see the Assad regime today?

Since the moment I was arrested at the airport in 1996 before I even got the chance to see my parents, I have viewed the regime as broken and a failure. In my opinion, since the start of the revolution, there is nothing that remains that can be called a regime.

The regime fell when it began destroying the country and killing its people. I am unable to describe the brutality, criminality, and sheer barbarism of its actions. Even though I have seen it first-hand with my own eyes in the prison, my mind is still unable to fully comprehend what I experienced.
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Samuel Kieke

Samuel Kieke was a 2014-2015 CASA I fellow in Amman, Jordan. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Arabic Language and Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and International Relations and Global Studies.

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

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Article from: http://syriadirect.org/news/a-syrian-bodybuilder-in-prison-rife-with-contagious-disease-starvation-%E2%80%98i-buried-prisoners-with-my-own-hands%E2%80%99/

Greece Idomeni – Syrian Single Mother


Published on Mar 11, 2016

In the refugee and migrant crisis, more children and women are on the move than men – they make up 60% of recent arrivals to Greece, compared o less than 30% in June 2015.

Forced to make the dangerous trek into Europe on their own after their husbands, fathers or brothers were killed or otherwise separated. Thousands of women with children are now at Greece’s northern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, some waiting for weeks, hoping to be allowed northwards. Life in the makeshift Idomeni camp is a daily struggle.

Nisrine is here with her five children. Her husband was killed by a bomb in Aleppo 3 years ago. Her family’s flight from war came to a halt here.

“I feel it is impossible to live here with my children. I can’t bear it. I have been here for ten days. I haven’t had a single night’s rest. They sleep, I don’t.“

Four Years Harvest- The Use of Cluster Ammunition


Published on Mar 31, 2015
Syrian Network for Human Rights
http://www.facebook.com/snhr
http://www.sn4hr.org