| Social workers antagonising parents: Experts cashing in by manufacturing risk?

PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES IDENTIFIED IN PARENTS – IS THERE ENOUGH UNDERSTANDING BY PROFESSIONALS INVOLVED IN CARE CASES? ~ Kirsty Richards, Jordan Publishing.

 

Since I wrote my last opinion piece in April 2013, I continue to practice in children law proceedings (both private and public) and read the article by Kitty Knowles in the Metroyesterday (2 December 2013) : ‘Social Services have a baby taken from mother’s womb’.

While it is inappropriate to comment on that particular case without being aware of the full facts and circumstances, it raises a very serious issue for practitioners involved in care work when psychiatric and/or psychological concerns are raised against one or both parents.

The article in the Metro reports that this particular mother had been taken to a psychiatric ward after failing to take her medication and suffering a panic attack. The local authority then had concerns for the welfare of her unborn child.  After a period of 5 weeks, it is stated they forcibly sedated her and performed a caesarean section, placing the child with foster carers and refusing to return the baby to its mother due to their fears she may relapse. See the response from the local authority at http://www.essex.gov.uk/News/Pages/Essex-County-Council-responses-to-interest-in-story-headlined-Essex-removes-baby-from-mother.aspx

My discussion here centres around the attitude towards any mental health diagnosis, not with regards to the specific case mentioned above.

One would usually expect to see some Expert Reports commissioned during public law proceedings and it is the attitude of some professionals as to the lack of empathy in considering a particular diagnosis, with the effect of “writing off” of parents which is a growing concern in care proceedings.

I have vast experience of public law cases whereby following the receipt of an Expert report, with a diagnosis of either a Psychological/Psychiatric condition, that particular parent is very quickly written off as a possible carer by the Local Authority and other professionals involved in the case when there is clearly scope to consider a more holistic approach as to what support and care package could be provided to enable that parent to provide good enough parenting to the child subject to proceedings.

The recent judgments in Re B-S (Adoption: Application of s 47(5)) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming) and Re G (Care Proceedings: Welfare Evaluation)[2013] EWCA Civ 965, [2014] 1 FLR (forthcoming) have provided practitioners and the court with a much needed reminder that the premise of the Children Act 1989 is to afford children the opportunity to remain with their birth parents if it is at all safe to do so.

Further reminding us that if support is required to enable that parent to look after the child, a thorough analytical report is required setting out exactly what support is required, whether it can be provided and if not, why not.  A holistic approach is required in care proceedings, with thorough and in-depth planning so as to allow the court to reach decisions as to a child’s long term care arrangements with a sound evidential basis.

All too often, professionals will read a psychological/psychiatric report and all too quickly assume its conclusions render that particular parent unable to provide good enough parenting to their child/children.  We should keep it at the forefront of our minds that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and the test is one of ‘good enough’ parenting, which should be achievable with some support in place for particular parents that require it.

As an example, earlier this year, I had an expert report commissioned in a public law case which concluded both parents have personality disorders and the very nature of their particular disorders means they will struggle to deal with information from the local authority (and other professionals) if it is not presented to them in a particular way.

The expert recommended that parties acknowledge the diagnosis of the parents and ensure they communicate with them in an open and honest way, in order to achieve a good working relationship with them.  (It had also been a part of that report that there is clear evidence the parents are able to communicate with some professionals; those that speak to them in an honest way and so the presence of this particular personality disorder did not mean it was an unworkable situation).

Sadly, I did not see any other professional take those conclusions into account and saw an overwhelming attitude that there was no time to put in the extra support needed in terms of explaining things clearly to those parents – leading, inevitably to a poor relationship between the parents and local authority, in particular, who the parents considered would always make decisions and tell them about changes rather than engaging them in open communication and decision-making regarding their children, for whom they still held parental responsibility for – alongside the local authority.

The refreshing judgments coming from the Court of Appeal, such as Re B-S and Re G, are simply reminding practitioners of the basic point that every child deserves to live with his/her biological parent if it is safe to do so. Practitioners and other professionals dealing with care work are supposed to be involved in the careful planning for these vulnerable children and in writing off their parent(s) simply because a psychological issue has been identified is surely providing that child a disservice. A truly holistic approach requires all parties to challenge any linear care planning put forward by local authorities and for there to be, in my view, a better understanding of psychological issues and indeed an empathy towards those suffering personality disorders (for example), who will need more support than others to provide that good enough standard of parenting.

The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming says he plans to raise the case discussed in the Metro in the Commons and I think that most certainly should be done.  He states that ‘[he worries] about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken’ and I too am concerned that unless there is a conscious effort by all involved in care proceedings to look beyond mental health issues, too many children will be stripped of the opportunity to live with their birth parents and that surely goes against the very premise of the Children Act 1989?

Kirsty Richards is a Senior Family Solicitor at GT Stewart Solicitors in London.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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| Palestinian-American student denied Israel entry, told: ‘no such thing as Palestine!’

Palestinian-American student denied entry to Israel after being told, ‘there is no such thing as Palestine’ ~ , Mondoweiss.

