Syrian Refugees: Rebuilding their future

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As regular followers of this blog know, I am now crowdfunding for a major project to document, photographically and written, the stories of Syrian refugees in Jordan, many of whom I met last year when I was working in Syria and the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan. Many will never be able to return to their country so now they are working to make a new life. This project is about bringing a new narrative, which shows the humanity of refugees as they work to rebuild their lives rather than simply portraying them as pathetic creatures living in the dirt, the way the media generally shows them.

We are people like you too

Click                 We are people like you too

This is a big project, which will result in a book and exhibitions in Europe and the USA. To succeed it needs your help. I am absolutely certain there are many people in the world who care about their fellow human beings and would like to help this project become a reality. It only needs 400 people generously donating $95 each for this to happen. The result will be major. As those of you who know of my work are aware, you know the impact my photography and writing is far reaching, having been invited to show and talk about my work in Syria internationally. Together we can change the narrative and give a strong voice to the Syrians who have had to leave their country because of the violence.

Click the picture to go to the project and please don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions.

Please share this article and project with everybody you know. Thank you

What next for Ukraine?

With a rather shaky ceasefire in place in eastern Ukraine, there are still small pockets of fighting, and the withdrawal of the majority of Russian forces the question has to be, what happens next?

The situation is far from resolved, the separatists control large parts of Donbass region which includes the cities Donetsk and Luhansk, on the other hand they haven’t been able to yet take control of Mariupol which would put them well on the way to creating a land corridor between Crimea and Russia. Crimea has no physical link to Russia and there are now talks of constructing a bridge across the Kerch Strait between the two. Since Crimea’s annexation, Ukraine has severely restricted drinking water supplies to Crimea and the only options left for the time being are a polluted unused reservoir and a river which is also polluted. Not a good situation for the inhabitants to be in.

Apart from a frozen conflict there are other dangers facing Ukraine. A lot of the fighting against the Russian separatists has been done not only by the regular Ukrainian military but also far right Neo-Nazi groups, in particular the Azov Battalion. In fact Azov have often been at the forefront of the fighting and have proven themselves to be a tough bunch, more so than the regular army. Russia has always portrayed the new Ukrainian leadership of having a Nazi element and the fact that Ukraine has allowed Azov to fight and supplied them with weapons adds to this. This recent article in The Guardian touches on this also.

As Russia no longer has any political influence over Ukraine since the overthrow of President Victor Yanukovych, the rights and wrongs of which I don’t get involved in, Russia has been seeking to destabilize Ukraine. Understanding the growth of the far right Neo-Nazi movement in Ukraine is I believe, a part of Russia’s strategy to weaken its neighbour. Azov and other far right militia groups see the current government in Kiev as useless and have the attitude that Ukraine needs to have a strong dictatorship to control the country. By freezing the conflict now, Russia understands that these far right militia, who are well armed and battle hardened, can seriously destabilize the rest of Ukraine, in particular the capital Kiev. It hasn’t happened yet but the probability is high. Foreign Neo- Nazis have travelled to Ukraine to join them, not many yet but I can see the numbers increasing, in particular from Germany where there has been huge growth in far right organizations who are looking for a fight.

Ukraine fell into the trap of arming these groups and now Russia is backing away, it knows it can now sit back and watch as instability spreads. I don’t know if this was Russia’s plan from the start but it sees the benefits of taking advantage of the situation by freezing the conflict so all these militia can direct their anger towards Kiev. It is bound to happen over time, they pretty much admit it themselves in the article I linked to.

So what is Russia’s strategy here? It has been wanting to complete its South Stream gas pipeline for some time and hence avoid supplying gas to Europe via Ukraine but the EU has been holding things up for fear of becoming over dependent on Russia for energy. This pipeline bypasses Ukraine, coming through the Black Sea, entering Europe via Bulgaria, well that’s the plan but the EU hasn’t given permission for the final stage to be built yet. Russia seeing that these far right militia groups have the real potential to destabilize Ukraine and possibly the energy supply which Europe depends on, could be used as a strong pressure point to allow completion of the South Stream pipeline. Europe’s distaste for Russian actions in Ukraine may well have to be swallowed if Ukraine becomes unstable and the supply of gas with it. It simply needs the energy too much.

With European and American sanctions against Russia being increased it has become a game of chicken, who blinks first, Russia is totally reliant on the income from its gas exports to Europe and Europe is trying to put Vladimir Putin back in his box. Who has the greater will to win?

Featured on foto8.com

Foto8.com a major photojournalism website have featured my work from Syria. It is always nice to have one’s work recognized.

http://www.foto8.com/live/syria-refugees-rebels-russell-chapman/

Syria Refugees and Rebels

 

 

My Personal Blog Challenge. Do you know anybody in these countries?

