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Long Delays at Checkpoints for Refuge...
Karbala, Iraq
By mushtaq mohammed
20 Apr 2015

Some one hundred families have been stuck in the desert, waiting for hours at checkpoints manned by Iraqi government forces, as they attempt to flee their homes in Anbar and Salahuddine towards the predominantly Shiite province of Karbala.

ISIS militants launched an offensive on Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, in mid-April 2015, and were able to seize at least three villages.


Various of refugees in the outdoors

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Shamia Ibrahim, Refugee from Ramadi
00:47 – 01:42

“We were displaced from Ramadi by the indiscriminate bombing and airstrikes. We came to Karbala so that people would take care of us and help us. We have suffered. Q: Why did you come to Karbala?
A: We came looking for safety. We want to find a place where we can settle down with our children.
Q: Why are waiting in the desert?
A: We are waiting… we came to Karbala because we want them to consider our situation. We need you to help us. Helps and take our situation into consideration. You can see our situation.
Q: What do you think about the security measures? Are they good? Are they strict?
A: They are very good. They helped and let us in and treated us very well from the start. They have been good to us.
Q: What is your name?
A: Shamia Ibrahim.”

Close-up of registration plate from Baghdad
Various of refugees
Close-up of registration plate from Anbar
Medium of refugees eating
Various of security personnel searching vehicles

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu Fouad, Refugee from Ramadi
02:44 – 03:24

“You do not feel safe at home. Bombs are falling and there are militiamen. A gas canister costs 40,000 dinars. A liter of gasoline costs 2,000 dinars. A kilogram of tomatoes costs 3,000 dinars. There is no work. We stayed on the road for two days. We were held at each checkpoint for four to five hours. Guards repeat the same procedures at each checkpoint, even though the distance is only 30 km. The procedures are very tough. We have been on the road since the morning and we have not reached Karbala.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman), Um Mohamad, A refugee from Tikrit
03:31 – 04:26

“Q: Where do you come from? A: I have come from Tikrit.
Q: From Tikrit?
A: Yes from Tikrit.
Q: Why did you come to Karbala?
A: We have been displaced. Our homes were bombed. We do not have any houses left. When can we go?
Q: Honestly, what do you think about the way you have been received in Karbala?
A: Thanks be to God, it is good.
Q: Why do you mean by ‘good’? Were you allowed in?
A: The checkpoint let us through, but they are searching us.
A: Let them search. We do not have anything [to hide].
Q: At the end, will they let you in?
A: I do not know. But why would they not let us? We do not carrying anything [threatening].
Q: Who did you exactly run away from? ISIS? The Iraqi army? The Popular Mobilization?
A: I do not know. Everyone fled and we fled with them.
Q: Why did they flee?
A: I do not know. People were scared.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Amjad Ali Talab, Refugee from Anbar
04:27 – 05:56

“From Anbar. We came to flee the suffering due to the bombing by mortars and artillery. We came by car. The checkpoints searched and helped us. They conducted their duties properly and did everything they should. We came to Karbala looking for safety and a place to settle in.”

Close-up of food leftovers
Various of refugees

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Iraqis Flee ISIS Attack on Ramadi and...
By mushtaq mohammed
15 Apr 2015

Dozens of Anbar province residents have fled their homes and headed to the Shiite-majority province of Karbala.

People interviewed at checkpoints said that they left their homes in fear of an onslaught by ISIS. They added that they feel safe to be in Karbala.
Anbar is a predominantly Sunni area.

Iraqi government forces have started to dig a trench to isolate desert areas of Karbala from Anbar and Babel provinces. Coverage of this story can be found here:


SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Ali Taleb Abbas al-Jumaili, Displaced person heading to Karbala.
00:00 – 01:30

“I am from Anbar province, al-Karma district. I will go to Baghdad or any other place. Ramadi has been bombed and ISIS has done so much and killed people. There are no safe areas left in Anbar. Interviewer: You are Sunni. Are you not scared of going to a Shiite area?
Why would I be scared? They are our families. My clan is located in Karbala, Hilla, Mahmoudiya.
Interviewer: What do you think about the security measures?
The measures are very good. They are treating us very well. People have been inviting me to stay with them.
Interviewer: What is your name?
Ali Taleb Abbas al-Jumaili."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Um Eyad, Displaced person heading to Karbala
00:46 – 04:31

“Interviewer: Are you from Fallujah? Yes, Fallujah.
Interviewer: Why did you leave your house and come to Karbala?
We fled the bombing. Rockets have wrecked our homes. We left because we were scared.
Interviewer: How was the road?
It was rough.
Interviewer: Did you all leave your homes?
Yes, we left our homes. God is witness. Houses have been destroyed. We fled because we were scared. We took the families and went away.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Unnamed displaced person heading to Karbala
04:32 – 05:26

