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Posts Tagged ‘Carol Malouf

The silenced voices of the Syrian non-violent opposition

Hadi al-Abdallah is a young Syrian activist who has been fortunate enough to escape death, and more than once.

With more than 200,000 Twitter followers and over 300,000 on Facebook, he has become the voice of resistance in Homs and its suburbs over the last two years, including during the Battle of Qusayr (a big tow, 10 km from Lebanon borders, close to 32rsal where the Islamist terrorists launched their attacks and bombed cars into Lebanon), which heralded the official involvement of Hezbollah in Syria.

Is Hadi al-Abdallah an example of sensational Arab media of the Syrian revolution?

Carol Malouf  posted this Nov. 30, 2013:

Forgotten Syrian Voices

Syrian activist Hadi al-Abdallah

I invited Abdallah to come to Beirut and participate in a panel on social media and the Arab world. I thought to myself, who wouldn’t want to leave the devastation of war-torn Homs for the glamor of Beirut, at least for a couple of days. Instead, I found myself staring at my screen in awe when he replied, “Thank you Carol. I am honored, but I cannot leave the people of Homs. I promised to stay here till the end.”

For the first time, in a long while, I was listening to the true forgotten voice of the Syrian people.

I have covered the Syrian revolution since the beginning. I met pretentious self-proclaimed opposition leaders – the ones who appear on television screens from the comforts of air-conditioned studios around the world – to bicker and argue over their best interests.

A year ago in Doha, I watched an Islamist-elected member of the Syrian National Council (SNC) give up his seat to its leader George Sabra, after the latter was betrayed by his own block and lost his seat on the SNC Executive Committee. Once seen as the most likely core of an interim Syrian government, the SNC lost favor both in the West and with rebels fighting inside the country.

A few days later, I witnessed the unnatural birth of the Syrian National Coalition, a US-backed initiative to form a united Syrian opposition supposedly more representative than the SNC. Christians, Alawites, Sunnis, salafis, seculars, and former communists all got together to form the coalition.

Though representative of Syria’s diverse social fabric, the opposition-in-exile is perceived by most Syrians as a group of incompetent men and women who “wine and dine” in five-star hotels around the world, so far having achieved absolutely no political results that could solve the Syrian crisis.

The coalition failed to speak for the people inside Syria,” Abdallah told me.

Today, the brutal Syrian regime wants the world to believe there are only two forces on the ground; a secular regime fighting against jihadi extremists.

It’s not true.

Speaking to Hadi al-Abdallah not only touched me, but also put things into perspective. He said that the real Syrian opposition has been silenced and vilified. He is right. Today we talk about beheading and heart-eating fighters. We only talk about mass killings and chemical weapons.

Intelligence chiefs from the West, the Arab world, and Turkey meet to find a solution to the security situation in Syria. But how do they plan to stop the regime’s aggression against its own people, and how do they plan to stop ISIS from taking over?

Moreover, the West and its allies also fail to understand that the Syrian crisis today is a humanitarian issue and not a mere security concern.

The Syrian revolution gave ordinary people like Abdallah the chance to turn the idea of liberty into a reality. But two and a half years into the conflict, the dream of liberty is becoming increasingly elusive for most Syrians.

A life without censorship that preserves the freedoms of speech, expression, and religious practice remains out of reach, even if the Syrian revolution initially inspired hope in Abdallah and many like him.

There are thousands in Syria who, like Hadi al-Abdullah, refuse to leave their homes. Young men who make up the heart of the resistance, who by their mere presence in Homs today, and by the very fact that they are still alive and breathing, remain the only embodiment of the resistance.

They are neither tempted by imaginary positions in detached Syrian councils in exile, nor by money offered from foreign entities. They have taken an oath to liberate their country from oppression.

Peaceful demonstrators who were forced to carry guns to defend themselves, their homes, and their families from the regime’s death squads are fighting for their lives today. They are besieged and their only option is to fight until the end.

Amid daily aerial bombardments and artillery shelling, the Syrian resistance continues to fight not just the regime, but also religious extremists they are often mistaken for.

“We are left alone to fight the world. We are fighting the corrupt war lords, the regime, Hezbollah, Iranians, Iraqi Shiite militias, the Russians, and extremists.”

“We will stay and fight till the end,” Abdallah says. (Till the end of what? The end of the flow of Saudi money?)

Carol Malouf is a Political Communication Consultant and a Freelance Journalist based in Beirut. She tweets at @carolmalouf 

Syrian girls in refugee camps ‘sold’ into forced marriages

Syrian women and girls, some as young as 14 years old, are being ‘sold’ into forced marriages or prostitution after becoming refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, aid workers and religious charities have said.

In Jordan, hundreds of Syrian females have been affected by an informal trade that has sprung up since the start of the war in Syria, where men use “agents” to source Syrian refugees to use for sex.

