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Belgian Fighters in Syria and Iraq ~ An Important Review of Our Data

August 3, 2016 – by Pieter Van Ostaeyen and Guy Van Vlierden

Belgian fighters in Syria & Iraq – an important review of our data

After a thorough review of our data, we do estimate the total number of Belgian foreign fighters who were active at some point in the current Syrian-Iraqi at 543 individuals now. Almost 70% of them have joined Islamic State, while Shariah4Belgium and the so-called Zerkani network remain the most important recruiters. 127 people have returned to Belgium, while at least 105 were reportedly killed.

We have been keeping track of Belgian foreign fighters for several years now, and we felt that a review of our data was needed. At the time of our very first publication[1], most of the information was vague and much records in our database lacked sufficient identification.

While adding details, the risk of double counting grew. We are pretty confident that the number of fighters not discovered yet, greatly compensated for that. But with all the sources we have now — both publicly available as confidential ones — we thought it would be wise to omit as much of potential doubles as possible.

Therefore, we have reviewed every single entry in our database, investigating the chance that the same person occurred elsewhere. Apart from a rather small number of obvious cases, we finally decided to omit an even number of completely anonymous records dating from before 2014 as the number of fighters we know in detail who had left already at that same time. That is a rather arbitrary measure, but we do believe that it helps to make our estimate more accurate.

On the other hand, we added all the information that we have about minors taken to the battlefield, records that we previously didn’t count. It can be feared that the foreign fighters phenomenon will last for many years, and while the minors of today probably will be the fighters of tomorrow, it  becomes relevant now to count them in.

Definition of Belgian fighters

Altogether, we do estimate the number of Belgian foreign fighters in the current Syrian-Iraqi conflict at 543 now, defining them as follows:

1) every person of Belgian origin, foreign origin but living in Belgium for a significant time, or clearly recruited by an entity operating from Belgium and departed to the conflict zone via Belgian soil;

2) having at least physically tried to reach the war zone of the Syrian-Iraqi conflict that started in March 2011;

3) with a clear intention to join a local fighting party there, be it as a fighter themselves or in any other role.

While it has to be stressed that this definition is broader than Sunni Islamists, actually 534 (or 98% of all our records) can be considered as such. Other kind of affiliations, such as pro-regime fighters in both Syria and Iraq, certainly are a very small part of the foreign figher phenomenon in reality too. But they are also underrepresented in our database because the focus of our active investigations is the Sunni Islamist part.

In the near future, we may try to get a clearer picture of those other kind of affiliations too. More specifically, we would like to add figures about Kurdish fighters, who aren’t included at all for the moment, although we know for sure that they too have Belgian fighters in their ranks. Another possible extension of our database could be the Belgian foreign fighters who have joined Islamic State in Libya.

Our count versus the official one

Although our total estimate is considerably lowered by the review, it is still higher than the number of 458 mentioned by Interior Minister Jan Jambon in April of this year[2]. Probably, authorities do limit their number to fully identified and thus juridically relevant cases, while our database also includes anonymous cases for which the source was deemed reliable. But with much more limited means, we still identified 324 individuals with their full names.

Of all the people in our database, 493 have reached the battle zone — a rate of 90.8%. 32 or 5.9% were stopped somewhere abroad, and 18 or 3.3% before they left the Belgian soil. We have information about 127 people who returned to Belgium — which is slightly higher than the official figures of 114 à 117 mentioned recently[3]. 401 of our records are males, representing 74%. 64 or 12% are females, while the gender is not known for another 78 or 14%.

We have information about 27 children taken to the war zone as minors, of whom at least 18 male and 6 female. These numbers do exclude however youngsters who were juridically still minors at their moment of departure, but apparently have left at their own will. According to official sources, there are at least 48 Belgian minors who have left, of whom 32 were younger than twelve[4].

Islamic State by far the most important group

217 people in our database joined the Islamic State. That is 67.4% of all 322 records for which an exact affiliation is known. Jabhat an-Nusra, the Syrian branch of the global terrorist network al-Qaeda that has rebranded itself into Jabhat Fath as-Sham very recently to indicate a split from al-Qaeda[5], is the second most important group with 43 people for whom it is their last known affiliation.

It must be noted that affiliations often changed in course of time. The third most important group for instance, Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, became a part of the Islamic State early in 2013. Until then, it was the group joined by almost all the recruits of Shariah4Belgium. Some of them followed their leaders into the Islamic State immediately, while a significant number of others initially switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra. 33 people are still listed in our database with Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen as last known affiliation, because we do not know in which group they landed. But the total number of Belgians who have belonged to Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen at a certain point amounts to 77.

Other Sunni Islamist groups with Belgians in their ranks are Suqur as-Sham (joined by the notorious Brussels based cheikh Bassam Ayachi, and merged in March of last year with Ahrar as-Sham) with 13 people; Katibat al-Khadra and the so-called Katibat des Français with two individuals; and Faylaq as-Sham, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, Jaysh Muhammad, Jund al-Aqsa, Katibat al-Muhajiroun and the Turkistan Islamic Party with each one.

Shariah4Belgium & Zerkani network main recruiters

Looking at recruitment organizations, the Antwerp based Shariah4Belgium still is the most important one. 97 people were at least in touch with that organization before their departure. Second comes the network around the Brussels recruiter Khalid Zerkani, with 72 individuals. An overlap exists, mainly in the circles of the Brussels recruiter Jean-Louis Denis. He worked together with both networks, and has influenced at least 55 people who tried or succeeded to reach the battle zone[6]. The Centre Islamique Belge of the mentioned Bassam Ayachi had proven ties with four fighters, while the so-called ‘Terloplein Group’ and ‘The Way of Life’ — both of which can be considered as spin-offs of Shariah4Belgium — had ties with respectively five and one who’ve tried.

