Assad the outcast being sold to the west as key to peace in Middle East (The Guardian)
“For almost a decade he was a pariah who struggled to get a meeting abroad or even to assert himself on his visitors. Largely alone in his palace, save for trusted aides, Bashar al-Assad presided over a broken state whose few friends demanded a humiliating price for their protection, and weren’t afraid to show it.” Read more
Women enslaved by ISIS say they did not consent to a film about them (The New York Times)
“The film, ‘Sabaya,’ from Sweden, won the prestigious Sundance Film Festival award for best director of a foreign documentary this year and opened the Human Rights Film Festival last week in Berlin. Critics gave it glowing reviews; its real-life scenes of car chases and rescue attempts are as dramatic as any fictional thriller.
But the film has upset some of the very people it was intended to celebrate: women from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority who were sexually enslaved by the Islamic State terrorist group for years and who are the main subjects. They and their advocates say it violated the rights of women, who had already been denied virtually all control over their lives, to decide whether they want images used.” Read more
Where Iraq and Syria meet, unrest follows (Newlines Magazine)
“The question, then, is why this border is again subjected to relentless contention by groups embracing transnational ideas? Why do Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State, Iran-backed Shiite militants and Kurdish militants of PKK and allied groups still find in this border a space to operate and to consolidate their positions against their respective rivals?” Read more
How Syria’s embassies in Europe help fund the war back home (OCCRP/SIRAJ)
“The Syrian government has been able to leverage this anxiety into revenue, harvesting foreign currency from the roughly 1 million Syrians who have settled in Europe to help prop up their ailing budget after U.S. sanctions cut them off from the international banking system last year.
Syrian embassies, which used to only process paperwork for the military exemptions, have recently begun collecting cash payments. Two researchers, an airport official, and a former diplomat interviewed by OCCRP and the Syrian Investigative Reporting Unit (SIRAJ), said they suspected the cash makes its way back to Syria via diplomatic pouch.” Read more
Jordan fully reopens main crossing with Syria (Al Jazeera)
“Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday in a boost for their struggling economies following a push by Arab states to reintegrate a country they have shunned during its decade-long war.
Syria, which blames Western sanctions for its economic woes, hopes wider business links with its southern neighbour will help it recover from a devastating war and attract much-needed foreign currency.” Read more