Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Rise of Isis

December 5, 2015


Across the Arab world, the Arab Spring filled the people with hope.

Those dreams have not been met, instead they were met by brutal repression.

The rise of Isis has been a response to that repression.

in Iraq, the country was destroyed by war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair. Iran financed Shia death squads targeted Sunnis. Any person who had been a member of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was summarily dismissed from their job, denied public-sector employment, and barred from accessing their pensions.

As with membership of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union Ba’ath Party membership was a requirement any state job, so the policy led to the mass dismissal of thousands of teachers, doctors, police, and low-ranking civil servants. By destroying the mechanics of the state in this way, the United States virtually guaranteed the collapse of the state — a catastrophic prospect for a society emerging from over two decades of sanctions and war.

Out of the marginalisation of Sunnis rose Isis. When you have nothing, you turn to violence

Abu Ghraib detention facility, which exploded into Western consciousness in 2003 following the release of photographs showing US military personnel torturing prisoners. In the wake of this scandal, many detainees were transferred out of Abu Ghraib to another prison, Camp Bucca. It was here that one detainee, later known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came to establish a strong relationship with a coterie of former Ba’athist military officers who had spent time in Abu Ghraib.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of Isis, and those same Ba’athist officers now serve as his closest deputies and advisers.

In Syria, seven years of drought forced people off the land and into the cities. Protest followed, repression followed protest. Out of the repression  rose Isis.

In his speech calling for bombs to be dropped on Syria, a speech that was low on substance and high on waffle, Hilary Benn spoke of idealistic young men going to fight Franco in Spain. In the same vein, idealised  young Muslims go to Syria to join Isis. They are self-radicalised. If they cannot join Isis they will carry out their terrorist attacks at home. Isis is recruiting in Muslim enclaves. Support for Isis is not restricted to a tiny minority.

In Syria there are competing groups, they hate Assad, hate Isis, hate each other and hate the West,

Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, millions have been displaced. Any call to accommodate Assad must be rejected. It would be a betrayal of Syrian people to reach any accommodation with him. It would also be to ignore he was the cause of the rise of Isis in Syria.

Isis offers a purity of revolution, pure in the sense of its fanaticism that it is to return to a pure form of Islam.

Isis controls significant territory, a de facto state that straddles Iraq and Syria, that is if state has any meaning, in what is essentially stateless region, populated by warring factions.

Taliban in Afghanistan rejected technology (unless it was a weapon) Isis on the other hand embraces technology,  makes extensive use of internet and social media. On the one hand, they may not wish to talk to the outside world, on the other hand that make extensive effort to communicate with the outside world.

Brutality spreads fear. When Isis took Mosul, the Iraqi Army melted away, leaving their weapons behind.

To its supporters Isis projects a Muslim Utopia. water flows, electricity flows, bread gets baked, grapes grow, the people are fed.

Isis functions as a state. A fighter, for example, is estimated to be paid around $300 to $400 per month, more than double that provided by the Iraqi army.

Isis controls core infrastructure, oil fields, electricity and water.

For an insurgency, Isis is wealthy. Oil revenue, taxes, extortion, people trafficking, kidnapping. It is self-funding and not reliant upon external funding from Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Hilary Benn talked of the International Brigade going off to fight Isis. That is the role fundamentalists see themselves in when they go off to fight with Isis.

Bombing in cloud cuckoo land

December 2, 2015
Less than half of voters back airstrikes on Syria

Less than half of voters back airstrikes on Syria

Today MPs debate whether or not to bomb Syria.

David Cameron has refused a two day debate, refused to grant his MPs a free vote, refused to apologise for his disgraceful remark last night that those who oppose bombing of Syria are sympathisers of terrorists.

Meanwhile public support is melting away as people wake up to the lies they are being told.

Speaking on Wato lunchtime today, a Tory MP claimed British air strikes would degrade Isis.


So what has over a month of Russian air strikes, over a year of American air strikes done?

David Cameron has a point, if forces in Iraq are threatened by Isis over the border, we should not let an arbitrary line deter us, but that is a different matter.

We are not re-enacting WWII, easily defined targets, airfields, command posts, railway lines, sidings, power stations, factories, where the enemy is seriously degraded.

The myth of forces on the ground has been exposed as just that, a  myth.

There are forces on the ground, many are as bad as Isis, if not worse. Their interest is holding on to their existing territory. They are  not going to take the fight to Isis, neither are the Kurds.