Geographically, the Brussels Capital Region has the highest number of Belgian foreign fighters with 179 individuals on a total of 403 for whom the origin is known, including at least 40 from the now notorious municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. Antwerp is the second most important place of origin with 98 people, while Vilvoorde (29) and Mechelen (17) add to the importance of the axis Brussels-Antwerp as hotbed of the Belgian jihad[7].

105 deaths, of whom 11 by suicide attacks

Of the Belgian foreign fighers in our database, 105 were reportedly killed. For nine of them, that happened after their return to Europe to commit a terrorist attack: Khalid Ben Larbi and Soufiane Amghar during a police operation on January 15, 2015 in Verviers (Belgium); Bilal Hadfi and Ibrahim Abdeslam while conducting suicide attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris (France); Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Chakib Akrouh during a police operation following the Paris attacks on November 18, 2015 in Saint-Denis (France); Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd during a police operation on March 15, 2016 in Forest (Belgium); and Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui while conducting suicide attacks on March 22, 2016 in Brussels (Belgium).

It has to be stressed that the death of 96 others in the war zone cannot be verified. There are for instance several cases known already of foreign fighters faking their death to lure security services, including the already mentioned Abdelhamid Abaaoud prior to the Verviers plot and the Paris attacks[8]. So, being mentioned in the list of people killed we publish beneath, only means that relevant sources have announced the death of that person, without clear signs that it was inaccurate. Altogether, 11 Belgian fighters have died while committing suicide attacks: six in Iraq, two in France, two in Belgium and one in Syria.

