Archive: Conflict & International Politics

Mustafa hasn't been to school for four years now, Lebanon.
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Lebanon has accepted more people in need per capita than all other states neighbouring Syria but never having acceded to the UN convention does not recognise them as refugees.

Refugee camp in Aleppo, December 2013
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Many internally displaced people within Syria are being prevented from fleeing conflict zones due to fears over sleeper cells

The Syrian Revolution 2011
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Syria's five year war has cost up to 470,000 lives. Many survivors are plagued with guilt that their revolution has led to so much pain, says Haid Haid.

Mourners at the funeral of Asem Bader Waw, a 31-year-old shot dead by a Syrian army sniper in Al Qsair. Jan. 31, 2012
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It has been common to frequently come across assassination incidents in local Syrian news, which turned them into expected news. The daily killing and atrocities committed in Syria contributed to normalizing this phenomenon not only internationally but locally as well. However, the scale of these incidents and their significant impact on the local dynamics of the conflict make the assassination war in Syria stand out as an important issue that can’t be ignored.

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Since February 26, a truce has largely prevailed in Syria. However, hardly any improvements to the humanitarian situation in the country can be observed to date. People continue to suffer starvation. That is part of the war strategy.

A refugee camp in eastern Lebanon
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Lebanese bureaucracy, traumatized people, and little international support: There are numerous day-to-day problems in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. Majd Chourbaji helps to solve them.

These are Homs children. It is for those Syrians have vowed to continue the revolution & never stop until Assad is brought to justice.
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Of the 52 besieged areas mostly in rural Damascus, 49 of them are encircled by the Syrian regime, two by rebel forces and one by ISIS. Under siege, conditions are very uncertain—since starvation is being used as a weapon of war–therefore the situation in some of these areas could quickly turn into a critical situation if aid is completely cut off for a short amount of time.

Syrians Burning Vladimir Putin Picture and Russian Flag During Protest in Sweden
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The killing of Zahran Aloush, leader of one of the strongest rebel group in Syria — Jaysh al-Islam — on 26 December, by a Russian airstrike shows again that Russia is willing to do whatever it takes to tip the balance of the conflict in favor of the Assad regime.

Photos of Assad and Russia's Putin are seen during a pro-Assad protest in front of the Russian embassy in Damascus, Syria
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Moscow is now preoccupied with bringing the strategy initiated by Bashar al-Assad to perfection: After the attempt to convince western states that the only alternatives to Assad are chaos and the “Islamic State” fell through, the powers in the centre are to be weakened and to be virtually driven into the arms of the “IS”.

Free Syrian Army soldiers gather outside a house destroyed in fighting against President Assad's forces in Sarmin, north of Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.
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“It's clear that Ahrar al-Sham have recruited the PR agency we've dreamed of for so long, ever since the beginning of the uprising.” This is what a Syrian activist wrote on his Facebook page right after Labib al-Nahhas, foreign affairs director at Ahrar al-Sham, published an article in The Telegraph on 21 July. The article followed another by Nahhas in the Washington Post on 10 July.

In 2011, Syrian people demonstrated for dignity and freedom. Nowadays religious extremism spreads all over country. How do these opposites go together? A conference organized by Sharq and Zico house in Beirut tried to figure out how deeply rooted religious extremism is in the Syrian society. In what way was Syrian society susceptible to the religious extremism that it is facing today? Did people in Syria become more conservative over the years? Or do other priorities such as security distort the image on what actually might be the future of Syria?

Fouad M. Fouad, Syrian poet, medical doctor and AUB professor, Dr. Bente Scheller, Director of Heinrich Böll Foundation (Middle East) and Christoph Reuter, journalist at Der Spiegel  and ISIS expert, discuss the issue with Reem Maghribi.

Free Syrian Army
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Though the anger towards the Southern Front is still not alarming yet- as people are criticizing their strategy not the SF itself- this could be the beginning of a significant shift in its community support, which could be used by its rivals.

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)_150310-N-TP834-172
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Some of the most devastaing attacks of the airforce killed scores of civilians last week: incendiary weapons were used in Daraya, and bombing Douma's market place killed over 80 and inured more than 100 people. What about the "safe zone" Turkey and the US have been announcing?

