- VIRTUAL JIHAD: CHECHNYA’S INSTAGRAM INSURGENCY
- VIRTUAL JIHAD: CHECHNYA’S INSTAGRAM INSURGENCY
- Veteran Indian Editor M.J. Akbar On Geneva Deal: ‘America Has Set Free A Genie Called Iran From Three Decades Of Isolation’; ‘The One Thing A Genie Will Not Do… Is Return To The Bottle Which Was Its Prison’
- Veteran Indian Editor M.J. Akbar On Geneva Deal: ‘America Has Set Free A Genie Called Iran From Three Decades Of Isolation’; ‘The One Thing A Genie Will Not Do… Is Return To The Bottle Which Was Its Prison’
- HIJAB PREVAILS IN SYRIAN AREAS
FOREIGN JIHADISTS ARE USING CHECHNYA’S INSURGENCY FOR PROPAGANDA POINTS… ON INSTAGRAM.
The continuing anti-Russian insurgency in Chechnya briefly returned to American newspapers after the Boston Marathon bombings, thanks to the Tsarnaev brothers‘ roots in the Caucasian Mountain region, but it’s nothing new. Over the past decade, a rebellion against Russian rule has taken on an increasingly jihadist cast as local rebels such as the Caucasus Emirate forged alliances with international militant Islamist forces. Pictures of Chechnyan fighters and casualties have become an unexpected hot currency on Instagram’s jihadist underground, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers eagerly swap pictures and propaganda.
In fact, Anti-Russian jihadist rebels in Chechnya and neighboring regions, along with Islamist sympathizers worldwide, have increasingly turned to Instagram to disseminate propaganda and martyr photographs. A cursory search of the photo-sharing service’s#jihad tag found numerous graphics which appeared to be of Chechen or neighboring Dagestani origin; because Instagram does not normally share the national origin of users, it was impossible to confirm. However, captions to many photos found were written in Russian and other photos portrayed Chechen volunteers who died in the conflict in Syria.
However, very few of these Chechnyan fighter pictures appear to be posted from Chechnya, judging from the extremely well-trafficked #chechnya hashtag and the Russian-language #Чечня́ hashtag, which are filled with innocuous food shots (Chechnyans apparently love sushi), self-portraits, landscapes, and the other usual Instagram fodder (albeit with more memorials to war victims and 19th century anti-Russian rebels than an American might expect to come across in their Instagram feed). Instead, Chechnyan rebel pictures are posted and traded like baseball cards among members of an underground jihadist subculture. Virtually no Instagram accounts exclusively feature Chechnyan rebel picture and propaganda; they are instead mixed-and-matched with content from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other troubled lands.
Chechnya is a constituent republic of Russia located in the Caucasus Mountains.Christopher Swift, a national security expert at Georgetown University, told Fast Company that “The Caucasus Mountains are very rugged–as if someone dropped the Rocky Mountains into an area the size of New England,” and are home to many different ethnic and cultural groups. The Chechnyans, primarily Sunni Muslims with a distinct language and culture, have intermittently fought Russian rule since the late 18th century. Following two anti-Moscow wars when the Soviet Union collapsed, the war-fatigued land accepted a new pro-Russian government under former separatist leader Akhmad Kadyrov. Akhmad’s son Ramzan came into power after Akhmad was assassinated via a land mine hidden in a soccer stadium in 2004. An insurgency continues in Chechnya and nearby regions against the Russian government, fought by a mix of local nationalists and imported violent jihadists.
THE INSTAGRAM PRESIDENT
When Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov wanted to issue an official statement distancing his homeland from the Tsarnaev brothers, who have roots in the region, he did what many world leaders do: He turned to the Internet. But instead of issuing a statement via Facebook or posting a discretely truncated Twitter link, he posted a selfie on Instagram, accompanied by a long statement blaming the Boston attack on American culture.
As these things go, Kadyrov is an Instagram superstar with over 130,000 followers. Kadyrov’s posts to Instagram are an odd mix of self-portraits, glamor shots, and on-the-job pictures that The Guardian‘s Miriam Elder characterizes as “cuddly oversharing,” including one picture of him shaking hands with a white tiger. Kadyrov has also come under fire for alleged abuses of power and his advocacy of honor killings.
Since Instagram is a relatively new social media service–the now-Facebook-owned company only launched in 2010–relatively few studies have been done on jihadists on Instagram. However, Fast Company noted earlier this year that trends indicatedjihadists are migrating to Instagram.