List of Belgian foreign fighters reportedly killed

  1. Julian André Harinton, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, convert from Antwerp who most likely joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in April 2012
  1. Hamdi Mahmoud Saad, a Syrian living in Brussels who joined the Free Syrian Army and was killed in Latakia governorate in August 2012
  1. Rustam Gelayev, son of Chechen warlord Ruslan Gelayev who lived a while in Belgium, killed in Aleppo governorate in August 2012
  1. Soufiane Chioua, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks who left in October 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unkown date
  1. Bilal Zinati, recruit of the Denis network who left in December 2012, joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed at an unknown date
  1. Sean Pidgeon, a convert from Brussels recruited by the Denis & Zerkani networks, killed in Aleppo governorate in March 2013
  1. Anonymous fighter from Mechelen, killed before April 2013 according to an imam who assisted his family
  1. Anonymous fighter from Vilvoorde whose death was announced in April 2013. He was barely eightteen years old and got killed by a sniper two weeks after his arrival in Syria
  1. Ahmed Stevenberg, the alias of an unidentified fighter of Jabhat an-Nusra, killed by the Syrian army in the Latakia governorate in April 2013
  1. Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdurauf Abu Marwa, a Frenchman raised in Brussels, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in April 2013
  1. Tarik Taketloune, aka Abu Khattab, figher from Vilvoorde who was recruited by Shariah4Belgium and joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, killed in May 2013
  1. Saïd Amrani, Denis recruit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg who was killed in May 2013
  1. Ismail Amgroud, a fighter from Maaseik who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in June 2013
  1. Noureddine Abouallal, aka Abu Mujahid, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in July 2013
  1. Younis Asad Rahman, the alias of a fighter also known as Asad ar-Rahman al-Belgiki, killed in August 2013 in Latakia governorate
  1. Abu Salma al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in August 2013 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  1. Younes Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Hamza Kharbache. Joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2013 in Damascus governorate
  1. Ahmed Daoudi, aka Abu Mochsin, Shariah4Belgium recruit who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, but reportedly soon switched to a hospital job. Was active as a medical worker during the Al Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013, went missing shortly afterwards and was reported dead
  1. Abdel Rahman Ayachi, aka Abu Hajjar, son of the Brussels-Syrian cheikh Bassam Ayachi, killed in the ranks of Suqur as-Sham in September 2013
  1. Abdelgabar Hamdaoui, a Shariah4Belgium recruit fighting for Jabhat an-Nusra, killed in September 2013
  1. Ahmed Dihaj, aka Abu Ateeq, a leading figure within Shariah4Belgium, who left early in 2013 to join Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
  1. Houssien Elouassaki, aka Abu Fallujah, Shariah4Belgium recruit who became the emir of the foreign chapter within Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen. Switched side to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed in September 2013
  1. Mohamed Bali, aka Abu Hudayfa, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from Antwerp, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in September 2013
  1. Abdelmonhim R’ha, Sunni Islamist fighter from Antwerp, reportedly a relative of former Belgian Guantánamo detainee Moussa Zemmouri. Killed in September 2013
  1. Ibrahim El Harchi, aka Abu Ali, a recruit of Jean-Louis Denis fighting for Islamic State, killed in mid December 2013 during clashes with Ahrar as-Sham in Idlib governorate
  1. Sabri Refla, aka Abu Tourab, Denis recruit from Vilvoorde, who subsequently joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and the Islamic State. Committed suicide attack in Iraq in December 2013
  1. Abu al-Baraa al-Belgiki, an anonymous fighter of Algerian descent, who served as emir for Islamic State in the Syrian town of Saraqib and was killed there in January 2014
  1. Ouafae Sarrar, aka Umm Djarrah, wife of Shariah4Belgium recruit and Islamic State fighter Ilyass Boughalab. Reportedly killed around January 2014
  1. Abdelmonaïm Lachiri, aka Abu Sara, recruit of the Zerkani network and a son of its ‘pasionaria’ Fatima Aberkan, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in February 2014
  1. Feisal Yamoun, aka Abu Faris, a leader of Shariah4Belgium who left with wife and three young kids, killed in February 2014
  1. Hamza Kharbache, Denis recruit from Brussels and brother of Younes Kharbache, who joined the Islamic State and was killed in February 2014 in Aleppo governorate
  1. Brahim Labrak, Denis recruit from Brussels with French roots, who joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, switched to Islamic State and was killed in February 2014
  1. Nabil Ajraoui, Denis recruit who left as a minor in November 2013 and was killed in February 2014
  1. Ilyass Boughalab, aka Abu Djarrah, Shariah4Belgium recruit killed in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  1. Yoni Mayne, aka Abu Dujana al-Mali, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Belgian father and Malinese mother, killed near ar-Raqqah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  1. Saïd El Morabit, aka Abu Muthanna, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp, killed between ar-Raqqah and Hasakah in March 2014 and mentioned afterwards as member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar
  1. Abdelilah Jab-Allah, aka Abu Omar, Brussels recruit of Denis & Zerkani networks. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in March 2014
  1. Karim Mahrach, aka Abu Azzam, recruit of Jean-Louis Denis from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in April 2014
  1. Mohamed Said Haddad, Zerkani recruit from Brussels and brother of the Verviers terrorist plot member Abdelmounaim Haddad. Killed in April 2014
  1. Khalid Bali, aka Abu Hamza, brother of Mohamed Bali, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in May 2014 at the age of seventeen
  1. Khalid Hachti Bernan, aka Abu Mehdi/Abu Qa’qa, member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, originally from Virton, who was killed in May 2014
  1. Nabil Azahaf, aka Abu Sayyaf, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Vilvoorde who became a member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in May 2014
  1. Abu Handalah, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter who appeared in the video ‘Turning Point’ and was killed in May 2014 near Aleppo
  1. Yassine El Karouni, aka Abu Osama, Shariah4Belgium recruit coming from the Netherlands, but living in Antwerp. Joined Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen and was killed in May 2014
  1. Kiéran Luce, aka Abu al-Qada al-Faransi, recruit of Denis network coming from the French-Caribbean island of Martinique. Joined Islamic State and committed suicide attack in northern Iraq in May 2014
  1. Iliass Azaouaj, an imam from Brussels who left to get Belgian fighters back home, then joined Islamic State himself, but was executed on suspicion of being a spy around July 2014
  1. Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in July 2014 in al-Keshkeyyi, Deir ez-Zor governorate
  1. Adem Ben Amro, aka Abu Obayda at-Tunisi, Tunisian who lived as refugee in Antwerp, joined the Islamic State in July 2014 and committed a suicide attack in Kobanê at an unknown date
  1. Souleymane Abrini, Zerkani recruit and brother of Paris & Brussels attacks accomplice Mohamed Abrini. Joined the Islamic State and was killed in August 2014
  1. Abu Jihad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate in August 2014
  1. Zakaria El Bouzaidi, best friend of Sean Pidgeon, who was recruited together with him by the Denis & Zerkani networks. Killed in September 2014
  1. Abu Mohsen at-Tunisi, anonymous Belgian fighter of Tunisian descent, fighting for Islamic State and killed in September 2014 during a battle near the airport of Deir ez-Zor
  1. Abu Adnan al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Algerian descent who switched from Jabhat an-Nusra to Islamic State at the end of 2013 and was killed in September 2014
  1. Abu Mohamed al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter killed in October 2014 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  1. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter of Saudi descent, killed in the ranks of Jabhat an-Nusra in October 2014 in Latakia governorate
  1. Abu Yahya al-Belgiki, anonymous member of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, killed in October 2014
  1. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter mentioned on a list of deaths of Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar, published in October 2014[9]. It was later confirmed that this kunya doesn’t refer to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who faked his own death around the same time
  1. Abu Sulayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter of Maghribian descent, killed in Kobanê in November 2014
  1. Bilal Barrani, aka Abu Said, Zerkani recruit of French origin who was living in Brussels, joined Islamic State and was killed in December 2014
  1. Khongr Pavlovitch Matsakov, Sunni Islamist fighter from Ostend with roots in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, killed in January 2015
  1. Abu Taymiyya al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter killed in Kobanê in January 2015
  1. Khalid Ben Larbi, aka Abu Zoubeyr, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
  1. Soufiane Amghar, aka Abu Khalid, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was killed during a police operation in Verviers (Belgium) on January 15, 2015
  1. Anis Bouzzaouit, aka Abu Ibrahim, a Zerkani recruit who entered the Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed in February 2015 in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  1. Fahd Asamghi, aka Abu Sabir, Shariah4Belgium recruit from Antwerp who subsequently fought for Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa’l Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. Killed in March 2015
  1. Younes Bakkouy, aka Abu Aziz, Islamic State fighter from Genk who left with two brothers, one of whom (and most likely him) was reportedly killed in March 2015 near Tikrit in Iraq
  1. Abu Bakr al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter from Brussels who committed suicide attack in Ramadi (Iraq) on March 11, 2015
  1. Mesut Cankurtaran, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Vilvoorde, recruited by Shariah4Belgium and the Denis network. Killed in March 2015 in battle for airport in Deir ez-Zor governorate
  1. Karim Kadir, aka Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki. Islamic State fighter from Charleroi, who committed suicide attack at the Iraqi-Jordan border on April 24, 2015
  1. Abu Tourab al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter from Brussels killed in May 2015 in Damascus governorate
  1. Abu Handala al-Belgiki, anonymous Sunni Islamist fighter killed in May 2015
  1. Abu Muslim al-Belgiki. Anonymous Islamic State fighter from Antwerp. His death was announced in June 2015, but reportedly happened around a year earlier
  1. Sami Ladri, aka Abu Waliya, Zerkani recruit from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and committed suicide attack near an-Nukhayba (Iraq) on June 22, 2015
  1. Fayssal Oussaih, aka Abu Shaheed, Islamic State fighter from Maaseik, killed in July 2015
  1. Abu Iliace al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter whose death was announced by an Islamic State source in ar-Raqqah in July 2015
  1. Mossi Junior Juma, teenager from Brussels with roots in Burundi, said to be taken to Syria by his mother and killed in July 2015 at the age of sixteen
  1. Lucas Van Hessche, aka Abu Ibrahim, convert from Menen with roots in Haiti, joined Islamic State and was killed in August 2015 in Hasakah governorate
  1. Abu Mariyya al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Bruges, apparently of Indian descent. Joined Islamic State and was reportedly killed during his very first battle in August 2015
  1. Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed by British drone strike in ar-Raqqah in August 2015
  1. Brian De Mulder, aka Abu Qasim al-Brazili, convert from Antwerp with Belgian father and Brazilian mother, recruited by Shariah4Belgium. Died in October 2015 of wounds sustained by an air strike three weeks earlier
  1. Mohammed Hajji, Islamic State fighter from Antwerp, killed by an air strike in ar-Raqqah in October 2015
  1. Abu Abdullah al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State figher, killed in October 2015 by a French air strike on a training camp near ar-Raqqah
  1. Abdelmalek Boutalliss, aka Abu Nusaybah, Islamic State fighter from Kortrijk who committed suicide attack near Haditha (Iraq) on November 11, 2015
  1. Andy Bizala Lubanza, Zerkani recruit from Brussels with Congolese & Rwandese roots, joined Islamic State and was killed in November 2015
  1. Anonymous, Belgian wife of Islamic State emir ‘Abu Khabab’ from Saudi Arabia, killed with her husband in November 2015 in Deir ez-Zor
  1. Bilal Hadfi, aka Abu Mujahid al-Faransi, Islamic State fighter of French origin living in Brussels, who committed suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
  1. Ibrahim Abdeslam, aka Abu Qa’qa al-Belgiki, Islamic State fighter of French origin living Brussels, who committed a suicide attack in Paris (France) on November 13, 2015
  1. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abu Omar al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined Islamic State’s elite brigade Katibat al-Battar and was killed on November 18, 2015 during a police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
  1. Chakib Akrouh, aka Dhul-Qarnayn al-Belgiki, Zerkani recruit from Brussels, who joined the Islamic State and was killed on November 18, 2015 during police operation in Saint-Denis (France) linked to the Paris attacks
  1. Mohammed Jattari, Sunni Islamist fighter from Tienen, killed at unknown date in 2015
  1. Younes Ahllal, aka Abu Taymiyah al-Belgiki. Zerkani recruit from Brussels, killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in January 2016
  1. Anonymous Belgian fighter killed in the ranks of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor governorate on January 20, 2016
  1. Abu Umar al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in al-Hawiqa near Deir ez-Zor on January 30, 2016
  1. Umm Shérazade al-Belgiki, anonymous woman from Brussels who joined the Islamic State and was reportedly executed for witchcraft in February 2016
  1. Anonymous Belgian fighter in the ranks of the Islamic State, reportedly executed for treason in Deir ez-Zor in February 2016
  1. Salahuddin al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, who was killed as an important battle commander in Deir ez-Zor governorate in March 2016
  1. Mohamed Aziz Belkaïd, aka Abu Abdulaziz al-Jazairi, Islamic State fighter of Algerian descent who was killed on March 15, 2016 during a police operation in Forest (Belgium) linked to the Paris attacks
  1. Najim Laachraoui, aka Abu Idriss, Brussels recruit of the Denis & Zerkani networks, who joined the Islamic State and committed a suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016
  1. Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Islamic State fighter from Brussels who was stopped on his way to Syria, but committed suicide attack at Brussels Airport (Belgium) on March 22, 2016 (Belgium)
  1. Abou Souleyman Belgiki, anonymous fighter from Brussels, who switched side from the Islamic State to Jabhat an-Nusra and was killed near Idlib in April 2016, reportedly by an American drone
  1. Abu Anas al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed near Mosul (Iraq) in April 2016
  1. Abu Dawoud al-Belgiki, anonymous fighter with Jabhat an-Nusra, identified as deputy emir of its foreign fighters in August 2013. Killed by an air strike in May 2016, targeting a meeting of Jabhat an-Nusra leadership at Abu Adh Dhuhur air base in Idlib governorate
  1. Abu Abdilah al-Belgiki, anonymous Jabhat an-Nusra fighter of Maghribian origin, killed in June 2016 by a tank attack of the Syrian army near Aleppo
  1. Anonymous Belgian fighter, killed as Islamic State commander in a battle near Deir ez-Zor in July 2016
  1. Abu Miqdad al-Belgiki, anonymous Islamic State fighter, killed in battle near Deir ez-Zor in August August 2016

