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  • Zafar Khan
    SYRIA Syria mediator Brahimi announces resignation UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to step down on May 31, largely out of frustration with Assad s plans
    Message 1 of 1 , May 16, 2014
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      Syria mediator Brahimi announces resignation
      UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to step down on May 31, largely out of frustration with Assad's plans to hold vote.
      Last updated: 14 May 2014 03:40


      Lakhdar Brahimi has announced his resignation from his position as the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, largely out of frustration at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's plans to hold an election in June.

      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a joint press conference with Brahimi in New York on Tuesday, said the decision would be effective from May 31.

      Addressing the media at the UN, Brahimi expressed regret that he had been unable to help the Syrian people: "Apologies once more that we haven't been able to help [the Syrian people] as much as they deserve, as much as we should have, and also to tell them that the tragedy in their country shall be solved... they have shown incredible resilience and dignity."

      "An immense majority of Syrians want peace and stability in their country and I'm sure they will get it," he added.

      For more than a year, Brahimi has made no secret that he is contemplating stepping down from the post as the UN and Arab League joint special representative on Syria. Brahimi told reporters a year ago that he thought about resigning every day.

      "It's not very pleasant for me. It's very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state," Brahimi told reporters after Ban announced his departure.

      "Everybody who has responsibility and an influence in the situation has to remember that the question is how many more dead? How much more destruction is there going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known," he said.

      The conflict has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced some nine million people.

      Political stalemate

      Brahimi has organised two rounds of negotiations in Geneva between Assad's government and members of the opposition seeking to oust him.

      While there were no breakthroughs at those talks, diplomats and UN officials said that Brahimi had wanted to continue the Geneva process to find a negotiated solution that would end the fighting, launch a political transition and begin the process of reconciliation between the supporters and opponents of Assad.

      But Syria's April 21 announcement that it will hold presidential elections on June 3 dealt a severe blow to Brahimi's efforts in Geneva, diplomats said, since the vote is widely seen as a bid by Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power.

      Ban blamed the failure of the peace effort on the warring parties, but especially the Syrian government.

      He also blamed the deeply divided Security Council and countries with influence on the fighting sides. Ban pledged to keep working to achieve peace and urged all involved to rethink what they can do to bring hope to the Syrian people.

      Possible successor

      Diplomatic sources say that Tunisia's Kamel Morjane, who was the defence and then foreign minister from 2005 until the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising led to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, was among the leading candidates to replace Brahimi.

      Al Jazeera's Diplomatic Editor James Bays said other names floating around included Kevin Rudd, former Australian prime minister, Javier Solana, former secretary-general of the Council of the European Union, and Sigrid Kaag, a UN diplomat who heads the mission for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

      The opposition Syrian National Council said it appreciated Brahimi's work to try to bring a political settlement to the conflict, and that it remained committed to a political process.

      "But it is clear that the regime will not desist from its brutal military campaign and engage in a political process until it is compelled to do so," the coalition said in a statement. "That will require concerted international pressure that has so far been lacking."

      Brahimi's predecessor, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, resigned in frustration in August 2012. Like Brahimi, he complained that the permanent members of the UN Security Council could not unite behind his calls for an end to the violence and a peaceful political transition.

      Aleppo school hit by deadly air raid
      At least 10 children among 19 killed in attack on school building by Syrian regime forces, activists say.
      Last updated: 01 May 2014 06:28


      A Syrian school has been hit in a government airstrike in the opposition-held district of Aleppo, killing at least 19 people, including 10 children, activists have reported.

      According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-government monitoring group, Wednesday’s attack hit the Ein Jalout school in the eastern part of Aleppo.

      Activist videos showed the bodies of the 10 children laid on the ground of a local hospital wrapped in sheets, and bulldozers removing rubble from the smashed building, the Associated Press news agency reported.

      UNICEF said in a statement it was "outraged by the latest wave of indiscrimate attacks perpetrated against schools and other civilian targets across Syria".

      Thousands of Syrian children have died in the three-year conflict, which began as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule and has now become a civil war in which more than 150,000 people have died and millions have been displaced.

      Syria chemical weapons: how the Telegraph found evidence of chlorine and ammonia gas bombs
      The Telegraph explains how we took the soil samples from scene of the attack, removed them from Syria and tested them professionally
      By Ruth Sherlock, Gaziantep, Turkey6:25PM BST 29 Apr 2014


      It was just after 6pm when the first bomb dropped. It plummeted to the ground, and, on impact, exploded its noxious payload over Kafr Zita.
      The toxic yellow vapour billowed through the village in Hama province in Syria, seeping into homes, leaving families choking and gasping for breath.
      Doctors battled to keep at bay the effects of the chlorine gas that burned the lungs of the people that ran, crawled or were carried through the doors of the field clinic – more than 150 in total.
      This was April 11. And then again on the 12th and the 16th, the gas bombs hit Kafr Zita. On the April 18 a barrel with chlorine in, lobbed from a helicopter at night, landed so close to the village hospital that the doctors and nurses themselves became the casualties.
      Three days later, only 30 miles away in the village of Talmenes, another attack saw hundreds wounded and a family destroyed as two of the children died and the pregnant mother was taken into intensive care.

      Syrian warplanes 'target crowded market'
      Airstrikes kill at least 30 people in village of Atareb in Aleppo province, activist group says.
      Last updated: 25 Apr 2014 01:07


      Syrian warplanes have killed 30 people in a raid on a village market, as President Bashar al-Assad's regime nears the completion of surrendering its chemical weapons stockpile.

      The air raid on the Aleppo provincial village of Atareb, where the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that three children were among the dead, came amid an aerial offensive on Aleppo's rebel areas that began in mid-December.

      The campaign has killed hundreds of people, mostly civilians, and forced thousands of families to flee.

      Aleppo-based activist Abu Omar said that a market area was hit and "that's why there were so many civilians killed".

      "The regime is hitting back against the civilians who support the revolt" against Assad, news agency AFP reported.

      Activists distributed amateur video footage showing chaotic scenes, with bodies lying among mounds of rubble.

