Damascus University: Seeks to combat forged degrees

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_1111.jpegDamascus University recently issued its first digitally enhanced diplomas, part of an initiative to combat the use of forged diplomas by students wanting to claim they graduated from the country’s oldest institution of higher education.

Reports have surfaced of diploma-forging rackets in Turkey and in Persian Gulf countries, as Syrian refugees who have fled their country’s brutal war seek to boost their qualifications in order to gain access to educational or work opportunities, either in the region or beyond.

Read more at Al Fanar Media

Despite IS: Plundering, ancient Palmyra can be restored

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150410aa001.jpegAMMAN, Jordan — Images of Islamic State militants dynamiting irreplaceable Roman ruins in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra sparked anguish and outrage among scholars and archaeologists around the world.

But optimism is cautiously rising about the ability to restore the damaged sites despite the destruction of several World Heritage monuments in the complex, say some of the first outside specialists to reach Palmyra after Islamic State forces were wrested from the city.

Read more at The Washington Times

In Palestine: Lives on edge with West Bank violence

PAL151125aa001HEBRON, West Bank — Abu Saleh owns a supermarket near an Israeli military camp in this city divided between his fellow Palestinians and ever-rising numbers of Israeli settlers.

He has been caught between the two sides a lot lately.

Read more at The Washington Times

Hope emerges: For historic sites in Palmyra

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150410aa001.jpegPALMYRA - In March of this year, the Syrian army retook Palmyra, once dubbed the “Bride of the Desert,” ending nearly a year of occupation and destruction by the Islamic State.

That year resulted in the destruction of some of the ancient city’s most precious sites, including its triumphal arch, temples, tower tombs, and the artifacts once displayed in its museum. Islamic State militants bombed most of the major sites, and used the city’s theater to carry out public executions of its opponents, including, in August of last year, the beheading of Khaled Al-Asaad, the 82-year-old retired antiquities chief at Palmyra.

Read more at Al Fanar Media

Boko Haram: Women captives spurned on return home

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_Africanwomen130318AA001.jpegMAIDUGURI, Nigeria — After three months of sexual abuse, Jummai Usman managed to escape the clutches of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. But when she returned to her village of Bama last year, her loved ones shunned her.

"I was treated as if I was also Boko Haram," said Usman, 45, a mother of eight who now lives in a refugee camp here. "My relations, friends and neighbors were suspicious of me. I didn’t like the way people treated me back there, like they were suspecting I could lead the insurgents back to attack them. So I left."

Read more at USA Today

Desperate Afghans flee amid Taliban surge

AFG15225AA001 KABUL, Afghanistan — For the hundreds of Afghans who lined up before sunrise here at Kabul’s only passport office one recent morning, their slow steps were the first of a long, desperate journey out of their war-stricken nation

One applicant, 30-year-old house painter Hashmatullah Naimi from the neighboring province of Parwan, hoped to join the tens of thousands of Afghans who have already left their homeland in the last year in search of better jobs and a better life in Western Europe, a peril-filled trek that usually takes them through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece..

Read more at The Washington Times

Al-Shabab offers Somalis security, stability in exchange for Shariah law

AFR151515aa002BARAWE, Somalia — In this coastal city on the Horn of Africa, about 130 miles south of the capital of Mogadishu, the al-Shabab terrorist organization holds sway.

But unlike other parts of war-torn Somalia, peace reigns here, albeit precariously, under the al Qaeda-allied militants’ fundamentalist interpretation — and enforcement — of Islamic law.

Read more at The Washington Times

Cyprus' foreign minister says hijacker was 'psychologically unstable'

EGY130705aa001 CAIRO — An Egyptian man hijacked a passenger jet and forced it to land at Larnaca airport in Cyprus on Tuesday in an incident that Cyprus' president said was related to a woman, not terrorism.

Egyptian and Cypriot authorities said the hijacker was arrested, and all the hostages were freed.

Read more at USA Today

Iraq Army's Mosul offensive stalls in face of fierce fighting, desertions

IRQ151130aa01MAKHMOUR, Iraq — The Iraqi army soldiers smoked nervously as they described their ordeal. Sent to clear a village of Islamic State fighters, they found themselves pinned down by sniper fire. A few hours later, after 10 comrades were wounded, they withdrew.

