May 22, 2012
DAMASCUS – While chaos and violence continue to escalate in Syria, rebel groups realize they must turn to outside players, including Gulf State governments and extremist groups .
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is still generally short of weapons, ammunition and money. But "some groups are armed to the teeth, while others can hardly afford bullets. That naturally leads to conflict," says Ahmed, an activist from Hama.
The FSA is not an army with a central command: it is a collective movement made up of citizen fighters and militias. This structure increases the danger that rival interest groups exploit individual battalions to their own ends. "If you're contributing money, you want something for that money," Ahmed says.
Most of the money is apparently flowing in from the Gulf States. The Washington Post reported that Saudi Arabia and Qatar decided last month to finance the FSA to the tune of several million dollars.
But Islamist groups are also playing a significant role. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in building a significant amount of influence. "We have been supporting our Syrian people for a while now with humanitarian and financial aid," says Mulham al-Drubi, a leading member of the party.
Many activists fear that ideological baggage is attached to the payments. "The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists in the Gulf States are in a position to collect donations in the mosques," human rights advocate Wissam Tarif says. "The money has turned some FSA groups into virtual mercenary units pushing a political agenda."
The results can already be felt, says Tarif, who's noticed a marked increase in religious tension. What is also striking is the way the appearance of the rebels has changed: videos show that many fighters have started sporting Salafist-style beards. Black banners bearing texts from the Koran are also appearing more and more.
Teaming up with the "bad guys'
Fear has been growing for a while now in Syria that the regime's brutality could start to push rebels into the arms of extremist groups. "The international community talks and talks, but every day people are dying here," says Walid Fares, an activist from Homs, a rebel stronghold. "If nobody else comes to our help, we will end up teamed with the bad guys."
As Fares speaks, shots can be heard in the background. Fares lives in the Khalidija area under FSA control, but hardly a day goes by when government forces don't attack.
Right now, there are increasing signs that foreign extremists are being sent into Syria. In February, al Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri called for members to support the fight against the Assad regime. In late April, two Lebanese members of the Fatah al-Islam terror group, which has ties to al Qaeda, were killed near Homs. And for several weeks Syria has been repeatedly shaken by bomb attacks that repeat the same pattern of attacks perpetrated in Iraq.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that he assumes al Qaeda was behind last week's double attack in the capital of Damascus that killed at least 55 people and injured 370 others. Two representatives of Syria's National Council told the al-Arabiya news channel, however, that the attacks were carried out by terrorists whom President Bashar al-Assad's government had been keeping in jail "in reserve for bad times."
Crossing over from Iraq
Most opposition fighters say they've never seen any foreign fighters, but these claims are not necessarily reliable. The rebels know that it would hurt them if the impression spreads that the rebels have been infiltrated by al Qaeda.
Hasrid, an activist in Damascus, is one of the few rebels prepared to admit the presence of extremists from neighboring countries. "They contacted us," he says, adding that the jihadists found it difficult to integrate into FSA units.
"These people are idiots who are doing this to be killed," he says. "The FSA fighters at least possess basic notions like the instinct to survive, and professionalism. They don't have anything in common with these loudmouth foreigners who come here and want to set them on the path of victory over the infidels."
One cannot discount the real possibility that the regime is using the extremists to its own ends, to discredit the protest movement, says a well-known western political scientist in Damascus who wished to remain anonymous. "They wouldn't stop at using a jihadist threat to exploit the situation."
But Amer, an activist from Deir Assur in the eastern part of the country, reports that about a month ago an al Qaeda delegation from Iraq came to his city. "There were about 20 of them. They said they could help, but in return we had to follow their rules," he says. Local FSA leaders turned the men down. "They told them: ‘you're not welcome here.""
Amer does admit that militant Islamists are entering Syria at a nearby border crossing, and that a dozen Syrians have returned to Deir Assur from Iraq. They had left Syria to join in the fight against the U.S. occupation, and are now back – trained, experienced fighters on the side of the rebels.
Robert Mood, who heads the U.N. observation team stationed in Syria, says that he sees no chance of a permanent end to the violence unless the conflicting parties sit down for some serious dialogue. According to U.N. estimates, more than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.
