For The Middle East Eye: ISTANBUL – Turkmens’ role in Syria war dates back to start of uprising but has come to prominence since Russia began bombing campaign. At the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, thousands of Turkmen – long repressed under the governments of both Hafez and Bashar al-Assad – joined the Free Syrian Army, forming more than 10 brigades in northern Syria. Almost five years later they have withstood assaults by the Syrian army, have fled the horrors the Islamic State group,…Continue Reading “Turkmen caught between IS, Assad and Russian intervention”

Kyrgyzstan and the Islamists

For The Diplomat: While detained in a Kyrgyzstan prison cell, our reporter speaks with some former ISIS members. On October 7, a judge in southern Kyrgyzstan sentenced one of the country’s most prominent imams, Rashat Kamalov, to five years in prison for “inciting religious hatred” and “possessing extremist materials” – part of what prosecutors say was a scheme for sending recruits to Syria to join the Islamic State. Officials with the State Committee on National Security (GKNB), the successor to the KGB in Kyrgyzstan, say…Continue Reading “Kyrgyzstan and the Islamists”

Leaving ISIS

For The Boston Review: -Sanliurfa, Turkey: This time, Hammad did not expect to escape alive. He knelt on the side of a desert highway leading from Raqqa to Aleppo, fingers intertwined behind his head, where an ISIS fighter pointed a machine gun. “They told me I had committed a crime against Islam, against God,” he recalled of the five men who abducted him. We talked in Sanliurfa, Turkey, about fifty kilometers north of the Syrian border. A thin, wiry twenty-two-year-old with a penchant for chain…Continue Reading “Leaving ISIS”

For The Huffington Post With Michael Kaplan: This February, we conducted a series of interviews in southern Turkey with those who have fled ISIS rule in Syria. In the city of Sanliurfa, we met rebel fighters, Islamic judges, and scholars, among them, Ahmed Saleh, a prominent imam from the Syrian city of Deir Ezzour. Saleh fled the city in June, 2014, a month before ISIS eliminated all rival groups and took control. Rebels spoke to us about how ISIS fought them instead of the regime….Continue Reading “Why Syria’s Devout Oppose ISIS, as Told by a Cleric That Fled Their Rule”

For Truth-out: Gaziantep and Suruc, Turkey – A dozen men huddle around a campfire in the Turkish village of Ma’sariya, 700 meters north of the Syrian border. They are a fraction of more than 120,000 Kurds who have fled an attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Kobani, the strategic town just across the border in Syria. It’s too cloudy to see the US jets flying above, but they make plenty of noise. Applause breaks out at the sound of explosions…Continue Reading “How the US Intervention Against the Islamic State Has Alienated Syria’s Sunni Arab Opposition”