      More barrel bombs hit Syria's Aleppo
      Dozens killed in barrel-bomb strikes in rebel held Aleppo, activists say, as Assad visits Christian town to mark Easter.
      Last updated: 20 Apr 2014 23:38


      Activists have claimed that Syrian warplanes have targeted the neighbourhood of al-Fardous in Aleppo city with barrel bombs, killing at least 40 people.

      A video posted on Saturday to YouTube showed severe damage on buildings and the street, while firefighters extinguished the fire. The number of casualties remained unclear.

      At least 10 people were also killed in another barrel bomb attack in the suburb of Biideen, activists claimed. Videos posted online showed buildings engulfed in fire creating large plumes of smoke rising over the city.

      Barrel bombs are imprecise weapons, causing extensive damages and at least 1,000 people have been killed in such attacks since mid-December, activists say.

      Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of the activist videos.

      Yarmouk access blocked

      Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus are in danger of starving to death.

      Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees said that they were not authorised to distribute food and have been unable to provide assistance inside the camp for over a week.

      Besieged and terrified … and the food is about to run out for Damascus refugees
      Syrian blockade of Yarmouk refugee camp raises fears for 18,000 people left starving inside, with some already resorting to eating leaves and animal feed
      Martin Chulov in Kilis on the Turkey-Syria border
      The Observer, Saturday 19 April 2014 20.54 BST


      The desperate residents of a besieged district of Damascus are expected to run out of food on Sunday, leaving 18,000 people facing starvation and leading relief agencies to declare the crisis "unprecedented in living memory".

      Food packages have not been delivered to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp for 10 days, and Syrian authorities are not expected to allow food trucks in over the Easter weekend. Residents have resorted to eating leaves and animal feed. Some say they cannot get access even to scraps, as a desperate blockade by government forces, in place for nearly 18 months, continues to cut off supplies.

      Syrian officials have allowed only sporadic access to Yarmouk, to relief groups led by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), since the first pleas for help from residents early last year.

      "It is unprecedented in living memory for a UNRWA-assisted population to be subject to abject desperation in this way and the sheer humanitarian facts cry out for a response," organisation spokesman Chris Gunness told the Observer. "Without that, the humanity of all of us must be seriously questioned.

      "It is an affront to all of us that in a capital city of a member state, women are dying in childbirth for lack of medical care, there are incidents of malnutrition among infants and people are resorting to eating animal feed."

      Once the biggest Palestinian camp in Syria, and held up as a beacon of the regime's support for the Palestinian cause, Yarmouk is now a husk, its bombed-out buildings home to an ever-decreasing number of desperate residents and opposition fighters. Several thousand Syrian citizens are also living among the Palestinians. They also remain without access to food supplies.

      To keep the remaining residents from starving, UNRWA says it needs to deliver at least 700 food parcels per day, each of which feeds five to eight people. It has only managed to get in 100 per day on average since the start of the year. However, conditions have drastically worsened in recent weeks, with all supplies stopped amid regime demands that rebel groups inside surrender.

      An agreement to allow unfettered access to Yarmouk, brokered in January between all sides including a Palestinian faction that supports the Syrian government, broke down last month. Ever since, Syrian troops have been on the offensive near the camp, which weaves into the south-western suburbs of Damascus.

      "We've got nothing," said Abu Issa, 60, a resident of Yarmouk. "No food, no money. We are sharing the animals' food by living on grass we get from the gardens. The Syrian army do not allow anything to get in unless the rebels leave the camp and the rebels refuse to leave and we are stuck between. I have three sons, they were desperate to leave the camp by any means. A smuggler promised to take them out and then outside of Syria, but they were arrested at the first checkpoint and I know nothing about them, if they're dead or alive."

      The crisis in Yarmouk is unfolding as new UN documents appear to support a widespread opposition claim that the regime of President Assad is using starvation tactics as a weapon of war. The documents, obtained by Foreign Policy magazine, track the success of the UN's world food programme in the two months since the UN security council passed a resolution demanding immediate humanitarian access to aid workers.

      The documents show that more food parcels have reached those in need than before the resolution was passed, but that was due to families fleeing to regime-controlled areas where food is more readily available. Food has also remained critically short in other opposition-held parts of the country, including the Old City area of Homs, which has been under an unrelenting attack for six months.

      Before the war, food and water were abundant in all parts of the country. However, areas far from the Turkish, Jordanian and Lebanese borders – which are still enjoying some cross-frontier trade – are now reporting increasing scarcity in places that rely solely on regime supply lines, including Homs. Indicators of malnutrition have risen substantially in recent months.

      Syrian regime accused of chlorine gas attacks
      Videos said to show victims of fresh attack on Kafr Zita, while residents show remnants of bomb cases marked "CL2".
      Last updated: 17 Apr 2014 03:28


      The Syrian government has been accused of new attacks on civilians with improvised chlorine gas bombs, in the latest reports of chemical weapons use in the Syrian war.

      Several videos posted on Youtube on Wednesday, April 16, show what is said to be victims of chlorine gas attacks in the northern Syrian town of Kafr Zita, in the governate of Hama.

      One video shows what appears to be a night time attack on the town. Others record civilians wearing face masks being taken into what appears to be a medical centre. Women and children, wearing oxygen masks, are then seen being given oxygen, although they do not appear to be in major distress.

      In another video a man, who appears to be a medical worker, states in English: "They attack us... in chlorine... in gas chlorine. Now in the middle of our city they attack and many person have toxic injuries. What will we do? Every day, every day they attack our city."

      In a separate video, dated April 16 but shot in daylight, two men show the remnants of two cylinders they say landed in the town. The cylinders bear the inscriptions CL2, the chemical symbol for chlorine gas.

      Towards the end of the video, one of the men says the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for dropping the bombs.

      In English, he states: "For all the world, if you want to prove the Assad crimes [and use] of chemical bombs, we have good proof, excellent proof. Come to us, come to Kafr Zita, and we will show you all the proof about Assad's crimes."

