A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘diasporas

[LINK] “Germany Clamps Down on Flow of Fighters to Islamic State”

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Rainer Buergin and Arne Delfs’ Bloomberg article looks at Germany’s ongoing attempt to limit the flow of volunteers fighting for the Islamic State.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is planning legal changes that will allow it to keep Germans from leaving to join groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

Under the planned law, the government can retract identity cards of potential foreign fighters and replace them with substitute identification, de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin today. Without passports, which can already be confiscated, or ID cards, suspects wouldn’t be able to leave Germany, he said after a meeting with state interior ministers.

“We don’t want terrorism to be exported from Germany, we don’t want men and sometimes women who grew up in Germany and have undergone radicalization to carry terrorism to Syria and Iraq,” de Maiziere said. “And we certainly don’t want some of them to return battle-hardened to plan attacks.”

More than 450 Islamists with German citizenship have left the country to join fighters in Syria and Iraq, and more than 150 have returned, often to recruit more fighters to join their cause, the Interior Ministry said separately in an e-mailed statement.

Germany will take a dual approach that aims to crack down on the cross-border movement of suspects while at the same time using preventive measures to counter the radicalization of “young people” who’ve been exposed to terrorism propaganda and Salafism, an ultraconservative Sunni interpretation of Islam, the ministry said.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 17, 2014 at 9:35 pm

[LINK] “The New International Brigades”

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Marco d’Eramo’s blog post at the London Review of Books looks at the dispiriting subject of the volunteers travelling around the world to fight for the Islamic State. These people, it seems, are not especially disenfranchised. They’re doing it because they want to do it.

No one really dwells on the question of why so many young men from Europe, Canada, Australia, even China, are going to fight in Syria and Iraq with the so-called Islamic State (Isis), or with other Islamist militias. The New York Times recently published a map showing which countries the foreign volunteers come from. The numbers are slippery and often contradictory, but the foreign presence in Syria and Iraq is reckoned at around 17,000 fighters. The biggest contingents are from Chechnya and the North Caucasus (around 9000) and Turkey (1000). There are also 400 from Kosovo. But 1900 come from Western Europe (700 from France, 340 from Britain, 60 from Ireland), 100 from the US, and between 50 and 100 from Australia.

The prevailing view is that these volunteers are marginalised fanatics: in other words, they’re ‘crazy’. Madness has been used to explain everyone from Caligula to Hitler, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein and any other leader or dictator who has been either defeated or marked for defeat. But it is an explanation that explains nothing, and which rather indicates that we are incapable of explaining the phenomenon. We need to be extremely careful with the way we define other people: no one defines himself as a ‘terrorist’ (just as no one defines himself as a ‘populist’). During the Second World War, the Germans called the maquisards ‘terrorists’, but after the Allied victory no one called them that any more. The French called the FLN in Algeria ‘terrorists’, but after independence no one used the term, simply because the FLN had won. No one called Begin or Ho Chi Min a ‘terrorist’, because they too imposed a victor’s narrative.

The conclusions drawn in An Economic Analysis of the Financial Records of al-Qaida in Iraq, prepared by the Rand Corporation in 2010, apply to Isis too, the institute says. First, financial gain is not the principal motive driving people to join Islamist militias: a fighter earns a lot less than the regional average, while his chances of dying are a lot higher. Second, the terrorists have higher than expected levels of education and wealth, ‘which weakens theories explaining individual participation in militancy as being due to financial deprivation, mental instability or poor education’: the volunteers, according to the Rand Corporation, are not marginalised, crazy or poor.

The new international brigades are a phenomenon that needs to be taken seriously, and raises a serious question. The first modern ‘foreign volunteers’ were those who in the early 1800s went to fight and die for the independence of Christian Greece from the Islamic Ottoman Empire, including Santorre di Santarosa (who died on Sphacteria in 1825) and Byron (who died at Missolonghi in 1824). Garibaldi was known as the ‘hero of two worlds’ because he fought in Brasil, Uruguay, Italy and France (in 1870-71, against the Prussians). They all embodied the words of Emile Barrault, a follower of Saint-Simon who told Garibaldi in 1833 that ‘a man who, making himself cosmopolitan, adopts humanity as his fatherland and offers his sword and his blood to all peoples who struggle against tyranny, is more than a soldier; he is a hero.’

Written by Randy McDonald

October 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm

[LINK] Three classics Geocurrent posts at Languages of the World: Birobidzhan, Karelia, Crimea

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Over at Languages of the World, Asya Perelstvaig has been reposting some of her old Geocurrents posts. Three I particularly like involve Birobidzhan, the attempted Jewish homeland in Soviet Siberia, the Russian-Finnish borderlands including Karelia, and the history of the Crimean Tatars.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

