Saturday, December 31, 2016
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are supporting extremist Islamic groups in Germany, according to a leaked intelligence report.
A brief seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR raised concern over a reported increase in support for fundamentalist Salafism in Germany, warning that the ideology already has 10,000 followers and is growing.
The report, by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reportedly accused Gulf groups of funding mosques, religious schools, hardline preachers and conversion or “dawah” groups to spread the ideology. Missionary movements were part of a “long-running strategy to exert influence” by the three states, it found, naming the Saudi Muslim World League, Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad al-Thani Charitable Association and Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), which has been banned by the US and Russia for allegedly supporting al-Qaeda.
The report comes weeks after the German government banned an Islamist missionary group linked to more than 140 Isis fighters following raids on mosques, offices and homes across the country.
Die Wahre Religion (DWR), meaning “The True Religion”, started in 2005 and claimed to spread Islam in Germany “in a modern form and with the help of new media”.
The Salafist group gained prominence with a Quran distribution campaign called Lies!, meaning “Read!”, which has since spread to countries including the UK, France, Bahrain and Brazil.
But officials said the initiative was “bringing jihadi Islamists together across the nation under the pretext of preaching Islam” while spreading hate and conspiracy theories.
Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, said that the prohibition of DWR aimed to stop the “abuse of a religion by people, who under the pretext of spreading Islam are propagating extremist ideologies and supporting terrorist organisations”. “By banning this organisation, a major source of radicalisation has been eradicated nationwide,” he added. A terror network radicalising young Muslims and sending them to fight for Isis in Syria was also dismantled by authorities last month.
Germany has been on high alert since it was hit by two terror attacks carried out by Isis supporters in July, with other plots subsequently uncovered amid warnings that attempts to attack Europe will continue.
Jaber al-Bakr, a suspected Isis supporter detained on suspicion of planning to attack a Berlin airport with homemade explosives, killed himself in prison days after being arrested in October. According to figures released in May by intelligence services, 820 jihadis have left Germany for Syria and Iraq, with a third known to have returned, 140 killed and 420 remaining abroad.
Tensions have risen following the arrival of almost 900,000 refugees in the country last year, driving support for right-wing groups and a national debate on Islam and integration.
The issue sparked Angela Merkel's call for a burqa ban earlier this month, as she seeks a fourth term in office.
A Saudi man has been jailed for a year after he called for an end to the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom's male guardianship system.
The unnamed man was also fined 30,000 riyals (£6,500) after being convicted of "inciting to end guardianship of women", the daily Okaz newspaper reported.
He was arrested while putting up posters inside mosques which called for the government to abolish strict rules giving men control over women.
The man admitted to pinning up posters in several mosques and said he solely launched an "awareness campaign" after finding some "female relatives were facing injustice at the hands of their families," the daily newspaper said, according to the AFP news agency. Saudi law states that all women must have a male guardian, typically a husband, father or brother, who gives them permission to study, travel abroad or marry.
A Human Rights Watch report on male guardianship, published in July, found "a woman's life is controlled by a man from birth until death" in Saudi Arabia, as their ability to pursue a career or make life decisions is restricted.
Despite limited reforms in 2009 and 2013 to reduce male control over women, which included no longer requiring permission for women to work and making domestic abuse illegal, the report found the system remains largely in place.
The report led to a social media campaign, with women across Saudi Arabia calling for an end to the guardianship system.
Others took to Twitter, using the hashtag #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship and an Arabic translation, to show their support and demand social reform.
The court claimed the defendant had launched the Twitter campaign. In September, more than 14,500 women signed a petition calling for an end to the system and leading women's rights campaigner Aziza al-Yousef delivered the petition to the royal court.
By EMILE HOKAYEM
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, three of the Middle East’s major Sunni powers, once equated their standings in the region with the outcome of the war in Syria. Since the uprising broke out in 2011, they have been stalwart — if often divided — supporters of the rebels in their fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In the last several months, it became clear they were on the losing side. Recent events, including the fall of eastern Aleppo this month, are compelling these countries to adjust their strategies. A cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey and announced on Thursday has only made it clearer that in the Middle East, force drives diplomacy.
The mainstream rebel groups that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed since 2011 are now morphing into a rural insurgency. This will mean they are less of a threat to the Assad government, but more vulnerable to being defeated by jihadist groups — or lured into joining them. Supporting these rebels will soon become even more difficult, especially if President-elect Donald J. Trump follows through on campaign pledges to end American aid to rebel groups and to work more closely with Russia to fight jihadists in Syria.
For Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, this situation raises major moral and political questions: If military victory is no longer feasible, why should they continue to support rebels at the cost of more Syrian lives? Can they and their rebel proxies carve out zones of influence that will allow them to shape Syria’s future? Should the rebellion’s sponsors cut their losses and force the rebels to capitulate in exchange for whatever favor Russia is able to offer, such as facilitating Turkish policy in Central Asia or helping Saudi Arabia extricate itself from Yemen? Or should they let the rebellion slowly die? Wouldn’t doing so only encourage Iranian aggressiveness and prove right the jihadist groups that say Arab countries are impotent and treacherous?
