Showing posts tagged as "sectarian violence"

Showing posts tagged sectarian violence

5 Jun
Examining Iraq’s Latest Upsurge In Violence | NPR Morning Edition
Sectarian violence has flared in Iraq a year and a half after the departure of American forces. The U.N. reported that more than 1,000 people were killed there in May, the deadliest violence since the height of the insurgency during the U.S. occupation. For more on what’s causing the chaos, Linda Wertheimer talks with Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group.
Listen to the interview here.

Examining Iraq’s Latest Upsurge In Violence | NPR Morning Edition

Sectarian violence has flared in Iraq a year and a half after the departure of American forces. The U.N. reported that more than 1,000 people were killed there in May, the deadliest violence since the height of the insurgency during the U.S. occupation. For more on what’s causing the chaos, Linda Wertheimer talks with Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group.

Listen to the interview here.

23 Apr
The New York Times |In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity
In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.
“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”
After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.
Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Bagh dad.
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

The New York Times |In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity

In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.

“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”

After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.

Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Bagh dad.

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

20 Apr
NPR | Despite Protests, Bahrain Hosts Grand Prix Race
A year after an uprising threatened Bahrain’s monarchy, the royal family is hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race this Sunday as it attempts to show life has returned to normal.
But racing fans will have to make their way through ranks of police and soldiers who are part of a heavy security presence. And riot police have been using tear gas, stun grenades and birdshot to hold back demonstrations around the capital city, Manama.
FULL ARTICLE (NPR) 

NPR | Despite Protests, Bahrain Hosts Grand Prix Race

A year after an uprising threatened Bahrain’s monarchy, the royal family is hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race this Sunday as it attempts to show life has returned to normal.

But racing fans will have to make their way through ranks of police and soldiers who are part of a heavy security presence. And riot police have been using tear gas, stun grenades and birdshot to hold back demonstrations around the capital city, Manama.

FULL ARTICLE (NPR) 

19 Apr
Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit
Bagdad/Erbil/Washington/Brussels  |   19 Apr 2012
The political standoff between Iraq’s Kurds and the government in Baghdad has left pressing disputes over oil and territories unresolved, intensifying the likelihood of conflict. 
Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit , the latest International Crisis Group report, examines growing tensions between Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) over oil and gas wealth and disputed territories in the north. The most recent flare-up highlights that the two sides have not only failed to resolve their differences, but in striking out on unilateral paths, might also have made a solution more remote than ever.
“Each side has its own narrative, accumulated grievances and strong sense of entitlement”, says Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group’s Middle East Deputy Program Director. “Time is running out as unilateral, mutually harmful moves push relations to breaking point, with hydrocarbons-driven stakes and emotions so high that conflict looks more promising to them than accommodation and compromise”.
Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds have spent 90 years in unhappy cohabitation. This month, tensions escalated when the KRG suspended its supply of oil for export through the national pipeline, claiming Baghdad had failed to fully reimburse producing companies. The federal government responded by threatening to deduct what the sale of oil would have generated from the Kurds’ annual budget allocation, potentially halving it.
As Kurds await the moment they can remove the shackles of an overbearing and at times highly repressive central state, reversing a legacy of discrimination and economic neglect, they are also creating an escape route should relations with Baghdad sour beyond repair. In so doing, they aggravate matters, convincing the federal government they seek independence and to take with them disputed territory they claim as historically part of a notional Kurdistan that appears to be immensely rich in oil and gas. Perhaps most worrying to Baghdad, Kurdish leaders have attracted international firms to exploit suspected hydrocarbons wealth and signed contracts for acreage across the Green Line that divides the Kurdish region from the rest of Iraq. The latest (and largest) to play this is game was ExxonMobil, which in October signed a contract for six blocs, two of which are in disputed territories.
It is late already, but the best way forward is a deal between Baghdad and Erbil centred on a federal hydrocarbons law and compromise on disputed territories. International actors – the UN with its technical expertise, the U.S. given its unique responsibility and strategic interest in maintaining stability – should launch a new initiative to bring the two back to the table. As the Kurds look to Turkey as a potential outlet for their oil without Baghdad’s permission, Ankara should reaffirm its commitment to a unified Iraq and press both sides to agree to a federal hydrocarbons law. 
“The Kurds are banking on a regional game-changer that might persuade Ankara to risk its relations with Baghdad”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “But such scenarios might not unfold and, for a multitude of reasons, one must hope they do not. While it will be difficult to reach a deal, both sides should move rapidly in that direction, as the alternatives would surely be far worse”.
FULL REPORT

Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit

Bagdad/Erbil/Washington/Brussels  |   19 Apr 2012

The political standoff between Iraq’s Kurds and the government in Baghdad has left pressing disputes over oil and territories unresolved, intensifying the likelihood of conflict. 

Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit , the latest International Crisis Group report, examines growing tensions between Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) over oil and gas wealth and disputed territories in the north. The most recent flare-up highlights that the two sides have not only failed to resolve their differences, but in striking out on unilateral paths, might also have made a solution more remote than ever.

“Each side has its own narrative, accumulated grievances and strong sense of entitlement”, says Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group’s Middle East Deputy Program Director. “Time is running out as unilateral, mutually harmful moves push relations to breaking point, with hydrocarbons-driven stakes and emotions so high that conflict looks more promising to them than accommodation and compromise”.

Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds have spent 90 years in unhappy cohabitation. This month, tensions escalated when the KRG suspended its supply of oil for export through the national pipeline, claiming Baghdad had failed to fully reimburse producing companies. The federal government responded by threatening to deduct what the sale of oil would have generated from the Kurds’ annual budget allocation, potentially halving it.

As Kurds await the moment they can remove the shackles of an overbearing and at times highly repressive central state, reversing a legacy of discrimination and economic neglect, they are also creating an escape route should relations with Baghdad sour beyond repair. In so doing, they aggravate matters, convincing the federal government they seek independence and to take with them disputed territory they claim as historically part of a notional Kurdistan that appears to be immensely rich in oil and gas. Perhaps most worrying to Baghdad, Kurdish leaders have attracted international firms to exploit suspected hydrocarbons wealth and signed contracts for acreage across the Green Line that divides the Kurdish region from the rest of Iraq. The latest (and largest) to play this is game was ExxonMobil, which in October signed a contract for six blocs, two of which are in disputed territories.

It is late already, but the best way forward is a deal between Baghdad and Erbil centred on a federal hydrocarbons law and compromise on disputed territories. International actors – the UN with its technical expertise, the U.S. given its unique responsibility and strategic interest in maintaining stability – should launch a new initiative to bring the two back to the table. As the Kurds look to Turkey as a potential outlet for their oil without Baghdad’s permission, Ankara should reaffirm its commitment to a unified Iraq and press both sides to agree to a federal hydrocarbons law. 

“The Kurds are banking on a regional game-changer that might persuade Ankara to risk its relations with Baghdad”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “But such scenarios might not unfold and, for a multitude of reasons, one must hope they do not. While it will be difficult to reach a deal, both sides should move rapidly in that direction, as the alternatives would surely be far worse”.

FULL REPORT


18 Apr
The Financial Times | Gunfire greets UN monitors in Damascus
Shooting broke out on Wednesday at a street protest as UN monitors toured a Damascus suburb, activists and state media said, as Syria’s government rebuffed a request for a larger peace mission and European air support.
FULL ARTICLE (The Financial Times) 
Photo: Freedomhouse/Flickr

The Financial Times | Gunfire greets UN monitors in Damascus

Shooting broke out on Wednesday at a street protest as UN monitors toured a Damascus suburb, activists and state media said, as Syria’s government rebuffed a request for a larger peace mission and European air support.

FULL ARTICLE (The Financial Times) 

