Geopolitics

Syria: Monday Morning Wrap-Up

SANA (Syria), AL ARABIYA (UAE) , FARS (Iran) , BBC (UK)

Worldcrunch

Here are the latest developments on the Syrian conflict:

→Syrian state-run TV announced Monday morning that Prime Minister Riad Hijab had been sacked, amid rumors that he has defected to Jordan.

#Syria is controlled by security & army apparatus, PM is just a tool, yet his defection is good news indeed.

— Majd Arar (@MajdArar) August 6, 2012

→A bomb targeted Syria's state television and radio headquarters in Damascus Monday morning.

State-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Omran al-Zoubi, Minister of Information, said that there were no fatal injuries and that employees were safe.

"We know politically speaking who stands behind these terrorist operations and who funds them and who wants to silence the voice of the people's conscience…We know who wants destruction for this country and who wants to block the truth," said al-Zoubi.

Al-Zoubi has insisted that the pro-government television networks will continue to operate. A pro-government TV station, Al-Ikhrabiya, published a video showing workers inspecting the material damage in the third floor of the broadcasting center.

Al Arabiya published a video Saturday showing Syrian rebels who have kidnapped 48 Iranians, who they report are members of Iran"s Revolutionary Guard.

In the video, Free Syrian Army fighters announce that the men captured in Damascus were on a reconnaissance mission in the capital, whilst Iran's Fars News Agency has insisted that the Iranian captives are pilgrims.

→Tensions are high in Aleppo as 20,000 Syrian military troops are said to be preparing for an offensive on the country's largest city, the BBC reports.

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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