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الثلاثاء، 30 سبتمبر 2014

Killing Iraqi Children with Impunity

Killing Iraqi Children with Impunity


  1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
  2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Counter-terrorism measures in Iraq, as elsewhere, are frequently used as a cover to punish political opposition. The unrelenting bombing of towns and villages in the Sunni dominated regions of Western and Northern Iraq has been no exception. The targets have been mainly residential areas, mosques and hospitals.  The weapon of choice: barrel bombs.
Many of the strikes have been documented by Human Rights Watch, including an airstrike on 1st September on a school near Tikrit which was being used to shelter civilian refugees.  At least 31 civilians were killed including 24 children.  Survivors insist that there were no Islamic State (IS) fighters or military objects in the area at the time and there have been frequent observations that even when IS targets are obvious, it is the residential districts that are hit.  According to Human Rights Watch the indiscriminate nature of the attacks violate international humanitarian law. Airstrikes are targeting government buildings, water and electricity supplies, hospitals, mosques, busy market places and residential areas.
According to the UN, 1.8 million people have been displaced from and within the  Western and Northern provinces since the beginning of the year. They are dispersed in around 1 400 locations, some trapped in areas of fighting and out of humanitarian reach. People are deeply traumatized and in need of security, shelter, food, water, health care and other basic amenities.  They are fleeing the relentless government attacks on civilian areas and genocidal atrocities committed by both  the Islamic State and government-backed Shi’a militias and death squads.
The town of  Fallujah, which its people had slowly built back after its almost total demolition by the US  in 2004, is again in ruins.
Southern Outskirts of Fallujah 08.09.14
The bombing there is daily with many child casualties.  On 13thSeptember, Prime Minister Al-Abadi announced he had ordered airstrikes on civilian areas to stop, but there is no sign of any let up. Shortly after his announcement, Fallujah hospital was bombed again, badly injuring a staff member; on 15thSeptember, 6 civilians were killed  and 22 wounded including 9 children; on 16thSeptember 3 killed including 2 children and 19 wounded.
8 children killed in Fallujah airstrike 04.09.14
A journalist from Niqash who managed to access the city recently describes the utter devastation. Some areas have been completely leveled and three quarters of a population of over half a million have fled.
 “Those who stay here are living by luck alone,” says Karim al-Bajari, one of the residents who still remains. “We live as though we are playing hide and seek continuously. We hide when the shelling starts or when we hear planes.” [Niqash]
Fallujah children hiding in a tunnel from barrel bombs
The people are exhausted. There are shortages of medicine, food, water and electricity. The town is under complete siege by the Iraqi army and under the control of the Islamic State which has booby trapped all routes in and out.
The general hospital has itself been bombed at least 27 times since January and most of the doctors are displaced.  The few that remain keep diligent track of the numbers of civilians killed and injured. In the first eight months of this year 830 civilians had been killed, many of them women and children, and more than 2595 injured.
The cemetery is overflowing and people are now being buried in mass graves or in their back gardens.
“In one day, we were forced to bury four children in one grave,” the worker says. “Their body parts got mixed together. And slowly the cemetery is becoming way too crowded. We are even burying people on the pathways now.” [Niqash]
Much of the damage has been caused by barrel bombs and other unguided munitions. Barrel bombs  are improvised weapons made from cylinders (i.e. oil drums, water barrels, gas cylinders)  filled with rubble, scrap metal and high explosives. They can destroy an area of 500 metres easily obliterating houses and their occupants. Entire families have been wiped out in one blast. They are dropped from helicopters or even modified cargo planes.
In May 2014, Professor Victoria Fontan wrote: “Not only are these bombs destructive, their use against a targeted group may constitute a crime against humanity. Moreover, the international community’s complacence towards the Iraqi government in relation to the population of Fallujah and greater Anbar province may make it an accessory to this crime.”
Targeting hospitals
Civilians and medical facilities are being targeted throughout Western and Northern Iraq. On 24th July, a report was released by Doctors Without Borders on the number of Iraqi hospitals destroyed in airstrikes.
“We are receiving accounts from medical staff that more and more hospitals have been hit by bombs in recent weeks,” says Fabio Forgione, MSF head of mission in Iraq. “Medical staff have fled, fearing attacks on the health facilities where they are working. We are extremely concerned that significant numbers of people are now deprived of the medical assistance they need.”
