• Interpol

    Missing Teens

    Poster Girls for Jihad

    Two young teenagers who disappeared from Vienna 10 days ago may have joined the Syrian jihad—or they may have been groomed and trafficked.

    They may or may not have gone to fight in Syria. They may or may not have married jihadis there. They may or may not be carrying guns in Facebook pictures, and in the later ones they may or may not be the women staring at the camera through slits in the full-face veil called a niqab. But there’s no doubt at all that the teenagers Sabina Selimovic, 15, and Samra Kesinovic, 16, from Vienna are now the poster girls for holy war against the Assad regime in Damascus. Some headlines are calling them “pin-ups.”

    The sexual politics of jihadist movements can be so twisted, Western headlines so salacious, and Photoshop so deceptive that the whole thing needs to be viewed with a heavy degree of skepticism. And that’s even if the young women in question were sincere about their cause and not out to deceive their parents for other reasons. There are also suspicions they were “groomed” on the Internet to be kidnapped and trafficked.

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  • Thomas Koehler/Photothek, via Getty

    Move over Mia

    Syria’s Refugee Soccer Starlets

    At the Zaatari refguee camp, where families try to piece their lives together after fleeing Syria’s civil war, a group of young women are showing that soccer may be the key to bridging violent divides.

    Life for most Syrian children is a pale, unhappy imitation of their pre-civil war existence.

    Where once they went to school and played with their friends, now they must grapple with government barrel bombs and infighting among religious extremists.

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  • Lucas Oleniuk/Getty

    Inspirations

    The Mom Who Saved Syria’s Jews

    Decades ago, Judy Feld Carr started smuggling members of Syria’s minority Jewish community out of the country. She speaks about her work saving people from slaughter under Assad.

    In Syria's three-year war, which is becoming more sectarian by the day, much has been made of the fate of the country's minorities. Christians, Druze and Kurds in the country have enjoyed more column inches dedicated to their plight over the last three years than ever before. But one Syrian minority is almost never spoken of—the Syrian Jews.

    “If they were there now, what would have happened? I know what would have happened. It would have been the slaughter of the Syrian Jewish community, that is for sure," says Judy Feld Carr matter-of-factly. Delving into why this slaughter never happened uncovers a story of spy-craft, subterfuge and tightly-kept secrets.

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  • As the Syrian uprising degenerated into bloody civil war with no obvious endpoint, Essa realized that longer-term, sustainable solutions would be required to help provide a livelihood for her compatriots. (Nadeem Khawar/Getty)

    Entrepreneurs

    Syria's Sewing Circles

    Displaced by war, a group of Syrian refugees have created an innovative work collective to harness their sewing skills and create much-needed jobs.

    Marwa Sayd Essa has big plans for the sewing workshop she co-founded and single-handedly manages. It already employs almost 90 displaced Syrian women—indirectly supporting as many families—and ships goods across the globe, but for her this is only a start. In the coming months and years, she intends to provide work for many, many more of Syria’s involuntary expatriates.

    It is not a career path that Essa could have predicted. She studied architecture and engineering at university in Syria, but fled to Turkey to escape the violence.

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  • Ali Hashisho/Reuters

    “HELL BEYOND HELL”

    Report: Syrian Snipers Targeting Pregnant Women

    Could be a “game” between snipers.

    Syrian gunmen are reportedly targeting pregnant women and their unborn fetuses in what some suspect could be a competitive “game” between snipers, according to the British volunteer organization Syria Relief. One widely circulating X-ray image shows a bullet lodged in a fetus’ head after the mother was shot through the uterus. British surgeon David Nott, who recently returned from a five-week volunteer stint in a Syrian hospital, told CNN that doctors would see trends of injuries that suggested a competition between snipers. “For example, one day, we received say 15, 16 gunshot wounds and of that eight to nine were targeted in the left groin only,” he said. “Then the following day they were targeted in the right groin only. So it seemed to me like there was some of thing going on—a game going on—between the snipers.”

    Read it at CNN
  • Journalist Marie Colvin in Feb. 2012. (Sunday Times/AP)

    War Correspondent

    Honoring Marie Colvin

    Reporter Paul Conroy was beside the intrepid war correspondent when she was killed inside the Syrian city of Homs. In a new memoir, he recalls Marie’s final days—and their first meeting, years earlier, on Syria’s Iraqi border.

    March 18, 2003, Qamishli, Syria

    The boat seemed ridiculously out of place in the tiny hotel room. I looked at the four large truck inner tubes lying on the floor, lashed together with bits of rope and wood. I'd even added luggage straps for my camera kit (gear). Now, after days spent slaving over it, my home-made raft was finally ready to be deflated and transported to its launch site—the west bank of Syria's Tigris river. The boat's mission: a one-way voyage from Syria to northern Iraq. I stared out of the window of the shabby hotel room and absorbed the empty vista—desert, miles of unbroken desert. I looked back at the boat. It seemed more incongruous than ever.

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  • Debra McClinton/Getty

    Fact v. Fiction

    Syria's 'Sex Jihad'

    A Tunisian official says young women are returning home pregnant after serving as concubines to Syrian jihadis. Vivian Salama investigates the controversial claim.

    Syrian activists say there are virtually no grounds for claims that foreign women are traveling to their country to participate in a so-called “sex jihad,” following comments by a Tunisian official that women were returning home from Syria pregnant.

    Tunisia’s Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou remarked in an address to the National Constituent Assembly last week that women were traveling to Syria “in the name of sexual jihad,” adding that they are allegedly “swapped between 20, 30 and 100 rebels, and they come back bearing the fruit” of those contacts.