One of the only studies to date, Online Jihadis Embrace Instagram, was published in March by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI is a right wing-leaning media translation service which has been accused of selectively choosing Arabic-language content to translate, but whose translations are generally accurate. Owing to MEMRI’s Middle Eastern focus, the report primarily studied Arabic-language propaganda on Instagram along with English-language captions aimed at the outside world. Although the bulk of the content in MEMRI’s report came from Syria and Iraq, photographs of dead Chechen fighters were also included.
In a telephone conversation with Fast Company, MEMRI’s Steven Stalinsky said that his organization studied Instagram accounts at the end of 2012. Using the Statigram web search engine for Instagram, the organization found numerous accounts sharing jihadi-associated content including martyr pictures, inspirational Photoshop art, and photographs taken from battlefields worldwide. Much of this content, Stalinsky said, also appeared on other corners of the Internet–they were shared through other forms of social media, and were not exclusive to Instagram. Since MEMRI’s report was published in March, numerous other accounts beyond those named in their report also began posting jihadist content to Instagram.
Although accounts with jihadist or terrorist content appear to be shut down by Instagram on a regular basis, searches of Instagram’s archives with services such asStatigram bring up many users posting Chechnya-related jihadist content. For instance, one Dagestani user posts to Instagram under the user name Caucasus Emirate–the actual Caucasus Emirate is an Al-Qaeda-associated terrorist groupwhich seeks to establish an Islamist state in the Caucasus Mountains. That user’s Instagram feed includes numerous pictures of guns and weaponry copied from jihadist websites. Another user posts pictures of Chechen rebels alongside pictures of Taliban fighters and Syrian jihadists. The anti-Russian insurgency is responsible for a considerable amount of the photo content reposted to Instagram by terrorist sympathizers–but the bulk appears to be from Syria. Some of these pictures include portraits of foreign jihadist sympathizers who died in Chechnya, such as this portrait of Ibn al-Kittab, a Saudi volunteer who died in the anti-Russian insurgency.
The Chechen conflict even had its own social media star on YouTube and Twitter. Said Buryatsky, a Siberian Buddhist convert to Islam, linked up with the Caucasus Emirate in 2007 and quickly became the organization’s public face. Foreign Policy profiledBuryatsky shortly after his 2010 death at the hand of Russian security forces; author Paul Quinn-Judge noted that his target “was an audience yet untapped by the Chechen rebels’ media: The young, well-educated urban youth in the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union.” Buryatsky and his acolytes eagerly uploaded dozens of videos to YouTube and posted links on Russian-language web forums; to this day, this videos areeasily viewed on YouTube. In his videos, Buryatsky mixed religious instructions with calls for the violent expulsion of the Russian government from majority-Muslim areas.
Swift told Fast Company that Caucasian insurgents have been infused with militant Salafi ideologies over the past decade. The appearance of Chechen rebel content on Instagram where it is interchangeably displayed with photos from Syria and Afghanistan is part of what he calls the “individualization of global jihad, and self-identification with the jihad,” where small local conflicts such as Chechnya are subsumed into a larger global narrative that may have little to do with the local conflict. He adds that much of the content goes through multiple channels, and is posted by individual sympathizers who may not have any meaningful connection with the Caucasus Emirate’s actual leaders.
The Caucasus Emirate, as befitting a 21st-century insurrection, maintains their ownmultilingual website and Twitter feed. Despite the fact that the Caucasus Emirate is primarily composed of Russian-speakers rebelling against Russia, much of the site’s literature contains Russian grammatical errors and appear to be translated from English or Arabic into Russian. Much of the content also focuses on jihadist struggles outside of the Caucasus, with a heavy amount of attention focused on Syria. The Emirate’s site, Kavkaz Center, also includes YouTube propaganda videos that include the violent death of Chechnyan government soldiers.
Veteran Indian Editor M.J. Akbar On Geneva Deal: 'America Has Set Free A Genie Called Iran From Three Decades Of Isolation'; 'The One Thing A Genie Will Not Do… Is Return To The Bottle Which Was Its Prison'.
Following the Geneva agreement, signed by Iran and the 5+1 group led by the U.S. on November 24, 2013, veteran Indian editor and columnist M. J. Akbar authored a column analyzing the likely consequences of the nuclear deal for regional players, including Pakistan, Russia, China, India and countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The column, titled “U.S.-Iran nuclear deal is good news for India”, was published by The Times of India newspaper and widely quoted on social media. M. J. Akbar is author of several books on Islam and Pakistan, and is known for launching and editing several newspapers in India.