[7]   For much more detail on the geographical spread of the Belgian foreign fighter phenomenon, please see http://www.ispionline.it/it/EBook/Rapporto_Hotbeds_2016/Cap.3.pdf

 

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Kevin Razy subtitled in English

Little boy who gave $20 to vandalized mosque receives a special surprise

the-muslim-guy.jpg

Jack Swanson receives a “Thank you” package in the mail after doing a good deed.

A little boy in south Texas did something pretty great last week, and the news spread quickly across the world, via social media. Seven-year-old Jack Swenson took $20 from his piggy bank and decided to give it to a community mosque that had been grossly defaced during a Muslim hate crime.

Twenty dollars might not seem a lot to some, but to Jack Swanson, it was a life’s savings.  And to Faisal Naem, a board member from theIslamic Center of Pflugerville, Jack’s gift was comparable to “$20 million” to the Muslim community.

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Jack Swanson shakes hands with Faisal Naem, a board member of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville, TX after presenting the mosque with his treasure.

What many didn’t know last week was that Jack Swanson was saving his pennies for an Apple iPad. Ardalan Iftikhar heard about the story and said he was moved to tears. Known to some on social media as The Muslim Guy, Iftikar contacted Jack’s mother, Laura Swanson, and within days, Jack received a package in the mail along with this note from Iftikhar:

‘Dear Jack, you had saved $20 in your piggybank for an Apple iPad. But then a local Islamic mosque was vandalised. So you donated your $20 to this local Texas mosque. Because of your amazing generosity & kind heart. ‘Please enjoy this Apple iPad with our sincere thanks :-). Love The American Muslim Community.’

