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.”

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Charity turns old blankets into winter coats for refugees



THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — It’s been a miserable winter in Greece, especially for the many thousands of refugees staying in tents in old factories and warehouses. At a tiny workshop in the northern city of Thessaloniki, they’re trying to make a little bit of a difference.

Volunteers are working long hours to try to keep the refugees warm, with bursts of noise from sewing machines revealing their mission: To turn discarded blankets into jackets, overcoats and other winter wearables.

There’s an almost endless supply: The blankets — mostly army issue, gray with red stitching — came from the sprawling refugee and migrant encampment at Idomeni on the Macedonian border that is now closed.

As many as 14,000 people lived in tents at the site last year after European countries closed borders to refugees streaming into the continent. Greek police cleared the camp last May, leaving hundreds of tents and thousands of blankets behind. A Greek-German charity called Naomi collected them by the vanload to be washed and reused.

Project organizer Elke Wollschlaeger helps make and even model the coats, which have the label “Remember Idomeni” stitched inside.

“We’re trying to keep it in people’s minds what happened in Idomeni last year, and what Europe did to refugees and the Greek people, just leaving the borders closed and thousands of people stranded,” she said.

Greece’s government says more than 60,000 refugees and migrants remain stuck in the county following the border closures. It has struggled to shelter camp dwellers from freezing overnight temperatures. Authorities on the island of Lesbos are investigating three recent deaths at a refugee camp there, possibly caused by fumes from makeshift heaters.

For Syrian refugee Hasan Al Kodsy, helping out at the coat workshop in Thessaloniki was a natural fit. The 30-year-old used to run a family textile business in Damascus that employed about 100 workers. His journey to Europe stopped at Idomeni but he’s still hoping to join his wife and 2-year-old daughter in Munich, Germany, through the European Union’s slow-moving relocation scheme.

“I saw women (in Idomeni) shivering in blankets and that was not a nice thing to see,” he said. “So we started making clothes with the blankets.”

The charity doesn’t distribute the jackets directly but passes them on to other aid groups in return for donations, using any money raised for skills-training programs for refugees and projects to take them out of camps and place them in apartments. It also sells the coats to walk-ins, like resident Katerina Tsolakidou.

“We really liked the idea of re-using the blankets from Idomeni,” she said after picking up a coat. “It gives the refugees something to do. So instead of spending the money somewhere else, it’ll be put to good use here.”

syrian_refugees_winter_coat_2 syrian_refugees_winter_coat_3 syrian_refugees_winter_coat_4 syrian_refugees_winter_coat_5

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Whats next for the Rohingya

Published on Jan 16, 2017
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On The Stream: What’s next for the Rohingya? Tens of thousands have fled Myanmar amid a military crackdown.

Thumbnail: Myanmar’s Rohingya population struggles on May 24, 2015 after mass exodus. (GETTY/JONAS GRATZER/STRINGER)

7 Lies Donald Trump Has Spread About Syrian Refugees Entering The US

His sources range from “believe me!” to “we all know it!”
10/20/2016 02:19 pm ET | Updated Oct 25, 2016
Jesselyn Cook World News Reporter, The Huffington Post

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is insistent that the U.S. should be blocking Syrian refugees. But he doesn’t use facts to back up his claims.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is insistent that the U.S. should be blocking Syrian refugees. But he doesn’t use facts to back up his claims.

The U.S. is admitting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees “who are definitely, in many cases, ISIS-aligned,” Donald Trump lied to Americans during the third and final presidential debate on Wednesday night.

Throughout his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly spread false information that demonizes Syrians fleeing their nation’s deadly civil war, as well as misrepresents the United States’ system of vetting them.

He has vowed to deport the approximately 12,000 Syrian refugees who currently live in the U.S. ― “If I win, they’re going back,” he has threatened ― and has announced plans to completely halt immigration from Syria and other “dangerous countries” for an undetermined period of time.

