Meet the Christian soldiers fighting for their lives against ISIS | Haaretz

Commander Johan Cosar stands on the rooftop of an abandoned home in the Syriac Christian village of Gharduka, about 60 kilometers southwest of Malikiya in Syria’s northeastern corner. He points toward a vast field: “That’s where Islamic State is, one and half kilometers from here,” he says, referring to the organization that is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The rundown building serves as a military base for the Syriac Military Council (also known as MFS), the Syrian-based military branch of the Mesopotamian National Council, an international organization founded to aid Syriac communities around the world. The soldiers, members of the oldest Christian community in the world, are fighting a battle to keep their identity alive and their homeland from falling into the hands of what they call foreign invaders. They work hand-in-hand with the community’s security force, Sutoro. [Read more]

Turkey’s Religious Schools Rise as Erdogan Exerts Sway | New York Times

When Semra dropped off her 13-year-old daughter for the first day of high school, she had to fight back tears as she entered the dimly lit basement classroom, brightened by the red of the girls’ head scarves and the walls emblazoned with Quranic verses written in Arabic script.

Semra had spent years working overtime at her cleaning job, saving enough to pay for extra courses that she hoped would secure a place for her daughter at an academically rigorous secular school. But after taking the admissions test under Turkey’s system for allocating slots in public schools, her daughter was one of nearly 40,000 students assigned to the state-run religious schools. [Read more]

Turkey’s ultras at the forefront of resistance | Al Jazeera

Being a Besiktas suporter, a member of the renowned Carsi ultras, is not just about being a football fan. Founded by a group of school friends in 1982, the Carsi ultras have been struggling against despotism and tyranny for more than thirty years now. The famous Turkish writer Esber Yagmurdereli once said: “I am not in opposition because I’m a Besiktas fan, I’m a Besiktas fan so I am in opposition.”

For 35 Carsi ultras this idea is all too real. Today they are facing trial in Turkey for their participation in the Gezi protests last year. The have been charged with plotting to overthrow the government and are facing lengthy prison sentences. They are also accused of being part of an “armed group” and “possessing unlicensed weapons”. [Read more]

Middle East ‘most dangerous’ for journalists in 2014 | Al Arabiya

As 2014 comes to an end, international media watchdogs highlight another gloomy year for journalists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Armed conflicts and the fast military expansion and savagery of ISIS militants witnessed this year have guaranteed that the MENA region is once again ranked amongst the world’s most dangerous regions for journalists to report from, with Syria leading the “world’s deadliest countries for journalists” list for a third year in a row, according to Reporters Without Border’s (RWB) annual roundup report released on Tuesday. [Read more]

The Statue of Liberty Betrays Syrians | Syria Untold

In the collective memory of Syrians, the United States has been long associated with vicious conspiracies, to the point where its name became synonymous with the word evil. This was partly because of US policy, and specifically its support for Israel and Arab tyrants. However, it was also influenced by the nationalist agenda of the Ba’ath party, which had Syrians convinced that there is no time for internal reform, while America is at the door.

In the wake of the uprising, Syrian people found solace in the speeches of president Obama that periodically emphasized that “Assad’s days are numbered”; and observing the firm stance of the US against Assad, they were willing to offer America a clean slate. [Read more]

Libya’s Tawerghans stuck in limbo | Al Jazeera

Tawergha remains a desecrated ghost town more than three years after the Libyan revolution, when armed groups from Misrata, nearly 40km to the west, drove their neighbours from their homes.

A desolate silence hangs over Tawergha’s empty residential flats, schools and shops, which have been looted and smashed by mortar and bullet shells. Graffiti covers the charred concrete walls, including tributes to revolutionary fighters and caustic insults about the town’s former residents. [Read more]


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