“We need to get new uniforms,” soldier Ali Basra, 22, said, pointing to torn and blood-spattered fatigues. “But we'll return to take the village.”

Read more at USA Today

Egypt's airports: Rejected Russian security aid before hijacking

RUS0320aa003CAIRO — The "suicide belt" proved a fake and the diverted EgyptAir flight landed safely in Cyprus, but an abortive hijacking Tuesday is raising fresh questions about the safety of Egypt's airports, just months after security flaws were blamed for failing to stop a terrorist attack on a Russian airliner that marked the deadliest air disaster of 2015.

Officials said Seif Eddin Mastafa, a 58-year-old Egyptian national believed to suffer from mental problems, was taken into custody in Cyprus after releasing the passengers and crew of the flight unharmed. 

Read more at The Washington Times

Czech Scholars Chart the Destruction of Mosul Heritage

IRQ15122aa001 A team of Czech scholars is working to document architectural sites in Mosul that have been destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) since the terrorist group overran the city in June of 2014. Supported by the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, the project—called “Monuments of Mosul in Danger”—seeks to preserve for posterity an accounting of the devastating loss of antiquities at the hands of radical militants, whose videos posted online show them smashing relics and statues from Mosul Museum and the city of Hatra.

The team’s interest in studying Mosul is a natural continuation of their other research in Medieval Urban Landscape in Northeastern Mesopotamia. But ISIS’s seizure of the city and its barbaric attitude toward heritage accelerated their research in Mosul, says Miroslav Melčák, a historian from the Oriental Institute who specializes in the social and cultural medieval history of the Middle East. “The devastation of the city was so quick, and media reports were bringing terrible news about the scope of the destruction.” The scholars began to use satellite imagery to document the destroyed monuments.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media
 

Afghans line up to escape a war without end and a bleak future

AFG15225AA001 KABUL — Tabesh Ahmadi arrived at this capital city’s sole passport office before dawn, hoping to join more than 35,000 Afghans who have fled their country this year for Western Europe in search of peace and stability. By 6:30 a.m., the line was up to 350 people.

“We are all aware of the risks after we cross the Turkish border and the danger of the seas, but still we want to take these risks, and we’re ready to pay a lot of money to get out of Afghanistan,” said Ahmadi, 26, a university student from Kabul. “We cannot find jobs here, even with a bachelor or a master's degree. We do not have a calm life, living with the fear of dying every day.”

Read more at USA Today

The job market for terror recruits is booming

EGY130705aa002CAIRO, Egypt — It’s not uncommon for young Egyptians to weigh the pros and cons of violent jihad.

Abdullah, a graduate student in Cairo who asked that his last name be withheld to avoid problems with the authorities, says he’s thought about it. Although he’s working toward a degree, he’s concerned there won’t be many jobs waiting for him after school.

Read more at GlobalPost

Soldiers fight to stop ISIL's expansion in Libya

LBY130208AA003 MISRATA, Libya — A car dodges the sand and concrete blocks that slow vehicles approaching the Abu Grayin checkpoint, the front line in a war with Islamic State militants. Soldier Mohamed Shalgam grows fearful as he wonders if the driver is a suicide bomber.

“It is much more difficult than in 2011," said Shalgam, 26, who fought with rebels who overthrew long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. "At that time ...we fought (openly). Now, these cars, how can I know if there are families inside or terrorists?

Read more at USA Today

Hamas standing in West Bank and Gaza Strip weakens

EGY240714AA001CAIRO — For years, Israel has treated the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas as the main danger posed by Palestinians to the security of the Jewish state.

But recent rifts inside the group — marked by the execution last month of Hamas‘ military wing commander Muhammad Eshtawi for “moral and behavioral trespasses” — have eroded the organization’s standing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leaving it weaker than it has been in at least a decade.

Read more at The Washington Times

Slowed Saudi Education Spending Felt in U.S.

SA131208aa001 Washington, D.C.—The collapse in the price of oil is beginning to affect education spending in the oil-producing countries of the Gulf, and those changes are sometimes reflected on distant shores.

Many intensive English-language programs in the United States report that they have begun to see substantial decreases in enrollments from Saudi Arabia. This is being viewed as a harbinger of the long-term educational effects of severely depressed oil prices. The kingdom appears to be cutting back on its scholarship program that has allowed tens of thousands of young Saudis to earn degrees at Western universities over the last decade.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Libyans debate West’s help against Islamic State as nation crumbles

LBY130208AA001 TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyans are watching their country fall apart while leaders of rival factions charged with forming a unity government debate how to carve up oil wealth and whether they should ask the West for help in fighting the Islamic State.