Jack Swanson will most likely always remember how his kindness was received by many around the world. What a wonderful lesson to learn so young — that when we give to others, from our hearts, expecting nothing in return, the good often comes back to us, multiplied. Thank you, Jack, for this lovely reminder.

Magical Thinking about Isis

 

Adam Shatz

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Before the Lebanese civil war, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. Today, Paris looks more and more like the Beirut of Western Europe, a city of incendiary ethnic tension, hostage-taking and suicide bombs. Parisians have returned to the streets, and to their cafés, with the same commitment to normality that the Lebanese have almost miraculously exhibited since the mid-1970s. Même pas peur, they have declared with admirable defiance on posters, and on the walls of the place de la République. But the fear is pervasive, and it’s not confined to France. In the last few weeks alone, Islamic State has carried out massacres in Baghdad, Ankara and south Beirut, and downed a Russian plane with 224 passengers. It has taunted survivors with threats of future attacks, as if its deepest wish were to provoke violent retaliation.

Already traumatised by the massacres in January, France appears to be granting that wish. ‘Nous sommes dans la guerre,’ François Hollande declared, and he is now trying to extend the current state of emergency by amending the constitution. Less than 48 hours after the event, a new round of airstrikes was launched against Raqqa, in concert with Russia. With a single night’s co-ordinated attacks, IS – a cultish militia perhaps 35,000 strong, ruling a self-declared ‘caliphate’ that no one recognises as a state – achieved something France denied the Algerian FLN until 1999, nearly four decades after independence: acknowledgment that it had been fighting a war, rather than a campaign against ‘outlaws’. In the unlikely event that France sends ground troops to Syria, it will have handed IS an opportunity it longs for: face to face combat with ‘crusader’ soldiers on its own soil.

Recognition as a war combatant is not IS’s only strategic gain. It has also spread panic, and pushed France further along the road to civil strife. The massacre was retribution for French airstrikes against IS positions, but there were other reasons for targeting France. Paris is a symbol of the apostate civilisation IS abhors – a den of ‘prostitution and vice’, in the words of its communiqué claiming responsibility for the attacks. Not only is France a former colonial power in North Africa and the Middle East but, along with Britain, it helped establish the Sykes-Picot colonial borders that IS triumphantly bulldozed after capturing Mosul. Most important, it has – by proportion of total population – more Muslim citizens than any other country in Europe, overwhelmingly descendants of France’s colonial subjects. There is a growing Muslim middle class, and large numbers of Muslims marry outside the faith, but a substantial minority still live in grim, isolated suburbs with high levels of unemployment. With the growth rate now at 0.3 per cent, the doors to the French dream have mostly been closed to residents of the banlieue. Feelings of exclusion have been compounded by discrimination, police brutality and by the secular religion of laïcité, which many feel is code for keeping Muslims in their place. Not surprisingly, more than a thousand French Muslims have gone off in search of glory on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. Most of these young jihadis became radicalised online not in the mosque. Some, like the perpetrators of the attacks in January and November, have histories of arrest and time spent in prison; about 25 per cent of IS’s French recruits are thought to be converts to Islam. What most of the jihadis appear to have in common is a lack of any serious religious training: according to most studies, there is an inverse relationship between Muslim piety and attraction to jihad. As Olivier Roy, the author of several books on political Islam, recently said, ‘this is not so much the radicalisation of Islam as the Islamicisation of radicalism.’

By sending a group of French – and Belgian – citizens to massacre Parisians in their places of leisure, IS aims to provoke a wave of hostility that will end up intensifying disaffection among young Muslims. Unlike the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the 13 November attacks were universally condemned. The victims were of every race, the murders were indiscriminate, and many Muslims live in Seine-Saint-Denis, where the bombing at the the Stade de France took place. In theory, this could have been a unifying tragedy. Yet it is Muslims who will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the emergency measures and of the new rhetoric of national self-defence. Fayçal Riyad, a Frenchman of Algerian parents, who teaches at a lycée in Aubervilliers, a few hundred metres from where the 18 November raid against the fugitive attackers took place, pointed out the change in the air. ‘In his January speech,’ Riyad said, ‘Hollande clearly insisted on the distinction between Islam and terrorism. This time he not only abstained from doing so, but in a way he did the opposite by speaking of the necessity of closing the frontiers, insinuating that the attackers were foreigners, but above all in echoing the National Front’s call for stripping binational French people of their nationality if they’re found guilty of acts against the interests of the country. So that is aggravating our fear.’ Marine Le Pen, whose National Front expects to do well in the regional elections in December, is exultant. But anti-Muslim sentiment is hardly confined to the far right. There has been talk in centre-right circles of a Muslim fifth column; a leading figure in Sarkozy’s party has proposed interning 4000 suspected Islamists in ‘regroupment camps’.

IS achieved a further strategic objective by linking the massacre to the refugee crisis. The memory of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy from Kobani who was found drowned on a Turkish beach, has now been eclipsed by a passport found near the corpse of one of the attackers. That this assailant made his way to France through Greece, carrying a passport in the name of a dead Syrian fighter, suggests careful planning. The purpose is not merely to punish Syrians who have fled the caliphate, but to dampen European compassion for the refugees – already strained by unemployment and the growth of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties. Marine Le Pen called for an immediate halt to the inflow of Syrian refugees; Jeb Bush suggested that only Christian Syrians be admitted into the United States. If the West turns its back on the Syrian refugees, the effect will be to deepen further their sense of abandonment, another outcome that would be highly desirable to IS.

