"Jihad is the best tourism," a young Dutchman who calls himself Chechclear posted on his Tumblr. He was riding a camel, grinning, his face filtered into an Instagram haze. Chechclear is one of an estimated 1,700 Europeans fighting in Syria. He’s part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which Al-Qaeda has just officially disowned, and seems to be having the time of his life. He documents his adventure for adoring fans across several social media platforms.
This is the reality of modern jihad, where the faithful chronicle their response to the cause in real time. But if Europeans like Chechclear are living out their Call of Duty fantasies, they do it at the expense of Syrian lives. In the territory it holds in Syria’s North, ISIS is imposing its harsh interpretation of sharia law with torture and beheadings. Its Western fighters are tweeting selfies in the ruins.
In Syria, the battle for territory waged on the ground is matched by a battle for meaning waged on the Internet. Whether they’re Kurds carving out an independent state, revolutionaries or TEDx organizers sympathetic to Assad, Syrians use Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to tell their stories. It’s contested ground, filled with both propaganda and truth. Posting can be deadly. Both the Assad regime and ISIS target citizen journalists for arrest. In the embattled Lebanese city of Tripoli, I interviewed an aid worker who, at the start of the revolution, smuggled memory cards over the border that contained footage of demonstrations. Once he was in Lebanon, he’d upload the footage to Facebook. Assad had blocked access to the Internet once. Activists were terrified he’d do it again.
America’s role in the world is steadily shrinking-and that’s nothing to celebrate.
For this week’s Newsweek cover story, “The Puny Superpower,” James P. Rubin says the diplomatic debacle over Syria reflects a profound transformation that appears to be taking place in American foreign policy. It’s a transformation that he fears we will regret.
How do you think President Obama handled the Syria crisis this past week? Is America’s foreign influence waning?
Nine months after rebels launched their surprise offensive into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital remains a vital battleground in its grinding civil war. Once considered a stronghold for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo is now mired in a deadly stalemate, as rebel and regime forces wage daily battles and Assad’s warplanes sow terror overhead. Photojournalist Yusuf Sayman ventured to Aleppo’s front lines for three days in early April and returned with these searing portraits of the rebels’ desperate fight.
This is a fascinating photo essay.
The woman @LaurenBushTweet @FEEDProjects is here for @WomenintheWorld— Souad from Syria, a mom being helped by the World Food Programme @WFP
The growing cycle of violence in Syria is preventing life-saving food aid from reaching many of the millions of vulnerable Syrians in need.
WFP reached close to two million people in March with food assistance in Syria but continues to face enormous challenges reaching all parts of the country, particularly Aleppo and Idlib.
The situation is particularly critical in conflict zones and some opposition-held areas where WFP has limited access and where millions of people are believed to be in acute need.
WFP reached 1.7 million people inside Syria in February, about 500,000 of them were in opposition-held areas. WFP needs US$19 million every week to support its Syria response, which is aiming to feed 2.5 million people inside Syria and close to one million refugees in neighboring countries.
If you’re not watching the Women in the World livestream right now, well, you should probably check it out! Some fantastic live journalism going on right now. Up now: Syria.
Grim news from Syria, as seen on the Times and The Huffington Post this am, per Reuters: “At least 65 people, apparently shot in the head, were found dead with their hands bound in a district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday, a pro-opposition monitoring group said.” It’s unclear as to who did it, or why they were shot.
Another look at Syria’s web traffic drop-off, from Google, which reports: “All Google services inaccesible.”
A chart showing the moment Syria’s Internet was cutoff.
All Governments Should Press Damascus to Stop Using Cluster Munitions
Compelling evidence has emerged that an airstrike using cluster bombs on the town of Deir al-`Assafeer near Damascus killed at least 11 children and wounded others on November 25, 2012. The Syrian government should immediately cease its use of this highly dangerous weapon, which has been banned by most nations.
Mahmoud Hassino, a gay Syrian man who has joined millions of other Syrians in the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad (but is now living in Turkey) says despite tight cultural restrictions, he has had no problems finding gay partners. Homosexuality remains a criminal offense in Syria, though some gay men and lesbians still support Assad, Hassino says, as they fear that if conservative Islamists come to power, they would face even more repression.