Posts Tagged ‘Islamic State’

Raed Fares Assassinated in Syria [“What can they do? Kill me?”]

November 26, 2018

Raed Fares
Raed Fares’ radio station defied threats from jihadist groups and resisted orders to stop playing musicPresentational white space

Raed Fares, a well-known Syrian activist, was killed in the north-western town of Kafranbel, in the in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. Fares and fellow activist Hamoud Jneed were attacked in their car. Jneed died immediately, while Fares was transferred to Orient Hospital, where he later died. It was not the first time the founder of Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country, had been targeted. His activism had earned the ire of both militants and the Syrian government. Four years ago, two gunmen for the Islamic State (IS) militant group shattered several bones and punctured his lung in a failed attempt to silence Fares. More attempts on his life would follow and yet the former estate agent was determined to carry on.

It was not just Fares the militants took issue with. The radio station – with its music and female presenters – also angered the groups which overran the town and surrounding area. Four years ago, when IS had a presence in Idlib province, the station’s office was raided by militants. In 2016, Fares was detained by the Nusra Front, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which currently controls most of Idlib province, had ordered Radio Fresh to stop broadcasting music. The station’s response was to play long sequences of other sounds, such as tweeting birds, clucking chickens and bleating goats. “They tried to force us to stop playing music on air,” Fares told the BBC in 2017. “So we started to play animals in the background as a kind of sarcastic gesture against them.”

Among the many expressions of concern is the Human Rights Foundation as Fares spoke at its 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum: “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the assassination of Raed Fares, a dear friend and esteemed member of the Oslo Freedom Forum community. Raed worked tirelessly to counter fundamentalist narratives through journalism and to empower his fellow Syrians to build a better future. His work, bravery, and determination to succeed despite the many threats on his life make him a hero of the Syrian revolution,” HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov said. … Fares first became known outside of Syria in early 2014, when he started writing eye-catching, often sarcastic protest signs and sharing photos of them on social media. ….He quickly became one of the most trusted sources of on-the-ground footage and information on Syria’s continuing conflict. With his death, many reporters outside Syria have lost a vital and increasingly rare source, and agents of misinformation will grow that much stronger in his absence.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-46320355

https://mailchi.mp/db20e9d559e0/off-speaker-raed-fares-assassinated-in-syria?e=f80cec329e

Sakharov Prize 2016 went ultimately to two Yazidi women

November 1, 2016

 On 26 October it was announced that Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar are the 2016 laureates of the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought although Crimean Tatar Mustafa Dzhemilev was in the lead.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Lamiya Aji Bashar are survivors of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and have become spokespersons for women afflicted by IS’s campaign of sexual violence. They are public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.

On 3 August 2014, IS slaughtered all the males in the village of Kocho, Aji Bashar and Murad’s hometown in Sinjar/Iraq. Following the massacre, women and children were enslaved: all young women, including Aji Bashar, Murad and their sisters were kidnapped, bought and sold several times and exploited as sex slaves. During the Kocho massacre, Murad lost six of her brothers and her mother, who was killed along with 80 older women deemed to have no sexual value. Aji Bashar was also exploited as a sex slave along with her six sisters. She was sold five times among the militants and was forced to make bombs and suicide vests in Mosul after IS militants executed her brothers and father.

In November 2014, Murad managed to escape with the help of a neighbouring family who smuggled her out of the IS-controlled area, allowing her to make her way to a refugee camp in northern Iraq and then to Germany. A year later, in December 2015, Murad addressed the UN Security Council’s first-ever session on human trafficking with a powerful speech about her experience. In September 2016, she became the first United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, participating in global and local advocacy initiatives to raise awareness around the plight of the countless victims of trafficking. In October 2016, the Council of Europe honoured her with the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/yazidi-survivor-nadia-murad-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-2016/]

Aji Bashar tried to flee several times before finally escaping in April with the help of her family, who paid local smugglers. On her way over the Kurdish border, and while racing towards Iraq’s government-controlled territory with IS militants in pursuit, a landmine exploded, killing two of her acquaintances and leaving her injured and almost blind. Luckily she managed to escape and was eventually sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she was reunited with her surviving siblings. Since her recovery Aji Bashar has been active in raising awareness about the plight of the Yazidi community and continues to help women and children who were victims of IS enslavement and atrocities.