      The videos were created by Youtube users and collated by the Britain-based blogger, Brown Moses. They cannot be independently verified by Al Jazeera.

      'I am not fighting against al-Qa’ida… it’s not our problem', says West’s last hope in Syria
      ISABEL HUNTER ANTAKYA Wednesday 02 April 2014


      The rebel leader touted as the West’s last hope to stem the tide of extreme jihadist groups in Syria has said he will not fight against al-Qa’ida, and openly admits to battling alongside them.

      Speaking from a safe house on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Antakya, Jamal Maarouf, the leader of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF) told The Independent that the fight against al-Qa’ida was “not our problem” and admitted his fighters conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra – the official al-Qa’ida branch in Syria.

      The admission could have significant implications for Western involvement in the Syrian conflict. While the US and UK have been vocal in their support for rebels fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad, they have been reluctant to follow through with material support – such as heavy weaponry – over fears it would fall into the hands of extremist groups who might target the West.

      Maarouf and his brigades are viewed as relative moderates in a loosely affiliated rebel army that is increasingly dominated by radical groups, and the SRF and similar groups are presented as the West’s best bet to fight both the Assad regime and extremists. His willingness to work with rebel groups the West deems unpalatable is a symptom of a war in which allegiances frequently change and all actors within it have been forced to compromise in order to survive.

      Syrian refugees hit million mark in Lebanon
      UNHCR says figure is "a devastating milestone for a host community stretched to breaking point" and urges more support.
      Last updated: 03 Apr 2014 17:42


      The number of Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon has exceeded one million, in what the UN refugee agency calls a "devastating milestone" for a small country with depleted resources and brewing sectarian tension.

      Refugees from Syria, half of them children, now equal a quarter of Lebanon's resident population, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement, warning that most of them live in poverty and depend on aid for survival.

      UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres described the figure as "a devastating milestone worsened by rapidly depleting resources and a host community stretched to breaking point".

      "Tiny Lebanon has now become the country with "the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide," and is "struggling to keep pace", Guterres said in a statement.

      "The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering," he said.

      'Generational challenge'

      Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which has 1,000 relief workers in and around Syria, told Al Jazeera that the figure could easily be "more than half a million" higher.

      Egeland said not all of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon had officially registered with the UN, an annual requirement to receive food rations, health and education services - and the process often takes months.

      'There is no sectarianism in the army': Syria’s war – the general’s view
      ROBERT FISK Author Biography DAMASCUS Friday 21 March 2014


      General Yussef Swaidan was doing the Syrian army version of hearts and minds, standing behind a fruit stall surrounded by a couple of dozen shopkeepers on the very edge of Daraya. See how well the army treats you. See how the lies of the terrorists about army brutality are wrong. I had heard this before.

      The three-star general's sunglasses reflected the midday heat, the crowd appropriately - or obediently - roared their support. There was even a civilian with a beard who opened the back of a van and distributed Syrian flags to passing schoolchildren. Then came a tremendous blast of outgoing artillery fire.

      There were others who merely listened; the general's giant conscript bodyguard, Tamer - steel helmet covered in camouflage, Kalashnikov cradled in his arms - was watching the length of the street and the surrounding alleyways, and glancing towards the rooftops. In ordinary life, he is a shepherd from Deir ez-Zour, but now he was watching a different kind of flock.

      The general was quite frank about it. "Who knows if the terrorists did not leave people behind here when they left?" he pondered later. "There could be spies. If we continued down this road, you could be taken hostage. Your life depends on just one phone call out of here. Who knows what is in the hearts of the people?"

      Grim words, but the 45-year-old general has a tough job. As field commander of Daraya - a place of constant battle and at least one massacre 18 months ago - he is, like other Syrian generals around Damascus, trying to talk his soldiers' way back into the rebel-held suburbs, meeting "reconciliation committees" of doctors, shop-owners, religious sheikhs who live under the rule of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist groups. "Syrian fighters who surrender their weapons will be given a clean record," he told me. "The foreigners who are here must go, or their grave will be in Syria."

      Syria War: 3 Years & 9 Million Displaced
      OnIslam Staff
      Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00


      CAIRO – Three years on the start of the Syrian conflict, more than nine million of Syrian citizens have been forced to leave their homes, fleeing death and giving their country the title of the world’s leading country of forced displacement, a report by a UN refugee agency said.

      "It is unconscionable that a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale is unfolding before our eyes with no meaningful progress to stop the bloodshed," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a press release on UNHCR website on Friday, March 14.

      "No effort should be spared to forge peace. And no effort spared to ease the suffering of the innocent people caught up in the conflict and forced from their homes, communities, jobs and schools."

      On Saturday, March 15, Syria marks the third anniversary of revolt against President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule.

      Three years on the conflict, the revolt turned into a civil war, forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes, according to the UNHCR.

      In Lebanon alone, the number of registered refugees from Syria is approaching 1 million and could grow to 1.6 million at the end of 2014 if current trends continue.

      Lebanon already has the highest per capita concentration of refugees of any country in recent history, with nearly 230 registered Syrian refugees for every 1,000 Lebanese.

      That is more than 70 times as many refugees per inhabitants as in France, and 280 times as many as in the United States.

      The number of registered Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon would be equivalent to nearly 19 million refugees in Germany and over 73 million in the United States.

      Jordan is also reeling under the refugee presence, estimating the related cost at more than US$1.7 billion so far.

      In this resource-poor country, the government is paying hundreds of millions worth of additional subsidies to ensure refugees have access to affordable water, bread, gas and electricity.

      An August 2013 report by UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that refugees were divided by 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon and 460,000 in Turkey.

      Some 52 per cent of this population are children aged 17 years or below.

      Struggle For Live

      The increasing number of refugees led to a surge in demand for health care, a shortage of medicines, and drinking water, especially in northern Jordan.

      "Imagine the crushing social and economic consequences of this crisis on Lebanon and other countries in the region," Guterres said.

      "They need much stronger international support than they have received so far, both financially and in terms of commitments to receive and protect Syrian refugees in other parts of the world, beyond the immediate neighboring region."