His proposed ban on Muslims entering the country ― something that has been condemned by leaders around the world, and that his own running mate initially denounced as “offensive and unconstitutional” ― has morphed into the no-less-problematic suggestion of “extreme vetting.” This would entail ideological testing for asylum-seekers from “certain areas of the world.”

In April, Trump delivered another blow to the long-suffering Syrian population by tweeting a cartoon depiction of himself grinning while forcing a boat full of migrants to turn back toward Syria, shown as a land engulfed in flames and littered with human skulls.




Trump’s dishonest and damaging rhetoric on the matter is alarming but unwavering ― he has said on multiple separate occasions, for example, that refugees could be the “ultimate Trojan horse.”

Now in its sixth year, the Syrian crisis has internally displaced some 6.5 million people and forced nearly 5 million more out of the country. The death toll is approaching 500,000.

With Election Day just weeks away, The WorldPost fact-checked some of Trump’s major lies about Syrian refugees and America’s vetting system:


Syrian refugees are “pouring in” to the country

Syrian refugees are infiltrating the country, Trump tweeted in November 2015, suggesting some could be affiliated with the self-described Islamic State. His unabashed reliance on fear-mongering and anti-immigrant language has triggered fierce backlash both at home and abroad.


His comments during Wednesday’s debate were just echoes of claims he has made previously. “[Refugees and immigrants] are pouring in, and we don’t know what we’re doing,” Trump said during a national security speech in June.

In August the U.S. reached President Barack Obama’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year, bringing the total to 12,000 since the conflict erupted in 2011. Canada has accepted some 32,400. At least 72 House Democrats have advocated for bringing 200,000 refugees into the U.S., a move they say would more adequately respond to the magnitude of the Syrian crisis.

Syria’s neighboring countries have borne the brunt of its mass exodus. Turkey is housing at least 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Lebanon and Jordan have taken approximately 1.07 million and 639,700, respectively.


The U.S. immigration system is “extremely open”

Trump has repeatedly criticized America’s “failed immigration system,” and slammed it in September for being “extremely open” and “fail[ing] to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into [the] country.”

Trump ― a presidential candidate who frequently uses the line “many people are saying” as a form of attribution ― quoted a seemingly random Twitter user with a few dozen followers and a bio that states: “Hates extremist Muslims who wants to employ SHARIA LAW in USA!” The tweet, which also lacks any form of sourcing, boldly asserts that many Syrian refugees are “poorly vetted” young men.


Nope. For one thing, about 67 percent of Syrians who have applied for refuge in the U.S. are women and children. For another, refugee-vetting is a long, extensive process.

“Of all the different ways to enter this country as an immigrant, doing so as a refugee is probably the most cumbersome and time-consuming,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a recent interview with “60 Minutes.”

Before a Syrian is granted refugee status and admission to the U.S., he or she must first make it through the United Nations’ screening process. This involves supplying background information, completing iris scans and taking part in multiple interviews. The number of applicants who advance to the next step accounts for less than 1 percent of the global refugee population.

From there, applicants are subjected to the highest level of U.S. security checks and further screened by numerous agencies, including the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. They must provide fingerprints to be checked against several biometric databases and go through medical testing as well as cultural orientation classes.


 Muhammad Hamed/Reuters Syrian refugees go through a very lengthy vetting process before being recommended for resettlement in the U.S.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters
Syrian refugees go through a very lengthy vetting process before being recommended for resettlement in the U.S.


The entire process can often take up to two years and refugees are required to repay their travel costs.

Trump shared the ominous message about “poorly vetted” young male refugees on Sept. 19, the morning after an explosion in his hometown of New York City. Authorities charged 28-year-old suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami in connection with bombings in New York and New Jersey. Perhaps Trump is unaware that Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen with no confirmed ties to Syria.

Syrian refugees provide “no paperwork”

“We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States -– we don’t know who they are, they have no documentation, and we don’t know what they’re planning,” Trump misinformed supporters in June.

He continued to spew fiction during an immigration policy speech in August: “We have no idea who they are, where they come from, there’s no documentation, there’s no paperwork. It’s going to end badly, folks, it’s going to end very, very badly.”