It is hard not to feel sentimental about the neighbourhoods of the 10th and the 11th, where IS attacked Le Petit Cambodge and the Bataclan theatre. I know these neighbourhoods well; a number of my journalist friends live there. In a city that has become more gentrified, more class-stratified and exclusionary, they are still reasonably mixed, cheap and welcoming, still somehow grungy and populaire. Odes to their charms have flooded the French press, as if the attacks were primarily an assault on the bobo lifestyle. ‘They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne,’ the front page of Charlie Hebdo declared. But as the journalist Thomas Legrand noted on France Inter, ‘the reality is that we have champagne … and also weapons.’

 

France has been using those weapons more frequently, more widely, and more aggressively in recent years. The shift towards a more interventionist posture in the Muslim world began under Sarkozy, and became even more pronounced under Hollande, who has revealed himself as an heir of Guy Mollet, the Socialist prime minister who presided over Suez and the war in Algeria. It was France that first came to the aid of Libyan rebels, after Bernard-Henri Lévy’s expedition to Benghazi. That adventure, once the US got involved, freed Libya from Gaddafi, but then left it in the hands of militias – a number of them jihadist – and arms dealers whose clients include groups like IS. France has deepened its ties to Netanyahu – Hollande has made no secret of his ‘love’ for Israel – and criminalised expressions of support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.​1 Hollande’s pursuit of ‘economic diplomacy’ in the Arab world is a euphemism for an ever cosier relationship with the Saudi kingdom, whose export of Wahhabist doctrine has done much to spread jihadist ideology. The alliance is an old one. It was a team of French commandos who came to the kingdom’s defence during the 1979 siege of Mecca by a group of radical Islamists; the Saudis then beheaded 63 of the perpetrators, in public executions of a kind now practised by IS, the kingdom’s bastard children. Exploiting Saudi anger over Obama’s pursuit of a rapprochement with Tehran, France has aligned itself with the Saudis on Iran’s nuclear programme and on Syria, and is now competing with the US to become Saudi Arabia’s top supplier of advanced military technology.​2

In one of his last interviews, Tony Judt said:

When Bush said that we are fighting terrorism ‘there’ so that we won’t have to fight them ‘here’, he was making a very distinctively American political move. It is certainly not a rhetorical trope that makes any sense in Europe, [where politicians recognise that] if we begin a war between Western values and Islamic fundamentalism, in the manner so familiar and self-evident to American commentators, it won’t stay conveniently in Baghdad. It is going to reproduce itself thirty kilometres from the Eiffel Tower as well.

The French government refuses to accept any such thing. Most people in Paris were stunned by 13 November, but not those who were listening to IS. Weeks earlier, Marc Trévidic, a magistrate who specialises in terrorism cases, warned in Paris Match that France had become IS’s ‘number one enemy’ because of its activities in the Middle East. ‘It’s always the same story,’ he said in an interview after the attacks. ‘We let a terrorist group grow into a monster, and when it attacks us, we’re surprised … And we’re friends with countries that are responsible for disseminating this ideology – Saudi Arabia … We’re in a total paradox.’

There has been a lot of magical thinking about IS. Liberal hawks, like Roger Cohen in the New York Times, have called for a ground offensive in the usual Churchillian terms – something no Western leader has any appetite (or sizeable constituency) for after Afghanistan and Iraq. Leftists have demanded an end to the drone war, a breaking of ties with Saudi Arabia and the creation of a Palestinian state. According to a writer in the online magazine Jadaliyya, only ‘hallucinating’ neoconservatives could argue that the attacks target the West or France for what they are, rather than for what they do. But IS says very clearly in its communiqué that it’s attacking Paris both for ‘the crusader campaign’ and as ‘the capital of prostitution and vice’ – and it seems obtuse not to take it at its word. To be sure, anger over Western policies is among the drivers of recruitment for groups like IS, but IS is not a purely reactive organisation: it is a millenarian movement with a distinctly apocalyptic agenda. As Elias Sanbar, a Palestinian diplomat in Paris, points out, ‘One of the most striking things about Islamic State is that it has no demands. All the movements we’ve known, from the Vietcong to the FLN to the Palestinians, had demands: if the occupation ends, if we get independence, the war ends. But Daesh’s project is to eliminate the frontiers of Sykes-Picot. It’s like the Biblical revisionism of the settlers, who invent a history that never existed.’ The creation of a Palestinian state is a necessity, above all for Palestinians, but it’s not likely to make much of an impression on IS, which rejects the Middle Eastern state system entirely.

A far more subtle – but in some ways just as wishful – analysis has come from Olivier Roy, who argued in the New York Times that the Paris attacks are a sign of desperation rather than strength:

Isis’s reach is bounded; there are no more areas in which it can extend by claiming to be a defender of Sunni Arab populations. To the north, there are Kurds; to the east, Iraqi Shiites; to the west, Alawites, now protected by the Russians. And all are resisting it. To the south, neither the Lebanese, who worry about the influx of Syrian refugees, nor the Jordanians, who are still reeling from the horrid execution of one of their pilots, nor the Palestinians have succumbed to any fascination for Isis. Stalled in the Middle East, Isis is rushing headlong into globalised terrorism.

It’s an intellectually seductive and almost reassuring argument: IS appears to be on the march, but it’s actually in its death throes, having suffered losses in Kobani and Sinjar. But it’s also an argument that has been made before. After 11 September, it was widely argued that al-Qaida attacked the ‘far enemy’ in the West because it had failed to defeat ‘the near enemy’, the regimes of the Middle East. Today that theory seems less credible. Al-Qaida experienced a regional revival, thanks in large part to the Iraq war. And for IS, an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq, the distinction between near and far enemies is porous: all apostates are enemies. Although it has conquered a significant piece of territory – something bin Laden and Zawahiri never dared attempt – its power is only partly rooted in the caliphate. It is as keen to conquer virtual as actual territory. It draws on a growing pool of recruits who discovered not only IS but Islam itself online, in chatrooms and through messaging services where distance vanishes at the tap of a keyboard. Indeed, the genius of IS has been to overcome the distance between two very different crises of citizenship, and weave them into a single narrative of Sunni Muslim disempowerment: the exclusion of young Muslims in Europe, and the exclusion of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq.