However, UNPO reports that there is some controversy over the decision as Crimean Tatar politician and human rights activist Mustafa Dzhemilev seemed to have had a majority in the first round.  This may lead to questions about interpreting its procedures (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/how-it-works.html). See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-2016-nominees-announced/

Sources:

Sakharov Prize

http://www.unpo.org/article/19602

Bahaa Nasr teaches cyber security to Syrian opposition against their digital enemies

February 10, 2015

Forbes of 2 February 2015 carries an interesting piece by Thomas Fox-Brewster about Bahaa Nasr, a man who “Is Teaching Syrians To Defend Themselves Against Their Many Digital Enemies“.

After a description of recent attacks on opposition forces of the Syrian regime, the article – which does not distinguish a lot between human rights defenders and armed opposition – states that those under attack are in need of better cyber awareness. “That’s where Bahaa Nasr comes in. He runs Cyber Arabs, which provides digital security training not only for Syrians but for activists, human rights defenders and journalists across the Arab world.

Bahaa Nasr of Cyber Arabs - AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

Syria, of course, has been a strong focus of our work in the past years due to the multitude of risks CSO [civil society organization) activists are facing there. While originally the main threat came from the regime and from groups like the SEA, now there is more and more concern about extremist groups like ISIS also resorting to cyber attacks,” he tells me over encrypted email.

He notes one of the most common techniques is social engineering, as the opposition has come to realise. But there are also targeted malware attacks, such as those allegedly launched by ISIS.

Then there are cruder methods at play in Syria’s information war. “Checkpoints are also a problem in many places where they often confiscate computers and mobile phones and thus gain access to data and accounts and new entry points for social engineering attacks,” Nasr adds.

He claims Cyber Arabs has helped around 500 activists, journalists, human rights defenders and citizen journalists from 17 Arab countries. At least 200 were from Syria. Training takes place in person and online, covering general digital hygiene: recognising and avoiding phishing attacks or social engineering attempts, good password practices, learning about different kinds of malware and how to improve the security of social media accounts. Cyber Arabs also teaches use of tools tailored for people’s needs, including secure email and instant messaging, and encryption. There’s an Android app to help stay up to date on the latest threats in the region too.

Nasr has been working closely with a range of influential groups, including Citizen Lab, a research collective based in Toronto, which focuses on digital attacks on activists. John Scott Railton, a member of Citizen Lab, described Cyber Arabs’ work as simply “amazing”. With such help available to Syrians, it’s hoped they won’t suffer from smart online offensives on their systems as they try to bring an end to a horrific, protracted war.”

This Man Is Teaching Syrians To Defend Themselves Against Their Many Digital Enemies.

Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 11, 2014

More on awards: The winner of the 2014 Raw in War Anna Politkovskaya award is Kurdish Yazidi member of Iraq parliament Vian Dakhil .On Monday 6 October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) selected Vian Dakhil who has courageously spoken out and campaigned to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State. She is the only ethnic Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament and, despite being injured in a helicopter crash while delivering aid to survivors on Mt Sinjar, she continues to advocate and to mobilize support for her people, for the refugees and for those trapped in towns and villages under the regime of Islamic State. “I make no secret of the fact that I’m proud to be honored with your esteemed award, but the real way to honor someone is by protecting their freedom and rights. It is by bringing our prisoners back,’ said Dakhil in her speech while receiving the award.

Previous women human rights defenders who received this award: Malala Yousafzai 2013, Marie Colvin 2012, Razan Zaitouneh 2011, Dr. Halima Bashir 2010, Leila Alikarami on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran 2009, Malalai Joya 2008 and Natalia Estemirova 2007. See also: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards

via Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins International Award | BAS NEWS.