Alexander Somto Orah, a 25-year-old Nigerian student, says he faced discrimination when trying to flee the war in Ukraine.
As if trying to escape from death and destruction was not enough, here the ugly face of racism rears its ugly head. Now should those to whom racism was subjected to just ignore that they are not deemed equal to others trying to escape death and destruction, so much for helping and empathy, as in these instances the saviours to some are not to others, just because of a skin colour, how wrong is that.
They are all equal for they are all human beings, but then the Russian invaders and certainly Putin do not think so, unless they are supporters of the tyrant Putin.
It’s a little after 3pm in Detroit’s 8 Mile neighbourhood, and the cicadas are buzzing loudly in the trees. Children weave down the pavements on bicycles, while a pickup basketball game gets under way in a nearby park. The sky is a deep blue with only a hint of an approaching thunderstorm – in other words, a muggy, typical summer Sunday in Michigan’s largest city.
“8 Mile”, as the locals call it, is far from the much-touted economic “renaissance” taking place in Detroit’s centre. Tax delinquency and debt are still major issues, as they are in most places in the city. Crime and blight exist side by side with carefully trimmed hedgerows and mowed lawns, a patchwork that changes from block to block. In many ways it resembles every other blighted neighbourhood in the city – but with one significant difference. Hidden behind the oak-lined streets is an insidious piece of history that most Detroiters, let alone Americans, don’t even know exists: a half mile-long, 5ft tall concrete barrier that locals simply call “the wall”.
“Growing up, we didn’t know what that wall was for,” says Teresa Moon, president of the 8 Mile Community Organization. “It used to be a rite of passage to walk on top of the wall, like a balancing beam. You know, just kids having fun, that kind of thing. It was only later when I found out what it was for, and when I realised the audacity that they had to build it.”
So we go on there has been so much bloodshed, destruction and whole communities put under brutal regimes, so I do hope that this can be resolved peacefully.
The Kurds have, apparently been under the control of a number of forces for many years, be they Turkish, Syrian and now, hopefully, lastly ISIS.
The Kurds need to have a say in how they now go forward, but this should be between the Kurds and Syria and no outside force. If the Kurds ‘want a federal system that would allow regions to rule themselves without central control by the center’. It appears Syria may be agreeable to this and it appears they will be supported by Russia. However, for some reason the US appear to be opposed to this, well that they can be, but they should in no way impose this opinion onto the Kurds and Syrians.
The Western power have far too long imposed their views into areas that should not be theirs to do so, therefore the US needs to back off completely and just concentrate on their own troubles at home.
Donald Trump has said the US may may have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea. In his first address to the UN General Assembly – and with North Korean diplomats sitting just yards from him – Mr Trump said he will have no option to resort to such actions if Pyongyang does not halt the development of its nuclear weapons programme. In perhaps the most striking piece of sabre-rattling yet, Mr Trump said that unless North Korea backed down, “we will have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea”.
Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.
We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy. But it’s a whole lot harder for them.
I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also…
We’ve heard about the threat to the monuments – but what about the human tragedy? In nearby Hayan, above oil and gas deposits of Syria’s desert, Robert Fisk hears from some of the few who escaped the invading Isis jihadis
When the black-cowled gunmen of the ‘Islamic State’ infiltrated the suburbs of Palmyra on 20 May, half of Assad Sulieman’s oil and gas processing plant crews – 50 men in all – were manning their 12-hour shift at the Hayan oil field 28 miles away. They were the lucky ones. Their 50 off-duty colleagues were sleeping at their homes next to the ancient Roman city. Twenty-five of them would soon be dead, among up to 400 civilians – including women and children – who would die in the coming hours at the hands of the Islamist militia which every Syrian now calls by its self-styled acronym ‘Daesh’.
Oil engineer ‘Ahmed’ – he chose this name to protect his family in Palmyra – was, by chance, completing a course at Damascus University on the fatal day when Palmyra fell. “I was appalled,” he said. “I tried calling my family. It was still possible to get through on the phone. They said ‘Daesh’ (also known as Isis) wasn’t allowing anyone to leave their home. My brother later went onto the street. He took pictures of bodies. They had been decapitated, all men.
Destruction of the Jezaa gas and oil processing plant“He managed to send the photographs out to me from [the Isis-controlled city of] Raqqa on the internet which is the only communications working there.”
Some of the photographs are too terrible to publish. They show heads lying several feet from torsos, blood running in streams across a city street. In one, a body lies on a roadway while two men cycle past on a bicycle. So soon after the capture of Palmyra were the men slaughtered that shop-fronts can still be seen in the photographs, painted in the two stars and colours of the red-white-and-black flag of the Syrian government.
“The Daesh forced the people to leave the bodies in the streets for three days,” Ahmed continued. “They were not allowed to pick up the bodies or bury them without permission. The corpses were all over the city. My family said the Daesh came to our house, two foreign men – one appeared to be an Afghan, the other from Tunisia or Morocco because he had a very heavy accent – and then they left. They killed three female nurses. One was killed in her home, another in her uncle’s house, a third on the street. Perhaps it was because they helped the army [as nurses]. Some said they were beheaded but my brother said they were shot in the head.”