Read the original story in German
Photo - Freedom House
Die Welt ("The World") is a German daily founded in Hamburg in 1946, and currently owned by the Axel Springer AG company, Europe's largest publishing house. Now based in Berlin, Die Welt is sold in more than 130 countries. A Sunday edition called Welt am Sonntag has been published since 1948.
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Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
October 19, 2021
Welcome to Tuesday, where Pyongyang test fires a suspected submarine-launched missile, Colin Powell is remembered, Poland-EU tensions rise, and yay (or yeesh): it's officially Ye. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the new professional demands in a recovering economy.
[*Oromo - Ethiopia and Kenya]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• North Korea fires missile off Japan coast: South Korea military reports that North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the coast of Japan. The rocket, thought to have been launched from a submarine, is the latest test in a series of provocations in recent weeks.
• Poland/EU tensions: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of "blackmail" and said the European Union is overstepping its powers, in a heated debate with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The escalation comes in the wake of a controversial ruling by Poland's Constitutional Tribunal that puts national laws over EU principles.
• Colin Powell remembered: Tributes are pouring for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after his death yesterday at age 84. Although fully vaccinated, Powell died from complications from COVID-19 as he was battling blood cancer. A trailblazing soldier, he then helped shape U.S. foreign policy, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and served as the nation's top diplomat for George W. Bush. Powell's legacy is, by his own admission, "blotted" by his faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the U.S. war in Iraq.
• Russia to suspend NATO diplomatic mission amid tension: Russia is suspending its diplomatic mission to NATO and closing the alliance's offices in Moscow as relations with the Western military block have plunged to a new low. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the move after NATO expelled eight diplomats from Russia's mission for alleged spying. Relations between NATO and Russia have been strained since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
• Ecuador state of emergency to battle drug crime: President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency amid Ecuador's surge in drug-related violence. He announced the mobilization of police and the military to patrol the streets, provide security, and confront drug trafficking and other crimes.
• Taliban agrees to house-to-house polio vaccine drive: The WHO and Unicef campaign will resume nationwide polio vaccinations after more than three years, as the new Taliban government agreed to support the campaign and to allow women to participate as frontline health workers. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and infectious disease
• Kanye West officially changes name: Some say yay, some say yeesh, but it's official: The-artist-formerly-known-as-Kanye-West has legally changed his name to Ye, citing "personal reasons."
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
The Washington Post pays tribute to Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, who died at 84 years old from complications from COVID-19.
Indian retailer Fabindia's naming its new collection Jashn-e Riwaaz, an Urdu term meaning "celebration of tradition," has been met with severe backlash and calls for boycott from right-wing Hindu groups. They are accusing the brand of false appropriation by promoting a collection of clothes designed for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but giving it a name in Urdu, a language spoken by many Muslims.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Work → In Progress: Where have all the workers gone?
After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback. This edition of Work → In Progress looks not only at the coming changes in our post-COVID economy, but also the ways our world is re-evaluating professional obligations.
🗓️ Hail the 4-day week Across the planet, the shorter work week trend is spreading like wildfire. Four is the new five. Spain began experimenting with the concept earlier this year. New Zealand launched a similar trial run in 2020. And in Iceland, efforts to curb working hours date all the way back to 2015, with significant results: 86% of the country's workforce gained the right to reduce work hours with no change in pay.
🚚 Empty seats In the United States, meanwhile, a severe lack of truck drivers has the country's transportation industry looking to hire from abroad. The only problem is … the shortage is happening worldwide, in part because of the e-commerce boom in the wake of worldwide quarantines. The Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that companies will be scrambling to fill the jobs of 17,000 truck drivers in the next two years. The article blames low wages and the dangerous nature of the job, stating that Italian companies are making moves to employ foreign workers.
💼 Key help wanted It's all well and good to question current working conditions. But what about 20 years from now? Will we be working at all? A recent article in the French daily Les Echos posed just that question, and posits that by 2041 — and with the exception of a few select jobs — automation and digitalization will decimate employment. The piece refers to the lucky few as "essential workers," a concept that originated with COVID lockdowns when almost all labor halted and only a minority of workers capable of performing society's most crucial in-person tasks were allowed to carry on.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
I'm worried for my Afghan sisters.
— Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai Nobel Prize tells the BBC that despite the Taliban's announcement that they would soon lift the ban on girls' education in Afghanistan, she worries it "might last for years."
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Are you more yay or yeesh about the artist currently known as Ye? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at email@example.com!
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