Fact check: Syrian refugee applicants must supply substantial amounts of paperwork and background information. HBO’s John Oliver gave an unparalleled breakdown in his satirical news program:


Hillary Clinton plans to admit 620,000 Syrian refugees in her first term, and has proposed “no system to vet them” (these are lies Nos. 4 and 5)

“Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them, or to prevent the radicalization of their children,” Trump lied in June.

Then, at a North Carolina rally in September, he issued another complete falsehood: “Altogether, Hillary Clinton’s plan would bring in 620,000 [Syrian] refugees in her first term alone with no effective way to screen or vet them.”

Wrong and wrong.

The Democratic presidential nominee proposed in September 2015 that the U.S. should welcome up to 65,000 refugees from Syria ― a fraction of what Trump erroneously stated.

“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more. Hillary Clinton”

“I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in,” Clinton told CBS. “We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more.”

On the debate stage this week, Clinton addressed Trump’s repeated lies about her proposed vetting system.

“I am not going to let anyone into this country who is not vetted [and] who we do not have confidence in,” she said. “But I am not going to slam the door on [Syrian] women and children. … We are going to do very careful, thorough vetting.”

Syrians are sneaking through the U.S. border

In November 2015 Trump incorrectly and repeatedly claimed that a group of Syrians were “caught” trying to enter the U.S. He flagrantly suggested they were connected to ISIS, and used the incident to promote his idea for constructing a wall along the southern border of the U.S.


In fact, two asylum-seeking families, including four children, “presented themselves” at the border and were detained, according to a statement from the DHS. There were no indications that the Syrian families were trying to sneak into the country, and U.S. government officials confirmed there was no evidence of any connection to terrorism.


Syrian refugees are dangerous

Admitting Syrian refugees into the country is both “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life,” Trump said in September. He neglected to elaborate on how, exactly, Syrian refugees may harm Americans’ quality of life in any way.

A note to Mr. Trump: The vast majority of terror attacks on U.S. soil are committed by Americans, not foreigners. Of all refugees admitted to the U.S. between 2011 and 2016, approximately 0.00038 percent have been linked to terrorism.

Donald Trump Jr., the GOP nominee’s son, has also wildly exaggerated the risk that Syrian refugees pose, comparing them on Twitter to poisonous Skittles.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?” the younger Trump asked in a widely criticized photo ― which has since been removed from his tweet ― branded with the Trump-Pence logo. FWIW, statistics show that selfies are deadlier than Syrian refugees.

The Trumps can rest easy: An American’s chances of being killed by a Syrian refugee in a terrorist attack are a whopping 1 in 3.64 billion.




Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Donate below to support the groups Donald Trump has insulted.


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Fighting for Aleppo

How Syria’s Forgotton Revolutionaries Rose Up “To Kill This Fear”


Demonstrators chant slogans and hold Syrian flags during a protest against the Assad regime in the opposition-controlled Kafr Hamrah village of Aleppo, Syria, on March 25, 2016.


As Naji Jerf stepped out of an office building in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep last December, a man walked up to him and fired two shots from a silenced pistol, striking Jerf in the head and chest and killing him instantly.

Jerf, 38, was a Syrian filmmaker and journalist who had become a popular activist during the revolution. A fierce critic of both the Assad regime and the Islamic State, he had received numerous death threats in the months before he was killed. Shortly after his murder, the Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility and Turkish authorities arrested three men in connection with the shooting.

Jerf is only one of the innumerable Syrian revolutionary activists who have lost their lives over the past five years. An editor and documentarian, he helped train a generation of young Syrians to continue the fight for democracy in their country. But his story, and the stories of those like him who continue the spirit of the 2011 uprising, rarely register in broader narratives of the conflict. For all they have sacrificed, their struggles have gone largely ignored, in a framing of the conflict that has been convenient for the Assad government.