      Moreover, with the increasing trend of refugees, Syrians were contributing to growing numbers of irregular arrivals by boat in countries of the southern Mediterranean.

      Seeking new life in Europe, more and more Syrians were putting their lives at the mercy of human smugglers, often with tragic results.

      Last year, 700 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean – among them some 250 Syrians. They are also facing instances of closed borders and push backs to neighboring countries.

      "What kind of a world is this where Syrians fleeing this violent conflict have to risk their lives to reach safety, and when they finally make it, they are not welcomed or even turned away at borders?" Guterres asked.

      Another report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the number of children affected by the civil war in Syria has more than doubled over the past year.

      UNICEF said the child casualty rates were the highest recorded in any recent conflict in the region.

      It cited UN figures that at least 10,000 children have been killed in the Syrian war but noted that the real number is probably higher.

      The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 136,000 have been killed since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

      The UNICEF report said 2 million children needed some form of psychological support or treatment while a total of 5.5 million children were affected by the conflict - some of them inside Syria and others living abroad as refugees.

      This is more than twice the number of children affected by the conflict in March 2013, when UNICEF estimated it had impacted 2.3 million young Syrians.

      The number of children displaced inside Syria has risen to nearly 3 million from 920,000 a year ago. Meanwhile, UNICEF said the number of child refugees has grown to 1.2 million from 260,000 since last year - 425,000 of them under 5 years old.

      Syria troops make push on rebel stronghold
      Government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters are reportedly advancing in battle for strategic border town.
      Last updated: 16 Mar 2014 03:57


      Syrian soldiers and rebel forces are clashing at the eastern outskirts of the town of Yabroud, the last rebel bastion near the Lebanese border north of Damascus.

      Beirut-based station al-Mayadeen broadcast footage showing soldiers charging through a field towards an arched entrance of the town on Saturday and a sign saying "Welcome to Yabroud".

      Gunfire could be heard as the soldiers advanced.

      The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog group, said army forces were advancing with support from Lebanon's Shia movement Hezbollah, a staunch regime ally.

      A military source said "fierce clashes" were taking place between army and rebel forces inside Yabroud.

      "The 13 rebel chiefs leading operations are dead," he added, saying there were "very many deaths among the insurgents."

      Syria's state television broadcast images of the town from its outskirts, reporting that "the Syrian army is progressing in the town".

      Capturing Yabroud, located on a key rebel supply route into nearby Lebanon, would be a major victory for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

      Earlier today, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory, told the AFP news agency that regime helicopters were dropping explosives-filled barrels on the outskirts of Yabroud, while Hezbollah fighters battled inside the town.

      "Heavy fighting is taking place at the eastern entrance of Yabroud between the rebels on one side and the Lebanese Hezbollah and army on the other, accompanied by intense bombardment by regime helicopters," Rahman said.

      "There is fierce resistance by rebels led by Jabhat al-Nusra [the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate], which is trying to defend the town."

      After a month of aerial bombing and combat around the town, Hezbollah and Syrian troops have captured the areas surrounding Yabroud.

      'Nusra leader killed'

      The Syria Observatory also said on Saturday that Abu-Azzam al-Kuwaiti, the Kuwaiti commander of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, was killed late on Friday in fighting around the town.

      Amer al-Qalamouni, an activist in the area, and the Syrian Observatory said that al-Kuwaiti was a key mediator for the release of a dozen nuns held by rebels earlier this week.

      Syrian state news agency SANA had said that government forces captured the eastern and northern entrances of Yabroud, a claim denied by activists.

      The town is near the highway linking Damascus to the former commercial hub Aleppo in the north and to the Mediterranean coast in the west, a stronghold of Assad's minority Alawite sect.
      Thousands of people have fled Yabroud, a town of an estimated 40,000-50,000 people roughly 60km north of Damascus, and the surrounding areas after it was bombed and shelled last month ahead of the assault. Most of them are now sheltering in and around the Lebanese border town of Arsal.
      The government has been making incremental gains along the highway as well as around Damascus and Aleppo in recent months, regaining the initiative in a conflict which enters its fourth year this month.

      More than 140,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled abroad as refugees in an increasingly sectarian civil war which began with mass street protests against Assad in March 2011 but turned into an armed conflict after a crackdown on demonstrators.

      Sigh of relief after ISIL retreat
      Withdrawal of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters from northern Syrian town gives residents hope.
      Emma Beals Last updated: 09 Mar 2014 14:54


      'No one cares': The tragic truth of Syria's 500,000 refugee children
      At least a million Syrian refugees are now living in Lebanon, almost half of them children. They are being put up in tents, shacks and nine to a room – but 'no one cares', says British photographer Ed Thompson, who spent six days moving among the camps
      SARAH MORRISON Author Biography Sunday 23 February 2014


      When the British photojournalist Ed Thompson arrived at a snowy Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon last December, he was greeted by a little boy who ran circles around him, making motorbike sounds. Thompson joined in and the subject of his new project was born.

      We do not know the name of the boy, or his story. That is partly because Thompson did not make the trip to Lebanon with an NGO or the UN. His visit was instigated by a chance encounter with Sammy Hamze, a 20-year-old Lebanese art student studying in London. They got talking in the pub about the number of Syrians living in Hamze's hometown and, within weeks, were in Lebanon, cameras and notepads in hand.

      They spent six days in Chhim, western Lebanon, interviewing refugees in camps, those taken in by Lebanese families and those forced to pay steep rent for squalid properties. Keen to break through the political soundbites – lamenting Syria as the "greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times" – Thompson wanted to personalise the crisis and draw attention to two startling statistics: that of the nearly one million (official) Syrian refugees displaced in Lebanon, almost half are children; and around one in five, according to Unicef, are less than five years old.

      We have heard the stories. Children at risk of dying from the cold in refugee camps; vulnerable to trafficking; begging on the side of the road; left orphaned and out of school; girls sold into marriage. But what shook Thompson most was that the children, although appearing older than their years, were still so young. "They are innocent, completely innocent," he says now. "One father told me to look at his family; he could barely feed his son. They had been through hell, walked through hell and got to hell. All they want to do is go home."