Hospitals and clinics in Fallujah, Tikrit, Garma, Mosul and Shirqat have been targeted, some repeatedly.  On 21st June the World Health Organisation issued a statement strongly condemning “ the attacks on health facilities in Iraq” and expressed concern “about the serious implications of these attacks on medical personnel, patients and health infrastructure.” The bombing of hospitals and health facilities is forbidden under customary international law.
Children with complex health needs
Many of the towns now under attack, including Fallujah, Ramadi and Hawija have been in the news in recent years because of the high rise in cancers and congenital anomalies amongst children. Independent doctors and scientists have found  high levels of toxic and radioactive contamination   in the parents of affected children and the environment, resulting from the US military attacks of 2004. Congenital malformations now account for at least 15% of all births in Fallujah – more than in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is a particularly high incidence of  congenital heart defects and neural tube defects.
Child born in Fallujah Maternity and Children’s Hospital 12.7.2013
In 2013, a new Maternity and Children’s Hospital was opened in Falljuah, courtesy of the United Nations Development Programme and the Japanese Government but no records of birth defects have been kept there in 2014 because the specialist doctors are displaced and mothers may never even reach a hospital.
On 6th September the children’s hospital in Hawija was shelled, destroying the premature baby unit and the medical consultancy department. 18 people were killed including 8 newborns. Other women and children were injured.
Hawija Children’s Hospital also serves an extraordinary number of disabled children. In 2011, the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) presented a report  on the hundreds of children suffering from paralysis and brain damage and on the cancers which are spreading like an epidemic, especially among teenagers. For many years, the US military used an area just 1.5 kilometers away from the town for live ammunition and explosives practice with no precautions to  prevent people from entering the area.
After decades of war and terrorist attack many   thousands of children in Iraq have lost limbs or suffered  disfigurement. Even before this latest upsurge of violence, there were over 3 million disabled people in Iraq. Between 10 and 12 percent of the population. Two years ago the government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),  and in 2013 a law was passed regarding care for people with disability and special needs, but health officials say the government has shown little interest in acting upon it. In the current turmoil, families with disabled children are among the most vulnerable and trapped.
Mental health is also an issue. Constant fear due lack of security, displacement, bereavement, and the witnessing of violent death is causing all manner of psychological conditions for both adults and children. An assessment report made for Save the Children in June on IDP families from Northern Iraq noted that the adults’ most urgent concern was their children’s psychological distress. Behavioural changes included crying, eating disorders, aggressiveness, isolation/withdrawal, insomnia, fear in general and fear of police or military personnel in particular. The children talked about fear of kidnapping, sickness, lack of education and fear of being killed.  The report condemned the reckless disregard of children’s lives by armed groups and armed forces.
The Al-Khair Foundation, operating in Anbar province, estimates that around 400 children have been orphaned since the start of the government’s military operations in December last year. The collapse of local government facilities and displacement of key workers means that records  are hard to keep and the children who are registered as orphans are offered no assistance. In 2011 a UNICEF survey estimated that 800 000 Iraqi children had lost one or both parents. This figure will now have substantially increased. Many of these children are forced into child labour and are very vulnerable to recruitment by militias and armed forces.
It is clear that the Iraqi government is disregarding its obligations to the children in its care and contravening many aspects of domestic and international law. The greater responsibility, however, lies with the US, UK and UN. The current corruption and abuse of power within the Iraqi government is a direct result of the dysfunctional, sectarian political process that was forced upon the country during the occupation. An occupation awarded by the UN to  two countries that had not only just waged an illegal war, but had, over the preceding years, determined the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children through the abuse of their powers on the UN Iraq Sanctions Committee.
With Iraqi airspace again open to  US/NATO airstrikes, and  the Iraqi Government  a willing recipient of international weapon sales,  it will not be the Islamic State that suffers, but the children of Iraq.
Joanne Baker