Leila Shami, co-author of the book “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War,” told me, “The Syrian government has taken huge efforts to frame the conflict as one solely between themselves and extremist groups. People are not aware that there is a third option in Syria, that there are many Syrians from a wide range of backgrounds who are still fighting for the original goals of the revolution.”

Shami added, “Syria has had so many heroes, but people often don’t know who they are.”

Syrian students outside the damaged building of the University of Aleppo before sitting their exams on January 29, 2013, after the institution re-opened following an explosion earlier in the month, in northern Syria's city of Aleppo. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the blast on January 15, which caused a number of causalities, but said its origin was unclear. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian students stand outside a damaged building at the University of Aleppo on Jan. 29, 2013, after the institution re-opened following an explosion earlier in the month. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Khalifa al-Khadr was one of those whose lives Naji Jerf had touched. A student at Aleppo University when the war began, he now belongs to a new generation of writers and journalists committed to carrying on the goals of the revolution. Last week in Gaziantep, on the Turkish-Syrian border, Khadr sat drinking tea at a bustling outdoor restaurant, occasionally rising to greet other young Syrians who now also call this Turkish city home.

“When all this started, we were mostly too young to have any kind of ideology,” Khadr told me. “The reason we rose up was to just kill fear. To kill this fear that we had all been living under as a society.”

Khadr looked younger than his 23 years. He wore glasses, an orange jacket, and a beige scarf wrapped around his neck. The revolution had begun when he was only 17. It came to consume every aspect of his life and worldview. Despite his youthful appearance, he spoke with the serious intensity of someone who had come of age during war. On his cellphone, the background photo was a picture of a young Syrian girl killed in a government bombardment of the city of Idlib.


Khalifa al-Khadr in a photo taken on May 30, 2015. Photo: Khalifa al-Khadr/Facebook

“When protests began at Aleppo University several years ago, we held them for only 15 or 20 minutes, just to show solidarity with other cities under attack and then disperse before the security forces came for us,” he recalled. “We were not calling for Assad to fall, just to remove the emergency laws and allow some space for democracy in the country.”When the government met those protests with brutal violence, Khadr saw sentiments harden among his fellow students. Now they realized that the government would choose force over incremental reform, and they began calling for bringing down the regime. Some spoke of taking up arms in self-defense.




As it turned out, they wouldn’t have to. In the summer of 2012, rebel fighters from surrounding villages swept into Aleppo and captured several key districts from government control. The people of Aleppo were divided in their response to the rebels’ arrival. Some wealthy residents were uneasy with the influx of poor, rural fighters. Even among those who had supported the uprising, there were divisions and concerns. Khadr didn’t share them. “I was excited,” he told me. “I felt like we were about to be part of something that was going to free the country.”

But as the war ground into a stalemate, many people fled Aleppo, and then Syria itself. Khadr was among the activists who stayed. He was continuing the revolution by other means: building an archive of photos and videos to document developments in opposition-held areas, and writing about his own experiences and observations of the uprising. In one passage of a longer reminiscence, he wrote about a childhood friend who took part in the revolution only to later turn away from it by joining the militant group the Islamic State:

A choke comes between memory and the bitter reality. The choke kills me and forbids me from mourning him. If I were an armed fighter, I would have killed him the minute I saw him on the battlefield, to save his soul. To prevent him from infecting others, to prevent his soul from sinking into others’ blood.

I won’t mourn your deeds, even if the one you killed was my own father. As you have loyalties of your own, I have loyalty to our revolution, more sacred than yours.

