So the latest crisis coming out of the train wreck that is the nation of Syria is unfolding and I think a lot of Americans have kind of lost interest in it now that ISIS has officially been defeated in that country. But you have to understand one thing: Thousands of ISIS fighters were never killed or captured – they simply switched sides and went to work for the Free Syrian Alliance, which is controlled by Turkey. They are now fighting alongside elements of Al Qaeda. These rebel-held areas are full of civilians who fled the ISIS violence elsewhere. Russia has been backing the campaign by the Syrian government to oust the rebels from these areas, but they are doing it in the most destructive way possible, basically bombing the heck out of the whole area with zero regard for the civilians who are there.
This area was supposed to be a buffer-zone, but instead has come under constant bombardment by Assad’s regime in the last few weeks, and lots of civilians are being hurt.
Those of you who followed this podcast back in February remember the horrific injuries we were seeing coming out of Baghouz when I was there reporting on the fight against ISIS. Well there’s lots more of that happening, and medical care for the victims at this point is basically non-existent.
Marwa Awad is the Syria communications officer for the World Food Programme, and she joins us now. Ms. Awad, what’s it like on the ground?
I hear they’re not only bombing civilians, but they’ve been burning farmer’s crops, is that right?
So is there any help available for these people?
Thanks for that report. The UN Security Council met about this recently and was told that Russia and Syria have repeatedly bombed hospitals and schools in this campaign. Take a listen.
So this is all happening in the northwest of Syria near the Turkish border, and that’s a pretty tough place to get into. Further East in the territory known as Rojava, Kurdish fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces (that’s where the bulk of US troops are as well) are still struggling with what to do with tens of thousands of former ISIS fighters and their families. The Al Hol camp that was home to more than 73,000 women and children has started to simply release some of the families, and is still pushing for the repatriation of many of these women and kids to their countries of origin, but you can imagine, that’s not a super popular idea, since most of these people still have not renounced ISIS and have pledged to revive the failed ISIS caliphate. So there’s that.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Two American women and six children affiliated with the Islamic State have been sent back to the United States from Syria at the request of the American authorities. Apparently the two women were taken as minors by their parents to Syria to join the caliphate, then married off at a very young age to isis fighters. the six kids are products of those marriages. The girls parents and husbands all died in the fighting and now the girls are coming back home.
My friend Anne Speckhard and her International center for the study of violent extremism got a chance to interview a different woman who joined the caliphate and lived to regret it. Her name is Hoda Muthana, and she was born in New Jersey to a Yemeni diplomat, so while she was born here she is not an American citizen. At 20 years of age, she stole the money her parents had saved for her college and used it to travel to Syria and join the caliphate. Nevertheless, not all the women who ended up as ISIS brides had a choice in the matter, and this interview gives a horrifying glimpse into what that life is like.
Hoda has expressed her desire to return to the US, but had that request denied by the US State department. So she still languishes in the Al Hol refugee camp, and So file this one under “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”
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