War, Media Propaganda and the Police State

War, Media Propaganda and the Police State


Modern propaganda techniques utilized by the corporate state to enforce anti-democratic and destructive policies routinely entail the manufacture and manipulation of news events to mold public opinion and, as Edward Bernays put it, “engineer consent” toward certain ends.
Such events include not only overt political appeals, but also acts of seemingly spontaneous terrorism and militarism that traumatize the body politic into ultimately accepting false narratives as political and historical realities.
Western states’ development and utilization of propaganda closely parallels the steady decay of political enfranchisement and engagement throughout the twentieth century. Upon securing a second term in 1916, the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson plunged the United States into the most violent and homicidal war in human history. Wilson, a former Princeton University academician groomed for public office by Wall Street bankers, assembled a group of progressive-left journalists and publicists to “sell the war” to the American people.
Prof James F. Tracy on GRTV at the  Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, August  2014 
George Creel, Walter Lippmann, Edward Bernays and Harold Lasswell all played influential roles in the newly-formed Committee on Public Information, and would go on to be major figures in political thought, public relations, and psychological warfare research.
The sales effort was unparalleled in its scale and sophistication. The CPI was not only able to officially censor news and information, but essentially manufacture these as well. Acting in the role of a multifaceted advertising agency, Creel’s operation “examined the different ways that information flowed to the population and flooded these channels with pro-war material.”
The Committee’s domestic organ was comprised of 19 subdivisions, each devoted to a specific type of propaganda, one of which was a Division of News that distributed over 6,000 press releases and acted as the chief avenue for war-related information. On an average week, more than 20,000 newspaper columns carried data provided through CPI propaganda. The Division of Syndicated Features enlisted the help of popular novelists, short story writers, and essayists. These mainstream American authors presented the official line in a readily accessible form reaching twelve million people every month. Similar endeavors existed for cinema, impromptu soapbox oratory (Four Minute Men), and outright advertising at home and abroad.[1]
With the experiences and observations of these war marketers variously recounted and developed throughout the 1920s (Lippmann, Public Opinion, The Phantom Public, Bernays, Propaganda,Crystallizing Public Opinion, Creel, How We Advertised America, Lasswell, Propaganda and the World War), alongside the influence of their elite colleagues and associates, the young publicists’ optimism concerning popular democracy guided by informed opinion was sobered with the realization that public sentiment was actually far more susceptible to persuasion than had been previously understood. The proposed solutions to guarantee something akin to democracy in an increasingly confusing world lay in “objective” journalism guided by organized intelligence (Lippmann) and propaganda, or what Edward Bernays termed “public relations.”
The argument laid out in Lippmann’s Public Opinion was partly motivated by the US Senate’s rejection of membership in the League of Nations. An adviser to the Wilson administration, a central figure behind intelligence gathering that informed postwar geopolitical dynamics laid out at the Paris Peace Conference, and an early member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Lippmann increasingly viewed popular democracy as plagued by a hopelessly ill-informed public opinion incapable of comprehending the growing complexities of modern society. Only experts could be entrusted with assessing, understanding, and acting on the knowledge accorded through their respective professions and fields.
Along these lines, journalism should mimic the then-fledgling social sciences by pursuing objectivity and deferring to the compartmentalized expertise of established authority figures. News and information could similarly be analyzed, edited, and coordinated to ensure accuracy by journalists exercising similar technocratic methods. Although Lippmann does not exactly specify what body would oversee such a process of “organized intelligence,” his postwar activities and ties provides a clue.
Edward Bernays’ advocacy for public opinion management is much more practical and overt. Whereas Lippmann suggests a regimented democracy via technocratic news and information processing, Bernays stresses a privileged elite’s overt manipulation of how the populace interprets reality itself. Such manipulation necessitates contrived associations, figures and events that appear authentic and spontaneous. “Any person or organization depends ultimately on public approval,” Bernays notes,
“and is therefore faced with the problem of engineering the public’s consent to a program or goal … We reject government authoritarianism or regimentation, but we are willing to be persuaded by the written or spoken word. The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest.[2]
Bernays demonstrates an affinity with Lippmann’s notion of elite expediency when pursuing prerogatives and decision-making the public at large cannot be entrusted to interpret. In such instances,
democratic leaders must play their part in leading the public through the engineering of consent to socially constructive goals and values. This role naturally imposes upon them the obligation to use educational processes, as well as other available techniques, to bring about as complete an understanding as possible.[3]
