Russia may be buying up Alaska for detention purposes

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ISIS Syria

The Tragedy of Syria

Published on September 14, 2016 | Al Emid, Author and Journalist

From CHAPTER 41 - The Glamourous Life of an Author

ISIS Syria
Amongst the many reasons why the ISIS crisis became so confusing, the tragedy of Syria ranks high on the list. At this moment, the ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia continues and if all of the opposing groups respect the agreement, the break will allow aid groups to assist the people caught in the middle of the fighting.
Since March 2011, rebels have been fighting the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, and Al-Assad has been fighting back. In the same year, U.S. President Barack Obama made no secret of his desire to see Al-Assad leave the Presidential office, but then quietly backed off his determination when the ISIS crisis broke.
Russia at first paid little attention since its primary focus was the Ukraine crisis but then President Vladimir Putin seemingly became worried about the loss of military sales and access to the Mediterranean provided by Syria and decided to intervene. Russia and Iran back Al-Assad while the United States backs some of the rebels attempting to remove him from office.
The rebels fighting Al-Assad have limited faith in the ceasefire but endorsed the flow of humanitarian aid while expressing their doubts.
One perhaps unintended result is that Al-Assad’s position has improved, thanks to that support from Russia and Iran and he has vowed to restore Syria to its pre-war territory, perhaps an unlikely goal. Russia wants to exert its political muscle in the region and the United States wants or more united effort against ISIS.
The rebels say the deal benefits Assad, whose military position has improved since the last truce brokered by Washington and Moscow collapsed earlier this year although no one seems to have gotten ISIS’s agreement to the ceasefire.
Can the bloodletting stop here? It’s going to be difficult. Beginning in March 2011, long before most of us had heard of ISIS, and up to the present, the hostilities in Syria have cost 296,097 lives with millions left homeless.

Following nearly two years of research, Al Emid's fifth book entitled: "What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate" is being released this month. It goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Colombian Refugees in Colombia

Colombia: Refugees in their own country

The more than five million Colombians forced from their homes are finding it difficult to return to their lands.

Chris Arsenault    By Chris Arsenault | Al Jazeera | May 18, 2014

Colombian Refugees in Colombia

The wife of a soldier, Yomaria Socarias fled her home after threats from FARC fighters [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