If there are forces on the ground, attacking Isis or under attack by Isis, call for air support, that is a different matter.

David Cameron says we are already under threat from Isis. Bombing will increase that threat. That is not an argument against effective action, any action would increase that threat, but effective action would reduce in the long term.

Opposition to bombing of Syria

December 1, 2015
#DontBombSyria John McDonnell

#DontBombSyria John McDonnell

I am opposed to the bombing and I know the argument has been brought forward that this will be very clinical, very precise, etc. but I’m concerned that any collateral damage will be used by ISIS as a recruitment tool to be frank and I think it will possibly endanger us even more. — John McDonnell MP

#DontBombSyria Jeremy Corbyn

#DontBombSyria Jeremy Corbyn

The media report that the conditions in the Labour Party resolution passed by Conference in September have been met as fact. In fact, it’s an awful lot more complicated than that. Reporters gloss over this, as if it’s a mere irrelevance, or a footnote at best. Today Jeremy answered that point in detail. Even on the first part of that resolution (the UN resolution), Cameron’s reassurances fell short:

Andrew Marr: Right, now I put myself through the brief piece of homework of reading the Labour Party resolution, which I think in party terms is the kind of foundation for everything that follows. And in that, you know, there was a call for a UN resolution, which has happened, there was a call for a better plan for refugees, which is being put together now, and there were various other calls for things, many of which the Prime Minister would say he has delivered. You set a high bar, he might say, Mr Corbyn, and I have got over that bar, and you’re still saying you’re against it. So you’re against this under all circumstances whatever the Prime Minister says. There’s nothing that he can pick up – if he could pick up a phone to you now and said, ‘ah, Mr Corbyn, I have got a new thing to say to you’, is there anything he could say to you that would change your mind?

Jeremy Corbyn: I’d obviously listen to what he has to say, because that’s the responsibility of every MP to do that. But the point is …

Andrew Marr: Of course, but if anything could change your mind –

Jeremy Corbyn: – the resolution talks about a UN resolution to be carried, indeed one was carried. This is not a UN-inspired attack, this is an attack on Isil groupings, whatever you want to call them, in Raqqa, which is actually a coalition between Britain, France and the USA. Other countries such as Australia and Canada have already withdrawn from this. This is not a UN–organised thing, this is not a Chapter 7 resolution which is mandatory on member states.

Andrew Marr: Because you see, you know, the Shadow Cabinet members who disagree with you have gone through those resolutions passed at conference and said by and large we think it’s been met, and that therefore the hurdles have been covered. But the trouble with Jeremy Corbyn is, in his heart he’s there on the streets with the Stop the War coalition and there’s nothing that can be said that’s going to change his mind.

Jeremy Corbyn: There’s nothing wrong with my heart, except wanting a peaceful world and wanting the best for my country.

Andrew Marr: It’s on the left, I suspect.

Jeremy Corbyn: Well, it’s a socialist heart as well, but let’s go back to the issue of how we deal with the problems of the region. Surely it is much better to pursue the political option which will eventually bring about a ceasefire, hopefully quickly, in the Syrian civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people have already died in the Syrian civil war. Millions have been driven into exile. This is a crisis of unimaginable proportions for the whole region, and it’s now affecting Europe more and more. Surely it’s the political process that’s the key thing. This is in effect a distraction from the political process.

Don’t Bomb Syria

November 29, 2015
#DontBombSyria twitterstorm 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015

#DontBombSyria twitterstorm 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015

Bombing will not rid the world of Isis. It will increase the threat of terrorism, as did bombing Iraq, which led to a doubling of MI5 budget. It will kill civilians, which will lead to more joining Isis as they seek revenge.

We appear to have leant nothing from the bombing of Iraq and Libya. Both countries have been destroyed. Both countries are now training grounds for terrorists.  We have triggered a wave of migrants into Europe, the like of which we have never seen. Terrorists are using this migrant flow to enter Europe.

We have home-grown terrorists, supporters of Isis are not a tiny minority within Muslim enclaves. In the slums of Brussels, from which two of the Paris terrorists came, there is active recruiting for Isis.

We bombed Iraq on a lie. We bombed Libya with very little critical analysis in Parliament.  Why is there a rush to make the same mistakes?