“The price of a baguette has gone from 50 dirhams [less than a penny] to 250 dirhams [18 cents] in just six months,” said Nihad Maiteeq, a member of the Libyan Women’s Association who has observed the unity government talks. “We will see a hunger revolution that will blow everything to pieces.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Somalia transforming into a cashless society

AFR151515AA001MOGADISHU, SOMALIA Ahmed Farah Hassan no longer carries the tattered Somali shilling notes that were the currency of his war-torn country’s economy for years.

At a gas station in Mogadishu recently, the 32-year-old filled up his car and then paid with a few clicks of his phone.

Read more at Quartz Africa

Palestinian children: As young as 11 join attacks on Israel

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZA140729YA001.jp.jpegHEBRON, West Bank — Amer Salah was sleeping last May when Israeli forces entered the 14-year-old's bedroom in the middle of the night.

He said he was arrested for throwing stones at vehicles of neighboring Jewish settlers, which he denied, and was jailed with nine other kids in a cell barely 6-feet by 6-feet without fresh air or ample light. “We were not even allowed to see the sun,” he said.

Read more at USA Today

Rape charges: Hang over U.N. peacekeepers in Africa

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR151515AA001.jpegBANGUI, Central African Republic — Sitting under a mango tree on the outskirts of this capital city, Abdou Mbone, 58, says U.N. peacekeeping troops raped his wife, Halima, before leaving her dead body in the street a year ago.

Mbone’s wife had gone to purchase food for dinner before realizing that Christian militias were in the neighborhood fighting Islamic rebels. She hurried to a nearby market to find the peacekeepers who often stood guard there.

Read more at USA Today

Palestinians admit: Working with Israel to foil attacks

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR140807aa002.jpegRAMALLAH, West Bank — It’s a revelation that has sent shock waves throughout the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: The Palestinian Authority (PA) has acknowledged thwarting dozens of attacks on Israelis planned by local militants.

Last month, Palestinian General Intelligence Service chief Majid Faraj told Defense News that the PA has foiled 200 attacks on Israelis, confiscated weapons and arrested 100 Palestinians since October, when the so-called Third Intifada, an uprising against Israel’s dominance of the Palestinian lands, began.

Read more at The Washington Times

Loubna Abidar: Moroccan actress, finds fame tinged with fury

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_FRA150225aa001.jpegPARIS — THE first indication the actress Loubna Abidar had that her life was about to change was on the flight home to Morocco after the premiere of the movie “Much Loved,” in which she plays a prostitute. She was shocked when a flight attendant told her she was “a disgrace for Morocco and Moroccan women.”

Ten months later, Ms. Abidar, 30, is still a celebrity in her homeland, albeit an infamous one who is now in exile. She has received hundreds of hate messages and threats on social media. She is also poised to earn France’s top honor in film — a César — this month.

Read more at The New York Times

Pakistan’s radical: Madrassas retain clout despite crackdown

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_PAK130912aa001.jpegLAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities say they have shuttered over 180 Islamic religious schools called madrassas across the country in a yearlong crackdown on extremism, but even so, the closures affect only a fraction of the total number of seminaries suspected of preaching hatred and promoting a violent brand of Islamic extremism.

And despite the official campaign, the number of madrassas — and their power — are growing.

Read more at The Washington Times

Muslim conference: Calls for protection of religious minorities

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_FRA150111aa001.jpegMARRAKESH, Morocco — At a recent conference held by Muslim scholars to confront violence in the Islamic world, a representative of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria said his people desperately needed protection from the Islamic State.

“Please help us,” said Hadi Baba Sheikh, the Yazidi representative. “They are killing us and kidnapping our women and children.”

Read more at The New York Times

Voices: Terrorist attack hits close to home

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130705aa003.jpegRABAT, Morocco — Al-Qaeda killed my friend.

The headlines are cold and harsh: Leila Alaoui, 33, a photographer, killed in the Burkina Faso terrorist attack. They are straightforward, and I feel disconnected to them — as if they’re talking about someone I don’t know.

Read more at USA Today

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