I’ve spent my entire life hearing stories about Jerusalem and the beauty of my homeland from my mother and grandparents. I had always dreamed of one day being able to visit, and in the summer of 2012 it seemed that I would finally have that opportunity.  In September of that year I started my travels with 30 peers on a student diplomatic trip through the Middle East. I knew that I would likely face some trouble at the Israeli borders due to my Palestinian background, however what I experienced turned out to be far more than just a little “trouble”.

"The Olive Tree Initiative" in Amman, Jordan with His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talaal of Jordan.

“The Olive Tree Initiative” in Amman, Jordan with His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talaal of Jordan.

On September 13th, 30 of my peers and myself, made our way from Amman, Jordan to the Jordan River Crossing, the international border between Israel and Jordan. We lined up single file to go through baggage check, and have our passports checked by a young soldier who couldn’t be over the age of 25. I watched as several of my peers handed their bags and passports over and were quickly moved along. There seemed to be no trouble. As I approached the soldier and handed him my own passport, he read my name and automatically asked me to step aside. I obliged, wondering and worrying why I hadn’t been let through as easily as my friends who I could now see collecting their luggage and heading back to the bus. I waited patiently as I watched my passport be handed around from soldier to soldier, each reading my name out loud then conversing among each other in Hebrew.

Eventually one of the soldiers took my passport to the back and handed it to a young lady behind a glass window. I watched her inspect the passport and vigorously type my information into the computer screen in front of her. After about 35 minutes of her “research” on me, she called me over to her window, and proceeded to question me.

“What is the purpose of your visit to Israel?”

“I am on a student diplomatic trip with the University of California school system”

Where are your mother and father from?”

“My father is Egyptian, and my mother is Palestinian” I noticed her smirk when I said the word Palestinian.

“Where are they now?”

“In California, where they live”

“Do you have family here in Israel?”

“No, but I have family in Palestine”

“So your mother is a Palestinian and you think that you can come to Israel?”

“Yes”

“You are not allowed to enter here because you have a Palestinian I.D.”

“No, I do not, I am an American citizen. I wasn’t born in Palestine, nor have I ever lived there”

Again she laughed, and snidely replied, “Well there is no such thing as Palestine anyway, but you have an I.D. through your mother, so you are not allowed to enter here. No Palestinians are. But you can try the Allenby Border Crossing, that is for Arabs only”

In just a few simple words it seemed that she had stripped me of my entire identity, erased my history, and labeled me as less than. I had never felt such anger in my life.

Devastated that I might not be able to continue my travels with my peers, it was decided that I would take a taxi an hour away to the Allenby Border Crossing and attempt to enter Israel from there. All 30 of my peers, all American citizen, UC students, just like me, had all gotten through already, but because my mother possesses a Palestinian ID, I was being denied entry into my own homeland. I was beginning to see the blatant racism that my mother had tried to warn me about unravel in front of me. Israel’s goal is for every Palestinian to denounce their Palestinian ID, therefore giving up their right to ever return to live in Palestine. I felt a surge of pride that my mother had refused to do so, despite the fact that it was hindering not only her own, but also, my ability to see my homeland. I knew that it was one of the strongest forms of resistance she could take.

I got into a taxi with 3 members from my traveling group, and we made our way to the Allenby Border Crossing. After about an hour, we arrived, and again I waited in the passport control line. I approached the window as my turn had finally arrived and I handed my passport to the small blonde woman working behind the counter. She took my passport and scanned it, and automatically said,

“Do you have another passport?”

“No”

“You are lying to me. You have a Palestinian ID”

“No, I don’t. I am an American citizen. My mother is simply originally Palestinian”

“You are a Palestinian, you cannot come to Israel. Wait there”

I headed to the waiting area, and spent the next 3 hours sitting and watching my passport be handed back and forth between soldiers and employees. Every so often I would be called aside and questioned about the reasoning for my visit and my family. Finally another young female soldier holding my passport, called out my name, and I replied. She asked me to follow her, so I did. I assumed I would be questioned for what seemed like the 100th time that day. She led me through the building and out sliding glass doors in the back. As we kept walking, I wondered where she was taking me, but again assumed I was simply being led to another building for further questioning. Finally, she stopped in front of a bus, and simply handed the bus driver my passport and said, “Return her”. I automatically panicked.

“Return me? Return me where?”

“You are going back to Jordan. You cannot come to Israel”

“I can’t go back, I have no phone, and I didn’t even tell the people I was with that I’m leaving. Please just let me go tell them”

“No. You will get on the bus and go back”

At this point I was truly afraid, and so I raised my voice to call attention and said, “No. I need to go back to my group. I will not get on the bus”

Suddenly, another man dressed in full military uniform holding a gun approached, and said, “You need to calm down right now and get on the bus”

Again, I pleaded, “Please just let me go tell them I’m leaving”

The man then lifted his gun, pointed it at me, and cocked it and said, “Get on the bus”

I had never had a gun pointed at me, and had never been so terrified in my life. Through tears I begged them to just let me tell my group, and finally the woman gave in and snarled, “You have 30 seconds to run back”

Yara Karmalawy

Yara Karmalawy

I sprinted back to where I had left the 3 members from my group that were with me and that is where I ultimately broke down. Here I was a mere minutes from the cities where my mother spent her youth, the land that I have always considered home, and a series of young men and women barely older than me were in control of whether I was to be allowed entry or not. The only difference between myself and my 30 peers, who had already gained entry, was that I was born to a Palestinian mother, and because of this, Israel would continue to deny me entry to my homeland until my mother has denounced her ID.