Written in the early 1950s, these observations become especially apt in the latter half of the twentieth century, where the US is typically a major aggressor in foreign (and eventually domestic) affairs. Yet what does Bernays mean by, for example, “educational processes”? An indication may be found by noting his central role in the promotion of tobacco use, municipal water fluoridation, and the overthrow of the democratically-elected Arbenz regime in Guatemala.[4]
With the advent of the national security state in 1947, secret programs emerge where the people are as a matter of course intentionally left unaware of the state’s true rationales and objectives.
Indeed, a wealth of contemporary historical examples suggest how the “engineering of consent” is wholly calculating and anti-democratic, and where the crises requiring such drastic and immediate public relations and military measures are themselves the result of the same leadership’s policies and actions. The US economic provocation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Tonkin Gulf incident precipitating US military occupation of Vietnam are obvious examples of such manufactured events.
Similar techniques are apparent in the major political assassinations of the 1960s, where to this day the public is prompted to partake in the false reality that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole culprit in the murder of President John F. Kennedy, much as Sirhan Sirhan was responsible for the death of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
In fact, in each instance overwhelming evidence points to Central Intelligence Agency involvement in orchestrating the assassinations while training and presenting Oswald and Sirhan as the would-be assassins.
The US government’s assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., probably the most influential African American public persona of the twentieth century, is not even open to debate, having been soundly proven in a court of law.[5] Yet as with the Kennedys, it is a genuine public relations achievement that much of the American population is oblivious to the deeper dynamics of these political slayings that are routinely overlooked or inaccurately recounted in public discourse.
Along these lines, in the historical context of Operation Gladio, the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, the events of September 11, 2001, the London 7/7/2005 bombings, and lesser episodes such as the “shoe” and “underwear” bombers, the engineering of consent has reached staggering new heights where state-orchestrated terrorism is used to mold public opinion toward acceptance of militarized policing operations, the continued erosion of civil liberties, and major sustained aggression against moderate Middle Eastern nations to cartelize scarce resources and politically reconfigure an entire region of the world.
Again, the public is essentially compelled to believe that political extremism of one form or another is the cause of each event, even in light of how the sophistication and scope of the Oklahoma City and 9/11 “attacks” suggest high-level forces at work. If one is to delve beneath the public relations narrative of each event, the recent Newtown massacre and Boston Marathon bombing likewise appear to have broader agendas where the public is again purposely misled.
Conventional journalists and academics are reluctant to publicly address such phenomena for fear of being called “conspiracy theorists.” In the case of academe this has severely curtailed serious and potentially crucial inquiry into such deep events and phenomena in lieu of what are often innocuous intellectual exchanges divorced from actually existing social and political realities that cry out for serious interrogation and critique.
The achievements of modern public relations are further evident in the Warren and 9/11 Commissions themselves, both of which have spun the fantastic myths of Allan Dulles and Peter Zelikow respectively, and that today maintain footholds in public discourse and consciousness.
Indeed, the “conspiracy theory” meme, a propaganda campaign waged by the CIA beginning in the mid-1960s to counter criticism of the Warren Commission report, is perhaps as little-known as Operation Mockingbird, the CIA program where hundreds of journalists and publishers actively devoted their services to spread Agency disinformation. The overall effect of these combined operations has been an immensely successful program continues to shape the contours of American political life and mediated reality.[6]
The present socio-political condition and suppression of popular democracy are triumphs of modern propaganda technique. So are they also manifest in the corporate state’s efforts to engineer public acquiescence toward such things as the colossal frauds of genetically modified organisms masquerading as “food,” toxic polypharmacy disguised as “medicine,” and the police state and “war on terror” seeking to preserve “national security.”
Notes
[1] Aaron Delwiche, “Propaganda: Wartime Propaganda: World War I, The Committee on Public Information,” accessed September 28, 2014 at http://www.propagandacritic.com/articles/ww1.cpi.html; George Creel, How We Advertised America, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1920. Available athttp://archive.org/details/howweadvertameri00creerich
[2] Edward Bernays, Public Relations, Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952, 159-160.
[3] Ibid. 160.
[4] “You can get practically any ideas accepted,” Bernays reflected on the campaign to fluoridate New York City’s water supply. “If doctors are in favor, the public is willing to accept it, because a doctor is an authority to most people, regardless of how much he knows, or doesn’t know … By the law of averages, you can usually find an individual in any field who will be willing to accept new ideas, and the new ideas then infiltrate the others who haven’t accepted it. Christopher Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004, 159.
[5] William F. Pepper, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, New York: Verso, 2003.
[6] James F. Tracy, “Conspiracy Theory: Foundations of a Weaponized Term,” Global Research, January 22, 2013.

