Syria

While America Closes Up Shop, Mexico Opens Its Arms To Syrian Students

Mexico has a long and historic tradition of welcoming refugees from all over the world and unlike its closest neighbor to the north, it is still living true to that tradition.

As a gesture of support to reinforce the international community’s confidence in Mexico’s advocacy for peace, the country welcomes Syrian refugee students through its “Project Habesha“.

Project Habesha is a humanitarian initiative with the main goal of welcoming 30 Syrian students to Mexico for the purpose of providing them with a college education.

Welcoming Syrian students also provides Mexico with the opportunity of promoting intercultural dialogue as an inspiration for development and creating an atmosphere of understanding and sympathy within Mexican society.

Habesha has already brought 10 students to Mexico.

With the support of private universities and organizations, these students will receive a full scholarship as well as medical insurance and a monthly allowance for their personal expenses.

Last week, after a long flight and a rigorous selection process, Silva Namo and Jackdar Mohammed arrived to Mexico City.

“Thanks to Habesha, we have hope again and something real for the future,” Mohammed said, two days after arriving to Mexico City. “Habesha has helped us and, just as Habesha has helped us, I want to help countries that are in war. There is nothing impossible.”

Since 2011, millions of people have fled from the country as a direct result of the conflict in Syria and its neighbouring regions.

This has led to the greatest humanitarian crisis in decades.

Namo, a 22 year old student from the Syrian province of Malikiyah, reflected in an interview with RISE NEWS how the war in her homeland has affected her life.

“In the beginning, it was really difficult to live in refugee camps,” Namo said. “We were forced into another way of life with people we didn´t know. You lose everything. You lose direction and you don’t know what you’re going to do with your future; you walk around without thinking or knowing what the next step is.”

Jackdar Mohammed (L) and Silva Namo (R) are two Syrian students a Mexican organization is helping go to college. Photo Credit: Jimena Pacheli/ RISE NEWS

In only two days after Namo and Mohammed’s arrival in Mexico, they said that they felt big and positive changes in their lives after experiencing Mexico’s culture.

“A big change for me is the food,” Mohammed said. “In two days I have eaten a lot of things. The food is really good and spicy. I like it.”

Before attending college in Mexico, Namo, Mohammed and the other Syrian students will spend six months studying Spanish in the state of Aguascalientes.

“This is our chance to learn and to do as much as we can to be stronger and provide something in the future,” Namo said.

Mohammed’s studies were interrupted due to the increasing violence and development of the war in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Today, he looks forward to starting his economy degree again.

“[The] Economy can help me and my country,” Mohammed about the field he is interested in pursuing. “It can have a great impact in Syria’s future. [The] Economy will be needed for rebuilding the country, creating factories and jobs and working on development.”

Namo’s goal is to make an impact not only in Mexican communities, but also in Syrian communities too.

To achieve this, she will study Business Administration.

“Everything is developing so quickly. Syria will need technology and development,” she told RISE NEWS.

For Namo and Mohammed, coming to Mexico is not only a personal achievement.

They plan to use their studies to aid Syria in its uncertain future.

“Syria needs us,” Mohammed said. “We are the generation that has a chance to complete their studies outside of the country. That’s the people Syria needs right now for its future. We, as students, are the hope for Syria’s future.”

It’s part of Mohammed and Namo’s goal to return to Syria.

Read More: Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

“This education is not just for me, it’s for all Syrians,” Mohammed said, “I want to learn and have new experiences so I can go back and transmit it to those who may not have a chance to complete their studies.”

Project Habesha is providing Syrian youth with an opportunity to receive a college education.

Mexico is providing these Syrians with a place to call home.

“It’s an amazing feeling to come into these people who are really nice and friendly,”  Namo said. “People have welcomed us and have let us know that this can be our home too. I’m away from my country but I feel safe and I feel at peace.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Clusterfuck: How Bush And Obama Both Created ISIS

Last week witnessed yet another guerilla attack on a European capital, as bombs went off in the Brussels airport and subway, murdering and injuring hundreds.

Events like these expose the silliness of most of our squabbles, as the true members of civil society shine through while a handful of mad(mostly)men demonstrate for all of us the true downside of mankind.

Anger is what nature provides us with in these situations because it forces us to assign blame, thus highlighting the failures of the present as a warning to future generations, and there is plenty of criticism to go around.