Bogota, Colombia - Like 5.7 million other Colombians, Alirio Alfonso Guerrero is a refugee in his own country.
Decades of political conflict between leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and criminal gangs have given Colombia the dubious distinction of having the second-highest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) on earth, after Syria.
While the country's political class gears up for a presidential election on May 25, many IDPs are focused on trying to rebuild their shattered lives.
"I'd love to go back to farming, it's what I was born and raised to do," Guerrero told Al Jazeera. "But I can't do that now... people from the countryside suffer the most."
With the help of a non-governmental organisation in Bogota, the 63-year-old former rancher is learning computer skills to get a job in the city. "I don't always understand the technology," he admitted with a shy smile. "I never imagined I'd be studying computers."
Alirio Alfonso Guerrero was displaced from his farm by right-wing paramilitary forces in 2005 [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
Paramilitary groups, linked to major landowners and elite businessmen, forced Guerrero from his farm in the Cesar region in 2005. "They labelled all the farmers as guerrillas, and said we were selling food to the FARC [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]," he explained.
While staying at his mother's homestead, a four-hour drive from his ranch and avocado operation, paramilitary forces overran Guerrero's property. "They killed one of my brothers and hundreds of others." He left the land and 200 animals and never returned.
He ran a fruit stall in the small coastal city of Barranquilla before extortion attempts by local thugs forced him to leave for the capital. Living in Altos de la Florida, an unregistered community on the outskirts of Bogota for the past four years, he is too old to be starting from scratch - but doesn't have a choice in the matter.
Yomaria Socarias faces a similar dilemma. She was living in Choco on the country's Pacific coast with her husband, a soldier, when 70 guerrillas arrived in their town searching for members of the military. "We just grabbed what we could carry," she told Al Jazeera. "It is still very violent there, so we wouldn't want to go back now. We are just trying to survive and make new lives here in Bogota."
Socarias and Guerrero represent faces of the largest internal exodus in the Western hemisphere. More than 10 percent of Colombia's population is internally displaced.
Forever on the books
Despite the human and economic cost of a significant portion of the population being cut off from their traditional livelihoods, Colombia's GDP is set to grow by around five percent this year, potentially overtaking Argentina as Latin America's third-biggest economy.
Conditions faced by Colombia's IDPs are, in many cases, better than the experiences of displaced people in places like Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Sibylla Brodzinsky, co-editor of the book Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence.
"One particular thing about Colombia - once you are registered as displaced, you don't come off the list. Some of the [5.7 million people] might have been displaced just for a week," Brodzinsky told Al Jazeera. "The refugee camps you find in other parts of the world never really existed here."
Many displaced people simply moved in with relatives, or constructed shanties in informal settlements like Altos de la Florida on the periphery of major cities.
"About 30 percent of our 1,600 community members are displaced people," said Alvaro Ortiz Rojas, a community leader in Altos de la Florida. "The municipality doesn't recognise us as an actual neighbourhood so we have no services - no water, electricity, gas or sewers."
'We just need help'
Rojas and other low-income residents are pressuring the government to bring clean water and a sewer system to the area ahead of the election. But given that people often depend on each other and NGOs more than the state, Rojas doesn't have much faith in politics.
"None of the presidential candidates are any good for communities like ours," he told Al Jazeera. "We just need help."
That's what the Corporation Dios Es Amor (God is Love Company) - where Socarias, Guerrero and hundreds of others are learning new skills - is trying to provide.
Displaced Colombians are learning job skills with the help of NGOs to try and reintegrate [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
"We teach people skills like computer maintenance, bread making, office administration, sewing, jewellery making, and English," said German Sanchez, the centre's marketing director.
The Christian NGO, which reintegrates victims of violence, receives funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), along with other foundations and some private companies.
In the centre, dozens of students stitch patterns as sewing machines hum on the third floor of a nondescript office tower. Many are single mothers who hope to be able to work from home after learning the trade, because they can't afford childcare.
Socarias, for example, wants to start her own business stitching uniforms once she finishes the programme, but she knows it won't be easy.
"There is a lot of stigma; [many] companies are reluctant to hire victims of conflict. They worry displaced people aren't stable and might not have good presentation," Alexandra Zavedra, a career counsellor, told Al Jazeera. "The problem [of displacement] keeps growing. As soon as things look like they are getting better, we see more people coming in. It needs to be eradicated from the base. Social inequality is the main problem."
Initially framed as a conflict over ideology, much of Colombia's internal strife has morphed into battle for territory, resources and profits rather than a struggle for communist or conservative principles.
Areas with rich agricultural land and communities near major resource developments like mines, pipelines or palm oil plantations are particularly vulnerable.
"A lot of the land in the north [where Socarias and Guerrero were forced from] is controlled by demobilised paramilitaries," said Brodzinsky, the writer. "A lot of it is now controlled by third parties or front companies," making it hard to trace and determining a fair amount of restitution difficult, she said.
A restitution law - officially called the Victims and Land Restitution Law - signed in 2011, was supposed to return land to some 200,000 displaced families, but Human Rights Watch and other groups have criticised the slow pace of progress.
Getting people back to their land is no easy feat for the government, which says it is making restitution a priority.
"Colombia is the only country in the world to implement this restitution process when the conflict is ongoing," said Jesus Ricardo Urrego, the national director of the government's land restitution agency.
Jesus Ricardo Urrego, national director of the government's land restitution agency, has the daunting task of settling rural land disputes following years of violence [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
But the process is complicated. Some families unknowingly bought land stolen from other farmers, creating a host of new challenges, while proving legal title can be difficult in some rural areas where state authority is weak.
"The people losing land say the process is going too fast; the people who want those lands back say it's too slow. The restitution unit has to listen to both sides," Urrego told Al Jazeera. About 30 percent of claims for land restitution are turned down by judges as they don't meet the requirements, he said.
"The government can't create more displacement by kicking new residents off the land with nowhere to go… Land has always been the main reason for conflict in this country. We need justice without the desire for more vengeance."
While displaced families wait on the legal backlog in the hopes of getting their land back, many receive aid from the government, although some say it isn't enough.
"We get some money every year," Socarias said. "But it's not enough to feed four kids… some of the displaced who come to Bogota end up sleeping on the streets. The government needs stronger social action."
The process, initiated by incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, will continue regardless of who wins the upcoming election, Urrego said.
Santos' closest rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, wants to end peace talks with the FARC, a move with serious implications for the resettlement process, as a return to open hostilities could cause more people to be displaced.
Taking a break from his computer programming class, Guerrero said he supports the restitution process in principle. But without tangible security improvements and stronger measures to address the economic roots of the conflict, he doesn't think he will be able to go home.
"Under the victim's law, we are supposed to be given our lands back, or get new lands," he said. "But then what's to stop another armed group from coming and displacing us again?"
Source: Al Jazeera