Schoolgirl jihadis: the female Islamists leaving home to join Isis fighters

Schoolgirl jihadis: the female Islamists leaving home to join Isis fighters

Hundreds of girls and women are going missing in the west, reappearing in Iraq and Syria to bear children for the caliphate
The Guardian
Zahra Halane, 16, poses with an AK-47, an Isis flag, knife and grenade. A series of tweets about her
Zahra Halane, 16, poses with an AK-47, an Isis flag, knife and grenade. A series of tweets about her kitten, thrown out by her husband, betray her youth.
Hundreds of young women and girls are leaving their homes in western countries to join Islamic fighters in the Middle East, causing increasing concern among counter-terrorism investigators.
Girls as young as 14 or 15 are travelling mainly to Syria to marry jihadis, bear their children and join communities of fighters, with a small number taking up arms. Many are recruited via social media.
Women and girls appear to make up about 10% of those leaving Europe, North America and Australia to link up with jihadi groups, including Islamic State (Isis). France has the highest number of female jihadi recruits, with 63 in the region – about 25% of the total – and at least another 60 believed to be considering the move.
In most cases, women and girls appear to have left home to marry jihadis, drawn to the idea of supporting their “brother fighters” and having “jihadist children to continue the spread of Islam”, said Louis Caprioli, former head of the French security agency Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire. “If their husband dies, they will be given adulation as the wife of a martyr.”
Five people, including a sister and brother, were arrested in France earlier this month suspected of belonging to a ring in central France that specialised in recruiting young French women, according to Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister.
Counter-terrorism experts in the UK believe about 50 British girls and women have joined Isis, about a tenth of those known to have travelled to Syria to fight. Many are believed to be based in Raqqa, the eastern Syrian city that has become an Isis stronghold.
Those identified by researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College London are mainly aged between 16 and 24. Many are university graduates, and have left behind caring families in their home countries. At least 40 women have left Germany to join Isis in Syria and Iraq in what appears to be a growing trend of teenagers becoming radicalised and travelling to the Middle East without their parents’ permission.
“The youngest was 13-years-old,” Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told the Rheinische Post. “Four underage women left with a romantic idea of jihad marriage and married young male fighters who they had got to know via the internet.”
In Austria, the case of two teenage friends, Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, who ran away from their homes in Vienna to join jihadis in Syria, may be “only the tip of the iceberg”, said Heinz Gärtner, director of the Austrian Institute for International Politics. An estimated 14 women and girls are known to have left Austria to fight in the Middle East, according to the interior ministry.
The US does not have available data on women and girls joining Isis fighters in Syria, a senior intelligence official said in an emailed statement. “We do not have numbers to share on the number of women linked to [Isis] or fighting for them,” the official said.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counter-terrorism expert at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, downplayed the issue in the US, saying the number of women and girls joining Isis was of concern, but not an epidemic. “It’s a threat, but it’s [one] among many potential threats coming out of Syria,” he said.
Karim Pakzad, of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations, said some young women had “an almost romantic idea of war and warriors.
“There’s a certain fascination even with the head and throat-cutting. It’s an adventure.” Some may feel more respected and important than in their home countries, he added.
Samra Kesinovic, 16. Her school said she had been speaking out for ‘holy war’, writing ‘I love al-Qaida’ around the building.
Samra Kesinovic, 16. Her school said she had been speaking out for ‘holy war’, writing ‘I love al-Qaida’ around the building. Photograph: Interpol
But Shaista Gohir, of the UK Muslim Women’s Network, said little was known about the young women’s motivation or what happened to them after leaving home. “Some of these girls are very young and naive, they don’t understand the conflict or their faith, and they are easily manipulated. Some of them are taking young children with them; some may believe they are taking part in a humanitarian mission,” she said.
Social media plays a crucial role in recruiting young women to join Isis in the Middle East, according to many experts.
Some British women and girls have posted pictures of themselves carrying AK-47s, grenades and in one case a severed head, as they pledge allegiance to Isis. But they are also tweeting pictures of food, restaurants and sunsets to present a positive picture of the life awaiting young women in an attempt to lure more from the UK.
Mia Bloom, a security studies professor at Massachusetts University and author of Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, said the recruitment campaign painted a “Disney-like” picture of life in the caliphate. Some young women were offered financial incentives, such as travel expenses or compensation for bearing children.
Women already living amid Isis fighters used social media adeptly to portray Syria as a utopia and to attract foreign women to join their “sisterhood in the caliphate”, she said. “The idea of living in the caliphate is a very positive and powerful one that these women hold dear to their heart.”
But the reality was very different, she said. Both Bloom and Rolf Tophoven, director of Germany’s Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy, said reports indicated that women had been raped, abused, sold into slavery or forced to marry. “[Isis] is a strictly Islamist, brutal movement ... the power, the leadership structure, are clearly a male domain,” said Tophoven.
Zahra Halane, 16, who made her way to Syria with her twin sister shortly after sitting her GCSEs. Tweets about her new husband throwing her kitten out betray her age.
Zahra Halane, 16, who made her way to Syria with her twin sister shortly after sitting her GCSEs. Tweets about her new husband throwing her kitten out betray her age.Photograph: Cavendish Press
Messages between a British Isis fighter in Syria and his common-law wife, read in a UK court last month, revealed that many fighters are taking several wives.
In an article in Foreign Policy focusing on Isis’s attitudes to women, former CIA analysts Aki Peritz and Tara Maller said fighters were “committing horrific sexual violence on a seemingly industrial scale.
“For example, the United Nations last month estimated that [Isis] has forced some 1,500 women, teenage girls and boys into sexual slavery. Amnesty International released a blistering document noting that [Isis] abducts whole families in northern Iraq for sexual assault and worse.
“Even in the first few days following the fall of Mosul in June, women’s rights activists reported multiple incidents of [Isis] fighters going door to door, kidnapping and raping Mosul’s women.”