Roy is right that IS can’t ‘win’ in any conventional sense, but it doesn’t have to expand the caliphate in order to remain in business. In the global society of the spectacle, it’s on a roll. Paris has seen its share of terrorist attacks since the 1970s, but the assault on the Bataclan felt very different, and even more disquieting than al-Qaida’s strikes in Madrid and London. Bombings on trains, because the perpetrators are invisible and death is as sudden as in an earthquake, are somehow more easily absorbed than killings by men in balaclavas, armed with Kalashnikovs, haranguing their victims before methodically mowing them down. The message seemed to be: this is what it feels like in Baghdad and Aleppo, this is what it feels like to be utterly helpless, this is what it feels like to be at war. And because the massacre was followed by promises of similar attacks in Paris and other ‘crusader’ cities, it has thrown into relief the impasse in which the West now finds itself, an impasse in large part of its own making.

Hollande may speak confidently of a war to destroy IS once and for all, but his options are limited, and unpalatable, and his lack of imagination imposes further constraints. Mass arrests, interrogations and surveillance could make France safer in the short term, only to drive another generation of alienated youths into the hands of IS. The state of emergency, which he is the only president other than Sarkozy to have invoked since the Algerian war, could quickly turn against him, deepening the sense amongbanlieue residents that they are an internally colonised population.​3 The most important task of the French state is arguably to combat the roots of jihadist terrorism in France, where a Muslim name remains a liability. Third and fourth generation citizens of North African descent are still routinely described as ‘immigrants’, and the neighbourhoods where they live have been called ‘the lost territories of the Republic’, as if they weren’t even a part of France. A long-term project to end discrimination against Muslims, and ensure their participation in the workplace, civic life and politics, would help to reduce the temptations of radical Islamism. So would an effort to address the fact that 70 per cent of the prisoners in French jails are Muslims. But boldness and foresight are in short supply among French politicians, and terrorism and economic austerity may make them still scarcer. Hollande doesn’t want to be too far to Le Pen’s left in the next election.

 

The airstrikes France is conducting with Russian co-operation may provide the public with a taste of revenge, but airstrikes seldom turn people against their rulers and often do the opposite. In co-ordinating the strikes with Russia, Hollande is moving in a direction fervently advocated by the French right, which has been suffering from an acute case of Putin envy. But such an alliance could, yet again, play into IS’s hands: other than Assad, there is no figure more reviled by Syrian Sunnis than Putin, so an air war in concert with Russia and in tacit alliance with Assad would fan the flames of Sunni anger, and be further fuel for IS propaganda.

In a recent interview with Vice, Obama described IS as a child of the Iraq war. It’s true that if it weren’t for the dismantling of the Iraqi state, and its replacement by a Shia-dominated sectarian system, IS would probably not exist. And in its war against the Sykes-Picot frontiers, IS has paid a peculiar homage to the neoconservatives who have always viewed the post-Ottoman borders as artificial constructs, a map to be redrawn in blood, with multi-confessional states replaced by ethnically exclusive, weak statelets: Christian Lebanese, Kurdish and Shia.

But the problem of IS can’t be laid exclusively at the door of Bush, Blair et al. The war in Libya, and Obama’s accommodation with the Sisi regime in Egypt, have encouraged the spread of IS well beyond Iraq. It is, however, the US’s dangerously incoherent Syria policy that has perhaps done the greatest damage. When Obama called for Assad to step down, apparently confident that his days were numbered because an American president had said so, he raised the expectations of the opposition that the US had their backs, in the event that Assad began firing on them. But Obama had no intention of sending troops, or imposing a no-fly zone. His determination to will the means for Assad’s removal has never matched Russia’s or Iran’s determination to keep him in power. The result was to leave the Syrian opposition exposed to Assad’s war.

Assad, who read American intentions better than the opposition, was emboldened by Obama’s obvious wish not to be drawn directly into the war, even after the famous ‘red line’ was crossed. Unable to secure direct support from the US, the various, increasingly fragmented rebel groups looked for arms and aid wherever they could find them: Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and sheiks and businessmen in the Gulf. The support came with strings attached: namely, ideological guidance, and an increasingly assertive anti-Shia orientation. Thanks to the recklessness of Erdoğan and the Qataris, jihadist groups from Jabhat al-Nusra to IS hijacked the rebellion, while the West turned a blind eye, until it was forced to create its own, ineffectual ‘moderate’ rebels, who didn’t stand a chance against the Islamists. By insisting that Assad step down before any transition, Washington prolonged the war, and made the European refugee crisis inevitable: only so many refugees could be dumped in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

All the actors in the Syria cauldron – the Gulf states, Turkey, Hizbullah, the Russians, the Americans – have had a hand in creating this monster, but no one seems to want to fight it, apart from the Kurds. The question of Assad’s fate has prevented the emergence of a unified Russian-American front against IS. Assad’s forces and their allies, including Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, have focused their attacks on Syrian rebel groups which, unlike IS, have directly challenged the regime. The Gulf states, whose imams have played no small part in the expansion of jihadist extremism, are too worried about Iran’s nuclear programme and the Houthis of Yemen to lift a finger, particularly if their actions end up strengthening Assad. Erdoğan’s main concern is not IS but the Kurdish rebels. The Americans and the French, until last year, took comfort in the notion that IS was a local actor, loathsome to be sure, but unlikely to strike at Weste1rn interests: an irritant, rather than a national security threat.

