“The defining moment for me was when ISIS portrayed pictures of children crammed up in a cage dressed up in orange jumpsuits while outside a soldier held a flame to them. I said to myself, ‘Steve, you’re going to act,’” Maman said in a telephone interview with The Times of Israel this week.
The Montreal Jewish businessman and father of six founded a non-profit, The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI). Since its inception eight months ago, CYCI has successfully negotiated the release of nearly 130 women and girls from ISIS controlled areas in Iraq.
Since the Islamic State (commonly referred to as IS or ISIS) took over Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, its followers have raped and sexually abused thousands of women and children, most of whom are Yazidi and Christians. Many have also been sold as sex slaves and brides to Islamic State fighters.
ISIS militants subject the women and children to inhumane conditions. Malnourished, the prisoners are forced to sleep in cages at night, according to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights.
At least 2,700 more women and girls remain in captivity, Maman said, adding that his group’s mission will end when all are freed.
Canon Andrew White, formerly the pastor of St. George’s, Baghdad’s largest church, introduced Maman to a network of contacts.
According to White, it costs between $1,000 to $3,000 to liberate each woman and girl from the hands of ISIS. CYCI negotiates with brokers in ISIS controlled territories for their release. Most of the women and girls have endured extreme physical and sexual abuse.
“You have to buy them out. There’s no other way,” White said in a telephone interview.
While Canada will not negotiate with terrorist organizations such as ISIS, there is no law prohibiting nonprofits from pursuing the kind of work Maman’s organization is doing.
Initially, Maman relied on donations from Montreal’s Sephardic Jewish community. As word spread, financial support has come from Germany, England, Australia, Ireland and the US. So far CYCI has reportedly raised almost $450,000.
Aside from raising money through their GofundMe campaign, Maman hopes to enlist the support of Elie Wiesel and Oprah Winfrey to raise further awareness.
“You can act, or you can remain a spectator,” Maman said. “If you remain a spectator, know that you are among the same group of people who watched and did nothing as six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.”
Once freed, the women and girls are initially taken to an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Kurdistan. There they receive food, shelter and medical care. Many of the women and girls are pregnant.
The newly freed are reunited with their families whenever possible. Assistance is offered to help relocate those whose families can’t be found.
“Nobody is alone. We are looking after them,” said White, who has worked with the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East since 2005.
Although the press has nicknamed Maman “The Jewish Schindler,” the comparison doesn’t sit well with the Moroccan-born humanitarian.
“Schindler is on another planet than me. For me I find it inappropriate to call me that, but if it helps raise awareness then so be it,” he said.
Rather, Maman stresses his is a team effort. Aside from the people on the ground, there is a whole group of “Jews, Muslims and Christians that make this possible. They are fighting tooth and nails to get the word out. Without them CYCI is worthless.”
In Montreal five volunteers oversee the operation, which includes making promotional videos, answering emails and putting together press kits. Kelly Amram, a licensed optician in Montreal, is one of those volunteers.
“This is the biggest genocide of women and children since the end of World War II,” she said. “When we say never again, we mean never again; no matter what your religion, what your belief is.
“People are donating as if it were their own children,” said Amram.
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Tuesday, August 25, 2015
From Times of Israel:
The so-called Islamic State has destroyed one of the city's most well-known ruins, the Temple of Baalshamin, believed to be nearly 2,000 years old, according to the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums.
ISIS detonated "a large quantity of explosives" at the site Sunday, also damaging nearby columns, the group said in an online statement.
Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova called the reports of the temple's demolishing a "new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity."
"The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history," Bokova said in a news release today.
The UNESCO World Heritage site has been under ISIS control since mid-May, drawing outcries from the international and academic communities over fears that the ruins and antiquities would be looted and sold by the group or destroyed for propaganda purposes.
Since then, ISIS is reported to have destroyed a pair of Palmyran tombs, and has released videos showing its members destroying statues said to be pulled from the ruins.
In videos posted by the group showing montages of destruction of artifacts and historical sites, the group says the preservation of ancient ruins constitutes a form of idolatry, a sin punishable by death, according to the group’s theology.
In a video posted online in early July, a group of children publicly executed more than two dozen Syrian soldiers in a Palmyran amphitheater.