Between sobbing, I quickly explained what had happened to the 3 members I was with, as I saw the young female soldier walk back into the building behind me. She didn’t dare say anything to me in front of my group. She knew that her intimidation attempts would stand no chance now that she didn’t have me secluded. I had now been attempting entry into Israel for ten hours, and I was exhausted. I couldn’t stand one more soldier who was practically my age telling me that I was not allowed entry into Israel. Just the idea that these youth were controlling these borders made me sick, I could see the perpetuation of this brutal occupation first hand and I was disgusted.

I watched the female take my passport and place a huge stamp on an inside page. I now had a mark on my passport that would let everyone know I was of Palestinian descent. This stamp was only made up of 9 digits, the 9 digits of my mother’s Palestinian ID. It no longer mattered that I was an American citizen, UC student on a student diplomatic trip with 30 of my peers. Instead, these 9 digits were the only thing that defined me in Israel. These 9 digits had become my only identity.

I finally had my passport handed back to me and was once again told that I would not be allowed entry into Israel. Despite all my efforts, my background was going to keep me visiting my homeland. Somehow the same young men and women who I could have been in school with had my mother stayed in Jerusalem and raised me there, were the ones to deny me entry. The saddest part to me is that I know my experience is only a very minor example of the challenges that Palestinians face on a daily basis. When their identity and culture is not being actively erased from history and denied, it’s being used against them perpetuating the inequality and injustice that the occupation brings about.

Wall graffiti along the alleys of Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (Photo: Yara Karmalawy)

Wall graffiti along the alleys of Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (Photo: Yara Karmalawy)

Finally, after many more hours of pleading and reaching out to as many connections as possible, I was eventually able to gain entry into the West Bank. However I was still denied entry into Israel, and the 9 digit stamp in my passport would make sure of this at every checkpoint.

My only hope from all of this is that my story will encourage people to ask questions and to learn more about the Palestinian struggle. We need to start by educating ourselves and as many people around us as possible.

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Portrait of a boy with the flag of Palestine painted on his face

| AID NOT BOMBS: Syrian refugee crisis in numbers!

| AID NOT BOMBS: Syrian refugee crisis in numbers! ~ YouTube.

The Syrian refugee crisis in numbers – animation 

It started with thousands of people on the streets. It has resulted in millions of people on the move. Syria‘s civil conflict, two years old and counting, has generated the world’s gravest refugee crisis for 20 years, but the numbers only tell part of the story. In this animated film we examine the magnitude of this humanitarian disaster.

YouTube: http://youtu.be/DqCqgDueASo 

Courtesy: The Guardianhttp://bitly.com/UvkFpD

| AID NOT BOMBS: UN refugee agency says more than 2m have fled Syria! http://fb.me/2yC6wwNql 

| Zaatari refugee camp: 3 square miles of Jordanian desert now home to 25,000 Syrian families!… http://fb.me/2G0CHlKdC

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Humility Pill

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| Exploitation: Syrian refugees ‘sold for marriage’ in Jordan!

Syrian refugees ‘sold for marriage’ in Jordan ~ Beth McLeod, The World Tonight, Amman, BBC.

Before the war began, Kazal was in love with her neighbour in Homs. “He was 20 years old and I dreamed of marrying him one day,” she says. “I never thought I would marry someone I didn’t love, but my family and I have been through some hard times since coming to Amman.”

Kazal says she is 18 but looks much younger. She has just got divorced from a 50-year-old man from Saudi Arabia who paid her family about US $3,100 (UK £2,000) to marry her. The marriage lasted one week.

“I lived with my husband in Amman, but we weren’t happily married. He treated me like a servant, and didn’t respect me as a wife. He was very strict with me. I’m happy that we’re divorced.”

Her huge, blue eyes fill with tears when she talks about the marriage.

Andrew Harper

 

“You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want, but it’s preying on the weakest”

Andrew HarperUNHCR

“I agreed to it so I could help my family. When I got engaged I cried a lot. I won’t get married for money again. In the future I hope to marry a Syrian boy who’s my own age.”

‘Survival sex’Andrew Harper, the Representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Jordan, is concerned that some of the 500,000 Syrian refugees in the country are increasingly turning to such desperate measures.

“We don’t have enough resources to give aid to all those who need it. The vast majority of refugees are women and children. Many of them are not used to going out to work, so survival sex becomes an option.”

His office in central Amman is surrounded by hundreds of newly arrived refugees, waiting in long lines to register for aid. He says the UNHCR has intervened with some families who have been offering their daughters up for early marriage.

“I can’t think of anything more disgusting than people targeting refugee women… You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want but it’s preying on the weakest.

“The government and people of Jordan are doing what they can but people are poor and we have to get more resources into the community so families aren’t forced into something that deep down I believe they don’t want to do.”

18-year-old Kazal
Kazal’s agreed to the marriage to help her family

Short-term marriages between men from the Gulf and Syrian girls reportedly happened before the war began. But Kazal’s mother Manal, who dresses conservatively like her daughter in an abaya and headscarf, says she would have never considered such an arrangement in the past.