Of the three Sunni powers, Turkey has the deepest involvement. Last summer, it sent troops across the border to push back the Islamic State and to contain Kurdish groups in Syria (and in Turkey) seeking autonomy. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost favor with Washington and Europe over his domestic crackdown and foreign adventures, his fortunes are now tied to Russian good will. Moscow is exploiting Turkey’s weakness and feelings of resentment of Western betrayal.
This has already changed the course of the Syrian war. Turkey grudgingly accepted the fall of Aleppo in return for a de facto recognition of its zone of influence along the Syrian-Turkish border. Instead of supporting rebel groups fighting in Aleppo or pressuring the Assad forces besieging the city, Turkey raced to capture territory from the Islamic State before the Kurds did.
The Kremlin is now not only acting like the magnanimous victor in Syria, but also posing as the sole mediator between Ankara and Mr. Assad’s government and Iran. This month, Moscow hosted a meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey at which they discussed the future of Syria. This was a sign of things to come.
First Russia outwitted and sidelined the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. Now it is shaping the future of the conflict. The cease-fire that it has brokered is meant to manage rivalries in Syria and wind down the war on Russian and Mr. Assad’s terms. Moscow has suggested that the cease-fire be followed by political discussions with select groups of the Syrian opposition. But for this to work, Russia needs Turkey to deliver parts of the Syrian opposition that will accept considerably less than Mr. Assad’s departure.
Mr. Assad may not like it, but he is likely to accept this Russia-run process as a necessary evil. He has to play nice with President Vladimir V. Putin, his savior, even if he won’t concede much. Bringing Turkey on board is necessary to jump-start a peace process that will gut whatever is left of the United States and United Nations effort once meant to bring about a political transition — and Mr. Assad’s departure. What’s more, it would tie the hands of the Trump administration. Should the cease-fire collapse, the Assad government would still be able to crush the remnants of the rebellion with Russian cover. This arrangement will also prevent Kurdish autonomy — something that Mr. Assad, Iran and Russia, and Turkey all oppose.
All this leaves Qatar and, more important, Saudi Arabia with very little to work with. Both countries have in the past had to move weapons and money through Jordan and Turkey to support the rebellion; these routes are now difficult if not impossible. Unable to shape the battlefield or steer diplomacy, a bruised and overextended Saudi Arabia has quietly pushed Syria down its list of priorities.
The two Gulf states also understand that Turkey won’t subordinate its interests to their desires. In fact, Turkey is now arguing that its involvement in the Russia-led diplomacy is essential to check Iran’s ambitions, secure the withdrawal of Hezbollah and other foreign Shiite militias from Syria and obtain assurances that Mr. Assad will eventually be eased out. Turkey is seeking to include Qatar and Saudi Arabia in this process, to the displeasure of Iran.
None of these countries are likely to fully abandon what remains of the Syrian rebellion. The costs of doing so would be immense: their reputations would suffer greatly, and they would forfeit cards essential to influence the direction Syria takes. And Syrian rebels won’t disappear just because they were defeated. Instead, formal support and funding is likely to continue but at decreasing levels and with more modest objectives. Turkey still needs rebel muscle to fight the Islamic State and the Kurdish guerrillas. Saudi Arabia and Qatar can’t afford to be accused of having abandoned their Sunni brethren at a time of regional polarization.
They will also resist efforts by a number of Western, Asian and Arab countries to normalize relations with Mr. Assad. In their eyes, he remains a hostile actor who should be isolated and pushed out. How and when are questions for another day.
As Russia’s Emergencies Ministry wraps up its medical mission in Aleppo, it is leaving behind its leftover medical equipment and medicine stockpiles as a gift from Russia to Syria. Syria now has a hospital outfitted to be airlifted to wherever needed. The ministry dispatched the hospital and medical personnel to Syria in November as the fight for the eastern part of Aleppo turned in favor of the government forces. Over the month, it has treated over 1,500 patients, most of whom were women and children. The hospital includes 16 medical and technical pods, as well as 22 connectors and gateway modules, which can be airlifted to a location in need of medical assistance and deployed in the required configuration. The facility can serve up to 200 patients a day and has 60 beds for inpatients. The mobile hospital has three surgery sections and an intensive care unit, as well as bays for regular patient diagnostics and treatment, plus living quarters for the medical staff. The paperwork transferring ownership of the airborne hospital from Russia to Syria was signed in Aleppo on Saturday. Aleksand Romanov, head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s international affairs department, said he hoped that the gift would help the Syrians better provide medical care to the needy. Over the past week, Syrian doctors and medical personnel received training in how to deploy and operate the Russian hospital, which has inflatable elements, autonomous utilities, and other equipment capable of being swiftly relocated and independently operated. Syria’s health officials thanked their Russian colleagues for their contribution. The Russian medical mission in Aleppo has been praised by the World Health Organization’s representative in Syria, Elizabeth Hoff, who said that she appreciated how fast Russia deployed the hospital in Syria. “I spoke to many patients, who spoke greatly about the treatment they had been given by the Russian doctors,” she said, as cited by the Russian ministry. https://www.rt.com/news/372370-russia-gives-hospital-syria/
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