On Thursday, U.S. warplanes struck targets in the Abu Kamal region of Syria, a zone on the country’s eastern border that is heavily used by Iranian-backed Shiite militias to smuggle weapons, exert strategic control, and carry out attacks against various foes in Syria, including the Islamic State. The airstrikes weren't as insignificant as critics say.
I wanted to understand the gangs that smuggle refugees into the U.K., so I infiltrated one. For months, I pretended to be an economic migrant from Pakistan stuck in France. In fact, I was working for a British broadcaster keen to understand how gangs managed to move refugees and migrants across the sea from Calais to Dover.
On August 21, 2013 the Syrian regime launched the biggest chemical attack of the 21st century. It was a seismic event whose repercussions are still being felt. This is an account of what happened that day and how the decisions made in its aftermath sealed Syria’s fate.
In an increasingly inhospitable Lebanon, Syrian refugees are often told to “go back home.” Home, they say, is all they dream of in their harsh exile beset by winter and exploitation.
“What is the difference between a human and an animal?” Assad said. “Humans have feelings and animals have feelings. … Humans speak and parrots speak … animals have brains and they learn. … The difference between a human and an animal is just one thing that human beings have: creed.”
Western prison systems still struggle to incarcerate notorious jihadists or ideologues. One major case was that of Abu Qatada, dubbed “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man.”
Years later, after leaving the country and then returning as a journalist, I would ask fellow Syrians what they understood themselves to be. “What is Syria? Who is Syria?” I asked anyone who listened. “What does it mean to be a citizen of Syria?”