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Greek Islands Stage Protest Against Migrant Pressure

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Residents of three Greek islands protested Wednesday against the overcrowding of refugee camps and demanded government action to ease migrant pressure. Most stores were closed and public services were halted on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, and Samos, where some refugee camps have more than 10 times the number of people they were built for. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports Greek protesters want a closure of the ports of entry as well as more equal distribution of migrants throughout the country.



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Re: The most important EU meeting in Palestinian history

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For once you are right but your blatant bias omits one important point. The Bandit State also has no borders. Only “temporary” cease fire lines. Every cease fire line, like the Blue Line and the Green Line was negotiated separately with a STIPULATION built in to each agreement that the cease fire line will never become an international BORDER.

Take the first Bandit State violation for example the Jordanian village of Um Rash Rash was illegally seized and is today called Eliat.

The Bandit State is illegitimate, it has the worlds most brutal “border Police” but no borders.



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In Syria, Captured Islamic State Fighters, Followers Going Home

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A growing number of fighters and followers captured during the final battles to defeat the Islamic State terror group’s self-declared caliphate are being released in Syria, with some facing justice and others being given a chance to restart their lives.

Once held under heavy guard in makeshift prisons or in camps for displaced persons, dozens of fighters and hundreds of so-called IS-affiliated persons have made the journey home since late last year, according to U.S. and U.N. officials.

And while the prospect of allowing some former IS fighters and followers to mingle in communities freed from the terror group’s grip has, in some cases, raised tensions, U.S. officials, so far, have been pleased with the results.

“We see these SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] return-and-reintegration initiatives as positive,” a State Department official told VOA, asking for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the program.

“They have been successful in holding fighters to account and also reintegrating some individuals and a significant number of families back into Syrian communities, usually under tribal and family oversight,” the official added.

FILE – Bosnian nationals from Syria leave the Sarajevo airport, Dec. 19, 2019. Bosnian authorities said Thursday that a group of 25 Bosnian citizens have been sent back to Bosnia from camps in Syria, including former Islamic State fighters.

Thousands in SDF custody

About 4,000 captured Syrian IS fighters are thought to be in SDF custody, while the number of noncombatants — women and children and others — held in displaced-persons camps still number in the tens of thousands.

U.S. officials were unable to provide any information on exactly how many IS fighters and IS families have been allowed to leave SDF custody.

The SDF also declined to share specifics, but an official speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter told VOA, “Their numbers are very small.”

“Our court system releases those who are not involved in committing crimes and terrorist acts,” the SDF official added. “After their release, usually Arab tribal leaders get involved to ensure that the freed individuals won’t pose any terror threats in the region.”

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 49 captured fighters have been released to the Syrian communities of Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour since the start of the year.

They join an untold number of captured fighters released starting in July and August of last year, most of whom were held accountable through local or tribal judicial processes.

That judicial process included “sentencing fighters who are proven to have committed crimes,” a State Department official told VOA at the time.

Women line up for aid supplies at Al-Hol camp, home to Islamic State-affiliated families near Hasakeh, Syria, March 31, 2019.

Tribal leaders carry responsibility

But the responsibility of making sure convicted IS fighters face justice and of keeping tabs on the rest has fallen to local Syrian authorities or tribal elders, who are now having to deal with an influx of IS families.

Already, more than 1,200 IS-affiliated individuals have left the al-Hol camp in Syria in the past two months, according to a U.N. official with knowledge of the displaced-persons camps in Syria.

The official said more are leaving, with women and children being released weekly.

Tribal elders have been willing but wary.

“For this guarantee we had a lot of problems,” said Muhammad Tirkuswan, a sheikh from Syria’s Sebkha tribe.

Speaking via the Rojava Information Center, a pro-SDF research organization, Tirkuswan said his tribe has taken in 365 women and young children but does not expect to take any more for a while.

“Once, an ISIS woman whom I had taken as a guarantor told some SDF soldiers that she had an explosive, she would explode herself with them,” he said, using another acronym for the terror group. “This ideology has still an impact in these women.”

Tirkuswan said for the same reason, he would not take any children older than 15.

“The youngsters have been more affected by the ideology of ISIS,” he said.

FILE – A woman poses at Al-Hol camp, March 31, 2019, which holds families of Islamic State members, near Hasakeh, Syria.

Few resources for deradicalization

U.S., UN and SDF officials admit there has been almost no effort to deradicalize the few thousand IS family members, most of them children, who have left the camps. They say, despite the need, there have not been sufficient resources to run such a program.

Even trying to provide the children with a basic education has proven difficult.

“There is a lack of interest from families,” a U.N. official told VOA, citing the nonreligious nature of the curriculum.

But not everyone is concerned about the lack of deradicalization programs and services.

“We know many people who had joined,” said Telal Hilal Alsibat, an official with a tribe near Raqqa that has taken back two groups of families.

“When we asked the widows of ISIS members, they answer that their husbands had joined ISIS to have a job to make a living; therefore, the rest of the family had to go with them,” he said through the Rojava Information Center.

U.S. officials have likewise expressed minimal concerns, so far.

“While we do not follow every individual that has gone through these processes, we are not aware of a movement back to ISIS as a result,” a State Department official told VOA.

VOA’s Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this report.



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Protests in Iraq Continue Despite Violence and Division

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Protests in Iraq continue despite recent violence and deepening divides following an exchange of attacks between the United States and Iran inside Iraqi territory earlier this month.  On Friday, mass demonstrations are expected against U.S. military involvement in Iraq, as well as for the basic rights protesters have been demanding for months. VOA’s Heather Murdock has this report from Baghdad.



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