Syrian protesters gather in demonstration against the regime in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of the northern city of Aleppo on November 9, 2012. Syria President Bashar al-Assad said his future could only be decided at the ballot box and denied Syria was in a state of civil war, despite fresh attacks and heavy fighting near the Turkish border. AFP PHOTO/ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS (Photo credit should read ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian protesters gather to demonstrate against the Assad regime in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo on Nov. 9, 2012. Photo: Achilleas Zavallis/AFP/Getty Images

The culture of the revolution had imprinted itself indelibly on Khadr’s personality, as it had on those of many other young Syrians. Creating a “Free Syria” — free from oppression and upholding basic rights like freedom of expression and equal treatment under the law — had become the guiding purpose of his life. Like many others, Khadr felt compelled both to write and to seek out like-minded young Syrians.It was through social media that he first met Naji Jerf three years ago. Khadr was engaged in a debate with other young Syrian activists on Facebook when Jerf, known to many of them as the editor of the Syrian revolutionary news outlet Hentah, “liked” his status, part of a Facebook conversation that had begun around the quote “Man does not live on bread alone.” The two began messaging and Jerf invited Khadr to take part in a media workshop he had arranged for young activists in southern Turkey, where Jerf was then based.

Jerf became a mentor and adviser to Khadr, encouraging him to develop his writing and publishing his articles periodically on Hentah. While Khadr lived between relatives’ and friends’ homes in different areas of opposition-held Syria, he would occasionally cross the border to Gaziantep to meet with Jerf and other activists. In the relative calm of Turkey, they would spend days talking and reflecting on the future of their country — discussions that helped shape the nascent worldviews of Khadr and the other young activists.

“Syrians have tried secularism, nationalism, Islamism, and they have all failed in various ways,” Khadr told me. “The reality is that it doesn’t matter what the orientation of the government is per se. What matters is that the ruling system respects the rights of citizens and protects them from injustice.”

Under the Assad regime, Syria had become a police state whose prisons were notorious for torture, murder, and indefinite detention. Many activists, including Ghiath Matar, known as “Syria’s Gandhi,” and the Syrian anarchist philosopher Omar Aziz, had lost their lives in Syria’s torturous detention facilities.

“Even before the revolution, we all grew up hearing stories of people who disappeared, we knew the fear this created,” Khadr reflected. He told me that now he dreams of a country with “no prisons” — a country where the all-encompassing fear that characterized Baathist rule is finally removed.


The grave of Naji Jerf, a Syrian filmmaker and journalist killed in Gaziantep, Turkey, last December. Photo: Khalifa al-Khadr/Facebook


The outside narrative of the Syrian conflict, which focuses exclusively on the actions of armed groups and states, has minimized or excluded a significant dimension. The revolution fostered a Syrian civil society that continues to fight for the future of the country. Across cities and small towns in Syria, in areas that have slipped from the central government’s grip and are free of Islamic State control, local councils operate that provide a semblance of democratic rule in a country that, in its modern history, has known only totalitarianism. A huge array of new independent newspapers, radio stations, and video production companies has arisen, giving voice to a people who had long been either silenced or forced to consume Soviet-style Baathist propaganda. Khadr’s life, like the lives of many other Syrians of his generation, has been irreversibly transformed by the events of the revolution. Though he is still young, he exudes a brash confidence and poise. “All my old friends from before, when I was just a student, we lost touch and don’t talk anymore,” he said, fingering a string of beads wrapped around his fingers. “Everyone who is a friend to me today, they are people I shared experiences with during the revolution.”

Khadr was back in Syria last December when he received the message informing him that Naji Jerf had been murdered. In a Facebook post that day, Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah lamented that people like Jerf — Syrian civil revolutionaries who had given their lives for the freedom of the country — had been effectively airbrushed out of history.

“Syrians who have dedicated so much for principle and stood against tyranny and extremism [receive] no real recognition,” Jarrah wrote. “This mess of misinformation says that there are two sides fighting (Assad and ISIS) with little mention of those that oppose both wrongs. Those like Naji.”

In Muslim societies, funerals are typically held within a few days of death. Despite Khadr’s wishes, he could not cross the border back to Turkey in time to attend his friend’s farewell.

“Death has a different meaning in different cultures. At the beginning you mourn, but then, when so many begin to die, you have to find a way to stop mourning them and just keep going,” he told me, emotion slowly creeping into his voice.

“When I think of Naji now, I remember the things he taught me and I say: Your memory is my path.”