“Life here is very hard and we receive very little aid. We have a baby who needs lots of milk every day, and we can’t afford to pay the rent. So I had to sacrifice Kazal to help the other members of the family.”

She says that the marriage was arranged by an Amman-based NGO called Kitab al-Sunna, which gives cash, food and medicines to refugees. It is funded by donations from individuals across the Arab world.

“When I went for help at the NGO they asked to see my daughter. They said they would find a husband for her.”

Syrian matchmakerThe director of Kitab al-Sunna, Zayed Hamad, says that he is sometimes approached by men who want to marry Syrian women.


“It’s not prostitution because there’s a contract between the groom and bride… How are we supposed to live when the NGOs give us so little help? ”

Um MazedMatchmaker

“They ask for girls who are over 18. They’re motivated by helping these women, especially those whose husbands died as martyrs in Syria. Arab men see Syrian women as good housewives, and they find them very pretty, so traditionally it is desirable to marry one.”

Um Mazed is a 28-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs who has started earning money by arranging marriages between Syrian girls and Arab men.

In a grubby room covered with mould, she fields phone calls from prospective brides and grooms.

“The men are usually between 50 and 80, and they ask for girls who have white skin and blue or green eyes. They want them very young, no older than 16.”

She says she has presented more than a hundred Syrian girls to these men, who pay her a fee of US $70 for an introduction, and about US $310 if it results in a marriage.

“If these marriages end in divorce after a short time, that’s not my issue, I’m just the matchmaker. As far as I’m concerned it’s not prostitution because there’s a contract between the groom and bride.”

Um Mazed means “Mother of Mazed”, one of her three children. She doesn’t want her identity known because she’s ashamed of what she is doing for a living, but claims she has no choice.

“How are we supposed to live when the NGOs give us so little help? How are we supposed to pay our rent? We’re not getting enough help to live decently, that’s why I’m doing this – so my family and I can survive.”

More on This Story

Syria conflict

Around the web

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| Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria’s women refugees!

Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria’s women refugees ~ JACKIE LONGSocial Affairs Editor, Channel 4 News.

Thousands of Syrians fled to Jordan‘s Zataari refugee camp to escape violence at home. But now women and children live in fear of kidnap, rape and sham marriages in the camp meant to keep them safe.

Sharzad cries on hearing of the rape of three girls at a refugee camp

If agony has a sound, it is the cry to God made by 100-year-old Shatwah, as she sits broken and bereft in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

In her black hijab, she raises her hands to the sky, almost unable to make sense of her own distress. “Bashar, Bashar,” she keeps crying. “Why are you butchering us?”

Shatwah (pictured above) is one of a hundred thousand Syrians whose home is now the sprawling, tented city of Zataari. They fled the fighting to seek shelter and safety. But for many women the camp has offered them anything but.

“Three girls in our camp were kidnapped,” explains Israa Mohammed. “They raped them. Then they brought them back to the camp. The Jordanian guys, they come to harass Syrian girls from the age of seven or six.”

They see we don’t have money. They want to exploit us. Give me your daughter for 200,000 lira or 100,000 lira. It’s exploitation.Abu Sanad, father

Such reports of women being kidnapped, assaulted or raped abound around the camp. Women say security is non existent. They are too afraid even to go to the toilet at night alone.

“I come with my daughter, she enters and I stand here waiting for her,” says Um Hammad. “There are girls who don’t come to the toilet at night. We stay until the morning, holding it in.”

VIDEO: Jonathan Miller witnesses dramatic late-night escape of a group of Syrian refugees

A Syrian teenager girl in the refugee camp of Zataari

The marriage market

As well as the fear of attack , there is another more insidious assault on the women and girls of Zaatari. Men – usually from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states – are given free rein at the camp. Coming in the guise of benefactors offering charity, in return many want a wife.

But these are marriages of convenience – for the men at least. So called “pleasure marriages”, they give cover – a sheen of respectability – to what is often wealthy men exploiting vulnerable women for sex.

Abu Sanad is the father of two daughters. “People from Jordan, from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar, they come and ask: ‘Do you want to give your daughters for marriage?'” he said.

“What do they see us as? A market place for selling? Like selling sheep. They see we don’t have money. They want to exploit us. ‘Give me your daughter for 200,000 lira or 100,000 lira’. It’s exploitation.”

The men often promise the earth. “Lama” says she was told she would “live like a princess.” But the reality often means a few days or weeks out of the camp, then they are dumped alone in Jordan, or left to come back to Zaatari, humiliated and abused.

Gallery: Inside Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp

Um Majed, a Syrian housewife, has become a marriage broker in the camp

Um Majed (pictured left) is a Syrian housewife from Homs. She says she understands the refugee families and women who give into the demands of the men from the Gulf offering desperately needed cash. These are “dark days” for Syrians, she offers up by way of reasoning.

She has chosen her own way to deal with such bleak times. She has become a marriage broker, offering Syrian girls for sex.