The destruction of Baalshamin comes the same week that militants publicly executed Khaled al-Asaad, an 81-year-old Syrian scholar who was Palmyra's director of antiquities dating back to 1963.
Friends of al-Asaad's told ABC News that his family members suspect he was killed after refusing to divulge the locations of some of Palmyra's hidden treasures. After killing him, the militants reportedly hanged his corpse from columns inside the city's ruins.
An update on this story. At least the prosecutor seems to be levelheaded.
From NBC News:
From NBC News:
French authorities on Tuesday formally opened a terror investigation into the armed attack on a high-speed Paris-bound train, dismissing the suspect's claim to be a simple robber as a "fantasy."
Paris' chief prosecutor said the suspect, Ayoub El-Khazzani, had watched a jihadi video on his cellphone just prior to the "premeditated" attack.
Morocco-born Khazzani, 26, emerged from a train restroom armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a knife on Friday night.
He was carrying more than 270 rounds of ammunition for the automatic rifle, François Molins told reporters at a news conference.
He was recently in Turkey and "possibly Syria," Molins added, and had bought a first class, one way ticket for the train in cash for 149 Euro.
Analysis of the browser history from his smartphone showed that, during the train journey, Khazzani watched a YouTube clip in which an Islamist urged his followers to fight and to take up arms in the name of the prophet, Molins said.
Four American passengers helped to overpower Khazzani, including two off-duty members of the military, their friend and a professor, who was shot. The professor remained in a hospital in Lille on Tuesday. His condition was reportedly described as "worrying."
The suspect reportedly told his lawyer on Sunday that he only intended to rob passengers, but Molins said there was reason to suspect a terrorist motive as Khazzani had previously attended a radical mosque in Spain.
Earlier Tuesday, Khazzani's father, Mohammed, expressed shock at the terrorism allegations and insisted his son was "just like others his age, having fun, going to the beach, working."
Speaking from the blue-collar district of El Saladillo in Algeciras, Spain, where the family has lived since 2013, he said: "My son is not a terrorist. He's a poor boy, he loves to play soccer, go fishing, but he is not a terrorist."
French media reported that police in Belgium raided two premises there in connection with the train attack investigation. Radio station France Info said one of the locations was the home of Khazzani's sister, but this could not immediately be confirmed by NBC News.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai Given Two 24-Hour Armed Guards After 'Terror Death Threats'
Posted by Women Against Shariah
From the Daily Mail:
Police have reportedly increased the teenager's security to that usually given to ministers and visiting political VIPs after spy chiefs warned of a raised threat to her life.
She was just 14 when she survived an assassination attempt after a bullet narrowly missed her brain as she was shot on a school bus by the Taliban in her native Pakistan.
The girls' education campaigner was flown to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she was treated for life-threatening injuries.
After her treatment, she was allowed to settle in the city - and last year she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
A source told the Sun: 'Her life's been at risk since that failed murder attempt. But threats have grown significantly as her profile has become bigger.
'Being a Nobel winner and female education campaigner means she is seen as a global ambassador. Her elite police protection reflects this.'
Scotland Yard said it would not comment on matters of security or close protection.
On Thursday, she showed she is as intelligent as she is courageous - scoring a string of A*s and As in her GCSEs.
A message from her proud father Ziauddin Yousafzai on Twitter revealed his daughter's grades.
He wrote: 'My wife Toor Pekai and I are proud of Malala getting 6A*s and 4As. #education for every child.'
The grades included A*s in maths, biology, chemistry and physics, and As in history and geography.
She also got an A* in religious studies and a maths IGCSE, as well as As in English language and literature.
Edgbaston high school, the £3,878 per term in the senior school where she studied, had a GCSE pass rate of 98.3 per cent, with 28 per cent of pupils achieving nine or more A* grades.
In September the Pakistani military arrested ten men, all part of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for the attempted murder of Malala.
Pakistani officials said in April that all 10 men were found guilty of contributing to the 'planning and execution' of the assassination attempt against Malala and received a minimum prison sentence of 25 years.
But in June it emerged that only two of the suspects were actually convicted and jailed.