Disagreements within the Parliamentary Party, on foreign policy, on military issues are nothing new. I remember when 139 Labour MPs broke the whip after Tony Blair, with no consultation with Labour Party members, with no consultation with Labour MPs, ordered Labour MPs to vote for the disastrous and illegal war in Iraq…Many of the people attacking Jeremy Corbyn got it gravely wrong on Iraq…Jeremy Corbyn got it correct…and I do believe if we ask ourselves the question of whether or not the UK bombing in Syria is in the interests of the Syrian people, in the interests of the wider region and in the interests of British security, I think Jeremy Corbyn’s got it correct again.

The onus is on those who wish to rain bombs down on Syria, to show what is different this time, how will it remove Isis?

Isis has already change tactic. They are no longer driving around in convoys.

What of the civilians?

No coherent strategy has been put forward by David Cameron.

Avenging the atrocities in Paris by dropping bombs, is not a strategy.

Russia has been bombing Isis for over a month. It has made not an iota of difference.

US has been bombing Isis for at least a year. During this period, Isis has been able to expand the territory they hold.

The forces on the ground Cameron alludes to, do not exist.

Kurds are the only effective fighting force. They are only interested in defending Kurdistan, not liberating Syria

The men the Americans trained, can be counted on one hand, what is left of them.

Money and weapons from from Turkey and Saudi Arabia has to be cut off.

Cutting off money is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Isis is self-funding. Taxes, sale of slaves, money from people trafficking, sale of oil.

Turkey is buying oil from Isis.

But ultimately, there would have to be ground troops, if we wish to defeat Isis, and an occupation of ten years or more, to re-build the country.

Jeremy Corbyn has raised serious questions. For doing so, attacked by his own MPs.

What is sickening are the Labour MPs who will vote for war to stab Jeremy Corbyn in the back. . They will vote for bombing, the killing of civilians, increase risk of terrorism, purely out of their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

We must force vote of No Confidence on the MPs, and have them de-selected. They are a disgrace.

There must be a free vote. MPs cannot be told by Party to vote on a matter of war.

Jeremy Corbyn must grant a free vote, and call upon other parties to do likewise.

Yesterday saw demonstrations and marches across the UK opposing the bombing of Syria.

This evening at 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015 a twitterstorm. Please use the hashtag #DontBombSyria with a personal message explaining why you are against the bombing of Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Fascist Islamist President of Turkey

November 27, 2015

The West turns a blind eye to the Fascist Islamist President of Turkey.

Slow erosion of women’s rights in Turkey.

Clampdown on the media, on journalists and freedom of expression.

Support for Isis. Arms, money, oil and people flow across the border with Syria to support Isis.

Meddling by Turkey has worsened the situation in Syria and Iraq.

Atrocities against the Kurds.

Shooting down of a Russian military plane, which will now incur economic sanctions against Turkey, and probably see the collapse of its tourist industry.

The recent bombings in Turkey were probably orchestrated by Erdoğan.

One of the reasons Greece is in debt, is due to a massive military budget to defend against the threat of Turkey. Turkey has regular, daily incursions into Greek airspace.

Turkey downs a Russian jet

November 25, 2015
Russian SU-24

Russian SU-24

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. — Vladimir Putin

We do not intend to go to war with Turkey. — Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister

If Greece had downed every turkish aircraft for THAT level of airspace violation, today Turkey would only fly kites. — Maria Topalidou

Yesterday the world awoke to the alarming news, Turkey had shot down a Russian military jet. An act of crass stupidity and naked aggression by Turkey.

There was no response from the Russian plane, no missiles fired,  no evasive action, which would appear to indicate the pilots assumed they were safe in Syrian territory.

The bombing of Syria by Russia, an act of crass stupidity and naked aggression. Large numbers of civilians killed, and not an iota difference made to ISIS.

Russia is bombing any opponent of Assad. Assad a brutal dictator who is quite happy to bomb his own people. It is the repression of Assad, marginalisation of Sunnis, that and drought, that has given rise to Isis in Syria.

It was obvious in September, Russia bombing Syria, possible excursions in Turkey, would increase tensions in the region.

The world moves closer to WWIII.

Vladimir Putin has promised strong action against Turkey, but has ruled out military action. It looks like, no Russian tourists to Turkey, which will cause the Turkish tourist economy to collapse.

Turkey, until a bomb attack in Turkey, was supporting Isis. They allow the flow of people, weapons, money and oil across the border. Action by Turkey is to attack the Kurds, the only effective force fighting ISIS.