      The conflict that has torn Syria apart has raged for almost three years, left more than 100,000 people dead in its wake and driven nine-and-a-half million from their homes. It took intense political pressure to get the British Government to agree to offer hundreds of the "most needy people" in Syrian refugee camps a home in this country. "We live in the modern age – we can read what's going on in Syria; we've never had more information at our fingertips," says Thompson – "but no one cares."

      If anything can break through the apathy, it is his pictures. Lebanon must be close to capacity; a quarter of the country's population are now Syrian refugees, the equivalent of 15 million people arriving on Britain's shores. With ailing infrastructure and its own stretched public services, tensions between the Lebanese and the Syrians are said to be rising. Thompson is so worried about both the security of the people he photographed, and their families back at home, that he does not want to disclose their exact location. Their stories are what he wants told.


      Deaths in clashes in northern Yemen
      Gunfight between Shia fighters and security forces leaves 13 dead, as the Houthi movement strengthens in the north.
      Last updated: 01 Mar 2014 07:35


      At least 13 people died when Shia Muslim fighters clashed with security forces in northern Yemen, local authorities said.

      Two soldiers were killed and four others were wounded when the fighters attacked a security checkpoint on Friday, in the northwestern al-Jawf province, according to state news agency Saba.

      The fighters were from the Houthi movement, which is seeking to strengthen its hold on the north.

      An exchange of fire took place as a result of the attack and three of the Houthi attackers were killed and several others were arrested, a statement by the local authorities said.

      The security situation in Yemen is closely watched in Gulf Arab states and the United States, given the impoverished country's strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and to main shipping lanes.

      Varying accounts of attack

      Security sources told Reuters news agency that violence erupted after members of the Houthi group staged a protest in al Hazm, the provincial capital of al Jawf province, against what they said was the government's failure to boost the economy and end violence.

      Officials from both sides have given different accounts of what happened next.

      One government security source, who asked not to be named, said armed Houthis exchanged fire with soldiers at an army checkpoint near a local government compound, leaving at least 10 Houthis and three soldiers dead, while another said some of the soldiers may have been supporters of one of the Houthis' long-standing foes, the Sunni Islah party.

      The Houthis said they were attacked by armed Islah members supported by a group from the army, according to a statement on a Houthi-linked website, but Islah member Mohammed Qahtan said the group had no armed wing and played no part in Friday's fighting.

      Yemen's interim President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been struggling to restore order and meet the demands of the country's rival groups since his predecessor, veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, was forced out of office in 2012.

      On Wednesday, the UN Security Council authorised sanctions against anyone in Yemen who obstructs the country's political transition or commits human rights violations but stopped short of blacklisting any specific individuals.


      Algerian president wins fourth term with landslide victory
      Abdelaziz Bouteflika received 81% of the vote, although opposition claims victory was result of 'fraud on a massive scale'
      Agencies in Algiers
      theguardian.com, Friday 18 April 2014 18.03 BST


      The Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has won a fourth term in office with a landslide victory, the government has announced.

      Despite concerns about Bouteflika's health after the 77-year-old suffered a stroke last year, the interior minister said Bouteflika had received 81% of the vote.

      "The people have chosen freely, in a climate that was transparent and neutral," said interior minister Tayeb Belaiz.

      But the president's main rival, Ali Benflis, criticised the election as marked by "fraud on a massive scale" after polls closed on Thursday.

      Bouteflika made a rare public appearance to cast his vote last week, using a wheelchair. The vote came after a three-week election campaign that saw a spirited effort by Benflis and his supporters. He has vowed to contest the results.

      Official figures for turnout were 51.7%, down from the 75% for Bouteflika's last win in 2009. The figures have been described by activists and opposition politicians as inflated.

      Algerian youth speak out ahead of vote
      With 70 percent of Algeria's population under 30 years old, youth vote could be a game-changer.
      Djamila Ould Khettab Last updated: 15 Apr 2014 11:21


      Habib Brahmia, 28, inspired by Soufiane Djilali, the founder and chairman of the new Algerian opposition party Jil Jadid ("New Generation" in Arabic), was drawn into politics six months ago.

      "Unlike the ageing politicians who have been ruling the country since [Algerian] independence, [Djilali] encourages youth empowerment," Habib, who now works as 55-year-old Djilali’s chief of staff, told Al Jazeera. According to Jil Jadid's official website, the party has no formal platform, but rather aims to create one through collaboration with all its members; the party currently holds no seats in the national assembly. "We don't need any youth section since the young volunteers are considered as full-fledged members of the party," the website states.

      With 70 percent of Algeria's 37 million people under 30 years of age, the young generation may be a game-changer in the April 17 presidential election. And Algerian parties are taking notice.

      Algeria's current governing coalition is targeting young people: the National Rally for Democracy (RND) reserves a third of national executive committee seats for young party members, said Adel Bouchenine, 27, a leader of the RND youth section in Algiers. Bouchenine is campaigning for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's re-election.

      "The 18-to-30-year-olds have always been the least enthusiastic voting group in Algeria," Nacer Djabi, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Algiers, told Al Jazeera. Less than two percent of Algeria's total population belongs to a political party, which means that a very small minority of Algerian youth are involved in politics, Djabi said.

      Presidential campaign kicks off
      Criticism mounts as incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeks fourth term despite corruption allegations and health concerns.
      Last updated: 15 Apr 2014 04:32


      Campaigning for Algeria's April 17 presidential election has begun as criticism mounts of a bid by incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika to clinch a fourth term despite concerns over his health.

      The president rejected such concerns in a message to the nation on Saturday, insisting he was fit to govern and had decided to run in answer to persistent calls from Algerians.

      "It is my duty to respond positively, because never in my life have I shied away from the call of duty," Bouteflika said.

