Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon (August 2014). Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey
Cut off from the rest of Lebanon and accessible by just one road is Arsal, the battle front with ISIS of which you’ve probably never heard.
Largely abandoned by the Lebanese state, the north eastern town on the border with Syria has had to absorb, at a low estimate, over 80,000 Syrian refugees into its population of just 35,000.
At the height of its security problems, when all other aid groups had pulled out over safety fears, it was a small, volunteer-run Scottish charity, Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) that was first on the scene.
To understand Aamer’s journey you have to consider what he left behind.
After he told me his story of how he went from Homs to Edinburgh I decided to ask his opinion on some of the wider issues surrounding the exodus from his country.
I had argued in a previous post that I found the UK parliament’s decision to bomb ISIS in Syria nonsensical, especially given that the vast amount of causalities in Syria have been caused by the regime.
Aamer had joined the Syrian Revolution from its birth, when it was a protest of a people against their government and not the quagmire that exists today.
The UK is going to war again. When is it ever not at war?
The House of Commons voted 397-223 to join France, Russia, the US, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar (and Assad) in bombing Syria tonight.
The result was expected. The margin less so.
It is a tale all too familiar in our recent foreign policy ventures in the Middle East.
“Tell me mabruk (congratulations),” she said. “My husband is a hero.” – Basima Atat (Photo courtesy of Kareem Shaheen)
Basima was in love with Adel for five years, engaged for another five, and married for seven. She lost her husband and their six year old daughter lost her father when he tackled an ISIS suicide bomber to the ground.
Front page of The National 17/11/15
This was the front page of yesterday’s newspaper. Welcoming the first round of Syrian refugees being brought to Scotland from the camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
By Christmas, around 400 Syrians will be settling into their lives here. Yesterday the first 100 arrived to the rain, the cold and a, by and large, warm reception.
Yet the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon had to stand up in the Scottish Parliament and reassure the Scottish people that those coming had been vetted twice. Once by the UN, then again by the Home Office.
Marwa is from Aleppo in Syria.
The country’s largest city, and one that has suffered greatly in power struggles between the regime and rebel forces. At the time of writing the sole supply route to the regime-held areas of the city has been cut off by an ISIS advance, leaving hundreds of thousands stranded with the price of basic goods sky rocketing.