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Objects are, depending on the situation you find yourself in, more than mere objects. For those who leave their home in a hast, who leave for good and to an uncertain future, something that they brought from home might be a line to connect them to their old life and habits, to their family and an environment that they are not part of any longer – or that ceased to exist. Photographer Marta Bogdanska met Syrian refugees and asked them to show her an object or a memory that still connects them to their former lives and share their stories around this object. Someone has a favourite sweater. Another one scars reminding him what he went through to reach where he is. Somebody else a trivial plastic lighter. The exhibition was first shown in Beirut in May 2015 and now is on display here.

Maaloula
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The stronger the competing Islamist terrorist militias of IS and the Nusra Front become, and the more brutal Syria's civil war gets, the easier it is for the Syrian regime to portray itself as the sole force capable of protecting the country's civilians.

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Though it might seem as if Druze are in a position in which they have no good options, some of their options could prove, in the long-term, to be better than others.

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The conflict dynamics and development in Syria are strongly determined by the different groups' access to certain areas. Some have been able to turn problems into opportunities.

Free Syrian Army fighters swear to the Qur'an, to fight against government troops until the last soldier is alive in Idlib, north Syria
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There are many obstacles on the way to peace in Syria. What about Jabhat al-Nusra, a pragmatic group with an extreme ideology?

Man in Bombed House - June 2012, Azaz
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A no-fly zone is no solution for the conflict in Syria, but it would help save the lives of hundreds of people every month - and less people would be forced to seek refuge somewhere else. Read here one of the contributions to re-open the debate.

A Syrian woman sits in front her home as Free Syrian Army fighters stand guard during a break in fighting in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. April 1, 2012
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Cease fires, in the current situation, can neither achieve their objectives nor lead to a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

Watch the video of the panel "Refugees and the responsibility of the West", featuring among others George Ghali from the Lebanese organization ALEF - act for human rights, journalist Gabriele del Grande, UNHCR's Hans ten Feld and German official Christian Klos, with German journalist Kristin Helberg as moderator.

In her first documentary, Tamara Qiblawi together with Knooz Room explores the sealed memories of a teacher, a literature professor and writer and a DJ. While she takes them down to revisit the shelters and re-live the atmosphere, the protagonists take the audience on a travel through history.

A family submitting an application at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, Lebanon.
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In an attempt to limit Syrian immigration to Lebanon, visa requirements have been introduced - an absurd and moreover dangerous measure. This is a first in the history of the two countries. Before this change in legislation, it was sufficient for Syrians to present their ID card when crossing the border.

After the attack of Assad death barrels on Aleppo, Syria
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The regime is well aware of the impact of fear, of death due to random bombardment, on the life style of Syrians in areas outside its control, where everyone is too preoccupied with minute-to-minute survival to think of the future.

Demonstration against Assad regime in Aleppo, Syria
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Syrians and their supporters who continue to cling to hope and believe in the justice of this revolution—that they still insist on calling a revolution— have other narratives which tell us that behind the map of warring fascist ideologies lies the truth that our country has never in its history done anything better than entering into this revolution.

A rehabilitation of Syria would come at an exorbitantly high price, politically as well as financially. How much is the West prepared to pay?
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If you cannot overthrow the tyrant, co-operate with him – after four disastrous years in Syria this seems to be the conclusion the international community has arrived at. While back in 2011 Bashar al-Assad’s days appeared to be drawing to a close, a growing number of people are now suggesting to see him as part of the solution, as illustrated recently by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Vienna.

Syrians rally in front of the US Embassy to demand American military intervention and a no fly zone to stop the killings in Syria, in Amman, Jordan
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“It must be now clear to western defence chiefs that there is only one credible fighting force on the ground capable of fighting ISIS and that is the Syrian military. The Syrians [i.e. the Syrian regime] have held all the aces up their sleeve…” Such proposals are commonplace in diplomatic circles, but what is new this time is that this view is no longer limited to Assad’s supporters and allies.