While noting positive implications of the Iran deal for several countries including India, Akbar also warned: “America and its West Europe allies cannot afford to fail in a process that they started with eyes wide open. If Barack Obama, undermined by the U.S. Congress, falters, America risks damage to an alliance over Iran sanctions it has fostered with much effort.”
Following are excerpts from Akbar’s article:
“This Geneva Deal Is Extremely Good News – For India; It Eases, And Could Over Time Even Eliminate, America’s Dependence On Pakistani Space In Its Crucial Battles With Taliban And Its Myriad Terrorist Associates”
“The sequence is established. You first release the genie, we are reliably informed by Middle East folklore, and then it grants your three wishes.
“America has set free a genie called Iran from three decades of isolation within the world’s most congested conflict zone. Over the next six months we shall find out whether Iran will grant America’s three wishes, or actually one wish written in three codes: forget the bomb. The one thing a genie will not do, however, is return to the bottle which was its prison. Whether Iran’s nuclear ambitions get punctured, or deposited into some storehouse of mind and memory for revival at some later date, the Geneva deal between America, five other major powers and Iran has already begun to redraw the strategic map of the region and beyond.
“This Geneva deal is extremely good news – for India. It eases, and could over time even eliminate, America’s dependence on Pakistani space in its crucial battles with Taliban and its myriad terrorist associates. It cannot be a coincidence that the historic agreement came on the eve of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. America is trying hard to establish distance between retreat and defeat. It knows that the war against Taliban must continue; and its generals are now convinced that Pakistan’s army is a dubious, if not duplicitous, ally against extremist Islamist militants driven by a frenzied conviction that they can recreate Sunni empires of the seventh century. There are no on-the-record statements yet, but the obvious does not need advertising. Iran is potentially a more reliable ally than Pakistan in this conflict, since the Sunni jihadists hate Shias as apostates. Witness the recurrent anti-Shia violence in Pakistan.
“For four decades Pakistan, with subdued but compliant American acquiescence, has ring-fenced India out of a region vital to India’s security interests. For the region, 2014 marks not the end of war, but the beginning of a variation on an old conflict. There is already talk in Taliban and terrorist circles of a plan to flood Kashmir with fighters on a scale comparable to 1947, with the Pakistan army providing safe passage for this offensive.”
“Israel and Saudi Arabia… Are Leading The Challenge Against Any Final Agreement [With Iran]; The Saudi Angst Is Ideological (In Islamic Terms), Geopolitical And Visceral… It Cannot Forget Iran’s Challenge To The Saudi Monarch’s Prestige As Custodian Of The Holy Cities Of Mecca And Medina”
“The jihadi narrative is resurgent. It can claim to have driven out both the superpowers of the 20th century from Afghanistan, the Soviet Union first and NATO next. Pride is contagious. There will be an influx of fresh recruits. But India is not the only target of ‘liberation’ from ‘infidel occupation.’ China’s only Muslim-majority province, Sinkiang, is also within their assault zone. China is not oblivious to this danger. And Russia is worried about the consequences for Muslim regions of Central Asia, including its own border territories. Russia, China and India will need Iran as much as Iran needs them; all three have kept their relations with Tehran alive through years of sanctions.
“The strategic advantage, therefore, could shift slowly, imperceptibly, to Iran as negotiations begin to turn the Geneva deal into a pact. America and its West Europe allies cannot afford to fail in a process that they started with eyes wide open. If Barack Obama, undermined by the U.S. Congress, falters, America risks damage to an alliance over Iran sanctions it has fostered with much effort. Russia, China and India will not feel any great need to cater to the demands of American politicians influenced by parish compulsions in voting districts. Sanctions cannot be effective without multilateral unity. The four big purchasers of Iranian oil – China, South Korea, Japan and India – were required to curtail their imports further this year. This has already become irrelevant. But if what is perceived as a quibble by the international community prevents the logical culmination towards a final pact, these countries could place their national needs above international commitments.
“Israel and Saudi Arabia, as odd a couple as there could be conceived, are leading the challenge against any final agreement. The Saudi angst is ideological (in Islamic terms), geopolitical and visceral. Apart from schismatic fervor, it cannot forget Iran’s challenge to the Saudi monarch’s prestige as custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Riyadh has also invested heavily in a Pakistan-Talib Afghanistan-Gulf-Saudi bulwark against the Shia line from Herat to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel, under Benjamin Netanyahu, has propagated an existential fear of the future, with Iran as the epicenter of such dread. But Obama has flexibility. Washington is no longer dependent on Saudi oil, and American public opinion, tired of multiple confrontations, is in favor of rapprochement with Tehran. The coming year could become a swivel moment in history.