But the Kurds are only interested in establishing and safeguarding Kurdistan, they are not interested in the rest of Syria.

What happened yesterday?

Turkey says they warned the pilots, that there was an excursion into their airspace. The surviving Russian pilot says there was no warning, and that they were not in Turkish airspace. Americans say Russian plane was in Turkish airspace for a matter of seconds.

The second pilot was shot by Syrian forces on the ground. This was a war crime.

A tiny sliver of Turkish land projects into Syria. This may explain the discrepancy, if it was crossed.

Russian bombers regularly probe UK airspace. They are intercepted and escorted away.  They are not shot down.

Russian submarines enter Swedish waters. Swedish warships drop depth charges.

Had Russia retaliated against Turkey, it would have been an attack on Nato.

Russia has ruled out a military response, instead it will use economic sanctions. A boycott by Russian tourists. Not that will be difficult, as they lack money. Turkish tourist industry will collapse.

There is little support in Nato for Turkey’s action. David Cameron has been stupid enough to offer his support.

If we are to defeat Isis, we need the support of Russia.

violations of Greek airspace by Turkey

violations of Greek airspace by Turkey

Turkey regularly enters Greek airspace. Turkish warships appear off the coast of Cyprus.

Turkey says it is not an aggressor. Support of Isis, atrocities against the Kurds, occupation of northern Cyprus, exposes that lie.

In 2012, Turkey accused Syria of shooting down one of their F-4 Phantoms. At that time,  then prime minister and now president Erdoğan jumped up and down and condemned the Syrian military for their rash action. Hmm.

“A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack” were the words he chose at the time, words that will no doubt come back to haunt him.

Turkey is a country where abuse of human rights is the norm.

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

November 19, 2015
In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance?

bags of money used to finance terrorism

bags of money used to finance terrorism

In a tolerant society how do we deal with intolerance, how should we deal with intolerance?

Moral Maze on Islamic terrorism last night. Where are the Muslims on the street demonstrating against ISIS, demonstrating against the atrocities in Paris last Friday night? When Muslims come to the West they should discard their cultural baggage. There is no support in the Koran for their Medieval ways. This from a Muslim academic.

Very valid point made at Europe is Kaput (discussion between Yanis Varoufakis and Slavoj Zizek, later joined by Julian Assange), in the West we must underscore our liberal values, we cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by the knee-jerk cry of Islamaphobia. We must oppose bastardisation of women,  forced marriage, hate crimes, honour killings.

Talking to an Iranian friend today, a Muslim.

A man and a woman in his shop. He politely asked why was the woman dressed the way she was, full burka, tiny slit for her eyes, please show me, here is a copy of The Koran? The man became abusive. My friend pointed out the man was in his shop, and he had asked a polite question. Man became more abusive. My friend told them they were a disgrace to all Muslims.

He had an imam from a mosque, an ignorant, uneducated fellow. Why do you not hang a sign outside your mosque condemning ISIS? Cannot, the man replied, the mosque would be bombed.

In Iran, in Turkey, there are academic centres of learning for The Koran. The clerics practising in UK, are illiterate, backward peasants from backward village cultures, who bring their ignorance with them.

On Radio 4 this evening a discussion, Paris: Could it happen here? Muslim extremists are not the fringe of Islamic culture in England.

Saudi Arabia is a main funder of terrorism, an exporter of a perversion of Islam.

We can stand by and do nothing about Isis. If we do, Isis will expand.

We need as Jeremy Corbyn has said, to cut off the funding. That means Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. We also have to deal with the oil from Isis finding its way onto the black market. These are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to defeat Isis.

Isis is a de facto country. We will not defeat Isis as David Cameron in his simplistic thinking seems to believe by bombing them, bombing is making the situation worse and bringing in more recruits.  We will only defeat Isis, by US, France, Germany and Russia, working together to defeat Isis on the ground, then occupation for many years until the democratic structures of the country are rebuilt, as we did with Nazi Germany.

We must remove Assad. Assad has killed more Syrians than Isis. It was repression by Assad that led to Isis.

We must not make the mistake of Iraq, where US contractors were brought in to rebuild the country, leaving Iraqis unemployed and penniless. Syrians must rebuild Syria.

The vote in the House of Commons on Syria, must be a free vote, with each MP free to make his or her own mind up, not told how to vote by Party Leaders.