Colombia Refugee Camps in Ecuador


Colombian Refugee Camps in Ecuador

Colombians in Ecuador's Refugee Camps

(Editor's Note: Ongoing situation as of 2014 and earlier, I think. I guess this could lead to something like permanent minority status for Colombians in Ecuador. Riding in the back of the bus, always being rejected as second-class citizens. Being told they aren't real people since they don't "live" in Ecuador. At least they are still alive and doing somewhat well. For now.)
The issue of Colombian refugees in Ecuador is a unique one, with a unique set of problems. In most refugee situations, the UNHCR has refugee camps, or “tent cities” set up to receive the refugees. These camps have the facilities and resources to address most of the needs of a refugee, and provide tents as temporary and immediate housing, food, and medical attention as needed. Unique to the Colombia situation, the UNHCR does not have refugee camps set up to receive the refugees filtering across the borders of Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama. Fleeing Colombians must make it on their own, settling in unofficial and unsupported camps as they do in the jungles of Venezuela, or in large cities such as Quito, Ecuador.
Once here, Colombians face the challenge of establishing themselves in Ecuador, a struggle that can extend years after their initial arrival. They face discrimination in the work place based on age and nationality, making finding a steady job one of the biggest challenges. Though many worked in professional, blue-collar jobs in Colombia, few companies are willing to hire men and women forty and up, especially men and women with refugee visas. Former bankers and economists can rarely find the same type of work, instead finding jobs as waiters or taking in laundry if they are lucky.
This means that many refugees seek a loan to help them start their own small business endeavor, and avoid the difficulties of the Ecuadorian job market. Unfortunately, banks rarely lend to anyone who hasn’t been nationalized, a costly process that most refugees avoid because to nationalize is to lose all the protections offered by a refugee visa.
Quito is not an optimal place for Colombian refugees; due to its proximity to the Colombian border many refugees find that their problems very easily follow them here. Standing in a food assistance line, a refugee runs the risk of running into the same person who killed their brother in Colombia, standing in the same line and getting the same assistance. For this reason many Colombians fear association with other Colombians here in Quito, as a familiar face means it’s time to run once again. Families that have been living in relative comfort for nine years here in Ecuador have had to uproot their lives and flee, and all refugees live with the knowledge that danger could arise at a moments notice.
The people who come to Quito are usually average citizens who got caught in the middle of the now 60-year Colombian conflict. They had land, sons, or status that attracted the attention of the FARC, paramilitary, or guerrilla forces, and in response to death threats or death attempts, had to leave the country. They do not come here with an aid agency, but usually have gathered a few belongings and left with a days notice, coming here alone or with their family depending on the scope of the threat.
A large percentage of Colombians in Ecuador are what are know as “economic migrants,” farmers displaced from their land due to the effects of Plan Colombia, a U.S. sponsored initiative that works to destroy cocaine crops, and in the process contaminates neighboring farmlands. Though many refugees are living in situations of extreme danger here, constantly changing location to avoid the daily threats of aggressors who followed them from Colombia, third-country resettlement is especially difficult for Colombians in Ecuador, based on the scope of the crisis and the standards Ecuador uses in approving refugee visas.
To be considered for resettlement, a Ecuadorian-recognized refugee must make a new testimony and practically relive the registration process, and all this just to determine if they qualify as a refugee by international standards. Thus is born the “invisible crisis” of Colombian refugees in Ecuador; an unheard population with neither the means to move forward nor to get out.