“I am from Karma. Interviewer: In Fallujah?
Interviewer: Why did you leave your homes?
We left because of the situation. We brought the families and came here.
Interviewer: Was the bombing carried out by ISIS? The Iraqi forces?
We fled ISIS.
Interviewer: Did you feel threatened?
Yes, we did.
We were besieged. We were scared of ISIS and the bombing.
Interviewer: How the people of Karbala, the police and the army receive you?
Thanks be to God, they have done everything they should have.
Interviewer: Why are you sitting here?
We are waiting for the car search to be over. "

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ISIS Checkpoints in Libyan Port
Derna, Libya
By TTM Mena Desk
15 Mar 2015

Fighters affiliated to ISIS have set up checkpoints on Sunday 15 March both within and at the entrances of the eastern Libyan port of Derna. According to eyewitnesses, each checkpoint is manned by 10-15 fighters equipped with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades, as well as 4x4 vehicles with mounted anti-aircraft machine guns. Different groups of fighters take shifts in guarding the checkpoints for specific periods of time. The head of the sentries is equipped with a walkie-talkie. The fighters confiscate any liquor and tobacco they find and destroy it on the spot. People deemed guilty of violating Islamic law are taken to the offices of the Islamic police inside the city. When aircraft are spotted flying overhead the fighters disperse, fearing their checkpoints might be targeted.

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Swedish Journalist Reflects on His De...
Al Qamishli
By Bedir
22 Feb 2015

Qamishli, Syria

February 22, 2015

Swedish journalist Joakim Medin talks about his four-day detention in a Syrian government prison in the vicinity of Qamishli, a town in Kurdish Syria he was covering as a freelancer. Arrested at a government checkpoint when he failed to produce a visa, he explains that very few journalists travel to Syria with the necessary legal documentation. Despite the relatively harsh conditions of his confinement - his cell was cold, dark and dirty - Medin says he was treated much better than other prisoners. He finishes by stressing the broader context of the battle of ideas - in addition to the brutal physical struggle - that is still being waged for the future Syria and Iraq - the right of people to live and work their land; the right of religious minorities to practice their faith. This is why journalists must continue to cover these areas in person, even if at times that means doing so without a visa.


SOUNDBITE (English, Man) Joakim Medin, Swedish Reporter Detained by Syrian Government Forces

“We were walking down the street down in central Qamishli, on the 15th of February. On this day a lot of people stay away from, from their jobs and closed down their shops and so on, because it was a special memorial day, because of the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan on the same day in 1999. There was not so much people and movement, but this same day soldiers of the Syrian government also, for some reason put up a temporary roadblock or checkpoint just outside the government post office of Qamishli. They were stopping cars and checking people. When we passed this checkpoint on the sidewalk, they immediately arrested us and… and in a prisoners’ car and drove us to the local police station nearby. They accused me of not having a visa, a Syrian visa despite being there. “They put us in prison and I was told that they had to investigate this thing out. I explained that yes, this is correct I did not have a visa because this is the way journalists get into this area; an area of Syria that’s been heavily transformed and affected by the war with Daesh [ISIS] erasing the borders. So of course I didn’t have a visa unfortunately. I was told that in a matter of hours – one hour, five hours, ten hours – this matter would be resolved. “You have to stay in prison for this period of time.” However, these hours turned into days.

“I was treated much differently and better than the other inmates – the other prisoners – they accused the others of being sympathisers with Daesh. They were treated well at all. The situation with them was really bad. But I was locked in a tiny isolation cell. I was isolated from the other prisoners. There was no light, no access to fresh water. It was dirty and I had to sleep on the concrete floor. It was difficult. It was very different from the conditions of prisons in my country. Still, I was better treated. I was not seen as the other prisoners. I could go… I had access to the toilet. After four days, things suddenly changed. They drove an ambulance to the front of the building and we had to get in…”
Interviewer: “Why did they use an ambulance and not a normal car?”
“To get to the airport and not to be seen… I don’t know. We were handcuffed and blindfolded and they drove to the airport where we took a plane to Damascus under other identities. We did not fly under our real name but under false names. I was a 25-year-old man from Spain. Then we came to Damascus and I was imprisoned in the center of one the branches of Syrian intelligence.”