      "The difficulties linked to my health do not appear to disqualify me in your eyes or plead in favour of me giving up the heavy responsibilities which have, in part, affected my health," APS news agency quoted him as saying.

      Bouteflika, who is widely expected to win, will square off against five other presidential hopefuls, including one woman, Louisa Hanoune, and key challenger Ali Benflis.

      Former prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal, Bouteflika's campaign chief, gave scant details of the long-promised changes as he opened the re-election campaign with a speech in the southern desert town of Adrar.

      Sellal was closely involved in the 2004 and 2009 campaigns that returned the president to power, and he himself has travelled across Algeria in past months to play up Bouteflika's track record.

      That record has come under heavy criticism in Algeria, where politicians and civil society groups have expressed opposition to Bouteflika's re-election.

      Sellal told the rally in Adrar that the constitutional changes, first promised in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in
      2011, would be adopted this year.

      "Algeria will have a broad democracy, a participatory democracy. Every citizen will take part in the country's development," said Sellal, who stepped down as prime minister to run Bouteflika's re-election campaign.

      "We are going to expand the rights of the people's elected representatives and the opposition parties will have their constitutional rights," he told a crowd of about 1,000 people.

      Sellal gave no further details of the proposed changes, a draft of which he handed to Bouteflika in September last year, the AFP news agency reported.

      Calls for boycott

      The opposition says Bouteflika's rule has been dogged by corruption, while protests and calls for the fall of the government have multiplied.

      Former president Liamine Zeroual has joined the chorus of dissent and slammed the 2008 amended constitution that allowed Bouteflika to win a third term.

      In remarks published by the press, Zeroual said he had a "moral obligation" to speak out and demanded "a handover of power".

      On Friday, thousands attended a meeting convened to urge a boycott of the vote, and dozens of people demonstrated the next day to call for the fall of the government.

      Anger has mounted since Bouteflika, frail looking and his voice barely audible, was seen on state television on March 3 formally announcing that he was seeking a fourth term.

      It was the first time he had spoken in public in two years. Since returning home from hospital in Paris, the president has chaired just two cabinet meetings and only rarely appeared in public.

      Algeria: A fourth term for Bouteflika?
      Establishment has rallied around ailing president's decision to run for another term, but many Algerians want change.
      Richard Nield Last updated: 02 Mar 2014 12:07


      The announcement by Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on February 22 that Algeria's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, intends to stand for a fourth term in the upcoming presidential elections is a blow to those hoping the polls might offer an opportunity for change.

      The president decided to run in "response to the encouragement of citizens from all over the country", said Sellal at a ceremony commemorating the opening of an African green energy conference.

      But the president's ill health undermines what little will remained in Algeria to engage in the election process. Such was the doubt over whether the president would run that the announcement came just two months before the scheduled April 17 elections, and with just days remaining before the deadline for candidates to register. The fact that the announcement was made by the prime minister, and not the president himself, does nothing to allay concerns that the president is not fit to govern.

      Bouteflika, who will celebrate his 77th birthday on March 2, has been president since 1999, but in recent years his health has deteriorated significantly. He spent time in a Paris hospital in late 2005, undergoing an operation for what official statements said was a stomach ulcer. According to leaked US diplomatic cables dating from 2011, though, the president was believed to have been suffering from cancer.

      The president has failed to recover his full health in the following years. He spent two months in the same Paris hospital last summer following a minor stroke, and there were concerns at the time that he would not be able to resume his duties as president.

      No public speeches

      Upon his return to Algiers, the president made sweeping changes to his cabinet and reformed the state security service in moves that were interpreted as an effort to show that he still wielded real authority in the government. But Bouteflika has not made any public speeches since he returned home from the hospital, and aside from receiving foreign dignitaries and chairing two cabinet meetings, he has carried out few presidential duties.

      On Monday, Bouteflika made a statement on the necessity of further developing the country's oil and gas reserves, but it was read in his name by the counsellor to the presidency, Mohamed Ali Boughazi.

      In a broadcast of a meeting between the president and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in December, an Algerian TV station repeatedly replayed the same hand movement by the president from multiple angles in an effort to demonstrate the robustness of his health.

      "It is insulting to the intelligence of the Algerian people," said Kamal Benkoussa, who has spent the past few weeks gathering signatures to stand as an independent candidate in the elections. "He doesn't speak, and according to people close to him he's only conscious for about an hour each day. Everyone knows he is too ill to travel."

      The president's capacity to campaign in the upcoming polls will be severely limited. "In 2009, he went to all the regional capitals," said Kal Ben Khaled, an expert in North African politics and author of the blog The Moor Next Door. "He did what you'd expect from a leader. He can't do that now. He'll have to send a surrogate, but it's quite difficult to make promises remotely."

      The military's favourite choice

      For the regime, though, Bouteflika is the least bad candidate. During the president's absence in Paris last year, there were moves by the military establishment to line up an alternative to Bouteflika, but since his return the political and military elites have proved unable to agree on a consensus candidate to stand in his stead. "Everyone around him has been pushing for him to stand in order to protect themselves," said Benkoussa.

      "Bouteflika is pretty much incapacitated to do much of anything," said John Entelis, a professor of political science at Fordham University in the US. "It's beyond me to believe he wants to stay other than because it's in the interests of the political and military elite, because he serves the status quo."

      In recent weeks, government officials and representatives of the country's main political party, the Front de Liberation National (FLN), and the main trade union, the Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens, have spoken out in favour of a fourth Bouteflika term in the interest of stability. "The irony is that a sick Bouteflika is more stable than a healthy unknown who no one knows what direction they'll go in," said Entelis.

      But there is an increasing disconnect between the regime and the Algerian people. More than 70 percent of Algerians are under the age of 30, but few believe their interests are served by elections. There's even a word in Algerian Arabic for the regime's attitude to their people: la hogra, meaning contempt or disdain.

      In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the official turnout was 43 percent, but 18 percent were spoiled or invalid ballots, and 17 percent of votes that were cast for a party went to ones that failed to win any seats.

