A Syrian rebel fell in love with a diplomat’s daughter. War wasn’t their only obstacle.Read More
Mohammad, a 28-year-old Syrian software engineer, had recently been accepted into a language institute in Brunswick, about 235km east of Berlin - but after weeks of failing to get a visa appointment at the German embassy in Beirut, he started to look for an alternative.
Following a friend's advice, Mohammad, who spoke to Al Jazeera using a pseudonym, found himself inside a shady office space in Beirut's Hamra neighbourhood. Here, a gray-haired Lebanese man told him: "I can get you an appointment at the embassy anytime you want."Read More
Driven by national security, political appeasement, and a dire need for greater foreign aid, Lebanon’s government is looking to rein in and ultimately control the Syrian refugee population through a new series of stringent visa regulations.1 On December 31, 2014, Lebanon’s General Security Directorate announced the latest rule change. Previously, a Syrian national could receive a six-month renewable visa free of charge upon entry into Lebanon. The new six visa classes—tourist, business, student, transit, short stay, or medical—represent Lebanon’s attempt to exert control over the world’s second-largest refugee population and account for unregistered Syrians.Read More
Parading around the derelict salon of this decrepit house, Polat, not old enough to know the life his ancestors lived, bangs his family’s gold drum with gusto. His father Ali watches and, despite guarding his emotions, lets slip a smile.
A few years ago, a distinct music and dance emanated from the streets of Sulukule in Istanbul, once Europe’s oldest continuous settlement for 3,500 of Ali’s people, the Romanies. But now, the echoes of Romany culture have been silenced as well-to-do refugees from neighbouring Syria have filled the wood-panelled duplexes built atop the paved-over ruins of the historic Romany settlement.
A family from Homs sits in the small backyard of one of the houses. They are unregistered refugees. “We came here because we knew people in the area,” says the matriarch, a middle-aged lady in modest attire. The family pay 1,100 Turkish lira (Dh1,949) each month in rent to their Turkish landlord. “The neighbours are fine,” she adds. “They don’t speak Arabic and we don’t speak their language so we just nod at each other.”Read More
Long before Syria's civil war broke out, the Lebanese border town of Arsal was known as a hub of smuggling activity. The surrounding mountainous terrain is perfect for sneaking contraband of all sorts between Lebanon and neighboring Syria — and that's why Arsal has become a focal point for Lebanese security agencies, Hezbollah, refugees, foreign jihadists, Syrian opposition fighters, and the Syrian regime.
This week, Syrian warplanes fired missiles at the outskirts of the town shortly before the Nusra Front launched grenades into Arsal from across the border in Syria. Arsal is the lone Sunni Muslim village in Lebanon’s predominately Shiite Bekaa Valley, and the local population of about 35,000 is sympathetic to opposition forces fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad — a combination that makes it a target several times over.
A man I meet named Abu Hussein is perched on a couch in his modest apartment in central Arsal, sitting on his feet while smoking a cigarette. Four of his brothers are currently in Yabroud, just across the border, fighting against Syrian forces with the Farouk Brigades. Hussein isn't avoiding the conflict, however — he's busy smuggling fighters in and out of Syria.Read More
Highly personal profiles of a mother, an artist, and a soldier throw into sharp relief the depth of the losses endured by the nearly three million Syrians forced into other countries since 2011. A short and intimate account that drives home the human scale of this crisis.Read More
A little over three months ago in the village of Ghabagheb in Syria’s southern municipality of Dara’a, a two man hit team from the Free Syrian Army awaited the arrival of an important Syrian Arab Army figure. One of the FSA soldiers, a 24-year-old defected SAA soldier from Dara’a named Sultan, had been tipped off by a contact still enlisted in the army battling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The pair waited but the man never came. Instead, a mini bus arrived and seven SAA soldiers emerged. Realizing they had been betrayed, Sultan’s comrade fled, leaving Sultan face-to-face with the enemy combatants. Time slowed down as Sultan was overcome by melancholy. As he stared at his foes a thought crept into his conscious: “Am I going to die here, in this place?” Despite being filled with fear at the notion of an unavoidable demise Sultan felt no regrets. Both sides opened fire.Read More
Hassan is only 30 years old, though like most people who have lived through war, he looks much older. Sitting next to his father, a few neighbors, and the landlord of the room he rents at a former school in Lebanon, he beams as he describes the elation he felt upon reuniting with his family last month after he fled his home in Nahriyeh, near Qusair, Syria, and the gratitude he has for his landlord's unremitting hospitality.
As Hassan's story comes to a close, he politely excuses himself to check on the children playing outside. Once outside, the diminutive man slyly looks over his right shoulder before lighting a cigarette.
"My dad doesn't know I smoke," he says in between drags. But Hassan didn't leave the room simply to get out of his father's line of sight. He left to escape the earshot of another guest.Read More
The artillery strikes and street fights that forced Badr Abbas to abandon his home near Damascus haven’t shaken his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The one you know is better than the one you don’t, and no one will come that is better than” Assad, said Abbas, a Shiite Muslim who worked as a drywall installer in Syria until he fled for Lebanon eight months ago with his wife and two children.
As the two-year-old conflict grinds on, with more than 70,000 killed in the fighting, Syrians who support Assad say he provided them with security and stability. They also see him as a representative of secularism and worry that the armed opposition is becoming dominated by Sunni extremists.Read More
Khaled Naaman doesn't hide his disdain for the Syrian government, a widely shared sentiment in this northern Lebanese city, where many harbor dark memories of Damascus' years of military occupation.
His impoverished neighborhood, Bab Tabbaneh, stands as a bastion of support for Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad; their tricolor banner flutters from buildings and is spray-painted on walls. The district has also welcomed multitudes of refugees seeking to escape the Syrian conflict.
But now after almost two years of a steady influx of displaced Syrians, Naaman and other Lebanese citizens in Bab Tabbaneh are growing weary. Many blame the newcomers for shrinking wages and job opportunities and increasing rents and prices for groceries, car repairs and necessities.Read More
The front pages have been dominated for more than a year by photos of young Syrian rebel fighters, armed and proud, battling an increasingly isolated Syrian military.
But amid the shooting, the atrocities and the bombings, there is a parallel war — a sophisticated cyber insurgency battling a shadowy team working on behalf of the Assad regime. The Syrians’ online conflict may be the most active cyberwar in recent memory, with extraordinary efforts by both sides to sabotage, disrupt and destroy. It may even foreshadow the way cyber battles will play out in future conflicts.
On the one side, the Syrian government has been using cyber tools to track activists and expose opposition figures. An online group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army appears to be acting as the Assad regime’s surrogates.Read More