Now IS is unrivalled among jihadist groups, and no one knows quite what to do that won’t make the problem worse. Anything that can be done now risks being too little, too late. It’s true that IS is no match, militarily, for the West. The attacks of 13 November were in the anarchist tradition of the ‘propaganda of the deed’, and we shouldn’t fall for it: the social order of Europe isn’t in jeopardy. But it would also be a mistake to underestimate the problem. IS has managed to insert itself, with no small amount of cunning, and with acute sensitivity to feelings of humiliation, into two of the most intractable conflicts of our time: the relationship of European societies to their internal, Muslim ‘others’ and the sectarian power struggles that have engulfed the lands of Iraq and Syria since 2003.

In an earlier era, these conflicts might have remained separate, but they are now linked thanks to the very devices that are the symbol of globalisation, our phones and laptops. It no longer makes sense to speak of near and far, or even of ‘blowback’: the theatre of conflict has no clear borders, and its causes are multiple, overlapping and deeply rooted in histories of postcolonial rage and Western-assisted state collapse. The attacks in Paris don’t reflect a clash of civilisations but rather the fact that we really do live in a single, if unequal world, where the torments in one region inevitably spill over into another, where everything connects, sometimes with lethal consequences. For all its medieval airs, the caliphate holds up a mirror to the world we have made, not only in Raqqa and Mosul, but in Paris, Moscow and Washington.

20 November

source

 

Husband writes defiant tribute to his wife killed in Bataclan massacre

A Frenchman whose wife was killed in the Bataclan massacre has written a defiant message to the gunmen and a touching tribute to his wife.

Antoine Leiris, who has a 17-month-old son, has told the attackers they “will not have my hatred”.

Gunmen stormed the Bataclan venue on Friday during an Eagles of Death Metal concert and fired into the crowd, killing 89 people.

The Parisian met his wife 12 years ago and described her as an “exceptional being”.

Emergency service responding to the incident at the Bataclan
Emergency service responding to the incident at the Bataclan Credit: Reuters

He wrote online:

On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I do not know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls.

If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in His image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in His heart.

We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies… every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.

– ANTOINE LEIRIS
 Antoine Leiris's Facebook picture
Antoine Leiris’s Facebook picture Credit: Facebook

Mr Leiris said he will not give the gunmen “the gift of hating” them.

Therefore I will not give you the gift of hating you. You have obviously sought it but responding to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that that has made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens, to sacrifice my freedom for security. Lost. Same player, same game.

– ANTOINE LEIRIS

He said he will give the attackers the “tiny victory” of “being devastated with grief” but it will be short-term and she will “join us every day”.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as she was when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell madly in love with her more than 12 years ago.

Of course I’m devasted with grief, I will give you that tiny victory, but this will be a short-term grief. I know that she will join us every day and that we will find each other again in a paradise of free souls which you will never have access to.

We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies. In any case, I have no more time to waste on you, I need to get back to Melvil who is waking up from his afternoon nap. He’s just 17 months old; he’ll eat his snack like every day, and then we’re going to play like we do every day; and every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom. Because you don’t have his hatred either.

– ANTOINE LEIRIS
Last updated Wed 18 Nov 2015

A Critical Exchange with Reese Erlich on Syria, ISIS & the Left

March 8, 2015

Reese Erlich is a foreign correspondent with GlobalPost and reports regularly for National Public Radio (NPR), the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), and Radio Deutsche Welle. His reporting has earned him multiple awards over the years. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared September 14, 2010, “Reese Erlich Day” in honor of his investigative work. “Mr. Erlich,” the resolution read, “exhibits the finest qualities of…reporters willing to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

He is also a friend of mine. We met in the home of our mutual friend Stephen Kinzer in 2009. Kinzer wrote the Foreword to Erlich’s book Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba and hosted a gathering in his home in Oak Park (just outside of Chicago) in Erlich’s honor. It was a fabulous evening, and Erlich and I stayed in touch. A few months later he was in Iran, reporting on the historic protests that convulsed the Islamic Republic following its June presidential election. He wrote some of the very smartest stuff about those dramatic events. Erlich is a dyed–in–the–wool New Leftist who cut his teeth at Ramparts, the iconic magazine of1960s radicalism, took many of his fellow leftists to task for the utter myopia they displayed amidst the events in Iran that summer. His essay “Iran and Leftist Confusion” was bang-on and desperately-needed. He also provided a healthy corrective to the pervasive narcissistic blather about Iran’s Green movement being a Twitter revolution.

A couple years on, when his book Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire came out, I set up an event for Erlich at Chicago’s No Exit Cafe. And in 2013, when Erlich and Norman Solomon (his co-author on the 2003 book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You) did a speaking tour to mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, I set up an them for them in Denver.

In Erlich’s latest book, Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect​, he is critical of me and my colleague Nader Hashemi for advocating humanitarian intervention to end the criminal starvation sieges in Syria. He reached out to me before the book went to print, asking me to read this section and send him feedback. We had sharp disagreements about Syria, but I appreciated his spirit of generosity and friendship. In this same spirit, I was happy to host him once again in Denver for a talk on his new book. But I was also keen to sit him down for a critical exchange about his book for the video series that our Center for Middle East Studies produces.

Our conversation reflects both my deep respect for Reese’s work and also my serious disagreements with him. It is a spirited and critical (in the best sense) exchange between two leftists with different perspectives on one of key issues of our time.

Guantanamo (more)

More than 12 years after he was detained by the US, Mohamedou Ould Slahi remains locked up in Guantánamo, trapped in a horrific legal limbo. But his extraordinary account, handwritten over 466 pages from his single cell at Camp Echo in 2005, is finally being published after years of litigation — and more than 2,500 redactions by the US government. In an unprecedented collaboration, the Guardian and Canongate Books present the full declassified manuscript.
http://guantanamodiary.com/

Slahi manuscript

Glenn Greenwald on How to Be a Terror “Expert”: Ignore Facts, Blame Muslims, Trumpet U.S. Propaganda

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Glenn Greenwald

Charlie Hebdo: Whose Fault Is it? Russell Brand The Trews (E231)

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