Taking a look back at the evolution of ISIS is instructive of the catastrophic failures of US foreign policy, as it took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The Bush Administration

George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq served as the catalyst for the creation of ISIS, at least in the form that we know it as know.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but one of the “advantages” of a dictator (from a wonkish macro perspective) is that the brutality of dictatorships tends to keep some semblance of order in these intentionally fractured societies.

ISIS did not have the means, nor the capability to become what it is today so long as Saddam was in power.

However, simply removing Saddam was not enough to facilitate the rise of ISIS.

It took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The first of many gigantic mistakes after the initial invasion came from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s commitment to a “light footprint” in Iraq following the initial invasion.

David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-terrorism strategist who arrived in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2005 called it “Ground Zero for the greatest strategic screw up since Hitler’s invasion of Russia.”

By not providing American troops with enough support to maintain the peace, Rumsfeld ensured that a power vacuum would be created in one of the most violent areas on the planet, right on the border of our regional nemesis.

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

The United States sent 127,000 troops to manage a divided population of 33 million in a country that is larger than California (California has about 126,000 police officers, fire fighters, and EMT’s to serve its 38 million citizens).

According to US Central Command’s OPLAN 1003-98, it was estimated that the army would need at least 385,000 soldiers to accomplish its goals in Iraq. The administration gave them a third of that.

Providing our troops with insufficient support in a war torn country was bad enough, but the Bush White House exponentially compounded that problem with its next two calamitous mistakes.

If you had to point to any singular event that is responsible for the rise of ISIS, disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion would be it.

The US military had hoped to weed out Saddam loyalists and keep it mostly intact, but the administration eschewed that difficult task in favor of simply scrapping the army altogether.

As a result, from May 23, 2003 to September 6, 2006, the security of all of Iraq was the sole responsibility of the United States of America.

Major Robert S. Weiler from the United States Marine Corps summarized the contradiction at the heart of this clusterfuck:

“The decision was a product of colliding priorities. The Secretary of Defense wanted a small occupation force that commanders knew was imprudent, the military planners adapted by planning to use the Iraqi Army to make up for coalition short falls, and the Coalition Provisional Authority wanted to dissolve all things Baathist or resembling Saddam even if it was the only mechanism allowing the country to function.”

Seemingly overnight, 250,000 young men and their weapons and talents of war were thrown out on the street, and a huge chunk of them wound up joining the initial version of ISIS: al-Qaeda in Iraq.

This choice makes Rumsfeld and Cheney’s decision to use 127,000 US soldiers to keep the peace even more befuddling, and that is before you even get to the fact that around 80% of Iraqis reported a dislike for the American occupation. It was a plan that literally defied logic.

Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority overseeing all this, defended his momentous decision by stating that the Iraqi army could not be trusted by the populace, as the Baathists loyal to Saddam had too much power, and the Sunni’s were accepted as a sunk cost; there was no expectation that they would remain loyal to the state during the American occupation.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Bremer made the terrible decision to disband the Iraqi army. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

But instead of trying to bridge the gap between the CPA and Sunni leaders, Bremer accelerated the process of alienation and installed Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister; a devout Shiite who was raised with contempt for Sunni’s.

Maliki joined the Dawa party as a young man, which aimed to create a Shiite nation-state in Iraq by any means necessary.

Saddam arrested and executed many members of the Dawa party, including some of Maliki’s family members, which only further exacerbated the sectarian tensions boiling inside of Iraq’s future Prime Minister.

The idea that much of the Iraqi Army would remain steadfastly loyal to Saddam seemed like a specious argument anyway, because Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor wrote in “COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” that Saddam refused to let his army enter Baghdad out of fears of a coup.

In 2007, the Combat Studies Institute published “Warfare in the Age of NonState Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army,” and it detailed the absurdity of Bremer and the CPA’s decision:

“Taking away the jobs and weapons in which so many men have depended for so long, and giving them an equivalent civilian occupation in a peacetime (something even highly educated US military personnel find challenging), is a delicate and absolutely vital challenge which has little room for error. To simply disband them is extremely dangerous”

Nouri al-Maliki provided the final push to facilitate the creation of ISIS, as he fired countless Sunni commanders during his 8 year tenure as Prime Minister.

These seasoned military men were out of a job with no prospects provided by the new regime, and al-Qaeda’s new branch in Iraq (AQI) was more than happy to welcome them into their ranks.