Jihadi poster girls

FRANCE
• Nora el-Bathy was an ordinary French schoolgirl who wanted to be a doctor. She was 15 but looked young for her age: a slight, smiling youngster in jeans and trainers posing for a photograph under the Eiffel Tower.
When Nora left her family home in the southern French city of Avignon one morning last January, with her school bag, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But, when her classes ended that day, Nora did not return home. Instead, she took a train to Paris, withdrew €550 (£430) from her savings account and changed her mobile phone to cover her tracks. She boarded a flight for flew to Istanbul, and from there took an second internal flight to the Syrian border.
Back in Avignon, her parents – practising but not strict Muslims – reported Nora missing to the police.
Her eldest brother, Fouad, trawled local hospitals convinced she had been in an accident, searched his sister’s bedroom, and examined her Facebook account for clues. There were none, except her hijab, which she had started wearing a few months before, in the wardrobe.
It was only when Fouad quizzed her closest school friends that the reason for Nora’s disappearance emerged.
The el-Bathy family discovered that found she had opened a second Facebook account where she was in contact with “jihad recruiters” in the Paris region and had posted videos of women appealing for recruits to go to Syria. In one picture, a completely veiled woman, brandishing a Kalashnikov, appeared with the caption: “Yes, kill! In the name of Allah,” in French.
Fouad, a former French soldier, was devastated. “She had a second Facebook account on which she spoke of making hijra [going to live in an Islamic country], and a second mobile phone to call the ‘sisters’,” Fouad told his local paper.
Nora had begun talking of wearing the full veil and of helping the wounded in Syria, particularly children; and shortly before she disappeared, she asked her parents if she could have her passport, claiming she had lost her identity card.
But nobody in the el-Bathy family imagined she was planning to run away to war. “We absolutely didn’t see what was coming,” Fouad said.
Three days after her disappearance, Nora telephoned her family. Police traced the calls to the Turkish-Syrian border. She told them she was fine, eating well, happy and that she did not want to return to France.
She also sent Fouad a text message to say she had arrived in Aleppo, Syria, and that she “preferred being there”. The family received two further phone calls: one from a man speaking Arabic and a second from a man speaking French. The caller asked them to give their permission for Nora to marry. Her parents refused.
Fouad decided to go to Syria to rescue his sister, but was turned back at the Turkish border. While there, he received a call from Nora. In the brief conversation, she described how she had learned to shoot, but promised she would not be fighting.
Another man who claimed to be in charge of the French fighters in Syria called Fouad to say: “Your sister is safe and she is here by choice. She’s not being kept here against her will by force. If she says she wants to go, she can go, but she wants to stay,” the man said.
Fouad later succeeded in getting to Syria and seeing Nora. Afterwards, he said she had told him: “‘I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.’
“She was thin and sick. She never sees any light. With other women she has to look after young children, orphans, but she lives surrounded by armed men.”
The el-Bathy family is now taking legal action for their daughter’s kidnap, believing that while Nora went to Syria of her own free will, she had been brainwashed by extremists.
Their lawyer, Guy Guénoun, told journalists that her recruitment and disappearance appeared to have been well planned. “It’s obvious she’s been taken in hand by a very intelligent and structured network,” he said.
UK
• Twin sisters Zahra and Salma Halane, 16, left their home in Chorlton, Manchester, in July without their parents’ knowledge to follow their brother to Syria.
Salma Halane, who is now reportedly married to an Isis fighter.
Salma Halane, who is now reportedly married to an Isis fighter. Photograph: Cavendish Press
The girls – whose parents came to the UK as refugees from Somalia – passed their GCSEs last summer after attending Whalley Range high school for girls in Manchester and went on to study at Connell sixth-form college.
They left home in the middle of the night and were reported missing by their parents. Now both are reportedly married to Isis fighters.
A social-media account believed to belong to Zahra shows her in a full veil posing with an AK-47 and kneeling in front of the Isis flag. Recent postings describe how she had lost her kitten, after her husband threw it outside.
• Aqsa Mahmood – also known as Umm Layth – left Glasgow for Syria last November and has married an Isis fighter. She is a prolific social-media user and writes a blog in which she advises other young women about the best way to travel to Syria and marry a fighter.
Mahmood, 20, has described the difficulty of telephoning her parents from the Turkish border to tell them she wanted to become a martyr and would see them again on judgment day.
In her blog she wrote: “The first phone call you make once you cross the borders is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. Your parents are already worried enough over where you are, wether [sic] you are okay and what’s happened. 
“How does a parent who has little Islamic knowledge and understanding comprehend why their son or daughter has left their well-off life, education and a bright future behind to go live in a war-torn country.”
In a post earlier this month she described the type of young women who, like her, had joined Isis from all over the world.