Middle East dust storm

September 8, 2015
Cyprus dust storm map

Cyprus dust storm

Middle East dust storm across parts of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Iraq / NASA

Middle East dust storm across parts of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus and Iraq / NASA

Protaras barely visible in the dust storm

Protaras barely visible in the dust storm

visibilty reduced in the Syrian city of Homs

visibilty reduced in the Syrian city of Homs

We and most of the Middle East are in the midst of a huge dust/sand storm, people have literally died. — Canon Andrew White

Across the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, a dust storm.

In Cyprus, the figure speak for themselves:

  • Nicosia 1707mg
  • Larnaca 3242mg
  • Limassol 7649mg
  • Paphos 1250mg
  • Zygi 4670mg
  • Ayia Marina Xyliatou 288mg

Visibility reduced, temperatures soaring.

Several people needed treatment for respiratory problems in Cyprus and authorities urged people to stay indoors as a thick blanket of dust enveloped the island. Larnaca Airport closed and flights diverted to Paphos due to reduced visibility.  The dust was expected to start dissipating by Thursday, according Cypriot met office, but predicted it would take time before the situation returned to normal.

Israel’s environment ministry has warned the elderly, young and pregnant to stay indoors, as well as those with heart or breathing problems.

At least 80 people were taken to hospital with respiratory problems in Lebanon according to the state news agency.

Syria has suffered several years of drought. It is one cause of the civil war and the rise of ISIS. Farmers have moved to the city. Civil unrest, protest. Gunning down of peaceful protesters. Who in turn have armed themselves in self-protection. It has then escalated.

calima - haze caused by dust from Sahara

calima – haze caused by dust from Sahara

In Tenerife, Calima,  hot, dust-laden storm originating in the Sahara.

Humanity washed ashore

September 8, 2015

We are seeing mass movement of people on a Biblical scale. The largest movement we have seen since the Second World War.

The hot spots are Syria, Iraq and Libya. Countries that have imploded, that exist in name only, and when they did exist, they were artificial constructs, lines on a map drawn by the British and the French.

Not all are war-weary refugees, carrying their few wordily possessions. Many are from across Africa, from the Far East, willing to risk their lives to enter Europe for what they see as a better life.

The focus was in France, the camp known as the Jungle, migrants terrifying drivers trying to cross the English Channel.

A new route has opened up, maybe it was there all the time, but has become the focus of world attention. the crossing from Turkey to Greece.

Hungary has come in for a lot of stick, but all they were trying to do, was adhere to the rules, process the migrants, decide who was legit, who was not, but they have been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, as has Greece.

Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

The only obligation is to grant sanctuary on the first country of safety. For those fleeing Syria and Iraq, that is Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. But these countries are overwhelmed.

Christians fled Baghdad, as was not safe. They fled to Minerva. Minerva was overrun by ISIS. They fled to Kurdistan, Syria. Syria no longer safe. Many have fled to Jordan.

How many killed in Palestine by the Israelis homes destroyed. The world turns a blind eye. An arms fair was recently held in London, to which flock the brutal dictators of the world armed with their shopping lists.

It has taken the body of a three-year old boy, washed ashore in Turkey, to stir the conscience of the world.

Political leaders paralysed. It has taken the people to act.

People have been driving across the Hungarian border to transport refugees on the long walk, only to be warned they will be arrested for people trafficking.

The Pope has asked that every singe Parish takes in a refugee family.

People have shown they are willing to help.

But whilst the are helping those who have made it to Europe, they may have made it far worse for those who have not.

People are being pushed by the conditions in their country. They are also being pulled by the El Dorado of Europe, the land of milk and honey, the streets paved with gold. If people now falsely believe that if they can reach Europe they will be allowed to stay, will now risk their lives. An act of kindness will result in many millions risking their lives, many more children washed ashore.

And what we are seeing now, is nothing like what we will see when climate change kicks in. One of the roots of the crisis on Syria is a drought of many years in Syria, forcing people from the countryside into the cities.

Since the uprising against Assad in March 2011, over 240,000 people have been killed, 4 million Syrians have fled their country, and over 7 million have been displaced.

Giles Fraser says let them all come, Green Party says no borders. Let us assume insanity prevails and we let them all in. Our cities will become like those in the Third World, surrounded by shanty towns.

Figures are bandied about. Many of which are false, as no one bothers to check, they simply regurgitate what they read, maybe in the hope that if regurgitated often enough, will become an accepted truth.