“He comes for a coffee and he sees her with her hijab, he pays the 100 dinar and leaves,” says Ms Majed, outlining the charges. “If he wants to marry her, he has to pay 1,000 or more. He has to sign a marriage agreement and he takes her and even after one hour they can get divorced. It’s none of my business.”

Vigilantes

Frustrated by the authorities’ inability to deal with this problem, residents of the camp are forming vigilante groups. They patrol the area, they say to protect their women. They mete out their own justice on the men they decide are the perpetrators.

It is one of many problems the authorities now face. Young men, angry, frustrated and bored are running out of control. Several riots have broken out in the camp.

The United Nations says it is working hard with the Jordanian government to set up a proper policing structure and have announced a new security initiative.

But it may never ease the pain of the women refugees. That will only be soothed when they are allowed to go back to their beloved Syria.

Um Majed throws her head back and sighs. “I wish to go back to Syria. I wish to breathe the air of my country. Inshallah, I will go back.”

But it is more in hope than expectation. She recognises what their future might hold.

“I hope we don’t have the same destiny of the Palestinians who went out of their country and never went back.”

The film on the plight of Syria’s refugees will be shown on Channel 4 News on Thursday from 7pm. It was directed, produced and filmed by Sharron Ward. The editor was Agnieszka Liggett and associate producer was Yasmin Al Tellawy.

Recommended Reading

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| Criminal US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb!’

US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’ ~ Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent, TELEGRAPH.CO.UK.

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The United States has coordinated a massive airlift of arms to Syrian rebels from Croatia with the help of Britain and other European states, despite the continuing European Union arms embargo, it was claimed yesterday.

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US and Europe in 'major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb'

The West, and especially Turkey and the United States, want the rebels to be better armed Photo: AFP

Decisions by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, to provide non-lethal assistance and training, announced in the past week, were preceded by much greater though less direct Western involvement in the rebel cause, according to a Croat newspaper.

It claimed 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November.

The story confirmed the origins of ex-Yugoslav weapons seen in growing numbers in rebel hands in online videos, as described last month by The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, but suggests far bigger quantities than previously suspected.

The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours. But the report added that as well as from Croatia, weapons came “from several other European countries including Britain”, without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.

British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers. The Americans are also believed to be providing training on securing chemical weapons sites inside Syria.

President Barack Obama has been lukewarm about arming Syrian rebels though many of his aides have been privately been keener.

The story in the Jutarnji List newspaper gave the fullest details yet of the arms shipments which have enabled rebel forces to begin advancing across the north of Syria in recent weeks, after months of stalemate.

The weapons, including rocket launchers, recoil-less guns and the M79 anti-tank weapon, have been seen in rebel hands in numerous videos, and were first spotted by an arms expert Eliot Higgins, who blogs under the name Brown Moses. He traced them moving from Dera’a in the south, near the Jordanian border, to Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the north.

Western officials told the New York Times that the weapons had been bought from Croatia by Saudi Arabia, and that they had been funnelled to rebel groups seen by the west as more secular and nationalist.

The British involvement fits with the government’s policy of doing all it can to help the rebels within the EU arms embargo, which was modified but not dropped at the start of this month. Croatia, a close western ally, does not join the EU until July 1 and has yet to implement the relevant EU legislation, though it has denied the newspaper’s claims.

The claims were denied by the Foreign Office. “While the Foreign Secretary has ruled out no options for the future, the UK has not supplied weapons to the Syrian opposition,” a spokesman said. “This would be a clear breach of the current EU arms embargo.”

According to the Croat newspaper, the first cargo planes involved with the shipment were from Turkey, but most have been from Jordanian International Air Cargo, whose Russian-made Ilyushin jets have been seen regularly at Zaghreb airport in recent months.

The airlift of dated but effective Yugoslav-made weapons meets key concerns of the West, and especially Turkey and the United States, who want the rebels to be better armed to drive out the Assad regime but fear ultra-modern weaponry getting into the hands of jihadists and the PKK Kurdish terror group.

Nevertheless, Mr Higgins has recently posted videos showing some of the Croat weapons in the hands of the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham.

Although regarded as hostile to the West, it fights closely with other Free Syrian Army units regarded as acceptable recipients of weapons.

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| Bin Laden’s son-in-law captured + brought to New York from Jordan!

Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law in Custody in New York ~

DEVLIN BARRETT And TAMER EL-GHOBASHY, Wall street journal.

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Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, identified by counterterrorism officials as a spokesman for the terror group once led by his father-in-law, was recently deported from Turkey to Jordan, where U.S. agents captured him, one person familiar with the case said.

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WASHINGTON—A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and longtime suspected member of al Qaeda has been captured and brought to New York City by U.S. counterterrorism operatives, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, identified by counterterrorism officials as a spokesman for the terror group once led by his father-in-law, was recently deported from Turkey to Jordan, where U.S. agents captured him, one person familiar with the case said.

On Thursday, officials said the suspect was in federal custody in New York City and would likely make a court appearance later this week. It wasn’t yet clear what specific charges he faces, but U.S. officials consider him a longtime member of the core al Qaeda terrorist group.

The suspect was flown to New York by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, and he has been talking to interrogators since then, according to the people familiar with the case.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Mr. Abu Ghaith appeared in al Qaeda videos condemning the U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan, saying al Qaeda would retaliate against the U.S. and Britain. After those videos appeared, Kuwait stripped him of citizenship.