Carol Malouf reported from the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan and her article is currently nominated by Amnesty International for an award

 posted in The Telegraph on Jan. 23, 2013

Often this is done under the guise of “marriage”: The ‘dowry’, which in Muslim society is traditionally paid by the groom as a guarantee of the bride’s security has become a payment for sex.

And the “marriage” is an affair that lasts only a few days or even hours.

(“zawaj al mot3at” or “pleasure marriages” are contract for short duration in due form, are being practiced intensively, particularly by Moslem tourists in Moslem countries in order to conform to a peculiar chariaa)

“We realised these were Mut’ah or ‘pleasure marriages’,” said Ziyad Hamad, whose charity, Kitab al-Sunna, is one of the largest organisations working with Syrian refugees in Jordan. “It is a fake marriage; they use handwritten documents that are not registered by a Shiekh [religious leader].

Many of the young girls are sourced from refugee camps in Jordan that house more than 120,000 Syrian refugees

Men travelled from Saudi Arabia and other countries to marry girls in the camps. They would pay rent for a home outside the camp and tell the women they would support them. Then they would have sex with them and divorce them one week later.”

Mr Hamad said: “They would tell them: ‘we will marry you like this now and formalize it when we go to Saudi Arabia’. And they would leave and change their phone numbers. Many Syrian girls have been impregnated and abandoned in this way.”

Many of the young girls are sourced from refugee camps in Jordan that house more than 120,000 Syrian refugees.

Sexual violence and trafficking have become two grim realities of modern day warfare.

During the Iraq war thousands of Iraqi girls that fled to Syria ended up being pushed into the sex trade.

The International Rescue Committee recently published a report that found rape is now a “significant and disturbing” feature of the Syrian civil war, with women and girls citing this as a principle motive for escaping from the country.

Even once they have left Syria, they are not safe. Sitting in a flimsy dust covered tent in the crowded Zataari refugee camp, Zainab, an elderly mother of two daughters said: “Men are coming here to take young girls as second wives. It is under the pretext of being charitable, of helping us.”

One of Zainab’s nieces, a pretty slender young woman in her early twenties said she had received four marriage offers since arriving in the camp two months previously. Some were from Syrian families that she knew, but others were from complete strangers she said.

Guards at Zataari camp told The Daily Telegraph that they had frequently received requests by Arab men, mainly from Jordan or Saudi Arabia, to be given access to the camp so that they could find a “nice young bride“.

United Nations officials and aid agencies estimate that at least 500 under age Syrians have been married this year.

Sexual exploitation of women has become a sad reality that accompanies wars in the Middle East. Tens of thousands of young girls were funneled into the sex trade after they fled to Syria from Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

More overt prostitution is also common among Syrian refugees said Wissam, a Jordanian resident who knows people involved in the trade: “There is a women who acts like an agent, bringing the girls from the camps. The normal cost for one hour with a Syrian girl is 50JD, but if she only recently lost her virginity then you pay 100JD”.

One French aid worker inside Zataari camp said a woman in the camp regularly offers girls to the camp’s security guards.

The practice has caused outrage among the Syrian refugee community and in wider Jordanian society.

Mr Hamad’s charity has become one of the bodies connecting male suitors with Syrian brides, but he insists that the practice is not abusive because of the strict restrictions in place: “We initially issued a statement in newspapers and on websites saying we would not accept requests from Arab men to marry these girls. But that backfired; we became flooded with more requests! I then realized that many of these men have genuine intentions.”

The charity says it has married Syrian women to Muslim men from across the Arab world and from European countries, including Britain and France: “Most of our requests came from France. Sheikhs there called me and told me that I could not refuse to help with the marriages. They have good intentions and we only put them in contact with women if they abide by strict regulations that guarantee her well-being.”

Agencies have sprung up in Jordan and in countries as far away as Libya, to match men with their Syrian women.

“Men bargain a price for the girl, then the agency sends a woman employee into the camp and meet with the family of a girl to see if they will accept that price,” said a Syrian woman who did not want to be named, who works for a women’s rights’ organization.

Living in squalid conditions and deeply traumatized by their experiences in the Syrian civil war, many families see marrying their daughters to wealthy strangers as the best chance their daughters have at a normal life, an aid worker in Zataari camp who did not want to be named told the Daily Telegraph.

The Daily Telegraph followed Wissam as he posed as a client interested in marrying a girl: “I want a cheap Syrian girl,” said Wissam, with his phone on loudspeaker. “In Zarqa we have married 16 for a dowry cost of 2000JD,” came the reply. The men proceeded to bargain, with Wissam quoting lower figures than he said he had been offered in other camps.

“Before the revolution it cost several times that sum to marry a Syrian girl. Now it has become the running joke in Jordan that if you are running low on cash or finding it hard to get married, you should marry a Syrian girl,” said Wissam.

It has become a business transaction“.

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