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Nouri al-Maliki (R) fired countless Sunni commanders during his time as Prime Minister of Iraq. Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There was no shortage of candidates available for any position in this new army, as some estimates put the unemployment rate as high as 60% in Iraq after the CPA disbanded the military.

The US government basically helped create an enemy from scratch for its army to fight during the Sunni uprising, which carried out scores of bombings across Iraq between 2003 and 2011, resulting in roughly half a million civilian casualties.

Sasnak Joshi, a Senior Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute highlights the central issue at hand:

“It’s less important in terms of the contribution to manpower, or sheer heft or size, and more important in terms of the specific skills, connections, linkages and technical expertise that the Baathists bring to the table.”

In 2014, Adnan al-Asani, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, told Al Arabiya that half of ISIS’s top military commanders: Haji Bakr, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi and Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, were all former high-ranking members of Sadaam’s party.

This map from Mother Jones of a divided Iraq from 2007 further depicts the folly of coalescing behind one faction, as any group that obtained absolute power would be seen as a threat to the rest of the populace:

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Iraq is basically a fake country constructed by colonial powers; it’s really three countries cobbled into one, and a modern day colonial power came in, smashed everything, and sparked a civil war.

The History of ISIS

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is effectively the father of ISIS.

Not only did his actions lead to the creation of ISIS, but the group embodies his spirit; a spirit that was deemed too extreme by Osama freaking bin-Laden. Zarqawi was a fighter who came up through organized crime, not “finding religion” until later in life, yet he thoroughly enjoyed rape, murder, and torture no matter what ideology he presently subscribed to.

Zarqawi became radicalized in prison during the 1980’s, and upon his release in 1988, he traveled to the Peshwar region of Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets.

By 1992, he had returned to Jordan to create Bayat al-Imam, which was the first iteration of ISIS.

Zarqawi was locked up for 15 years by King Hussein of Jordan, where he was subsequently mentored by Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, and the duo expanded the influence of their newfound Jihadist organization both inside the prison and within the outside world.

Upon Zarqawi’s release from jail in 1999, he visited Osama bin Laden, who was alarmed at his extremist views, but nonetheless was convinced to give him seed funding for his new organization, which was set up in Herat, 355 miles away from bin Laden’s base in Kandahar.

Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the father of ISIS spent years in a Jordanian prison during the reign of King Hussein (L) where he became more radicalized. Current King of Jordan Abdullah II (R) is shown with his father in this public propaganda photo. Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

By the time the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Zarqawi had assembled an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, the organization now being known as al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.

Zarqawi soon left Afghanistan to set up camp in Iran, and when some of his operatives were arrested in Europe in 2002, Zarqawi became a much more prominent figure in counterterrorism agencies across the globe.

He spent the next couple years hiding out in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq all while expanding his army, culminating in an agreement with al-Qaeda’s security chief, Seif al-Adel, to move the group into Iraq.

Zarqawi spent most of his time in Iraq in the “Sunni triangle,” gaining new recruits and setting up bases.

By the time the US invaded in 2003, Zarqawi had effectively assembled a Sunni nation-state to combat the invasion.

His strategy was based on four central tactics that we still see ISIS use today:

  1. Isolate American forces by targeting international coalition partners (ie: the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad).
  2. Attack civilians there to help (ie: the May 2004 beheading of Nicholas Berg, thought to be carried out by Zarqawi himself).
  3. Spark a sectarian war by attacking Shiite targets (ie: the December 2004 attack against Shiite leader Sayyid Muhammad al-Hakim at a funeral in the holy city of Najaf)
  4. Deter Iraqi cooperation by targeting politicians, recruiting centers, and police stations (too many examples to count).

The invasion of Iraq served as one of the greatest recruiting boons Jihad has ever seen (second only to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict), as an influx of foreign fighters from all over the globe entered Iraq to fight with Zarqawi and the rest of the Sunni insurgency against the US army.

After the bloody battle that took Fallujah in 2004, the insurgency began to pass out leaflets demanding full compliance with their version of Islamic Law, even going so far as to list the names of “offenders” who were marked for public execution. By October 2004, Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed the group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The Sunni insurgency boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, which proved to be a disastrous decision, as they were left out of the redrafting of the new Constitution.