Photo: Freedomhouse/Flickr

16 Apr
International Crisis Group | Conflict Risk Alert: Bahrain
16 April 2012: Beneath a façade of normalisation, Bahrain is sliding toward another dangerous eruption of violence. The government acts as if partial implementation of recommendations from the November 2011 Independent Commission of Inquiry (the Bassiouni Report) will suffice to restore tranquillity, but there is every reason to believe it is wrong. Political talks – without which the crisis cannot be resolved – have ground to a halt, and sectarian tensions are mounting. A genuine dialogue between the regime and the opposition and a decision to fully carry out the Bassiouni Report – not half-hearted measures and not a policy of denial – are needed to halt this deterioration.
Clashes between young protesters and security forces occur nightly, marked by the former’s use of Molotov cocktails and the latter’s resort to tear gas. Several have died, in most cases reportedly due to tear gas inhalation. The 9 April explosion of a handmade bomb in al-Akar, a Shiite village in the east of the Kingdom, which injured seven policemen, crossed a significant threshold and could be followed by worse. Already, even before authorities could investigate, pro-government Sunni vigilante groups retaliated, vandalising two cars and a supermarket owned by a Shiite firm accused of supporting the February 2011 protests.
Amid these and other violent events – including the death of a young protester apparently shot from a civilian car – there are two potential time bombs. The first concerns Bahrain’s scheduled hosting of a Formula 1 race on 22 April. On 8 April, the Coalition of the Youth of the February 14 Revolution, an umbrella for an array of opposition groups that commands the loyalty of Shiite neighbourhoods, warned that it would consider participants, sponsors and spectators as regime allies and declared that it would not accept blame for “any violent reaction” during the event. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has pledged to use the expected presence of foreign tourists and journalists to highlight human rights violations; the government’s 15 April arrest of human rights activists shows that it will try hard to prevent this.
Despite internal disagreements over the wisdom of proceeding with the Grand Prix, and amid repeated opposition calls to cancel, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the Formula 1 governing body, gave its definitive go-ahead on 13 April. The regime is trying to make the competition a symbol of national unity and is banking on it symbolising a return to stability. Instead it is underscoring deep divides and risks further inflaming the situation.
The second time bomb relates to the fate of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a well-known human rights activist. Charged with attempting to overthrow the regime due to his participation in last year’s demonstrations, he has been on a hunger strike since 8 February to protest his conviction and obtain his release. Despite a groundswell of support for his cause in Bahrain and around the world, the regime has not relented. His death likely would spark a serious intensification in anti-regime activism.
The only path out of the current crisis is a return to dialogue and negotiations over real political reforms, much as the Bassiouni Report suggested. The regime has shown little enthusiasm for talks – not least because its Sunni supporters oppose them, fearing that any accommodation of the opposition’s proposals could jeopardise their privileged status. Both of them insist that violence must end before dialogue can begin. The opposition argues in turn that the regime is unserious about resuming talks, let alone reforms; that it torpedoed secret negotiations held in February by leaking them to the public; and that it failed to follow up on demands put forward by the opposition a month later at the government’s request.
To break this stalemate and move forward, the government should fully implement the Bassiouni Report’s recommendations, releasing all political prisoners (including Alkhawaja) and holding senior officials accountable for excessive force and torture. It also must begin reforming the security forces, ensuring they fully reflect Bahrain’s make-up by integrating members of all communities. For its part, the opposition should abjure violence more explicitly than in the past and declare its readiness to participate in a dialogue on reform without preconditions.
The alternative is a serious escalation in violence and the empowerment of hardliners on both sides. It is quite clear where such a process would begin. It is far less clear where it might end.
Crisis Group
Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

International Crisis Group | Conflict Risk Alert: Bahrain

16 April 2012: Beneath a façade of normalisation, Bahrain is sliding toward another dangerous eruption of violence. The government acts as if partial implementation of recommendations from the November 2011 Independent Commission of Inquiry (the Bassiouni Report) will suffice to restore tranquillity, but there is every reason to believe it is wrong. Political talks – without which the crisis cannot be resolved – have ground to a halt, and sectarian tensions are mounting. A genuine dialogue between the regime and the opposition and a decision to fully carry out the Bassiouni Report – not half-hearted measures and not a policy of denial – are needed to halt this deterioration.

Clashes between young protesters and security forces occur nightly, marked by the former’s use of Molotov cocktails and the latter’s resort to tear gas. Several have died, in most cases reportedly due to tear gas inhalation. The 9 April explosion of a handmade bomb in al-Akar, a Shiite village in the east of the Kingdom, which injured seven policemen, crossed a significant threshold and could be followed by worse. Already, even before authorities could investigate, pro-government Sunni vigilante groups retaliated, vandalising two cars and a supermarket owned by a Shiite firm accused of supporting the February 2011 protests.

Amid these and other violent events – including the death of a young protester apparently shot from a civilian car – there are two potential time bombs. The first concerns Bahrain’s scheduled hosting of a Formula 1 race on 22 April. On 8 April, the Coalition of the Youth of the February 14 Revolution, an umbrella for an array of opposition groups that commands the loyalty of Shiite neighbourhoods, warned that it would consider participants, sponsors and spectators as regime allies and declared that it would not accept blame for “any violent reaction” during the event. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has pledged to use the expected presence of foreign tourists and journalists to highlight human rights violations; the government’s 15 April arrest of human rights activists shows that it will try hard to prevent this.

Despite internal disagreements over the wisdom of proceeding with the Grand Prix, and amid repeated opposition calls to cancel, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the Formula 1 governing body, gave its definitive go-ahead on 13 April. The regime is trying to make the competition a symbol of national unity and is banking on it symbolising a return to stability. Instead it is underscoring deep divides and risks further inflaming the situation.