      "Young Algerians don't want too much," said Benkoussa. "They want a decent job, they want to be able to buy a house or a flat, they want their children to have a decent education, and their parents to be able to go to a good hospital. It's time now to talk about the hopes of the next generation in Algeria, to rebuild our confidence and ensure our state will be led by strong institutions that preserve the rights of the people of Algeria and which will serve their future. We need to build a real democracy in Algeria."

      The concern, though, is that now that it has been decided that Bouteflika will stand, this opportunity will be lost. There is no doubt that with the machinery of the state and the FLN behind him, the president will win the coming election. Any other scenario would be "far-fetched", according to Entelis.

      Several political parties - including the moderate Islamist party Mouvement de la societe pour la paix and the secular Rassemblement pour la culture et la democratie - have already said they will boycott the elections, claiming that the result is predetermined.

      At least 100 candidates have declared their intention to run in the elections, according to an announcement on the state news agency, Algerie Presse Service, on February 22, meaning that if there is opposition to the government it will likely be fatally split. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the ruling FLN increased its number of seats despite a larger number of alternatives to choose from.

      A 'social explosion'?

      The regime itself has shown little appetite for change, and an already delayed programme of constitutional reform has been widely ridiculed as no more than window dressing. But another five years of political stagnation could have grave consequences for the country.

      Algeria has the fourth-largest oil reserves in Africa and the second-largest gas reserves. But production has languished in recent years, and efforts to diversify the economy have fallen flat. Although the government has foreign exchange reserves of some $200bn, it is also running a budget deficit of more than 20 percent. Official unemployment is 10 percent, but youth unemployment is 21 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

      "It's an illusion that everything is fine," said Benkoussa. "Oil earnings have enabled the government to buy social peace, but this isn't sustainable. People think that everything is okay because they are given subsidies. But if this stops then there could be a social explosion.

      "There are all the ingredients for social instability. If we miss this opportunity for reform, it will be too late for Algeria."


      Iranian Sunnis complain of discrimination
      The religious minority says they are treated as second-class citizens, but are hopeful for changes under Rouhani.
      Farshad Mohammadi Last updated: 09 Mar 2014 13:38


      In a recent speech made in Iran's southern city of Bandar Abbas, President Hassan Rouhani asserted that his government has promised equal rights to Shia and Sunni Iranians.

      But human rights groups claim that Sunni Muslims' rights are being systematically violated in the Islamic republic. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Iran's authorities discriminate against Muslim minorities, including Sunnis, limiting their political participation and employment and banning them from building mosques in major cities.

      In October 2012, Sunni activists wrote a public letter to Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, calling for an end to discriminatory policies and their lack of civil rights. But the letter went unanswered.

      Since his election, Rouhani has claimed to make efforts to improve the situation of Iran's Sunni Muslims, making a statement dedicated to minorities' rights and charging a special assistant to investigate the issue.

      Sunni scholar Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi told Al Jazeera: "Sunni Muslims in Iran hope for an end to discrimination. Everybody is hopeful Rouhani can fulfil his promises and also implement the constitution and stop illegalities and stop the discrimination."

      Rouhani likely had heavy Sunni support in last year's presidential elections. About 85 percent of people living in Sunni areas of Iran participated [Pr] in the polls, and Rouhani received especially high shares of the vote in Sistan and Baluchistan (73.3 percent) and Kurdistan (70.8 percent) - provinces where a large number of Iran's Sunnis live.

      Ismaeelzahi said Rouhani's speeches made Sunni Muslims believe they would no longer be treated as second-class citizens. "The most important discrimination against Sunni Muslims in Iran is discrimination in assigning responsibilities to them and employment. Sunni Muslims in Iran have faced this problem since the Islamic revolution."

      Approximately 10 percent of Iranians are Sunni, many living in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Khorasan and Khuzestan. It is also estimated that about one million Sunni Muslims live in Tehran.

      But few have government jobs. Mohammad Hussein Gorgi, the Sunni imam of Azadshahr in northern Iran, told Al Jazeera: "Until now, in the ministries and embassies of the Islamic Republic's government, no Sunnis are employed, and they haven't taken any important positions like governor or administrator... it doesn't mean that there's no competent, principled or resourceful people among Sunnis. Rather, it shows the lack of trust towards them."

      He added: "But since this government is the government of prudence and hope, we are hopeful that Sunnis will be assigned to important positions."

      Iran's Sunnis are also underrepresented on Islamic TV programmes. Iranian Sunnis' public letter to Khamenei stated: "After Iran's Islamic revolution, Sunnis are not allowed to broadcast and express their opinion... even in one TV programme or one provincial media centre. Instead, national media have been free to desecrate... and offend Sunni Muslims."

      The presence of radical Sunni groups has increased the government's pressure on Iranian Sunnis. In recent years, armed Sunni groups have launched attacks within Iran's borders. In response to an attack by radical groups last summer, the Iranian government executed 16 Sunni rebels and declared that the action was in response to terrorist attacks. In February, a hardline Sunni group called Jaish-e-Adl took five Iranian soldiers hostage in the border area in Sistan and Baluchistan province.

      Sadegh Zibakalam, a political analyst and professor at Tehran University, believes an additional problem is that many Sunnis do not conflate their identity with Iranian national identity. "When the Islamic revolution occurred, if a few surveys had been done, the result would show that Sunnis did not have a serious, obvious identity... they were Sunni, but in the society they were mixed with the Shia majority. Unfortunately, for a lot of reasons, Sunni identity became much more pronounced during these years [following the revolution]."

      Zibakalam said the Islamic republic's social and cultural policies spurred Sunnis to develop a stronger sense of self-identity. "The social demands of Sunnis were not met after the revolution. The government's approach meant that Sunnis weren't attracted to the social framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

      "Everyone should be able to act within the framework of his religion," said Ismaeelzahi. "That's it. It's reasonable and not excessive. We want this to be defined within the framework of the constitution. We believe that if this is achieved, then Iran will achieve national security, national unity and power."