Zarqawi continued to attack Shiites, further dampening popular support for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The final straw came in November of 2005 as AQI bombed a wedding party, killing 60 people, most of them Muslims.

al-Qaeda began to distance themselves from AQI, as it along with other Sunni terrorist groups were absorbed into a larger Mujahedeen Shura Council from which Zarqawi was excluded.

His brutality and aggression had simply become too much for a terrorist organization that was obsessed with developing popular support from Muslims of all backgrounds. The United States killed Zarqawi in an airstrike on June 7th, 2006, but by then, his ideology had already poisoned an entire generation of fighters.

The 20,000 troop “surge” of 2007 is largely credited as the key event to break the stalemate in Iraq, but the surge would not have had the impact it did if it were not for Sahwa, more commonly known as the Sunni Awakening. Frustrated with the lack of progress by AQI, Sunni tribesmen began to use AQI’s tactics against them, killing many of their senior leaders and intimidating many more to leave the movement.

This was so successful, that by 2009, more than 100,000 Sunni tribesmen were working in cooperation with the United States army against AQI. Not only had they either killed or captured well over half of the organization, but the flow of foreign fighters entering Iraq went from around 120 per month to just a handful.

The Obama Administration

However, an opportunity to reassert themselves emerged when Barack Obama continued the Bush Administration’s misguided “small footprint” strategy by ratifying the US-Iraq Status of Force’s Agreement that Bush had negotiated, which promised a full withdrawal of all US troops by December 31, 2011.

On December 18th of that year, the last US boot left the ground in Iraq, leaving a fractured and vulnerable country with no national force capable of holding all of its disparate parts together.

With AQI seemingly confined to an existence as a regional pest, the Iraqi election of 2010 served as a major event which breathed life back into the movement.

After the populace had elected a more moderate, even pro-American Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in 2010, the United States still continued to back the increasingly unpopular Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in parliament while pursuing conflicting goals, as Joe Biden told top US officials

I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]

As yet another power vacuum was being created by American intransigence in Iraq, next door in Syria, an even larger problem was emerging. The Iranian backed dictator, Bashar al-Assad, was facing a serious challenge to his rule, as the Arab Spring spilled into Syria’s streets.

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Assad and his Alawite support (who are minorities in Syria) were being challenged on all sides, and his strategy to stay in power is to build up the more extremist segments of the revolution while brutally massacring the moderates, thus presenting the West with a stark choice for the future of Syria: him or ISIS.

Obama massively compounded the problem when he stated that Assad using chemical weapons would be a “red line,” for the United States.

Once it was discovered that Assad did gas his own people, the President did nothing militarily, effectively letting the rest of the world know that he did not have the will to commit to a war with a relatively small regime like Assad’s even if he implied it, making his future proclamations on this conflict ring completely hollow.

Additionally, it let Assad (and by extension, Iran) know that they had full control over this situation.

While the United States debated what to do, the former Iraqi officers and Sunni Jihadists who had comprised AQI began to unite with Syrian factions, and captured Raqqa in 2013, declaring it the capital of the Caliphate the following year.

Still paralyzed by indecision, the United States watched as this new iteration of AQI claimed town after town, reaching a breaking point in 2014 as ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd largest city.

Five months prior to this event, Obama dismissed ISIS as a “JV team,” further demonstrating the administration’s miscalculation of this virus rapidly spreading across the globe. By the time a serious military campaign was launched, ISIS had already established a nation state.

Conclusion

Long story short: a decade-plus of foreign policy adventurism and fecklessness from two Presidents combined with the psychotic brutality of a charismatic Jihadist culminated in the establishment of a functional Caliphate in 2014.

Since its establishment, the US State Department estimates that upwards of 25,000 foreign fighters have flocked to these hinterlands formerly known as Syria and Iraq.

Even though they have demonstrated the capability to export their ideology and tactical skillset across the globe, there are still many signs that ISIS is on the decline.

In January, the US military estimated that ISIS has lost 40% of its territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. In that same month, ISIS announced a 50% pay cut for everyone on the payroll.

Additionally, there have been many reports of protests in ISIS controlled territory, as we are seeing the same dissatisfaction that many Iraqi Sunni’s felt after the initial opposition to the US occupation.

If we have learned anything from this quagmire, it is contained in this sobering quote from Syrian Businessman Raja Sidawi:

“I am sorry for America. You are stuck. You have become a country of the Middle East. America will never change Iraq, but Iraq will change America.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Barney Moss/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Russian Reversal: Why Would Putin Withdraw From Syria?