“Barack Obama rubbed the lamp; he must now ensure the genie grants his wish. A genie in the sky can be a dream come true, or a nightmare.”
TERRORISM COMES IN DIFFERENT WAYS: Saudi intelligence, CIA said to be training rebels in Jordan for Syria
Conventional wisdom suggests that the United States, in adopting Iran as its new ally, has moved away from both Israel and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. challenge now is to keep Israel, Saudi Arabia and other GCC states from joining against the Teheran regime.
Meanwhile, Jordan is said to have increased its role in the Sunni revolt in neighboring Syria with significant support from the United States.
Arab diplomatic sources said the Hashemite kingdom was hosting the training of thousands of Islamist rebels in the war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
They said the rebels, trained and equipped by Saudi Arabia and the United States, were moving into the southern suburbs around Damascus as well as the southern city of Dera.
“They are now considered to be the best-equipped rebel force in southern Syria,” a diplomat said.
Jordan has dismissed reports of training and deploying Sunni rebels. But the sources said the flow of trained rebels from Jordan to Syria intensified over the last month and reached the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus in an attempt to break the siege of the Syrian Army and its Hizbullah ally.
The sources said the Jordanian-origin force was being commanded by Saudi intelligence with guidance from the CIA. They said most of the militias were operating under the auspices of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and played a role in the rebel offensive around Damascus in late November.
|Free Syrian Army fighters. Jordan is said to be a key training base for rebels fighting Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria. Reuters
Syria has expressed anger at the flow of rebels from Jordan. The sources said the Assad regime has relayed veiled threats of retaliation.
“There have been visits and discussions between the two countries,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad said.
In an interview with the pro-Assad Al Mayadeen satellite channel, Meqdad said Jordan was being forced by Saudi Arabia to host the Syrian rebels. The Syrian deputy minister warned of what he termed a “terrorist” backlash against the Hashemite kingdom.
Oraib Al Rantawi, the director of the Al Quds Center for Political Studies, acknowledged that Jordan’s allies were supporting the Syrian rebels. Still, Al Rantawi, regarded as close to the Hashemite leadership, said Jordan intensified efforts to stop the flow of fighters to Syria.
But Al Rantawi said Jordan could do more to stop FSA and the Saudi-sponsored Islamic Army, reported to have a presence in the kingdom. He said Jordan faces a choice of losing Saudi support or risking an Al Qaida backlash.
“We appreciate the fact that it is difficult to walk in a minefield without any maps,” Al Rantawi said. “We understand the attempts to postpone the moment when we have to choose between options, the sweetest of which is still very bitter. But we are now approaching the moment of truth and decision.”
They are now considered to be the best-equipped rebel force in southern Syria.”
Free Syrian Army
Active: July 2011-present
Fighters: Estimated 30,000 to 50,000
What effects might a civil war have on a population’s mental health? And how far gone is the issue of obesity across Middle Eastern countries? These are some of the public health issues the region has to deal with today.
”The region was polio-free for 10 years, until a Pakistani strain was detected in sewers in Egypt in January. It has since been found in sewers in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Last month (October), 10 paralyzed children in Syria were confirmed to be polio victims.”
- Donald McNeil Jr. for The New York Times
“The virus is unforgiving – both what it does to kids and what it does to epidemiologists trying to stop it.”
- Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration
“In the Middle East there is a large number of displaced people, mostly refugees and people who have endured military conflicts and wars. This population is especially at risk, particularly for posttraumatic stress disorder. Another large at-risk population in the Gulf region is the population of expatriates, mostly blue-collar workers and domestic maids who leave their countries of origin and come to work in GCC countries under sometimes less than optimal conditions.”
- Ziad Kronfol, a psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, talking to Nature Middle East
“In the case of North Africa/Middle East, conflict in the region increased the prevalence of depression, leading to a higher burden ranking.”
- Alize Ferrari, researcher at Australia’s University of Queensland
Obesity and diabetes
”In Egypt, half of all women are obese and one fifth of all men – landing them in the global top 20 for obesity. Among women, Kuwait ranks second globally with 55.2 per cent of its female population considered obese. Other Middle Eastern countries which made it to the Global Top 20 for female obesity include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (42.0 percent), Bahrain (37.9 percent), and Jordan (37.9 percent).”