It is thought that the men who carried out the shooting fled to Afghanistan after the attack and evaded capture.
Malala was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls' education, speaking out in TV interviews.
The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls' schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing burqas.
Still campaigning, last month Malala called on world leaders to stop 'failing' the people of Syria.
The education activist described the situation in Syria as a 'heartbreaking tragedy', while speaking at the opening of a Malala Fund girls' school in neighbouring Lebanon.
'I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict,' she said at the time.
'Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them.
'On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world - you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children.
From France 24:
The arrests, part of a joint operation between Morocco and Spain, were made in the outskirts of Madrid and in various places in Morocco, including Casablanca and Fez.
No more details were immediately available….
From the AFP:
“Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, using another name for ISIS.
Over the past several months, ISIS have blown up and defaced historical sites and artifacts across their sprawling self-proclaimed "caliphate" stretching across Iraq and Syria.
ISIS took control of Palmyra in May, located in the central desert region of the country, sparking worldwide concern that they would destroy its 2,000 year-old ruins.
Last week, the militants caused uproar when they beheaded Khaled Asaad, an 82-year-old antiquities scholar living in Palmyra, reportedly because he refused to reveal where some artifacts were hidden.
In June, ISIS destroyed two ancient Muslim mausoleums in Palmyra.
Then in July, the militants used Palmyra's ancient amphitheatre as a stage to kill 25 Syrian solidiers, and released a video of the mass execution.
The fate of Palmyra's remaining ruins - including its dozens of standing Roman-era columns - remains unclear.
Posted by Women Against Shariah
From The Times of Israel:
“It’s about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking center stage,” said US Ambassador Samantha Power, who organized the meeting on violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people with Chile’s UN envoy.
Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by the militant group in Iraq and Syria claim to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.
Fear of the Islamic State group has fueled violence by other militias and “private actors” against LGBT individuals, she told the closed-door meeting.
Stern, whose remarks were released publicly, stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Islamic State militants, and “murder is only the most extreme form of violence.”
“In addition to men perceived as gay, trans-identified people and lesbians are among those who have been raped and killed,” she added.
The Islamic State group is now in control of about a third of Syria and Iraq.
Stern called for specific strategies to combat LGBT attacks, including UN action to relocate those most in need and bringing the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.
President Barack Obama has strongly supported LGBT rights, and Monday’s meeting follows the June 27 US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet declared in April 2013 that she supports same-sex marriage and would seek to legalize it, though that hasn’t happened yet.
According to a report in June by the UN human rights chief, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.
France’s UN Mission tweeted during Monday’s meeting that “Violence, discriminations based on sexual orientation by #Daesh #ISIS may constitute international crimes.”
Posted by Women Against Shariah on Monday, August 24, 2015
From The Express:
There were reports that fighters had also kidnapped the monastery's abbot, Father Jacques Mouraud and a church volunteer, Botros Hanna, who are both now feared dead.
In the sick video the terrorists can be seen gleefully removing the remains of Saint Elian, after whom the monastery was named, from their ancient stone sarcophagus.
The church is said to have been built on the spot where Saint Elian died after he was killed by his father, a Roman officer, for refusing to denounce his faith.
It was a popular pilgrim site with Christians throughout the Middle East and housed Roman frescos which were amongst the oldest paintings in the region...
Jihad Watch had some sharp points:
“War is deceit,” said Muhammad, but French investigators apparently are unaware of the statement. Would Ayoub el-Khazzani try to foster complacency and ignorance among non-Muslims regarding the jihad threat by denying his true intentions? That possibility doesn’t seem to have entered the minds of French investigators. Ayoub el-Khazzani denies any terrorist intention, and that is evidently enough for them to give up any idea that this was a jihad terror attack and start hunting for his real motive.From Bloomberg:
This Bloomberg story contradicts information in earlier stories. It is impossible to tell right now which one is accurate, and that is what this whole question hinges upon. The Express reported that “a Spanish anti-terrorist official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed El Khazzani had lived in Spain until last year, moved to France then traveled to Syria where he is believed to have trained with ISIS before returning to France.” But now this story says that “there’s no hint of religious motive or affiliation to a radical organization in the 25-year-old Moroccan’s statements, according to to a French official with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because of government policy.”