Top photo: Demonstrators chant slogans and hold Syrian flags during a protest against the Assad regime in the opposition-controlled Kafr Hamrah village of Aleppo, Syria, on March 25, 2016.

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Epidemic warning over ghost refugees stuck at Jordan-Syria border

Plight of tens of thousands of Syrians could undermine Jordan’s role as co-host of major summit on refugees, activists warn
By Emma Graham-Harrison
Sunday 4 September 2016

syrian refugees stuck between Jordan and Syria border

A photo taken in May shows Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Jordan. Photograph: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images


Tens of thousands of “ghost” refugees who have been trapped in the desert along Jordan’s border with Syria for more than two months face food and water shortages and are at risk of epidemics, aid workers say.

The refugees, who have no sanitation or medical facilities, are living in some of the worst conditions experienced by people fleeing Syria’s five-year civil war. Activists say the situation could undermine Jordan’s role as co-host of a major summit on refugees in New York this month.

About four in five of the refugees scraping an existence in the open desert are women and children, according to the UN.

No aid or food deliveries are allowed across the border and irregular water supplies barely cover drinking needs in temperatures reaching 50C (122F) over the summer, with nothing left for sanitation.

Some people have reportedly dug themselves holes in the ground because they have nothing at all to improvise shelter against regular desert sandstorms. One settlement was bombed by Russian planes in July.



“These are some of the most extreme conditions on Earth. Then you add to that not having any access to healthcare or enough water or food, and being under threat of aerial attack,” said Natalie Thurtle, the medical team leader for charity Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF). “This is a critical humanitarian emergency.”

Jordan is co-hosting the major international Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on 20 September, on the sidelines of the UN general assembly, a role that sits uneasily with its treatment of the crowds on its own border, now estimated to be more than 80,000 strong.

“At a time when Jordan is positioning itself at the forefront of efforts to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, having tens of thousands of people struggling without food, water or medical care at their border undermines their credibility and that of any solutions they are offering,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International researcher on Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Jordan says it is hosting nearly 1.4 million Syrian refugees, of whom 630,000 are registered with the UN. The huge numbers have placed a massive strain on the kingdom’s economy and resources as well as raising security concerns.

The crowds began building up when the border with Syria was tightened last November. This meant that people who might previously have passed into Jordan began collecting instead in a disputed no man’s land, sometimes known as “the berm” after the sandy mounds that border the area where refugees have settled.

“They are completely out of options, they are not able to move forward, and can’t go back into Syria,” Thurtle said.

On a visit to north Jordan last week, Stephen O’Brien, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, described flying over the berm area. “In between two berms are tens of thousands of tents quite sparsely populated compared to a normal organised refugee camp,” he said. “You have to imagine [what it is like] completely out in the middle of desert … in very, very hot [conditions], baking in the tents.”

From May, some aid groups were allowed in to offer limited supplies of food, water and medical help. The MSF team spent at least six hours a day driving a mobile clinic to reach a “services area” on the fringe of the camp.

“It was an extremely challenging logistical operation, leaving at 6am from the nearest town where we could be based. We had to drive the entire operation for three to four hours, half of it off-road, then return the same way before evening,” a member of the MSF team said.

However, even that access was cut off in June, on security grounds, after Islamic State militants drove a suicide bomb into a Jordanian army checkpoint and killed at least six soldiers. But Sammonds said there was no connection between the refugees and the attack.

“That suicide vehicle came from some distance to the north and at speed, with no link that I have ever heard of with the would-be refugees,” he said. “I would suspect that Jordan is using the security incident politically to ‘justify’ its overall closure policy.”

Since June, authorities have given permission for one severely ill boy to be evacuated, and allowed aid groups worried about starvation to make a single drop of food supplies by crane. That was on 4 August. Distribution inside the camp could not be monitored so the most vulnerable may not have received supplies, and since then there has been nothing.

There are credible reports of malnutrition, and water supplies are just five or six litres per person in some areas. That is barely enough to meet drinking needs in the sweltering heat, leaving nothing for sanitation, and disease has already set in.