This is something personal, my blog has had visitors from most countries in the world but I still miss quite a few  and I would love to fill in those gaps and make this blog truly international. It would be great to have at least one person from every country in the world who has seen my blog. So if you know somebody in any of the countries listed below, some are less likely than others I know, then please get them to check out my blog.

The countries missing are:

  • North Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Western Sahara
  • Mauritania
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Guinea
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Chad
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Eritrea
  • Somalia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Liberia
  • Cameroon
  • Central Africa Republic
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Congo
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Zambia
  • Angola
  • Swaziland
  • Lesotho
  • Bhutan
  • Cuba
  • Greenland
  • And numerous Pacific Island Nations

Below is a list of the top 10 countries which visit here. I would like to say a big thank you to everybody who follows this blog. You all inspire me with your support to keep developing new articles and I hope I can continue holding your interest. Thank you everybody :D

Country
United States FlagUnited States
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom
Switzerland FlagSwitzerland
Italy FlagItaly
Australia FlagAustralia
Germany FlagGermany
Canada FlagCanada
France FlagFrance
India FlagIndia
Spain FlagSpain

Time to face the ISIS inside of us

Russell Chapman:

Read this article. ISIS is inside us. Fascinating read and very accurate.

Originally posted on Human Rights Blog:

ISIS

By PD Dr. Elham Manea

“We are ISIS”.

A startling statement? Yet this was the title of an article written by former Kuwaiti Minister of Information, Saad bin Tafla al Ajami, published by the Qatari newspaper al Sharq in 7 August 2014. He was not celebrating the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), nor the atrocities it is committing against civilians and minorities in Iraq and Syria.

He was reminding us that ISIS, while condemned by the majority of Muslims, is a product of an Islamic religious discourse that dominated our public sphere in the last decades – a mainstream discourse!

ISIS “did not come from another planet’, He said. ‘It is not a product of the infidel West or a bygone orient”, he insisted.

No, “the truth that we can not deny is: ISIS learned from our schools, prayed in our mosques, listened to our media… and our…

View original 648 more words

Political Impotence and ISIS

President Obama’s recent statement that, “we don’t have a strategy yet” with regard to confronting ISIS or Islamic State, is a clear demonstration of the impotence of the West.

A large part of this is down to the sheer disunity of all of all the different groups in Iraq. Some Sunni tribes support ISIS while others don’t. All the talk is about arming the Kurds and letting them fight ISIS, however I think too much importance is being given to this. The Kurds are obviously interested in defending their territory but they are also asking the question why they should have to shoulder the bulk of the battle against ISIS when this is an Iraqi problem more than a Kurdish problem, Baghdad should be taking more of a lead. The simple fact is that the Kurds are fighting more for their independence than anything else and they have no real desire to fight well away from their own territory. In Baghdad they are still trying to put together a broad-based government which will address the issues of minorities, particularly the Sunni, they are certainly taking their time about it. Until that happens it is difficult for there to be any really coordinated government policy on how to address the ISIS crisis. It also keeps the hands of the USA tied, there really isn’t anybody in Iraq at the moment who is in a position of authority to unite all the tribes and coordinate with the USA.

It is ironic that the first country to supply weapons to the Kurds was not one of the Sunni Arab countries in the region but rather the Persian Shia of Iran. This demonstrates again the lack of unity in approach of the Arab world to the ISIS threat. The Arab world all talk about the threat but to be honest they couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery when it comes to working together on a regional level. Not that they would organize a piss up in a brewery, that would be haram (forbidden) A perfect example of this lack of unity of purpose is Syria, instead of working together they funded different moderate groups of fighters that are more in competition for personal glory rather than all uniting together, this is also part of the reason why ISIS has been successful in Syria, they took advantage of all the divisions. ISIS is essentially an Arab problem and until the Arabs unite there is very little that the USA or anybody else can do to help.

Estimates put the number of ISIS fighters in Iraq at about 15,000, a concerted regional effort could severely diminish their strength. While ISIS are on a winning streak they are attracting Jihadi fighters from around world to the cause of Islamic State. A few serious blows against ISIS would have a huge psychological impact and reduce the attractiveness of the cause. It is well known that Jihadi fighters are more likely to join a cause they think they can win rather than one they can’t. At the moment they think they can win.

