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What It’s Like to Stand Alongside the Kurdish Women Fighting ISIS 

Our unit’s rotation on the moving front finished yesterday, so they’ve given us a few days off. So I hitched a lift with the logistics van to Qamishlo [a city in northeastern Syria] to meet some old friends and do some shopping. I need T-shirts and socks. There’s something weird going on with Syrian socks—they always make my feet smell, no matter how much I wash them. Sorxwin won’t stop taking the piss out of my stinky feet.

I got the socks and went for lunch with the three other Western women in the YPJ—two Swedes and a Canadian. I had two hamburgers and a beer. I can’t tell you what a treat that was after a month of chicken spam and Dairylea. And it was only the third beer I’ve drunk in a year. Kurdish girls aren’t allowed to drink for religious reasons, and you can’t drink in front of them. It tasted like heaven. I think I was a little tipsy.

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/what-its-like-to-stand-alongside-the-kurdish-women-fighting-isis

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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‘I Was Showered in Blood’: What Happened When ISIS Came to Our Camp 

I woke up at 3AM this morning for guard duty—two hours alone on the roof of our sleeping quarters. Squinting out into the night, I could see nothing but darkness. I nibble on a packet of sunflower seeds.

I’m always terrified on guard duty. All I think is, “Oh god, what if an ISIS sniper pops me off with one shot and sneaks into the building and blows up my friends?” I’ve never heard of that happening, but it’s a psychological thing. There’s no way to prevent being shot by a sniper if you’re on guard. That would be it—lights out. I wouldn’t know a thing. But like my commander, 30-year-old Sorxwîn, always says: “Fear is good; it keeps you alert.’

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/i-was-showered-in-blood-what-happened-when-isis-came-to-our-camp

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Surprising Things I Learned as a Woman Fighting ISIS 

I woke up 7AM this morning to the sound of radios going crazy. Friends said they could see movement, but no one was sure. Then I heard gunfire.

We’ve spent the past week liberating frontline villages along the Euphrates River towards Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city. Last night, my tabur [platoon]—a mix of eight YPJ women and six YPG men, plus a female commander named Sorxwin— camped in a town a few hundred metres behind the frontline. Today was supposed to be our day off, which is why we’d slept in later than usual. ISIS often attack then. They think they can catch us off guard behind our lines. But they are lashing out like a cornered dog: we’re stronger, more organized, have the might of coalition airstrikes on our side, and have almost completely encircled Raqqa. They’ve nowhere left to run.

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/surprising-things-i-learned-as-a-woman-fighting-isis

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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US air strikes in Syria: Why America really attacked pro-Assad militia convoy

The Pentagon’s account of its Thursday-night air strike on pro-Assad militia forces in Syria concealed the real story of a race to the Syrian-Iraqi border by armed groups working for both the Americans and the Syrian regime. Even the targets listed by the US appear to have been wrong. Indeed, what was described by the Americans as a minor action was part of a far more important struggle between the US and the Syrian regime for control of the south-eastern frontier of Syria – a vital supply line for Iran to maintain its forces in Syria.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-syria-airstrikes-why-bashar-al-assad-militia-convoy-iraq-border-training-camp-rebels-a7744091.html

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict attack

The details were horrific. Outside the besieged city of Mosul, 13,000 wounded civilians are today waiting for reconstructive surgery – from just this one seven-month battle. Another 5,000 Iraqi police militiamen are waiting for the same surgery from recent military offensives, in their case to be cared for by the Iraqi ministry of interior. But the health infrastructure that exists in the whole of Iraq cannot look after these wounded. As a result, some are turning up in Damascus – amid the frightfulness of the Syrian war – for the surgery they cannot obtain at home. A new graft in Damascus costs $200.In the balmy early summer of Beirut this week came these detailed new horrors of Middle East war. For beside the state-of-the-art American University Medical Centre in the city, doctors from across the region, from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine – along with the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres – came to discuss their fears for the wounded and the sick and their conviction that drug-resistant bacteria are growing in hospitals in the Middle East. Just how to deal with this may be within the knowledge of the military medical authorities – but not within the hands of civilian doctors.

Source: Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict attack | The Independent

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Can Syria ever be repaired when its long civil war finally comes to an end?