“There is almost certainly a hepatitis outbreak at the berm,” Thurtle said. “We haven’t witnessed it, but I am pretty confident that is happening.”

Credible sources are reporting 30 cases of severe jaundice each day, Thurtle said, and there have been at least 10 deaths in the last month. Hepatitis E is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, with a mortality rate of 20-25%, and there have already been reports of deaths during childbirth.

Thurtle is part of a team on standby near the border, currently campaigning to be allowed back in and keep the plight of the refugees on the international radar.

“It’s like they don’t exist, they are stuck in purgatory,” she said. “I haven’t seen them, nobody has for eight weeks. It’s really easy for them to disappear from the consciousness of the international community, the Jordanian government, everybody.”



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Six wealthiest countries host less than 9% of world’s refugees

US, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK accommodate just 2.1 million refugees, according to Oxfam report
By Kate Lyons
Sunday 17 July 2016

The six wealthiest countries in the world, which between them account for almost 60% of the global economy, host less than 9% of the world’s refugees, while poorer countries shoulder most of the burden, Oxfam has said.

According to a report released by the charity on Monday, the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK, which together make up 56.6% of global GDP, between them host just 2.1 million refugees: 8.9% of the world’s total.

Of these 2.1 million people, roughly a third are hosted by Germany (736,740), while the remaining 1.4 million are split between the other five countries. The UK hosts 168,937 refugees, a figure Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring, has called shameful.

In contrast, more than half of the world’s refugees – almost 12 million people – live in Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, despite the fact these places make up less than 2% of the world’s economy.

Oxfam is calling on governments to host more refugees and to do more to help poorer countries which provide shelter to the majority of the world’s refugees. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time yet poorer countries, and poorer people, are left to shoulder the responsibility,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB. “It is a complex crisis that requires a coordinated, global response with the richest countries doing their fair share by welcoming more refugees and doing more to help and protect them wherever they are.

“Now more than ever, the UK needs to show that it is an open, tolerant society that is prepared to play its part in solving this crisis. It is shameful that as one of the richest economies the UK has provided shelter for less than 1% of refugees.”

According to the UNHCR Globals Trends 2015 report, more than 65 million people have left their homes due to violence, war and human rights violations, the highest number since records began. Most of these (40.8 million) are displaced within their own country, with 21.3 million as refugees and 3.2 million awaiting asylum decisions in industrialised countries. The conflict in Syria has played a large role in this displacement, as have conflicts in Burundi, Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

Many people flee to neighbouring countries, such as from Syria to Jordan and Turkey, which host the most refugees in the world: 2.8 million in Jordan and 2.75 million in Turkey.

The Oxfam report says some wealthy countries are making it harder for refugees to arrive and not easier, citing the refugee deal struck between the EU and Turkey in March as evidence.

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Independent volunteers in Idomeni Greece

Published on Apr 14, 2016

I am an independent volunteer, I don’t get paid and I cook for the people. Since we arrived here, 3 months ago, we have cooked more than 500.000 hot meals, we have distributed thousands of tents, sleeping bags and blankets, masses of dry food and vital information. We have been the emotional support and the humanity of Idomeni. All of this is thanks to the people who believe in us, supporting us with donations, and the people who know that the governments and the NGOs are not doing what they should.

I’m an independent volunteer, since my arrival in Idomeni, I’ve been taken by police force twice just because I witnessed them trying to take violent action. I have testified against the media accusing us of responsibility for putting the lives of refugees in danger. I’ve appeared on different media channels, accused of being a trouble maker and provocateur of protest. Our cars with soup have been stopped by the police more than 30 times. I’ve been woken from my bed by 20 police raiding our home at gunpoint, inspecting me and my friends one by one. I’ve been treated like an offender since the first time I arrived here.
I am here because I believe that people should help each other in the bad situations and I don’t agree how our politicians are dealing with this situation. I am just one of the thousands of independent volunteers from all over the world who have visited Greece in the last months.

And now, we stand together to say:
“Europe, don’t look away”.

An independent volunteer

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.“

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