The current situation in Iraq is very fluid, after massive gains ISIS are now having to fight to hold and gain territory, with some wins and losses it seems now is the crucial moment when a concerted regional effort could break the back of ISIS. Will it happen? I doubt it. In the meantime Iraqi Shia militia groups funded by Iran are playing a larger role in the battle. These militia are also turning on Iraqi Sunni. The threat to Iraq is not only ISIS but also the increasing danger of conflict between Sunni and Shia in the capital Baghdad and beyond.

With all this in mind it is understandable when President Obama said, “we don’t have a strategy yet”, the whole thing is a mess. In the meantime our glorious politicians in the UK are talking about existential threats and the risk of terror attacks on home soil, ramping up security powers of the police and state. There is so much talk from them of how the world should be united in dealing with the threat of ISIS but in reality they know there is very little they can actually do. For all the hot air, they are actually demonstrating how powerless they really are.

Add to this the Russia/Ukraine situation, which will become far worse, with a real risk of spreading to other countries, and it shows just how useless the global political system is at dealing with serious problems.

Surprise

While doing some grocery shopping today a young guy comes up to me and says ” Hi, you are the Syria photographer” Took me by surprise.

DSC_2560 DSC_2311 DSC_2253 DSC_2199 DSC_2140 DSC_2056 DSC_1963 DSC_1952 DSC_1918 DSC_1864 DSC_1458 DSC_1403 DSC_1396 DSC_1383-Edit _DSC2735These images are a small taste of my book, Syria: Refugeesa and Rebels. Click the image below for more details.

Syria: Refugees & Rebels

 

 

 

Projects Around the World

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:
We’re inspired to see bloggers doing things they love and using this platform to make their voices heard. Here’s a look at some interesting projects around the globe. Russell Chapman: Telling the stories of Syrian…

Rice Bucket Challenge vs Ice Bucket Challenge

This for me is a much better way of addressing a cause. Instead of wasting precious water that many in the world are literally dying to drink, in India they have come up with the Rice Bucket Challenge. Here is their FB page

https://www.facebook.com/ricebucketchallenge

Rice Bucket Challenge

How children in Africa with little quality water to drink see the Ice Bucket Challenge

How children in Africa with little quality water to drink see the Ice Bucket Challenge

USA being sucked into confrontation with Islamic State

Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL or Da’ish as it is known in arabic  is doing a good job of drawing the West into the quagmire of conflict in the Middle East. A year ago, after chemical gas attacks on civilians in Syria, it seemed for a brief moment the USA and UK would approve missile strikes against the Syrian regime and try to bring an end to the conflict. That has not happened and the death toll in Syria now stands at over 190,000 people, mostly civilians. As always, it is the innocent who suffer most in war.

A year later and and here we are again, IS (Islamic State) attacked Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and then there was the execution of James Foley by a probably British member of IS. This time, the USA is carrying out airstrikes against IS positions to help local Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the ground. It seems inevitable that at some point there will be a USA led armed force entering Iraq, “boots on the ground” Not only this but maybe also airstrikes against IS targets inside Syria. It is a slippery slope lined with many dangers.

If this happens, many more young muslims from around the world will flock to Iraq and Syria to take up the fight. As is often reported, there is support around the world by disenfranchised young muslims, not only in the UK, USA and Europe but also in Indonesia and other countries with muslim populations, IS has a global network. This network is funding the travel of those who want to join the Islamic State and has been preparing for a long time for this situation

One question, why are Russia and Iran, who support Bashar al Assad of Syria, not also talking about taking the fight to IS in Syria? They seem happy to allow the USA to get sucked into this situation. It seems to me that once the West gets involved, it will be very hard to extricate itself. It was Assad who allowed ISIS to build up in Syria, the Syrian government even buys oil from them. Assad wanted the war to become sectarian and extremist and in so doing put himself in the position of being the only person left in Syria who can work with the West against IS in Syria, thereby regaining international legitimacy, a clever and callous tactic that has so far cost the lives of over 190,000 Syrians and created millions of refugees.

As for Iraq, they don’t seem to be able to form any sort of unified government which shares power evenly between the Shia, Sunni and Kurds. If the West were to go into Iraq without the agreement of a newly formed and unified government, it will be seen as western imperialism, which will drive even more Iraqi’s into the arms of IS. The Shia of Iraq are forming many militia groups and they seem to be well equipped and trained, many of them spent time in Lebanon in Hezbollah training camps. The scene is very much set for there to be general conflict between Sunni and Shia, not only with IS.

Into all this the West is talking about becoming more deeply involved, citing the threat of IS terrorists targeting the USA and UK etc.This is an unwinnable war and one that involvement can only make worse. The West is trying to win a war against an idea, a perverted idea but one with very deep roots, an idea which appeals to large numbers, millions of disenfranchised young muslims around the world.