On Monday, March 14th, President Vladimir Putin announced rather suddenly that significant portions of the Russian expedition to Syria would be withdrawing.

Russia’s base in Latakia will not be closing, and the Kremlin has left open the possibility of returning the forces at a later date.

But a return of large scale Russian participation in the Syrian Civil War seems unlikely, due to the motive behind the initial deployment, the balance of power on the ground, and Russia’s risk averse nature due to its precarious military structure and capabilities as previously reported on by RISE NEWS.

Contrary to the claims of Kremlin mouthpieces and sympathizers, Russian airstrikes have been largely concentrated against the International Coalition backed FSA in the West of Syria, which is largely devoid of Islamic State forces.

Read More: Who Would the World Vote For As President of the United States?

As such, it is safe to assume that the Russian objective is to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, who could be indicted for crimes against humanity due to his use of chemical weapons“massive and systematised violence” against Syrian civilians, and the death by torture of at least ten foreign nationals.

As long as Assad remains in power, he stays out of the Hague, and this guarantees a continued Russian naval base in the Mediterranean Sea.

With the existing balance of power in Syria shifting towards the Assad regime, it is no longer necessary for the Kremlin to take such an active interest in the Syrian Civil War. As a result, the Kremlin gains a few things.

First, Western interests in Syrian Regime change are thwarted, giving the impression of significant Russian influence in the Middle East for the first time since the Yom Kippur War.

Second, the eventual conclusion of Russia’s involvement in Syria will make the argument for Putin as a benevolent actor easier for far right sympathizers like Le Pen, Farage, and Trump, by appealing to Putin’s supposed role in the eventual defeat of Islamic State. Lastly, a significant portion of Russia’s professional forces will no longer be tied down, which will give the Kremlin greater flexibility in influencing policy closer to Moscow.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Photo Credit: Sergey Vladimirov (CC by 2.0)

Obama Asks Putin To Stop Bombing “Moderate” Syrian Rebels

US President Barack Obama urged Russia on Sunday to stop bombing “moderate” rebels in Syria in support of its ally President Bashar al-Assad, a campaign seen in the West as a major obstacle to latest efforts to end the war. Major powers agreed on Friday to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria but the deal… Read More

Could Libya Be The Next Syria?

The Islamic State group and al Qaeda are aggressively expanding to the politically unstable North African country of Libya, according to a report Wednesday by a U.S.-based security consulting firm. Since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011, Libya has been a hotbed for civil war and extremism, with training facilities and recruitment drives springing up… Read More

Shame On All Of US: Toddler Becomes First Refugee To Drown In 2016

A two-year-old boy has become the first known refugee in 2016 to drown trying to reach Europe after the dinghy he was travelling on crashed into rocks, Greek coastguard says. The other 39 passengers on board were rescued on Sunday after fishermen alerted coastguard, but at least 10 were taken to hospital to be treated for… Read More

Millennial Intel: LGBT Asylum Seekers From War-Torn Countries Sometimes Face Brutal Conditions

Whilst the plight of asylum seekers has been well documented in recent months, specific demographics within the overwhelming numbers of people escaping Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria face specific advantages and disadvantages from the general population of people fleeing violence and repression.

One such group is the LGBT community, who are primarily seeking refuge in Europe and North America.

A 2012 report by ORAM (the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration), says that protection for LGBT individuals seeking asylum is particularly poor in so called “transit” countries.

This protection appears to be greatly needed however.

“Despite many advances, the widespread violence and discrimination against LGBTI refugees often means that these individuals face severe obstacles to protection and long-term safety in countries of first asylum,” The report reads. “These individuals commonly undergo regular and often violent harassment from the local communities and refugee populations”.

The Washington Post recently reported on just such an instance that took place in Dresden, Germany.

When a young Syrian man revealed to another the meaning of his rainbow flag, he was subject to verbal and physical abuse from fellow asylum seekers. In an even more severe case, a transgender woman and her friends were raped and tortured by Jordanian police.

In response to the particularly vulnerable condition of LGBT asylum seekers, and calls from the UN, the Canadian government announced that it will consider gay men a priority for resettlement, due to the high likelihood of their safety being compromised by ISIS, the Assad regime, and fellow refugees.