The second time bomb relates to the fate of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a well-known human rights activist. Charged with attempting to overthrow the regime due to his participation in last year’s demonstrations, he has been on a hunger strike since 8 February to protest his conviction and obtain his release. Despite a groundswell of support for his cause in Bahrain and around the world, the regime has not relented. His death likely would spark a serious intensification in anti-regime activism.

The only path out of the current crisis is a return to dialogue and negotiations over real political reforms, much as the Bassiouni Report suggested. The regime has shown little enthusiasm for talks – not least because its Sunni supporters oppose them, fearing that any accommodation of the opposition’s proposals could jeopardise their privileged status. Both of them insist that violence must end before dialogue can begin. The opposition argues in turn that the regime is unserious about resuming talks, let alone reforms; that it torpedoed secret negotiations held in February by leaking them to the public; and that it failed to follow up on demands put forward by the opposition a month later at the government’s request.

To break this stalemate and move forward, the government should fully implement the Bassiouni Report’s recommendations, releasing all political prisoners (including Alkhawaja) and holding senior officials accountable for excessive force and torture. It also must begin reforming the security forces, ensuring they fully reflect Bahrain’s make-up by integrating members of all communities. For its part, the opposition should abjure violence more explicitly than in the past and declare its readiness to participate in a dialogue on reform without preconditions.

The alternative is a serious escalation in violence and the empowerment of hardliners on both sides. It is quite clear where such a process would begin. It is far less clear where it might end.

Crisis Group

Photo: Al Jazeera English/Flickr

6 Apr
World Politics Review: In Libya, Post-Conflict Phase Is More Construction Than Reconstruction
As clashes between rival Libyan militias continue, with a particularly violent battle erupting earlier this week, the fighting that has left hundreds dead or displaced threatens to divide the country.The violence also poses a problem for reconstruction efforts, in part because of its potential to undermine the country’s upcoming elections, currently scheduled for June 20."These clashes have complicated things in a number of ways. The biggest is that international workers and programs and organizations will have to assess what’s going on in Libya in terms of safety and operability before they send people out, and, for a country that so desperately needs so much from the international community, that does not help,"William Lawrence, North Africa Project director for the International Crisis Group, told Trend Lines. "The clashes point to political and social and other sorts of conflicts, and those conflicts need to be sorted out before you have any kind of effective reconstruction."Reconstruction, including reforming the public sector, industrializing the country and creating economic opportunities, is complicated not only by the country’s Arab Spring revolution and the clashes that followed, but also by a complex set of social, political and economic challenges. "This reconstruction will take years,” Lawrence said, “not because of the conflict, but because preconflict, Libya was a very dysfunctional regime." 
FULL ARTICLE (WPR)
Photo:B.R.Q/Flickr 

World Politics Review: In Libya, Post-Conflict Phase Is More Construction Than Reconstruction

As clashes between rival Libyan militias continue, with a particularly violent battle erupting earlier this week, the fighting that has left hundreds dead or displaced threatens to divide the country.

The violence also poses a problem for reconstruction efforts, in part because of its potential to undermine the country’s upcoming elections, currently scheduled for June 20.

"These clashes have complicated things in a number of ways. The biggest is that international workers and programs and organizations will have to assess what’s going on in Libya in terms of safety and operability before they send people out, and, for a country that so desperately needs so much from the international community, that does not help,"William Lawrence, North Africa Project director for the International Crisis Group, told Trend Lines. "The clashes point to political and social and other sorts of conflicts, and those conflicts need to be sorted out before you have any kind of effective reconstruction."

Reconstruction, including reforming the public sector, industrializing the country and creating economic opportunities, is complicated not only by the country’s Arab Spring revolution and the clashes that followed, but also by a complex set of social, political and economic challenges. 

"This reconstruction will take years,” Lawrence said, “not because of the conflict, but because preconflict, Libya was a very dysfunctional regime." 