Ancient monument under Isis threat
In the panic to flee Palmyra, others perished when their cars drove over explosives planted on the roads by the Islamist gunmen. One was a retired Syrian general from the al-Daas family whose 40-year old pharmacist wife and 12-year old son were killed with him when their car’s wheels touched the explosives. Later reports spoke of executions in the old Roman theatre amid the Palmyra ruins.
The director of the Hayan gas and oil processing plant, Assad Sulieman, shook his head in near-disbelief as he recounted how word reached him of the execution of his off-duty staff. Some were, he believes, imprisoned in the gas fields which had fallen into the hands of the ‘Islamic State’. Others were merely taken from their homes and murdered because they were government employees. For months prior to the fall of Palmyra, he had received a series of terrifying phone calls from the Islamists, one of them when gunmen were besieging a neighbouring gas plant.
He said: “They came on my own phone, here in my office, and said: ‘We are coming for you.’ I said to them: ‘I will be waiting’. The army drove them off but my staff also received these phone calls here and they were very frightened. The army protected three of our fields then and drove them off.” Since the fall of Palmyra, the threatening phone calls have continued, even though ‘Daesh’ have cut all mobile and landlines in their newly-occupied city.
Another young engineer at Hayan was in Palmyra when the ‘Islamic State’ arrived. So fearful was he when he spoke that he even refused to volunteer a name for himself. “I had gone back to Palmyra two days before and everything seemed alright,” he said. “When my family told me they had arrived, I stayed at home and so did my mother and brother and sisters and we did not go out. Everyone knew that when these men come, things are not good. The electricity stopped for two days and then the gunmen restored it. We had plenty of food – we were a well-off family. We stayed there a week, we had to sort out our affairs and they never searched our home.”
The man’s evidence proved the almost haphazard nature of Isis rule. A week after the occupation, the family made its way out of the house – the women in full Islamic covering – and caught a bus to the occupied city of Raqqa and from there to Damascus. “They looked at my ID but didn’t ask my job,” the man said. “The bus trip was normal. No-one stopped us leaving.” Like Ahmed, the young oil worker was a Sunni Muslim – the same religion as ‘Daesh’s’ followers – but he had no doubts about the nature of Palmyra’s occupiers. “When they arrive anywhere”, he said, “there is no more life”.
Syria’s own oil and gas lifeline now stretches across a hundred miles of desert from Homs in the midlands to the strategic oil fields across the broiling desert outside Palmyra. It took two hours to reach a point 28 miles from Palmyra; the last Syrian troops are stationed eight miles closer to the city.
To the west lies the great Syrian air base of Tiyas – codenamed ‘T-4’ after the old fourth pumping station of the Iraqi-Palestine oil pipeline – where I saw grey-painted twin-tailed Mig fighter bombers taking off into the dusk and settling back onto the runways. A canopy of radar dishes and concrete bunkers protect the base and Syrian troops can be seen inside a series of earthen fortresses on each side of the main road to Palmyra, defending their redoubts with heavy machine guns, long-range artillery and missiles.
Syrian troops patrol the highway every few minutes on pick-up trucks – and make no secret of their precautions. They pointed out the site of an improvised explosive device found a few hours earlier – more than 30 miles west of Palmyra. Further down the road was the wreckage of truck bombs which had been hit by Syrian rocket-fire. Assad Sulieman, the gas plant director, declares that his father named him after President Bashar al-Asasad’s father Hafez. He described how Islamist rebels had totally destroyed one gas plant close to Hayan last year, and how his crews had totally restored it to production within months by using cannibalized equipment from other facilities. His plant’s production capacity has been restored to three million cubic metres of gas per day for the country’s power stations and six thousand barrels of oil for the Homs refinery.
But the man who understands military risks is General Fouad – like everyone else in the area of Palmyra, he prefers to use only his first name – a professional officer whose greatest victory over the rebels on a nearby mountain range came at the moment his soldier-son was killed in battle in Homs. He makes no secret of “the big shock” he felt when Palmyra fell. He thinks that the soldiers had been fighting for a long time in defence of the city and did not expect the mass attack. Other military men – not the general – say that the ‘Islamic State’ advanced on a 50-mile front, overwhelming the army at the time.
“They will get no further,” General Fouad said. “We fought them off when they attacked three fields last year. Our soldiers stormed some of their local headquarters on the Shaer mountain. We found documents about our production facilities, we found religious books of Takfiri ideas. And we found lingerie.”
What on earth, I asked, would the Islamic State be doing with lingerie? The general was not smiling. “We think that maybe they kept captured Yazidi women with them, the ones who were kidnapped in Iraq. When our soldiers reached their headquarters, we saw some of their senior men running away with some women.”
But the general, like almost every other Syrian officer I met on this visit to the desert – and every other civilian – had a thought on his mind. If the Americans were so keen to destroy Isis, did they not know from satellites that thousands of gunmen were massing to strike at Palmyra. Certainly they did not tell the Syrians of this? And they did not bomb them, either – though there must have been targets aplenty for the US air force in the days before the Palmyra attack, even if Washington does not like the Assad regime. A question, then, that still has to be answered