UK has accepted 260 (or is it 270) Syrian refugees. Will fill a Tube train, we are told.

Actually several hundred will fill a Tube train, but putting this to one side, the figure is from one programme. 5,000 Syrian refugees have been accepted from different programmes.

Germany will accept 800,000 migrants. This figure is not true.

800,000 is a projection of migrants into Germany, many of whom will be sent back. It is not how many Germany will accept. This is all migrants, not only from Syria, it includes migrants from Albania.

Germany has accepted 10-20,000 over one weekend. Germany Austria and Hungary have said this was due to exceptional circumstances, and are now tightening their restrictions.

Germany has said it may accept more migrants. This should be seen within the context of a projected labour shortage in Germany.

Germany now cannot cope. Munich cannot cope. Germany closed its borders, quickly followed by Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia.

One of the many ironies is the refusal of Israel to accept any Syrian refugees. Did not Free Europe take those Jews fleeing Nazi Occupied Europe? But then maybe a mixed blessing, as they would only house them on stolen Palestinian land.

And what of the wealthy Gulf States? We do not see the corrupt House of Saud welcoming refugees, and yet it is their meddling in the Middle East that has helped cause the refugee crisis.

For Syrians, be they in Turkey or Lebanon, or hoipng for a better life in Europe, they have no home to go to, many have walked for days, weeks, been on the move for years.

Syria and Palestine, resemble Germany in 1945.

The obligation of any country, is to provide safe sanctuary. That does not imply refugees can demand which country they be taken to.

The Law of Unintended Consequences, may well lead to more migrants dying as they engage in perilous journeys, the only ones to benefit being the people traffickers.

One option may be to create a safe haven in Libya, access to the sea, materials to build houses, a plot to grow food, a sharing gift economy.

To stop the flow of migrants the underlying causes have to be addressed. This is not a European problem, it is a problem of the Middle East.

In Syria, a tyrant to be deposed, ISIS to be defeated.

Yes, as Jeremy Cobyn has suggested, a meeting of all parties, talks (which David Cameron has dismissed out of hand). ISIS will not talk. They are an insurgency and can only be defeated by military means, which as a start, means arming the Kurds and providing whatever military support they request.

What was feared would happen, is already happening. Given the green light, you will be able to stay if you make the trip, tens of thousands are now making the trip. The transit countries are being overwhelmed by marauding migrant mobs. When officials try to process the migrants they are being met by violence.

Meanwhile, those left behind, the ones who are really suffering, are forgotten.

Until November last year Canon Andrew White, better known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, was Chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, the only Anglican Church in Iraq. He was eventually forced to leave at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury following numerous death threats from ISIS militants, and now works as the founding and current President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME).

In a scathing statement, Canon White has now slammed Europe for its response to the migrant crisis. He says it is wrong to focus resources on those already in Europe, when those in real need are the ones left behind.

I am disappointed by Europe’s response to the refugee crisis. Not enough is being done to help the most vulnerable, particularly those who have fled religious persecution.

My charity is providing food, shelter and medicine for hundreds of Iraqi refugee families who have fled ISIS and are now in Jordan. Some have walked across the desert to find safety, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

When I see angry young men clashing with border police in Hungary and demanding to be let into other EU countries, I feel that the wrong people are at the front of the queue.

Europe needs to distinguish between those who are looking for a better life and those who are running for their lives, otherwise we risk failing those who need our help the most.

I would like to see more being done for the thousands of refugees, particularly Iraqi refugees, who are stranded in Jordan and other countries without any hope for the future.

Canon Andrew White is not the only one  urging Europe to look beyond the migrants on their doorstep to the wider picture.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I told the Vatican Insider that there was “something strange” about European politicians encouraging migrants into their countries to take jobs in the care industry, looking after the sick and elderly.

I can confirm that it is not just displaced people who are fleeing. Priests tell me that there are also people who aren’t too badly off financially, people who work at banks for example, who are leaving. People who don’t really need to leave. They feel that a window of opportunity has opened up and they fear this window will soon close so they take advantage of it. Meanwhile, those who are poorer aren’t even considering leaving. Everyone is losing out. Those who are most able are leaving and they are the only ones who could rebuild all that has been destroyed in recent years.

Writing in the Spectator, Paul Collier pointed out the moral ambivalence of ushering into our countries to the “richer and more resourceful” refugees, rather than encouraging them to stay and rebuild their own countries.