This may result in single heterosexual men being much lower priority than other asylum seekers, as suggested by Amnesty International.

A similar move was made in the United States, when the State Department expanded its protections for LGBT couples by allowing already qualified refugees to bring their same sex partner, even if they are not legally married.

Despite these and other moves by governments and NGOs, the sheer volume of asylum seekers from the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria all but guarantee that minority groups, including the LGBT community, will continue to bear a particularly heavy burden.

Cover Photo Credit: vl04 /Flickr (CC by 2.0)

US Officials Say That Russian Air Campaign In Syria Has Actually Worked

Senior members of the U.S. administration have praised Russia’s successful and cost-effective military campaign in Syria, undermining U.S. President Barack Obama’s statements from earlier this year that Moscow’s involvement in the war and attempts to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government would drain its resources and see its military stuck in a long, drawn-out fight.… Read More

Kim Badawi: The Stories Behind The Lens

With every click of his camera, Kim Badawi captures the untold stories of the human experience.

Because of a series of tweets, his role as the artful observer was reversed, thrusting him into the media spotlight and unearthing all that is to be admired about the photojournalist.

Badawi was recently traveling from Brazil to Miami to be reunited with his family and friends for the holidays. Upon entering Miami International Airport, he was detained for 10 hours without being allowed to contact his partner who was awaiting his release to board another flight.

Confused and distraught, he was forced to justify his personal contacts, emails, photos and whatsapp messages dating back to 10 years ago. He articulated the officers lacked sensitivity and reason during the investigation.

TSA officers were asked numerous times by Badawi if he needed to contact a lawyer, but they insisted that he would not be with them much longer.

After the officers discovered he was of Arab decent, they began to probe Badawi, an American citizen, about his religious practices.

“Me and my partner have suffered nightmares of being in an airport after the whole ordeal,” Badawi told Rise News. “The next day I woke up hoping that none of the things that occurred had actually happened.”

Read More: American Photojournalist Interrogated For 10 Hours In Miami Airport Because He Was Of Arab Descent

Though Badawi was unlawfully detained in the United States, he has a long history of telling narratives of those searching for freedom through his photographs.

He stumbled into photojournalism while staying with his grandparents in Egypt where coincidentally the Tahrir uprising was gaining force.

Badawi was already a well-known international photographer at the time but had little experience in journalism. His phone started to ring with calls begging for photographs on the frontlines as Egyptians revolted for a new and just government

“During the revolution, the people, especially the younger generation, really felt like anything was possible,” Badawi said.

LOOK: The Egyptian revolution through the lens of Kim Badawi

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By timing and chance, Badawi was catapulted into the world of photojournalism.

He jokes that his career has evolved through stories adventitiously unfolding once he arrives in a new country.

Recently Badawi has been developing a photography project focusing on Syrian refugees in Brazil.

The globetrotting photographer captures the sensitivity of each moment as the refugees enter and adapt to their new home. He describes the clash of two worlds as the refugees struggle with the relaxed and youthful country of Brazil that is in juxtaposition to the conservative and religious state of Syria.

Through his project, he also realized a troubling truth about the younger generation of Syria.

“They reminisce about places and people as if they were much older than they are,” Badawi said.

As Badawi tells it, for the refugees he has met, cafes, stores, and even homes that held sentimental meaning are now but distant memories of what was. Now they have found refuge in an unfamiliar country, left to pick of the pieces of their fragmented lives.

Badawi said that he understands that Syria’s past and the refugees themselves have been misrepresented in today’s media. He is hopeful that through his photography he can educate the masses through honest portrayals of what it looks and feels like to be a refugee.

Badawi may have found media attention through his unfortunate experience at the Miami airport but the real headlining story lies with how this photographer is impacting the perception of the Middle East.

Through outlets such as CNN, Le Monde, and The Wall Street Journal, Badawi has reintroduced viewers to the high intensity situations that flood the media through portraits of humans attempting to live normal lives amongst the chaos and conflict.

Have a news tip? Send it to editor@risenews.net. Like to write? You can become a Rise News contributor.  

Here’s A Shock, ISIS Is Corrupt As Hell

The strain of governing is weighing down the Islamic State group, a new report in the Financial Times states. The FT reports that the terrorist group, which is commonly referred to as ISIS, is having trouble stamping out the institutional corruption that was endemic under previous regimes in the territory it controls. “You’d have a front-line… Read More

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