‘No more joy in Eid’ for Syrians displaced for the holiday once again

A man dressed as clown entertains displaced Syrian refugee children during the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, in an olive grove at the north of Idlib Countryside, Syria June 4, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 05 June 2019

‘No more joy in Eid’ for Syrians displaced for the holiday once again

  • This is the eighth Eid Al-Fitr that Syria has spent at war, and the fourth that Abu Mohammed has spent away from home

HAZANO/SYRIA: Abu Mohammed lives his life in lists: He lists the places in Syria to which his family has been forcibly displaced. He lists the different reasons for each displacement. He lists the number of Muslim holidays he has spent away from home.

“When we were in our houses we had our rituals and our ambience and the joy was different,” he said, sitting in a field in the village of Hazano in the northern countryside of Idlib province, among the last territory in Syria still held by opponents of Syria’s Bashar Assad.

His house is now a tent made of blankets, taped and sewn together. Some olive groves stand nearby.

“The sweets we would put out had their own style. Today there is nothing available and we’ve forgotten this. We used to visit cemeteries before Eid prayer. Today we’ve forgotten this. We can’t reach the dead’s tomb to pray.”

Eid Al-Fitr, celebrated after the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast from sunrise till sunset, is one of the main markers of the Muslim calendar, a day of family joy.

This is the eighth Eid Al-Fitr that Syria has spent at war, and the fourth that Abu Mohammed has spent away from home. His latest displacement is the fifth time he has been forced to flee as regime forces advanced. Another list: Where his family has ended up. Afrin and Azaz in northern Syria. Turkey. Europe.

“We’ve dispersed and there is no more joy in Eid.”

The last opposition-held territory in the northwest corner of Syria is home to hundreds of thousands of people who fled other parts of the country as regime forces advanced.

Last year opposition fighters and regime forces reached a demilitarization agreement there sponsored by Assad’s ally Russia and by Turkey, long an ally of the opposition.

But the Syrian regime and Russia stepped up an offensive last month on the area. Hundreds of people have been killed by shelling. Last month 270,000 people were displaced in the most intense violence for months.

Last year’s agreement envisioned a demilitarized zone in Idlib that would be free of all heavy weapons and militants. Moscow, which is keen to help Assad retake territory, has since complained about escalating violence in the area and said that fighters who used to belong to the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, are in control of large tracts of territory.

Mohammed Zahed Al-Masry, a member of the Syrian NGO Alliance, said 600 civilians had died in recent weeks.

“We have 22 medical facilities that have been directly targeted. We have five markets that have been directly targeted, six centers for the White Helmets (rescue service) also have been directly targeted.”

Back among the displaced people sheltering in Hazano, Ahmad Shayhan, 38, had left everything behind and was now living in a tent with 50 people. He said new families were joining them every day. Some volunteers had thrown an Eid party for the kids.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in eight years,” he said of the celebration. “Those days are gone and will never return.”


Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

Updated 15 August 2020

Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

  • Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo
  • The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday hailed a UN Security Council vote rejecting a US bid to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic republic, saying its foe has “never been so isolated.”
President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.
“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”
Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.
Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.
“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them,” he tweeted.
The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Since Trump pulled out of the JCPOA and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of “maximum pressure,” Tehran has since taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.
European allies of the United States — who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran — have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.
However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.
The US text, seen by AFP, effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear agreement.
Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.
Pompeo announced that members had failed to back the proposal around 30 minutes before Indonesia, the current president of the Security Council, announced that the official results included two votes against and 11 abstentions.
Russia and China opposed the resolution.
“The result shows again that unilateralism enjoys no support, and bullying will fail,” China’s UN mission tweeted.
Ambassador Gunter Sautter of Germany, which abstained, said “more consultations are needed” to find a solution that is acceptable to all council members.
During a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, the leaders “discussed the urgent need for UN action to extend the arms embargo on Iran.”
Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran to convene an emergency video summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.
Washington has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if it is not extended by using a controversial technique called “snapback.”
Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the US remains a “participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution — and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.
Nevertheless, the US is expected to deliver the snapback letter next week, AFP understands.
Analysts suspect that Washington purposefully put forward a hard-line draft that it knew Council members would not be able to accept.
“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this (resolution) is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.