      Follow Farshad Mohammadi on Twitter: @Farshadmm


      Lebanon car bomb kills Hezbollah leader
      At least four people, including a local leader of the group, dead in latest attack related to war in neighbouring Syria.
      Last updated: 17 Mar 2014 05:13


      A suicide car bomb attack has killed at least four people in a Hezbollah-dominated area of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

      Among those killed in the attack, which struck the village of al-Nabi Othman late on Sunday, was Hezbollah's local leader Abdul Rahman al-Qadhi, according to Al Jazeera's Ehab al-Okadi, reporting from Lebanon.

      "The blast was carried out by a suicide attacker. Hezbollah members knew he was about to carry out the attack, and tried to stop the vehicle. That was when the attacker detonated the vehicle," a Lebanese security source told AFP.

      Hezbollah-dominated areas in eastern Lebanon and south Beirut have suffered a series of deadly attacks, many of them suicide car blasts, since the powerful Shia movement acknowledged sending fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's troops as they battle rebels.

      The latest attack was claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon, as well as by the little-known Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna in Baalbek, a Sunni Muslim armed group opposed to Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict.

      "Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna in Baalbek officially takes responsibility for the heroic martyrdom [suicide] operation 'revenge for Yabrud' in the village of al-Nabi Othman," the group said on Twitter.

      It also warned Hezbollah and the Lebanese army - which Sunni groups in Lebanon say has sided with the Shia movement - to: "prepare for the transfer of the battle of Yabroud into Lebanese territory."

      The attack came hours after the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah fighters, captured Yabroud, a former rebel bastion in Syria near the Lebanese border.

      Hezbollah and Lebanese security forces have said many of the car bombs used in previous suicide attacks came from Yabroud.

      Lebanon has been dragged into Syria's violence by different political groups announcing support for rival parties to the war next door.


      Saif al-Islam appears before Libya court
      Muammar Gaddafi's son appears before Tripoli court via videolink from Zintan on charges of corruption and war crimes.
      Last updated: 11 May 2014 14:57


      Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan leader, has appeared via videolink at a court in Tripoli, the capital.

      Saif al-Islam and dozens of former officials are facing charges ranging from corruption to war crimes, resulting from their alleged role in suppressing the 2011 uprising.

      The defence team on Sunday demanded access to all the evidence against Saif al-Islam and his fellow defendants.

      The case is one of the biggest in Libya's history with more than 200 witnesses and more than 40,000 pages of evidence.

      Libya's ex-intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi also appeared in court on Sunday, accused of abuses during uprising.

      It was the first hearing he has attended with the four lawyers picked by his family.

      The former spy chief had previously appeared without legal representation, but had been told to pick a defence team or the court would choose one for him.

      Saif al-Islam's trial was adjourned to May 25. He is being held in a prison cell in the town of Zintan, 170km southwest of Tripoli.

      The former rebel groups holding him have refused to hand him over to the central government in Tripoli.

      Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Tripoli, said the groups think the central government in Tripoli is weak and would not be able to protect Saif al-Islam from Western intelligence agencies, who they say he has incriminating evidence against.

      Saif al-Islam was captured in Zintan in November, 2011, as he was fleeing to neighbouring Niger after rebel forces took Tripoli.

      His brother, Saadi, was extradited from Niger in March, after he fled Libya following the collapse of the Gaddafi-government.

      Saif al-Islam and Senussi are wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

      Libya is a disaster we helped create. The west must take responsibility
      Who could object to the removal of Colonel Gaddafi? But what has happened since shames western interventionists
      Owen Jones
      The Guardian, Monday 24 March 2014


      It's called the pottery store rule: "you break it, you own it". But it doesn't just apply to pots and mugs, but to nations. In the build-up to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, it was invoked by Colin Powell, then US secretary of state. "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people," he reportedly told George W Bush. "You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems." But while many of these military interventions have left nations shattered, western governments have resembled the customer who walks away whistling, hoping no one has noticed the mess left behind. Our media have been all too complicit in allowing them to leave the scene.

      Libya is a striking example. The UN-authorised air campaign in 2011 is often lauded as a shining example of successful foreign intervention. Sure, the initial mandate – which was simply to protect civilians – was exceeded by nations who had only recently been selling arms to Muammar Gaddafi, and the bombing evolved into regime-change despite Russia's protests. But with a murderous thug ejected from power, who could object?

      Today's Libya is overrun by militias and faces a deteriorating human rights situation, mounting chaos that is infecting other countries, growing internal splits, and even the threat of civil war. Only occasionally does this growing crisis creep into the headlines: like when an oil tanker is seized by rebellious militia; or when a British oil worker is shot dead while having a picnic; or when the country's prime minister is kidnapped.

      According to Amnesty International, the "mounting curbs on freedom of expression are threatening the rights Libyans sought to gain". A repressive Gaddafi-era law has been amended to criminalise any insults to officials or the general national congress (the interim parliament). One journalist, Amara al-Khattabi, was put on trial for alleging corruption among judges. Satellite television stations deemed critical of the authorities have been banned, one station has been attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, and journalists have been assassinated.

      Some human rights abuses began in the tumultuous days that followed Gaddafi's removal, and were ignored by the west. Ever since the fall of his dictatorship, there have been stories of black Libyans being treated en masse as Gaddafi loyalists and attacked. In a savage act of collective punishment, 35,000 people were driven out of Tawergha in retaliation for the brutal siege of the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of Misrata. The town was trashed and its inhabitants have been left in what human rights organisations are calling "deplorable conditions" in a Tripoli refugee camp. Such forced removals continue elsewhere. Thousands have been arbitrarily detained without any pretence of due process; and judges, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses have been attacked or even killed. Libya's first post-Gaddafi prosecutor general, Abdulaziz Al-Hassadi, was assassinated in the town of Derna last month.

      But it is the militias that filled the post-Gaddafi vacuum who represent the greatest threat to Libyans' human rights and security. "Libya has been sitting on the international community's back burner as the country has slipped into near chaos," warns Human Rights Watch. In an attempt to integrate militias into the state machinery, the weak central government pays 160,000 members of these often violent gangs $1,00<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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