Babunnur Syrian refugee camp in Aleppo
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Less refugees are crossing Syria's borders. Not because the situation is improving - but because less people have the possibility to flee. And some are determined to stay, even if it means risking their life. On internally displaced persons in Syria.

The city of Aleppo has been ruined by the civil war
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Conmemoration of a terrible incident on the shore of the Queik river: Ahtletes in Aleppo remember the dead.

Pro-Assad Rally - Town Hall, Sydney
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Amid the general helplessness in the West, voices to approve a cooperation with Bashar al-Assad are becoming stronger. Whatever aspirations one may have for a cooperation with the regime, neither an end to the war nor safety will be gained through it.

A Syrian refugee boy stands behind the fence during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Yayladagi refugee camp in Hatay province on the Turkish-Syrian border March 30, 2012
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There's little hope for an improvement of the Syrian situation. Nonetheless, there are civil society activists who are still working on non-violent resistance and democratic change. Sarah Schwahn conducted interviews with many of them to see what motivates them to continue.

Over half of all Syrian refugees are children
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Generally speaking, Lebanon takes a relaxed approach to problems, either denying they exist or playing them down, only to draw up policies once reality hits home and the problem has reached crisis point.

Can the universal appeal of Ancient Greek drama render the current Syrian tragedy intelligible? Antigone of Syria – an eight-week theatrical workshop for Syrian refugee women from the Beirut camps of Sabra, Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh – shows that it can.

On December 10th, 11th and 12th, their interpretation of Sophocles’ tragedy was performed at the Al Madina Theatre in Beirut. It unfolded stories of loss and despair which go beyond what seems bearable for the human soul – but even more so, it was homage to the courage, non conformism and revolt of these women. It was homage to their unabated hope for a better future.

Get an impression of these evenings’ atmosphere by reading our press review.

Photo taken during the rehearsals of the play Antigone of Syria
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Antigone of Syria is the latest project of the internationally acclaimed Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar. Can the universal appeal of Ancient Greek drama render the current Syrian tragedy intelligible? The Aperta Productions-team – director Omar Abusaada, actors’ trainers Hala Omran and Dina Mousawi – took the challenge: by offering an eight-week theatrical workshop, he gives a voice to Syrian refugee women from the Beirut camps of Sabra, Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh.

Beirut in July
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Lebanon has opened its doors to more than 20 times as many refugees as the whole European Union. How do refugees take decisions to move to an uncertain future? What difficulties do they face?

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ISIS has plenty of funding, but it does not live on material sources only: one of their most powerful weapons is to commit the most monstrous atrocities - and make sure everybody sees them. Unable so far to stop them, Arab activists at least try and mock them, and the French foreign minister tries to ban them rhetorically where they want to be least: in the letter soup. Instead of their self-chosen name "Islamic State" he from now on want to refer to them only by the acronym Daesh which they hate and try to ban by all means.

Iraqi Yazidi refugees in Newroz camp receive help from International Rescue Committee
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Is Germany willing and capable to contribute to the crisis management in Iraq? Judging by the initial reactions of Germany’s political frontrunners, the answer not only depends on whom you ask but also on which day of the week it is. That said, the public debate currently unfolding in Germany marks a tentative but significant paradigm shift.

Photo by: Sam's Lense - from Bidayyat.org
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I still remember—way back in the mists of the distant past—that warm feeling when I first picked up a camera. As though I was experiencing a prophecy that one day I would use this instrument until I wore it away to nothing. Back then I carried it like a sceptre; today I bear the camera like a shield. Today, I remember the first time I literally did this—bore it like a shield. I’ve forgotten many dates and events, but that day—June 26, 2012—stays engraved in my memory.

Destruction in Homs, Syria
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With ISIS’ capture of Mosul, a nightmare seems to be becoming a reality: the development of a caliphate state in the heart of the Middle East, which is obliterating the established borders and could engage the whole region in a protracted war between various militias. So why does Assad not seem to be worried?

The front line is Syria Street in Tripoli Lebanon - August 2012
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*Large-scale religious-historical references are readily used to explain recent events in the Middle East. In reality, however, protagonists pursue mundane interests: money and power.*