If you resist the easy option taken by the chattering classes who claim the moral high ground by insisting on open borders, you can see that European policy is the result of moral confusion.

Let’s take the ‘duty of rescue’, which is official Europe’s rationale for fishing people out of the sea. People have a right to dream of a life in Europe, but Europe has a moral obligation to rescue, not to make dreams come true.

What does rescue imply and to whom does it apply? Just being poor does not make someone eligible for being ‘rescued’ by a life in Europe. Mass poverty has to be tackled, but the only way it can be done is for poor countries to catch up with the rich ones. There are ways in which we can help that process, but encouraging the mass emigration of their most enterprising young people is not one of them.

Rojava: The Revolution we do not hear about

February 9, 2015

During the Spanish Civil War, Anarchists took control of towns, organised, until they were crushed by the Fascists.

Syriza has brought hope to Greece, inspired the Spanish to elect Podemos, it may spread further.

Rojava is a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. A revolution we hear little about. Self-organising autonomous networks.

They face attacks from ISIS, but also until recently, Turkey was preventing any support from across the border, except they allow jihadist to cross the border. Crossing the border is not permissible for journalists.

Across the border, supported by PKK in Turkish occupied Kurdistan. PKK for demanding autonomy for Kurds, are branded terrorists by Turkey.

The Kurds have carved out an autonomous region in northern Iraq. The same has happened in northern Syria, except it goes much further and deeper.

All are equal, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Muslims. Women and men are equal. The women are fighters.

Contrast the Kurds with brutality of ISIS.

It was Kurdish YPG that rescued Yazidis when trapped on a mountainside, surrounded by ISIS.

Gareth Watkins:

The Middle East today is the last place anyone in mainstream western thought would think to look for progressive political thought, and even less to see those thoughts translated into action. Our image of the region is one of dictatorships, military juntas and theocracies built on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire, or hollow states like Afghanistan, and increasingly Pakistan, where anything outside the capitol is like Mad Max. The idea of part of the region being not just free, but well on its way to utopian, isn’t one that you’re going to find on mainstream media.

But you’re not on the mainstream media right now, are you?

Along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Northern Iraq, lies a mainly Kurdish area with a population of 4.6 million where a huge social experiment is taking place at the centre of a crossfire between Syria’s dictatorship, ISIS’s collective insanity and Turkey’s ongoing hostility towards the idea of Kurdish autonomy, with the US and NATO looming large in the background. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) established in the region of Rojava a society that mixes fierce libertarianism (guns are everywhere and there are no taxes – none) and Occupy-friendly anarchist thought with a healthy dose of feminism. While most Kurdish groups, especially those the US is friendly with, would some day like to establish a Kurdish state, in Rojava they have leap-frogged over the idea of the nation state into a more advanced system that they call Democratic Confederalism.

In the cantons of Rojava, there is a small central government with an absolute minimum of 40% female delegates, but most of the day-to-day work of running society happens at a local level, street by street and village by village. Democratic Confederalism’s chief architect, Abdullah Ocalan, says that “Ecology and feminism are central pillars” of the system he has spearheaded, something that you would have to go very far to the margins to hear from Western politicians. In Rojava, men who beat their wives face total ostracism from the community, making their lives in a highly social, connected society virtually impossible. Instead of a police force and jails, ‘peace committees’ in each municipality work to defuse the cycles of inter-family revenge killings by consensual agreements between both sides – and it works.

The only part of Rojava’s experiment that has received any international attention has been the YPJ, the female-only paramilitary forces that have been fighting, and winning, against ISIS and the Syrian Army. NBC, the Guardian and even Marie Claire have all covered the YPJ’s bravery without even paying lip service to the ideology that makes it possible.

It was the YPJ, along with their male counterparts the YPG, that rescued the thousands of Yazidis stranded and encircled by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. The Yazidi community had the misfortune to be based almost entirely inside the area that ISIS has claimed – and they have been a hated minority in the Islamic world for a thousand years, accused of ‘devil worship’. While the US dropped supplies from above, the Syrian fighting groups broke ISIS’s lines and saved tens of thousands of lives. They also successfully defended the city of Kobani when ISIS launched an all-out assault on the city of forty-five thousand with tanks, missiles and even drones. Despite heavy losses, the city remains ISIS-free, though its surrounding villages are still contested.

Crisis forces innovation.



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