FULL ARTICLE (WPR)

Photo:B.R.Q/Flickr 

4 Apr
World Politics Review: Misguided Criticisms Ignore Obama’s Real Errors on Iraq
Since at least 2003, Americans have overestimated our influence in Iraq. Although the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime paved the way for both a bloody civil war and a new form of government, the key actors in Iraq were and remain the Iraqi people themselves.Most recently, GOP critics of the Obama administration have been quick to fault the White House for withdrawing U.S. troops at the end of 2011. But the incessant, myopic focus of many Republicans on America’s military means is wrong-headed and ignores where the administration has actually fallen short in Iraq.The decision to go to war in Iraq was a poor one, and the subsequent management of the conflict was, for years, catastrophic. Nothing the Bush administration might have done in its second term could have compensated for the errors of the first. Nonetheless, the Bush administration demonstrated both competence and an admirable ability to learn from past mistakes in its handling of Iraq after the mid-term elections of 2006. Many factors contributed to the astounding drop in ethno-sectarian violence in 2007: the emergence of a decisive outcome in the civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs; the tribal “awakening” in Anbar province; the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi militia to stay on the sidelines for much of the year; the deployment of more U.S. troops as part of the surge; and finally the application of new counterinsurgency tactics. Many Republican analysts tend to ignore the Iraqi variables, while critics of the Bush administration and skeptics of counterinsurgency operations dismiss the U.S. variables. The smartest analysts, meanwhile, concede there may even be causal variables not yet identified. 
FULL ARTICLE (World Politics Review)
Photo: Carlosar/Flickr

World Politics Review: Misguided Criticisms Ignore Obama’s Real Errors on Iraq

Since at least 2003, Americans have overestimated our influence in Iraq. Although the U.S. invasion and overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime paved the way for both a bloody civil war and a new form of government, the key actors in Iraq were and remain the Iraqi people themselves.

Most recently, GOP critics of the Obama administration have been quick to fault the White House for withdrawing U.S. troops at the end of 2011. But the incessant, myopic focus of many Republicans on America’s military means is wrong-headed and ignores where the administration has actually fallen short in Iraq.

The decision to go to war in Iraq was a poor one, and the subsequent management of the conflict was, for years, catastrophic. Nothing the Bush administration might have done in its second term could have compensated for the errors of the first. Nonetheless, the Bush administration demonstrated both competence and an admirable ability to learn from past mistakes in its handling of Iraq after the mid-term elections of 2006. 

Many factors contributed to the astounding drop in ethno-sectarian violence in 2007: the emergence of a decisive outcome in the civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs; the tribal “awakening” in Anbar province; the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi militia to stay on the sidelines for much of the year; the deployment of more U.S. troops as part of the surge; and finally the application of new counterinsurgency tactics. Many Republican analysts tend to ignore the Iraqi variables, while critics of the Bush administration and skeptics of counterinsurgency operations dismiss the U.S. variables. The smartest analysts, meanwhile, concede there may even be causal variables not yet identified. 

FULL ARTICLE (World Politics Review)

Photo: Carlosar/Flickr

2 Apr

In a 23-page report published this week, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote that leaders in Osh and other cities in the south of the former Soviet state have been pursuing anti-Uzbek policies which have disenfranchised and frustrated the large Uzbek community.

“While Uzbeks are far from embracing violence and have no acknowledged leaders, their conversations are turning to retribution, or failing that a final lashing out at their perceived oppressors,” ICG wrote.

The report will make tough reading for Almazbek Atambayev, the Kyrgyz president, who won an election in October by campaigning on national unity.

But the reality is that the central government’s power diminishes in the south, which is emotionally and physically detached from the north.


FULL ARTICLE (The Telegraph)

In a 23-page report published this week, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote that leaders in Osh and other cities in the south of the former Soviet state have been pursuing anti-Uzbek policies which have disenfranchised and frustrated the large Uzbek community.

“While Uzbeks are far from embracing violence and have no acknowledged leaders, their conversations are turning to retribution, or failing that a final lashing out at their perceived oppressors,” ICG wrote.

The report will make tough reading for Almazbek Atambayev, the Kyrgyz president, who won an election in October by campaigning on national unity.

But the reality is that the central government’s power diminishes in the south, which is emotionally and physically detached from the north.

21 Mar
Alawites trapped in existential struggle | Financial Times
By Roula Khalaf
Fadwa Suleiman is held up as a hero of the Syrian revolution, partly because she is a famous young actress playing the role of her life. 
FULL ARTICLE (The Financial Times) 
Photo: Sgt. H. H. Deffner/ Wikimedia Commons

Alawites trapped in existential struggle | Financial Times

By Roula Khalaf

Fadwa Suleiman is held up as a hero of the Syrian revolution, partly because she is a famous young actress playing the role of her life. 

FULL ARTICLE (The Financial Times) 

Photo: Sgt. H. H. Deffner/ Wikimedia Commons