“Most sisters I have come across have been in university studying courses with many promising paths, with big, happy families and friends, and everything in the Dunyah [material world] to persuade one to stay behind and enjoy the luxury. If we had stayed behind, we could have been blessed with it all from a relaxing and comfortable life and lots of money. Wallahi [I swear] that’s not what we want.”
She made a direct appeal on 11 September this year for others to join her. “To those who are able and can still make your way, hasten hasten to our lands ... This is a war against Islam and it is known that either ‘you’re with them or with us’. So pick a side.”
Aqsa Mahmood, a graduate, appealed on 11 September for others to jojn her: ‘This is a war against Islam … either you’re with them or with us. So pick a side.’
Aqsa Mahmood, a graduate, appealed on 11 September for others to jojn her: ‘This is a war against Islam … either you’re with them or with us. So pick a side.’Photograph: Aamer Anwar & Co/PA
Earlier this month her parents, Muzaffar and Khalida Mahmood, publicly appealed for their daughter, who was privately educated and went to university, to return home. Her father said: “If our daughter, who had all the chances and freedom in life, could become a bedroom radical then it’s possible for this to happen to any family.”
US
Shannon Conley’s plan to serve as a nurse for Islamic State militants in Syria ended in April when the Colorado teenager was arrested on the runway at Denver airport.
A 19-year-old nurse’s aide, Conley had converted to Islam. According to court documents, her family was shocked to find she was interested in “violent jihad”.
Shannon Conley before she became radicalised.
Shannon Conley before she became radicalised. Photograph: Interpol
Conley was reported to police in October 2013 by a local pastor, after church staff became suspicious of her. For the next five months, Conley had a series of open conversations with undisguised federal agents, during which she repeatedly told them she intended to “wage jihad” overseas. “She also intended to train Islamic jihadi fighters in US military tactics,” the complaint said.
Agents said they attempted to dissuade her from taking up the violent cause, even suggesting she turn to humanitarian efforts instead.
Conley told investigators she planned to marry an Isis member she met online in early 2014. Agents believe this man is 32-year-old Yousr Mouelhi of Tunisia.
Mouelhi reportedly encouraged her to receive additional training so she could assist fighters once she arrived in Syria. In February, she attended a US army Explorers cadet training camp in Texas to learn US military tactics and practice shooting. In March, Mouelhi organised Conley’s flight, arranging for her to travel from Denver to Germany, and then to Turkey. At the time of her arrest, Conley was carrying a list of contacts, a National Rifle Association certificate and a first aid manual. In her bedroom, investigators found literature on al-Qaida and other jihadi groups.
Shannon Conley
And Conley when she went to a US army cadet camp to learn basic military skills
Earlier this month, Conley pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaida and other terror groups such as Isis. She faces up to five years in a US prison and a $250,000 (£154,000) fine.
AUSTRIA
The images of two young smiling schoolgirls – Samra Kesinovic, 16,and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15 – have become symbols of Austria’s concern about young people being radicalised and going to fight in Syria.
The girls, whose families came to Austria from Bosnia, ran away from their Vienna homes in April to fight in the “holy war”, telling their families in a note: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”
It is thought the girls were radicalised after attending a local mosque run by a radical preacher, Ebu Tejma. Samra’s school confirmed that before her disappearance she had been a vocal advocate of the “holy war”’, writing “I love al-Qaida” around the school.
Recent reports in Austrian media suggested that one of the girls had died, although police have not been able to confirm this and it was contradicted by a WhatsApp message from Sabina to friends that said: “Neither of us are dead.”
Police believe both the girls were married to Chechen fighters shortly after arriving in Syria and it is suspected that they are both now pregnant, as their names on social media have been changed to includeUmm, the Arabic word for ‘“mother”. However, Austrian police have warned that it is likely their social media accounts are being controlled by men.
Sabrina Selimovic, 15, who is believed to be pregnant after marrying a Chechen fighter on arrival in Syria.
Sabrina Selimovic, 15, who is believed to be pregnant after marrying a Chechen fighter on arrival in Syria. Photograph: Interpol
Samra and Sabina have been described as “jihad poster girls” whose story is inspiring other young women to join the holy war; earlier in September the government said they stopped two other young girls – a 14- and 15-year-old – from leaving the country on their way to fight. Authorities said they had been lured by “false promises” of a beautiful country and houses and had no intention of carrying out terrorist acts, although it was reported that one of the girls said she wanted “to support Isis – it doesn’t matter where”.
GERMANY
In October 2013, Sarah O, 15, did not come home from school in Konstanz, southern Germany. Her father reported her missing two days later. Soon after, she posted pictures of herself on various social-media sites holding a machine gun, wearing a burqa and black gloves. She said she was being trained to use the gun, and that her day consisted of “Sleeping, eating, shooting, learning, listening to lectures.” She also wrote: “By the way, I’ve joined al-Qaida.”
Sarah, who is half German, half Algerian, called her father a few weeks later with a young man, Ismail S, an Isis fighter from Germany. He asked her father for permission to marry Sarah; the father refused, demanding that she return home. She stayed in Syria and married Ismail in January.