Interviewer: “And what about the situation in Damascus?”
“In Damascus the situation was sometimes similar. For example, there were also very small cells. [I was] locked in isolation. I wasn’t able to speak to anyone. I had access to nothing, no possessions.” Interviewer: “Did you see any ambassador as they promised you?”
“No, there was no ambassador. When I asked there was no response, really.” Interviewer: “What was the kind of questions?”
“Soon the interrogation…. It was about the cells… We were blindfolded and taken to different rooms where there people asking questions or reading information from a laptop for example. The questions were about why I came. The questions were targeting mainly why I came to Syria without a visa, and I explained to them that this was the only way I thought [I could] this area to be able to report. There were three subjects that I was here to report about: the situation of women, the situation of Christians, and the Kurds and the Yezidis fighting Daseh six months after the massacre in Shingal. “But soon these questions turned into more focus on whether I had some sort of assistance from Turkey and Israel to enter Syria. I explained that this was not the case. I was helped by these foreign countries.” Interviewer: “Have you been threatened in prison, that they will kill you?”
“No, but I felt unconformable. The days kept going and there was no information about… if my embassy was contacted, or if I can contact my family. They specifically said: “No, you cannot contact your family.”
Interviewer: And then what happened?
“Well, until yesterday at lunchtime, still… at least I thought it was very uncertain about what will happen. Still, there was no information. Still, a lot of questions, especially about Israel. Still kept in cells… and suddenly in the afternoon something happened. We were again told that we will fly away from Damascus using, again, false identities. We had to repeat these names over and over. We were told that will go back to Qamishli to be imprisoned there. That afternoon we were blindfolded again and driven in some sort of van with black windows to the airport, where we took a [civilian] plane again and came back to Qamishli. “First we were taken to the same regime prison in Qamishli, and the treatment somehow changed. They were acting different, more hospitable in a way. It was obvious that something had happened. They were very nice and polite. Interviewer: “In your opinion, what happened?”
“Well, we found out a bit later when we were taken to different offices to meet with a lot of people [whose] names we didn’t get, really. I don’t remember them. Suddenly we came to an office where the flag on the wall changed from the Syrian one [to that] of the YPG. That’s when at least I suddenly realized, “Ah! Suddenly we’re safe.” Just like this. Up until the last minute, I had no idea what was going to happen at all. I had no assurance at all about what was happening. “So we were told… we met with Redor Khalil, the spokesperson of the YPG, who told us that the Kurdish forces and the Kurdish administration in the region have been deploying forces and putting pressure on the Syrian government basically from the very beginning to let us go, and when this diplomacy – if you can call it [as such] – failed because of continued misinformation, I guess, then one or several high-ranking officers in the Syrian army – Syrian government army – were arrested by the YPG. Then there was a question of exchanging prisoners. And also, there was the threat of how the YPG would eventually intervene against the government-controlled airport outside Qamishli and basically stop all traffic unless we got released. This pressure eventually… well we got taken back from Damascus to Qamishli, which is not a normal process to happen this fast. And we got released.

“I and many others still think that this is something… what’s happening here with the… the social situation changes in Syria… the fight against Daesh, the fight to make people stay on their own land, in their own homes, the fight for minorities to stay in their own homes and not be ethnically cleansed by Daesh, the fight for many ideas and things and the war on that… I mean if we want anyone in the world to know about this, any people, we must be able to go. Sometimes it means that you come without a visa, unfortunately. “This is one of the few areas in Syria where we see social mobilization to protect the society in… in… it could stay the way it is not to make it collapse, but at the same time transform it into something better in the meantime. So I think if we want to see the region to be safe to report from and inside, and also see maybe an example of what Syria can like with stability, then this is one of these regions. I think it’s very important to keep coming here to report for the sake of all of Syria.”

Various of Joachim Medin with Sabri Omar, the interpreter who was arrested with him

Various of Joachim Medin indoors

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Presidential Palace in Yemen Abandone...
By Dhaifallah Homran
21 Feb 2015

February 21, 2015
Sanaa, Yemen

Video shows Houthi takeover of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's residential compound after he disguised himself to escape Sanaa and fly to his hometown of Aden in the south. Hadi had been under weeks of house arrest by the Shiite Houthi militia, who allegedly looted his property soon after his departure. The UN denies having assisted him in returning to Aden, a port city south of Sanaa and the country's fourth largest.

Video shows the presidential palace's abandoned gates and Houthi convoys patrolling the perimeter.

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FSA Liberates Checkpoints in Maarat A...
Maarat Al-Noaman , Idlib, Syria
By TTM Contributor 10
08 Jul 2014

Units of the FSA and the opposition have announced their desire to liberate checkpoints in Idlib. A wide variety of artillery was used in the battle over the checkpoints, including anti-tank missiles, tanks, and canons. The rebels raided al-Tarraf checkpoint and liberated it from government control after destroying two tanks and capturing another, along with a large amount of munitions. The fighters also destroyed tanks in al-Dahman and al-Madajen, and killed and injured dozens of government fighters. Meanwhile, the town of Kfaroumah and the surrounding area has been bombarded by government airstrikes leaving eight rebels dead and many more injured.