After its titanic civil war, can Syria remain a united state? And if it does – if Syria can be put back together again – how do you repair its people?

These are not idle words when, across the border, the people of Lebanon have again been marking the mournful anniversary of the start of their own civil war in 1975. The dead of Lebanon, like the dead of Syria, have been buried and resurrected by journalists and politicians. At the end of the Lebanese Civil War we reckoned 150,000 had died. Two months ago, a young Beirut activist suddenly came up with a figure of 200,000. What happened to the extra 50,000? And then last month, the figure rose again in a local newspaper to 250,000. What happened to the extra 100,000?

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syrian-war-conflic-ends-how-to-repair-country-lessons-from-lebanon-dont-apply-a7729676.html

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Donald Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish fighters could have profound impact on the Syria crisis

President Trump’s decision to provide weapons to the Syrian Kurds, who are fighting Isis, potentially marks a crucial change in the political geography of the Middle East. In effect, the US is choosing to support its Kurdish ally in Syria, in defiance of Turkey, whose aim is to prevent the establishment of a quasi-independent Kurdish state there.

Mr Trump approved a plan on Monday to arm the Kurds directly, in order to enable the People’s Mobilisation Units (YPG) Kurdish militia and its Arab allies to assault and capture Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis in Syria. The US will send heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, mortars, armoured cars and engineering equipment to bolster the attack.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/donald-trump-isis-syria-crisis-kurdish-fighters-turkey-raqqa-ypg-a7728741.html

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Fall of Raqqa and Mosul will not spell the end for Isis – only a new beginning

When Lionel Messi scored a last minute winning goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid on 23 April, football fans in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous who had been watching the game on television rushed into the street to celebrate.

This turned out to be a mistake from their point of view because many of the jubilant fans were men of military age, whom the Syrian security forces promptly detained in order to find out if they were liable for military service. It is unknown how many were conscripted but, once in the army, they will have difficulty getting out and there is a high chance they will be killed or injured.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-mosul-iraq-raqqa-syria-fall-of-strongholds-battle-latest-end-of-beginning-a7716111.html?amp

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Boris Johnson’s foreign policy in Syria is based on wishful thinking

There is nothing surprising in Boris Johnson saying that it would be difficult for the UK not to join US military action in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to a chemical weapons attack. Since the Second World War British governments have been trying to strengthen the UK’s status as the most important military ally of the US. But after 9/11 this obeisance became more craven and knee-jerk, despite producing failed British military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the Trump administration in power in the US, these British efforts to prove to Washington the usefulness and reliability of its links to the UK have become ever more desperate. Britain’s departure from a major alliance like the EU, and likely confrontation with it over the terms of Brexit, is bound to make Britain less of a power in the world. It therefore needs to foster closer relations with Trump’s America along with an unsavoury list of countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/boris-johnson-syria-trump-based-on-wishful-thinking-a7706031.html

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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The Syria Catastrophe

The Syrian war is at once incomprehensibly byzantine and very simple. It is complex in the number of countries involved, in the shifting and fragile internal alliances and resentments of the groups constituting the rebellion, in the threads of national interest that circle back and consume themselves like a snake eating its own tail. To take just one example: after a decade of friendly relations with Syria, Turkey turned on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and decided to work toward his downfall, and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed that his country would “support the Syrian people in every way until they get rid of the bloody dictator and his gang.” Since then, Turkey has served as a staging ground for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), but it has also been repeatedly accused of funneling funds and arms to ISIS, which regularly attacks FSA bases and beheads the soldiers it captures. Turkey has provided military aid to the effort to combat ISIS, but it also devotes energy and resources to fighting Kurdish nationalists, who have been more effective in fighting ISIS than any other group to date. In November 2016, Erdoğan reiterated his determination to unseat Assad, saying Turkish forces had entered Syria in August 2016 for no other reason than to remove Assad from power. One day later, he retracted his statement and claimed Turkey’s military campaign in Syria had been designed solely to defeat ISIS, the terrorist group whose operations Turkey had at least tacitly and perhaps actively supported. Turkey is now working closely with Russia, which has done more than any other country to prevent Erdoğan from realizing his goal of bringing down Assad. Turkey is just one of at least nine countries involved in the conflict.

Source: The Syria Catastrophe | Issue 28 | n+1

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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