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) said the capture “shows again that core al Qaeda is being devastated. It goes right to the heart of al Qaeda, because it’s bin Laden’s son in law. That’s a psychological victory for us and a psychological defeat for al Qaeda.”

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| Civilian Atrocities in Syria: A Modern Humanitarian Failure!

Syria: A Modern Humanitarian Failure ~ Raha Mirabdal,  .

ntung syria darshifaahospital  Syria: A Modern Humanitarian Failure

A boy is treated by doctors and nurses after sustaining injuries from an airstrike in the Sha’ar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. (TIME/Nicole Tung)

By: Raha Mirabdal

The Syrian crisis marks not only one of the bloodiest modern revolutions, but also one of the most blatant humanitarian failures for the international community.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that more than 45,000 individuals have been killed in the conflict; the majority of whom were civilians. Yet behind the statistics are thousands of tragic stories of innocent civilians, refugees and children caught in the crossfire. The inability of the international community to protect the innocent in this conflict stands as a monumental failure for the modern conception of human rights and international law.

The toll on the children of Syria has been vast, with consequences likely to last over a generation. Many have been shot, kidnapped, tortured, injured or killed.  Others have witnessed the deaths of their parents, siblings, or cousins. The trauma inflicted upon these children will have lasting effects on their psychological health, and will leave deep scars- both seen and unseen.

Save The Children, a children’s rights NGO, conducted a report titled Untold Atrocities, in which they gathered testimonies from Syrian children and families who are living through the crisis.  According to Save the Children, nearly every child they interviewed had seen a family member or friend killed, and as a result will live the rest of their life with some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder.  To make matters worse, nurses and doctors have not been properly trained to treat psychological trauma, resulting in improper care for children with trauma.

In a testimony provided to Save The Children, Razan, a mother from Karak, recounted the day she witnessed a young boy slowly die in the street as she was walking home.  Soldiers had decided to use the 8-year old boy as a target for shooting practice.  The shot to his head wasn’t a clear one.  The young child lay in the street, dying slowly, as the soldiers tormented his mother who was watching from inside the house “you can’t get to your child, you can’t get to your child.”  Razan watched as the mother screamed from inside the house, unable to reach her dying son.  “There’s no way I can cope,” Razan explained, “no way I can turn over a new page. I have seen children slaughtered. I don’t think I’ll ever be OK again.”  Stories similar to Razans have become far too common in Syria over the past 19 months.

According to War Child, an NGO focused on the effects of war on children around the world, Syrian children are deliberately being targeted in the conflict in an attempt to spark fear in the opposition.  Rob Williams, the chief executive of War Child explained, “Children normally suffer in conflict as collateral damage: if there is war going on then children may be caught in the crossfire, in this particular conflict they have been deliberately targeted.”

Wael, a 16-year old refugee currently living in Za’atari, Jordan gave a testimony to Save the Children explaining the atrocities he witnessed after being arrested. “I knew a boy called Ala’a. He was only six years old. He didn’t understand what was happening. I’d say that six-year-old boy was tortured more than anyone else in the room. He wasn’t given food or water for three days, and he was so weak he used to faint all the time. He was beaten regularly. I watched him die. He only survived for three days and then he simply died. He was terrified all the time. They treated his body as though he was a dog.”

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Medics carry Fatima Qassem, 6, whose legs were badly injured when government forces fired on her family’s car, into the emergency room in a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

According to the World Health Organizationhalf of Syria’s 88 hospitals have been critically damaged; 23 of which are no longer operational.  As a result, the remaining functional hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, and are facing shortages of supplies and staff.  Over half of Syria’s doctorshave fled the country, leaving the hospitals undermanned in a time of widespread medical need.  There is such a desperate need for medical staff that there have been reports of veterinarians volunteering to treat injured patients.

The Assad regime has implemented a policy of denying medical aid to the opposition.  As a result, loyalists to the regime have gone so far as to targetwounded individuals en route to public hospitals.  Opposition activists have smuggled much needed antibiotics, painkillers and medications for chronic conditions into rebel controlled territories within Syria, but at a high cost.  Torture and death has been reported for those attempting to treat wounded rebels or provide them with medical supplies.  Reports from inside Syria tell of doctors and nurses putting forth their own earnings in order to buy hospital equipment when activists are unable to deliver supplies. If no supplies are obtained, doctors are forced to conduct procedures without the necessary medications and equipment.  With soaring fuel costs, doctors have been unable to perform required surgeries due to the lack of supplies in conflict areas.

Dr. Nassr, a spinal surgeon from the United States has been working with Syrian doctors and leading workshops in Syria, teaching new techniques to use while faced with limited supplies.  Nassr explained, “There will be patients that will die that would not die in any civilized country, and it’s not because these are not good doctors; it’s because they don’t have the resources to take care of these patients, even the most basic things.”

Prior to the crisis, the eastern city of Deir Azzour was once a well functioning urban area, home to over 600,000 Syrians.  Now, more than 10,000 poor and elderly Syrians are trapped in a city that is shelled and bombed daily, with nothing more than one makeshift hospital and four doctors.  According to Doctors Without Borders, “Despite support from an organization of Syrian doctors, it is virtually impossible to obtain medical supplies in Deir Azzour.”