[NEWS] Some Sunday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes the effects of population aging worldwide, observes the quarantining of four individuals possibly exposed to Ebola, comments on the huge costs associated with reconstruction in eastern Ukraine, and reports on a conference held by the Vatican on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians.
  • Bloomberg notes the recovery of house prices in Hungary, notes that elderly Koreans are being warned against speculative investments, looks at Southeast Asian Muslims going off to fight in Syria, notes the resistance of farmers to Thailand’s junta, quotes Angela Merkel’s comparison of the Ukrainian crisis to the decades-long Cold War and East Germany, looks at possible Russian capital controls and growing Spanish public indebtedness, points to the aging of Sweden’s nuclear reactors, looks at Catalonia’s separatists as they prepare for a controversial independence referendum, and warns the world about Japan.
  • Bloomberg View notes the profound uncertainty over Ebola, suggests Shanghai cannot replace Hong Kong as a financial centre yet, looks at skyrocketing real estate prices at the far upper end of the New York City scene, and suggests that Hong Kong’s revolt will sputter out.
  • CBC notes that Makayla Sault, a First Nations child who refused treatment for her leukemia, is relapsing, notes that global warming is leading Greenlanders to hunt more orcas, observes that the Islamic State has ended the Arab spring, and wonders what China will do with Hong Kong.
  • IWPR notes the odd optimism of many eastern Ukrainians, looks at the problems of Syrian Armenian refugee schoolchildren in the Armenian school system, and notes controversy over the creation of a Russian satellite university in Armenia.
  • National Geographic notes the new phenomenon of sanctuaries for former pet pigs, and suggests that threats to an Ottoman tomb could bring Turkey into Syria.
  • Open Democracy notes the plight of Syrian Kurds, suggests that secularism is an alternative to oppressive religious identities, and criticizes European Union migration policy.
  • Wired looks at Europe’s history of trying animals for crimes and examines Andy Warhol’s sketching of Blondie’s Debbie Harry on an Amiga.

[LINK] “Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud: Hamilton youth reported killed as ISIS fighter ‘not the son they knew'”

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CBC’s Jeff Green describes the grief and confusion felt by the people who knew Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-Canadian from Hamilton who was a student at York University before he left to become a jihadist for the Islamic State in Syria and died there in recent airstrikes. No one seems to know what set him off.

Roughly one year ago, Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, then 19 years old and a biology student at Toronto’s York University, met a group of friends at a hip-hop dance audition, and later partied and grew close with them. But he eventually cut them off — through the spring and summer of 2014.

By July, while those friends thought they lost touch with an athletic, outgoing man, who at times seemed unsure of himself and his identity, his family in Hamilton was frantically trying to warn the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP that their eldest son may have taken up arms with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.

Earlier this week, CSIS, albeit unofficially, told the family there were reports he was killed by the anti-ISIS military campaign, apparently dying during attacks from Kurdish forces in northern Syria last week.

His extended family has gone into seclusion to deal with their loss, said Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdani, who tried to help the family once they realized he was “crossing over.”

What happened that led to the change remains a mystery, he said.

“That is an important question that we must look at and try to find the answer to.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Hasidic Townhouse Foes Seek to Dissolve Catskills Village”

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Bloomberg’s Freeman Klopott takes a look at the unpleasant conflict in the New York village of Bloomingburg between Hasidim and non-Hasidim over development in the community. Tension between fast-growing Hasidic populations looking for inexpensive places to live–cheaper places than Brooklyn–and non-Hasidic populations disliking rapid change has occurred elsewhere.

A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he’s a victim of an anti-Semitic plot.

Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger.

Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg’s rural character, not about religion.

“I want the village to be like it was eight years ago when I moved up here,” said Mayor Frank Gerardi, who signed a petition calling for the dissolution. “It was a quiet place, a nice little town. Now everything has changed. There’s hustle and bustle, a lot of housing changes.”

Bloomingburg, home to about 420 residents 78 miles (126 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, sits in the farthest reaches of a culture war raging in New York City’s exurbs as the largest Hasidic community outside of Israel leaves gentrifying Brooklyn in search of lower-cost housing. The fight has increasingly entangled state agencies and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat facing re-election in November.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm

[LINK] “Hamilton family sought CSIS, RCMP help to block son’s entry to Syria”

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The Toronto Star‘s Bill Dunphy reports on the case of a former Hamilton man, a Somali-Canadian 20 years old, who has been reported to have been killed fighting for ISIS.

A desperate Hamilton family called in CSIS and the RCMP two months ago in a frantic bid to prevent their eldest son from crossing into Syria and taking up arms in that country’s civil war.

They failed, and earlier this week, CSIS visited them to tell them unofficially their son, Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, had likely died in fighting there. According to some media reports, he died following a fight between Kurdish forces and Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham fighters.

If true, he could be the first Canadian killed in the anti-ISIS military campaign.

Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdani said Wednesday he was approached by Mohamud’s family in July as soon as they realized their missing son was using his phone in Turkey.

“This was not right. He shouldn’t have been there. We need to tell the RCMP and CSIS right away,” Hamdani summarized their thinking. “So they contacted me.” Both agencies met with the family, he said, and tried to find ways to thwart Mohamud’s entry into Syria.

“But by then, his handlers had him. Once he lands — they have their own underground railway — it’s almost impossible to stop him. Unfortunately, he did cross over, and once he did, he texted his mother to say he was in Syria with his brothers.”

Hamdani said the family continued to assist security officials, even working with the RCMP to try to break into Mohamud’s email account.

Mohamud was a “very intelligent young man” who’d been attending York University and was on track for a career in medicine, Hamdani said. Just how he became criminally radicalized is not clear.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2014 at 2:23 am

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