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  • A Kurdish female fighter observes the movement of Syrian government forces in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 14, 2013. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty)

    Fierce

    Syria’s Sisters of War

    As the battle for Aleppo drags on, Kurdish Syrian women are distinguishing themselves as fierce warriors on the front lines. Emma Beals reports.

    Cracks of sniper fire and the thud of artillery echo around the deserted neighborhood. Dressed in a bright purple top, tight jeans, and a bohemian headband, Delar, a young Kurdish Syrian woman, brandishes her AK-47 like a seasoned soldier, clipping in the magazine and taking aim.

    At the heart of the embattled Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in Aleppo in northern Syria, Delar, 22, is an unusual sight on the front lines—a woman fighting alongside the men against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

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  • Egyptians pray during a funeral at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times, via Redux)

    ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’

    The True Muslim Revolutionaries

    Karima Bennoune conducted hundreds of interviews to tell the stories of nonviolent revolutionaries who are fighting against extremists.

    Although we are learning that child refugees from the Syrian civil war now number more than a million, and that Western allies are considering an intervention within days, we have been more possessed by Batfleck and Miley Cyrus. Our sensitivities have progressively dulled during nearly three years of the Arab Spring. We know what to expect from that part of the world: bombs will be detonated, governments will remain unstable, and people will be massacred. Some of us are convinced that “the Muslim world” is an unruly and dangerous place ruled by dictators and theocrats, whose people are today protesting in the streets for democracy but will tomorrow vote for the institution of Sharia.

    But what if the screen we are watching is projecting scrambled signals and we are able to discern only fragments of the whole picture? And what if the parts we cannot see contradict the ones we do? Is it possible to characterize accurately a group numbering 1.6 billion, who live in nearly every country around the world and are a majority in 49, and who make up almost a quarter of the world’s population?

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  • Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty

    War

    The Millionth Child

    On Friday, the number of Syrian child refugees hit 1 million. With hundreds of thousands out of school, traumatized by violence, and seeing little hope of a quick return home, what will happen to Syria’s Lost Generation?

    Andrew Harper still thinks of the children he’s helped across the dusty border between Syria and Jordan. He fondly remembers a three-year-old boy in light-up sneakers fleeing to a less visible spot as gunfire erupted over their heads. “For god’s sake, your mother chose those shoes for you to move across the border?” Harper thought, picking him up.

    There was also a teenage girl with a paralyzed foot on crutches who walked at least 4.5 miles over the border, carrying all her possessions on her neck; the eight-year-old who was in the same pajamas she’d been wearing since her house was destroyed a week earlier; and the smiling toddler who’d been shot in the back and had a broken spine. “What is her life going to be in the future?” wonders Harper, the United Nations' Refugee Agency's representative in Jordan. “A girl has a tough time in the Middle East as is, but a girl who’s paralyzed as a refugee...” He trails off.

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  • A general view shows a Syrian refugee camp in the village of Saadnayel in the Bekaa valley on March 6, 2013. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty)

    Desperation

    Syria’s Women Face Violence, ‘Survival Sex’ Abroad

    Fleeing the civil war in their home country, Syria’s female refugees are being exploited and harassed for sex by aid workers and strangers alike. Jamie Dettmer reports from Lebanon.

    They have escaped one war only to find themselves as casualties and combatants in another—a conflict waged against them less publicly and not with bullets or missiles. The weapons employed are sexual harassment and abuse, domestic violence, and the exploitation by the unscrupulous of economic distress, forcing some to agree to prostitution, others to sell off teenage daughters as child brides.

    For many Syrian women who have sought sanctuary in neighboring Lebanon from a civil war that has left an estimated 100,000 dead since the conflict started in March 2011, their refuge is laden with new menace and suffering—compounding their grief over the deaths of family or friends or their depression at the loss of homes. Even within their families there’s sometimes no safety, with jobless husbands frustrated with the stress and indignity of living as refugees lashing out, beating wives and hitting kids.

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  • Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

    Middle East

    Syria’s Looming Hunger Crisis

    Chicago-born Ertharin Cousin is the woman responsible for getting food aid to Syria as head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. She talks to Jamie Dettmer about her increasingly daunting task.

    The civil war in Syria—now dragging into its third year—has created a humanitarian crisis of nightmarish proportions. Yet the woman in charge of getting food rations inside the beleaguered country remains, improbably, optimistic. It’s one of Ertharin Cousin’s most winning qualities, and the one cited by Hillary Clinton when the former U.S. secretary of State pressed the United Nations to appoint Cousin to lead its World Food Program (WFP) last year.

    While Cousin says her initiation as head of the world’s largest hunger-aid organization wasn’t exactly baptism by fire, she admits that confronting the largest refugee crisis in the history of the Middle East certainly tested her skills. Now, she’s facing a new challenge: Persuading cash-strapped Western donors to keep giving money to feed the burgeoning number of Syrians displaced by the violence.

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  • A Syrian woman looks through a bus window in the northern city of Aleppo on February 14, 2013. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty)

    Journalism

    Syria's New Martha Gellhorns

    Against all odds, female reporters have been leading the coverage of Syria's brutal civil war. Patrick Hilsman and Emma Beals report.

    Still audible through the increasingly sectarian cacophony of Syria’s ongoing civil war, a small but influential group of Syrian and foreign women are telling the stories of the country’s destruction in unique and meaningful ways. Present in all aspects of the conflict, women are penning the history of Syria.

    From the very beginnings of the initial and peaceful opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist regime, Syrian women have played a powerful role. Samar Yazbek, a female Syrian writer and journalist—herself an Alawite, a member of a religious group traditionally associated with the regime—was among the women who initiated oppositional activism. Women, she says, were among the first who went out and protested: “They organized these protests, formed coordinations and organizational bodies.”

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