The Inhumane Camp which is a seedbed for jihadists and COVID-19

As the UK and rest of Europe gear up for a second national lockdown, the inhabitants of Syria’s al-Hawl camp are having to worry about more than just contracting a virus this winter. The Times’ War Correspondent, Anthony Loyd, recently visited the facility and his account of their current situation was far from what should be permissible. 

Al-Hawl is a refugee camp which accommodates those who have been displaced from an Islamic State group-occupied territory. It is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (a US-backed group) and has a population of around 68,000.

Established in 1991, for Iraqi refugees during the Gulf War, the camp is located in Northern Syria and sits on the Iran-Syrian border. For those residents that can call it home, it’s a population mainly consisting of women and children (94% of them). Meaning only just 6% of those living in the camp are men. 

The camp’s current security situation is in dire straits, with the facilities manager admitting there has been a total of nine murders in the past four weeks and that there’s a multitude of ISIS women who’ve acquired silenced pistols inside the wire. 

Amara, the camp’s manager, realises they are losing control of the facility, and that the struggle began after a massive influx of women and children sought refuge after fleeing from IS-held territory last year. 

CAMP ISSUES:

–       Since the withdrawal of multiple units of US Troops from Syria last year, the camp has struggled to maintain control.

–       Not only do residents live in filthy, disease-ridden conditions, but a selection of faithful individuals to the Islamic State’s al-Hisbah enforcement police began to impose their discipline amongst those in camp. 

–       The camp authorities admit to between 30 and 35 murders in al-Hawl so far in 2020 but they cannot be sure of the precise count. Some of the bodies are still hidden.

–       Al-Hisbah use silenced pistols or knives, and some killings also occur due to tribal disputes. 

There have been efforts made by Russia, the US and Indonesia to repatriate their citizens held in the camp. Removing over 766 women and children in 2020, however, the majority of European nations – including the UK – didn’t choose to do the same. 

To live in Al-Hawl is to live in inhumane conditions. Not the words of the camp manager, former residents or even journalists, but the words of the United Nations. 

World in Conflict: North Korea, Lebanon, UAE

North Korea pressuring border resident to hand in their cell-phones

The North Korean state is reportedly trying to pressure smugglers in the Sino-North Korean border region to hand in foreign-made mobile phones. 

It’s believed these phones are used to call China and South Korea. The reason for this move is because the Ministry of State Security in North Korea has made it clear they want to cease illegal border activity by the end of the year. 

According to Daily NK, the people using the foreign-made mobile phones are secretly communicating with people in China and South Korea to sell state secrets. Or to help transfer money from defectors to relatives inside the country. 

It is thought that security officials have already been approaching smugglers demanding they hand over any foreign-made mobiles immediately. The State says that if they do now, then all their past offences will be forgiven. However, if they don’t and get caught out later then, they should be “prepared to die”. 

Happy Anniversary to Lebanon!

It was exactly one year ago that around 1 million people in Lebanon (20% of the population) flooded the streets in protest. They were burning tyres, creating road block and chanting anti-government slogans. But why are people protesting?

Reasons for protest:

  • Because the government had planned taxes on gasoline, tobacco, and VoIP calls on applications such as WhatsApp.
  • However, it also expanded into a nation wide protest against sectarian rule, unemployment and a stagnant economy. 
  • Oh, and not forgetting corruption in the public sector. 

When the protests first kicked off some demonstrators camped out in tents and occupied car parks. Aline, an engineer and political organiser was one of those protestors organising demonstration in Beirut. 

She was intrumental in building a wooden tent to shelter protestors during the winter months and created a space for activists to come together and stratagise. The tents were a roaring success and very quickly became the epicentre of the revolution. 

However, when the COVID pandemic hit the army then came in and cleared them away as the Government delcared a medical emergency. 

Speaking to VICE, Aline said: “It was the biggest disappointment for me,” Aline says. “It was my second home, my actual home. These people were my family.”

Over the past few days the army have been patrolling ahead of future processions. They are armed with assault rifle’s and are prepared to intervene. In recent months, military forces have become increasingly agressive towards demonstrators, often attacking them with either tear gas, rubber bullets or even live amunition. 

UAE Cabinet Approves agreement to establish relations with Israel

Last month we saw the historic meeting in Washington in which the United Arab Emirates and Israel made a momentous decision to establish diplomatic relations with one another. Well today the UAE cabinet has agreed to go through with the idea. 

Both the UAE and fellow Gulf State, Bahrain, became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign agreements to establish formal ties with Israel, forged largely through shared fears of Iran.

The agreement is called the Abraham Accord and the Cabinet provided a statement saying: “an avenue of peace and stability to support the ambitions of the region’s people, and enhance efforts for prosperity and advancement, especially as it paves the way for deepening economic, culture and knowledge ties.”

Israel ratified the deal last week ahead of a UAE Government delegation visiting Israel on Tuesday.

Glossary

Anybody can read a text, journal, article, essay, blog post etc. But that doesn’t mean they’ve understood the context. Below are a list of key terms and phrases often used when talking about international politics.

International Organisations

NATO – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 North American and European countries. 

UN – The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

EU – The European Union is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. 

WTO – The World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that is concerned with the regulation of international trade between nations.

G20 – The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.

ICC – The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands. 

War / Conflict

Intifida – It’s an Arabic term for uprising or rebellion. It is a key concept in contemporary Arabic usage referring to a legitimate uprising against oppression.

West Bank – The West Bank is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan to the east and by Israel to the south, west and north.

Gaza Strip – The Gaza Strip, or simply Gaza, is a self-governing Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Hamas – Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization.

ISIS – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, officially known as the Islamic State and also known by its Arabic-language acronym Daesh, is a militant group and a former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi jihadist doctrine of Sunni Islam.

Taliban – The Taliban or Taleban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organisation in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country.

Boko Haram – The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād and commonly known as Boko Haram, is a jihadist terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.

Al-Shabaab – Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, more commonly known as al-Shabaab, is a terrorist, jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa.

Al-Qaeda – Al-Qaeda is a transnational extremist Salafist militant organization founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abdullah Azzam, and several other Arab volunteers during the Soviet–Afghan War.

Lashkar-e-Taiba – Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the largest Islamist terrorist organizations in South Asia. It was founded in 1987 by Hafiz Saeed, Abdullah Azzam and Zafar Iqbal with funding from Osama bin Laden.

Hezbollah – Hezbollah is a Shia Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s paramilitary wing is the Jihad Council, and its political wing is the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc party in the Lebanese parliament.