Patients living with chronic conditions are faced with increased difficulties in fighting their diseases given the dramatic shortages of medications available. Pharmacies are unable to keep up with the current demands, while black market costs of medications are extremely high.

Hanani, a cancer patient from Damascus has been unable to find the medication he needs in order to control his pain and slow his cancer.  He has resorted to the black market for the medication, which costs him 5,000 Syrian pounds a month (70 USD)- half of his family’s entire monthly income.  Without the medication, he will die a slow and painful death.

Amoon is a 60 year old woman suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.  Without access to her hypertension medication, Amoon’s diabetes progressed and and as a result she developed a gangrenous toe which required immediate amputation.  She is currently in dire need of insulin to control her diabetes, however, like Hanani, she cannot afford the black market prices and will likely continue to suffer as a result.

The crisis has not only caused suffering and devastation for millions of displaced Syrians, but has also been a source of frustration for doctors and healthcare workers.  Healthcare workers continue to face deaths that could have easily been avoided with the help of modern technologies. Currently they are left unaided, overwhelmed and in constant danger in war torn areas.  Patients are dying in the arms of doctors at increasing rates, despite their best efforts.  For the brave medical workers who remain in Syria, the odds are set against them.  The tens of thousands of deaths in Syria are a failure for medicine, the international community, and those who seek to protect the innocent in warfare.

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A Syrian nurse treats a girl wounded by Syrian Army artillery shelling at Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria. (AP/Manu Brabo)

Aside from trauma related war injuries, Syrians are suffering from starvation in increasing numbers, with women and children facing the greatest risk.  Rebel controlled territories have been cut off from oil and flour, causing costs of food to rise, threatening starvation for tens of thousands.  Flour factories have been bombed at increasing rates, resulting in a serious shortage of supplies and causing costs of bread to go through the roof.

Hout, an Aleppo resident explains the difficulties of receiving food.  ”We’re starving. I can bear it but what about my children? I stand from 3 in the afternoon until 11 at night and you can’t always get bread.”  As a result, residents are now forced to either beg, steal, or starve.  In many cities, those who can afford the high cost of food still fear leaving the safety of their homes. Recently, as many as 300 individuals were killed by an airstrike while standing in line to buy bread.

Rebel controlled territories have been cut off from electricity and heat in residential areas, leaving hundreds of thousands at risk of hypothermia.  Those who have been forced out of their homes find themselves without proper shelter and clothing in the freezing temperatures.  Many refugees have arrived to neighboring countries wearing nothing but sandals, shorts and t-shirts.  As temperatures drop towards zero, and the rain and snow continue to pour, hundreds of thousands of families are finding refuge in unheated schools, mosques and semi-finished buildings, sleeping on the cold concrete floors.  Due to the dropping temperatures and lack of proper shelter, hypothermia, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections are becoming increasingly prominent and dangerous to the young, old and vulnerable.

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A Syrian girl lies on the ground next to her father, while they take refuge at a Turkey border crossing. (AP/Muhammed Muheisen)

Those who have fled the fighting, hoping to find peace, are now facing new dangers. Refugees are now spread out across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and are lacking proper resources and facilities to treat those with medical needs.

With nearly 500,000 displaced refugees, half of whom are children, aid agencies have been unable to provide proper facilities for all refugees, and are scrambling to do so before winter sets in. The mountains of Lebanon are now home to 120,000 refugees.  The freezing conditions and lack of food and water are placing Syrians in life-threatening conditions; including at least 300 newborns struggling to stay alive.

The 110,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan face a similar situation as they fight sub-zero temperatures and a lack of proper shelter.  The conflict within Syria has caused the price of food in Jordan to skyrocket, leaving the refugees malnourished and weak.  The 140,000 refugees in Turkey are living in equally dangerous conditions.  With significant overcrowding and the potential for treacherous floods, refugees are dreading the worst of the coming winter.

The United Nations has recently increased its projection of Syrian refugees from the conflict for the fourth time, anticipating more than 1 million total refugees in the next 6 months.  The UN agencies said they were seeking $1 billion to assist refugees in neighboring countries and an additional $519 million more to provide emergency aid to four million people inside Syria; a figure which represents almost 20 percent of the country’s population.

“The violence in Syria is raging across the country; there are nearly no more safe areas where people can flee,” Radhouane Nouicer, the coordinator of United Nations humanitarian aid, told journalists in Geneva.

“If nothing is done to change the current dynamic, and to move toward a political solution, the destruction of Syria will be the likely outcome”, said Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

The tragedy of the Syrian crisis lies not only in the horror that has swept over the country, but in the impotence of the international community to provide meaningful aid to the Syrian people.  The geopolitical games being played in Syria have overshadowed the immense suffering of its people.  For the Syrians who have fought for freedom against the regime of Assad for the past 19 months, their feelings towards the international community are a mix of abandonment and betrayal. Putting all political considerations aside, the international community could have and should have done more to protect the children of Syria, and provide emergency medical assistance to a vulnerable civilian population. For those who have paid the ultimate price, it may be too late, but for the 1 million or more refugees facing supply shortages and a grim winter, the time for action is now.