So one anonymous official says that el-Khazzani trained with the Islamic State, and another anonymous official says he had no religious motive or affiliation. Which anonymous official is correct? No way to tell at this point.
French investigators are trying to figure out why gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani attacked a train headed to Paris as he denies links to terrorism despite police across Europe flagging him as a radical Islamist.
There’s no hint of religious motive or affiliation to a radical organization in the 25-year-old Moroccan’s statements, according to to a French official with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because of government policy. He’s being questioned near Paris after his attack on a train from Amsterdam was foiled Friday by passengers including U.S. soldiers on vacation. Police must hand the suspect off to the courts by Wednesday, the official said.
“He clearly had no training on using firearms, or he probably could’ve emptied eight rounds of ammo and we wouldn’t be here,” Alek Skarlatos, one of the American soldiers, said at a press conference Sunday in Paris. U.S. serviceman Spencer Stone said the attacker’s rifle had gotten jammed, which gave him and Skarlatos time to tackle and disarm the gunman.
France is seeking information from its European neighbors as well as Morocco and Turkey to help trace El-Khazzani’s movements since he was flagged by Spanish authorities in February 2014 as potentially dangerous and radicalized, the official said. In May, German officials informed authorities in France that the attacker was headed to Turkey, but whether he went there and whether he traveled to Syria is unclear, the official said.
El-Khazzani denied going to Turkey or Syria, and said he’d traveled to Spain, Belgium, Austria, Germany and France in the past six months, his lawyer Sophie David told newspaper Le Parisien.
“He’s stunned that his actions are being described as terrorism,” David told BFM TV in a separate interview. She said the suspect, who spoke in Arabic, was homeless and had planned to hold train passengers for ransom. The attacker found the rifle and other weapons he was carrying near a park bench he’d been sleeping on in Brussels, the lawyer said.
French police seized a rifle, a handgun, ammunition, two mobile phones and a knife, but the attacker carried no identification or administrative documents, the French official said. Fingerprints helped identify him. Initial medical tests didn’t reveal any signs of alcohol or drug use by the suspect, the official said.
The gunman, apparently acting alone, came out of one of the train’s bathrooms shirtless and carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. He was confronted by a French passenger before being tackled and pinned to the ground by Stone and Skarlatos. Stone, who was wounded by a knife, left the hospital Saturday, while a French-American traveler who was hit by a bullet remains hospitalized.
On Monday morning, French President Francois Hollande will meet with five passengers, including the Americans, who helped foil the attack.
France is on high alert after suffering several attacks this year, including by terrorists against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, prompting the government to mobilize 7,000 soldiers to guard vulnerable sites. The interior ministry is maintaining Paris and its region under the maximum “attack threat” level.
From The Australian:
The inquest into the deadly December siege yesterday heard that many of the claims made by Monis and the terms he used to describe his standing in the Muslim community were probably false. Monis had claimed at various times to be many things: a sheik, an ayatollah and a hojjat al-Islam, an honorific that’s traditionally used to describe accomplished Islamic scholars. Associate professor Mohamad Abdalla, an Islamic studies expert from Griffith University in Queensland, has cast doubt on these claims.
Asked by counsel assisting the inquest, Jeremy Gormly SC, whether Professor Abdalla believed Monis had ever attained the status of hojjat al-Islam, the professor replied: “As a scholar myself in the tradition, I believe it is quite difficult for a person of that age and that experience to achieve hojjat al-Islam.”
Professor Abdalla also said the term sheik had been adopted “by lay people or even backyard imams”.
“But in the proper scholarship tradition, the title sheik is for one who has attained a very high scholarship rank — and would be old,” he said.
Professor Abdalla told the inquest he had consulted “extensively” with imams from around the country, and none could recall seeing Monis at a mosque. He said it was likely that Monis rarely attended prayers.
“One would have to assume so, because even nominal people who attend a mosque on a regular basis would become known to the mosque,” he said.
Professor Abdalla was also asked if it was probable that Monis converted to Sunni Islam only to associate himself with Islamic State.
“ISIS has not only committed atrocities against Shiites but against Sunnis also,” he said….