- Amina Semlali for Al Jazeera
”Diabetes is skyrocketing in the Middle East and North Africa, rising 87% between 1990 and 2012.”
- Kyu Rhee, Chief Health Officer IBM
”The incidence of breast cancer is on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa. It also appears in Arab women on average at least 10 years earlier than it does in women in Europe or the United States. Additionally, when the disease is first discovered, Arab women are found to have a more advanced stage of the disease with larger tumours.”
- Aisha El-Awady, science writer
“Arabic used to once be a language of sex…(but) there’s so little sexual education in schools that people don’t know that there is another arabic in which you could talk about these matters.”
- Shereen El Feki, author of ”Sex and the Citadel”
“Today people in Iran are frightened of Aids because of misinformation and unscientific claims. This is why it remains a taboo… There has been a ninefold growth in the number of people with Aids in the past 11 years and an 80% increase each year.”
- Hassan Hashemi, Iran’s health minister
THE TELEGRAPH\By Rob Crilly
“To the jihadis in the West”: new issue of Taliban magazine urges recruits to leave behind children to join the jihad, as well as profiling the humble Honda 125 motorbike
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The Autumn edition of Azan magazine
The Taliban has issued a fresh appeal to Muslims in the West to launch attacks at home or fight in foreign battlefields, urging recruits to leave behind children or elderly parents.
The message appeared in the fourth edition of Azan, an English-language magazine published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Written by a man claiming to be a Western-born Jihadi operating in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the call to arms appeared along with an homage to the Honda 125 in its Steeds of War feature, crediting the $700 motorbike with helping defeat “crusader” forces.
The magazine, modelled on the better-known Inspire and published by the Taliban in Khurasan (the Afghanistan and Pakistan region), is designed as a recruitment tool for impressionable young Muslims living in the West.
“Know that you must eventually separate from your wife; it is as if it has already happened and in Paradise you shall be joined together if Allah Wills,” says the article, which is headlined “To the jihadis in the West”.
“And this is the best place of reunion!”
Magazines like Inspire are credited with radicalising a new generation of home-grown extremists.
More than 300 Britons are fighting with jihadist groups in Syria, according to intelligence sources, raising fresh fears they will return trained in some of the latest terrorist techniques.
The latest issue of Azan says attacks at home are more effective than fighting overseas.
“Every attack that is carried out is remembered year after year with ceremonies and minutes of silence. Imagine if every crusader nation had to remember a past attack every month; it would surely get their citizens to pressurise their governments into changing their foreign policies vis-à-vis their aggressions against the Muslims,” it says.
The article also claims that good Muslims need not worry about their ailing parents or young children if they leave for jihad.
“Indeed, if you fulfil the commands that Allah has obligated upon you, He will look after your children,” it says.
Along with the usual carefully selected quotations from the Prophet Mohammed and Osama bin Laden, the magazine also includes a tribute to the Honda 125 motorbike.
Models — armed with an AK-47 and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher – demonstrate how it is deployed in combat, complete with MP3 player to allow attackers to listen to the Koran on long journeys.
Via: Tico Times:
Former DEA El Paso boss: Agent Camarena had discovered the arms-for-drugs operation run on behalf of the Contras, aided by U.S. officials in the National Security Council and the CIA, and threatened to blow the whistle on the covert operation.
Two former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency contract pilot are claiming that the Reagan Administration was complicit in the 1985 murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena at the hands of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.
The administration’s alleged effort to cover up a U.S. government relationship with the Mexican drug lord to provide for the arming and the training of Nicaraguan Contra rebels, at a time when official assistance to the Contras was banned by the congressional Boland Amendment, led to Camarena’s kidnap, torture and murder, according to Phil Jordon, former head of the DEA’s El Paso office, Hector Berrellez, the DEA’s lead investigator into Camarena’s kidnapping, torture and murder, and CIA contract pilot Robert “Tosh” Plumlee.
Camarena had discovered the arms-for-drugs operation run on behalf of the Contras, aided by U.S. officials in the National Security Council and the CIA, and threatened to blow the whistle on the covert operation, Jordan alleged.
Berrellez said two witnesses identified, from a photo lineup, two or three Cuban CIA operatives who participated in Camarena’s interrogation.
Plumlee said he and three other pilots ran tons of cocaine into U.S. military bases on return trips from delivering weapons to Contra rebels in Central America, and was warned by Camarena that he would be busted.