Syria: A Modern Humanitarian Failure

Raha Mirabdal is a NEO associate and is in her final year of nursing school at the University of San Francisco in California. 

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| Lemming logic + neocon fiscal cliff: Four million Syrians will need humanitarian aid by next year!

Four million Syrians will need humanitarian aid by next year ~ Ch 4 News.

The United Nations warns that the number of people within Syrian needing humanitarian aid will soar from 2.5 million to around 4 million by early next year.

Thousands flee Syria overnight as Assad vows to stay

Speaking in Geneva the director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, said that the world was already failing to meet the needs of those caught up in the violence:

“Every day our humanitarian colleagues on the ground are engaging with people who are ever more desperate, ever more fearful for their lives and for the lives of their families because of this conflict.”

As well as the plight of those still within the country, the refugee crisis continues to intensify.

An estimated 11,000 people fled Syria overnight in an exodus that brings the total number of refugees to over 400,000 with no end to the conflict in sight.

In the last 24 hours Turkey took in 9,000 Syrians, while Lebanon and Jordan both took in 1,000 each. The total number of refugees is thought to be significantly higher than current figures indicate.

An estimated 2.5m people have been uprooted by violence inside Syria, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey has topped 100,000.

They have had everything destroyed and suddenly find themselves living in a tent in a refugee camp
Ron Redmond, UN Refugee Agency

The battle between the government forces and rebels continued today with the Free Syrian Army claiming victory at a key town near the border with Turkey. However, President Bashar al-Assad remains defiant and has affirmed that his regime is “fighting terrorism” with the support of the Syrian people.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond has confirmed to Channel 4 News that with winter approaching they are working around the clock to ensure adequate shelter is provided in countries across the Middle East and North Africa receiving fleeing Syrians.

He explained that there could be as many as 150,000 refugees currently living in Egypt, with many living in difficult conditions.

“In Jordon 70 per cent are living outside the camps, people are renting places or staying with relatives,” Mr Redmond explained. “In Lebanon they are outside of the camps, and there is a risk of running out of resources with winter approaching.”

In Iraq many fleeing Syrians are living in tents, 49,000 people are thought to have fled to the Kurdistan district. Preparations are underway for harsher weather with 100s of prefab shelters donated by Gulf states and in Turkey the 14 camps are being winterised.

Mr Redmond explained that Syrians who fled have been left in a state of shock with no indication of when they will be able to return home.

“Many of these people had a high standard of living in Syria, they had homes, jobs and cars,” he explained. “They have had everything destroyed and suddenly find themselves living in a tent in a refugee camp.”

An emergency cash assistance programme is also in place for displaced people providing funds for vulnerable families to pay rent or meet critical needs not covered by the aid programme. The cost of relief efforts is expected to run to $488m by the end of the year.

A recent attempt to bring 550 tons of UNHCR supplies to 13,000 families inside Syria was hampered by a ceasefire that did not hold.

In an interview with Russia Today, President Assad has remained defiant claiming “The army cannot withstand for twenty months in these difficult circumstances without having the embrace of the public in Syria”.

“We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence, let’s say, it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

The president rubbished rumours that he might flee stating “I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.”

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| Secret nuke bully Israel denies trying to block Jordan’s nuclear development!

Israel denies trying to block Jordan’s nuclear development ~ Phoebe Greenwood, Jerusalem, The Telegraph.

Israeli officials have emphatically denied allegations made by King Abdullah II that the Jewish state has attempted to block Jordan’s nuclear development.

Future of Palestine is stronger than Israel... admits one of the Jewish state's last Muslim allies: Jordan's King Abdullah II

Jordan’s King Abdullah II Photo: REUTERS

King Abdullah II – one of Israel’s few allies in the region – claimed that Israel has intervened to prevent international support for Jordan’s nuclear programme in a wide-ranging interview with the French news agency AFP last Wednesday.

“A Jordanian delegation would approach a potential partner, and one week later an Israeli delegation would be there, asking our interlocutors not to support Jordan’s nuclear energy bid,” King Abdullah said.

“Against this backdrop, I feel that those who oppose our peaceful nuclear programme for all the wrong reasons are furthering Israeli interests more efficiently than Israel could ever do.”

Jordan, which imports 95 per cent of its energy, depends on nuclear power as an alternative energy supply. The vast majority of its energy is produced by gas imported from Egypt through a pipeline that has been targeted in multiple terrorist attacks.

Israel has expressed consternation at King Abdullah’s claims. Shaul Chorev, head of the Israeli Atomic Energy C, made a last minute amendment to his speech delivered to the International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna last week to address the allegations.

Mr Chorev pointed out that Israel had in fact provided King Abdullah with geological data to help find a suitable location for Jordan’s nuclear reactor. Information gathered from an Israeli survey prompted Jordan’s nuclear team to build its power plant on a site north of Amman rather than in Aqaba, officials have claimed.

“We have no problem with a civilian nuclear program in Jordan, and it’s a good question why the Jordanians are saying otherwise,” added David Danieli, deputy director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.

Although it has never declared its nuclear capability, Israel is thought to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear power. Nor has it signed the international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which regulates nuclear activity.

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