Egyptian truck drivers held hostage by Libyan militants

Egyptian truck drivers held hostage by Libyan militants

#LibyaCrisis
The militants are allegedly holding the trucks and drivers captive to pressure Egypt into releasing Libyans held in Egypt
A border crossing between Egypt and Libya (AFP).
MEE and agencies's picture

Libyan militants are holding a number of Egyptian trucks and drivers near the eastern city of Tobruk in an effort to pressure Egyptian authorities into releasing several Libyans held in Egyptian police custody, a Libyan security official said Monday.
"The militants have set up tents near Tobruk and are holding Egyptian trucks and taken the drivers hostage," Mustafa Abu Fajra, head of national security in Libya's northeastern city of Ajdabiya, told Anadolu Agency.
Abu Fajra could not give the exact number of Egyptian trucks being held by the militants. He noted, however, that a "large number" of trucks entered Libya each day from Egypt.
The militants, he said, were holding the trucks and their drivers captive in order to pressure the Egyptian government into releasing Libyans held in Egyptian jails for alleged involvement in smuggling activities.
"Some local elders from Ajdabiya attempted to mediate the drivers' release, but the militants shunned the mediation bid," Abu Fajra said.
He said the militants had conditioned the release of the Egyptian drivers and vehicles on the release of their detained relatives in Egypt.
Egyptian authorities have yet to comment on the issue.
Libyan militiamen previously detained around 250 Egyptian truck drivers in Ajdabiya on 15 May to protest the prosecution of their comrades in Egypt on charges including arms smuggling.
Libya has been dogged by political instability since the 2011 ouster and death of longstanding ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
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