November 28, 2013 olof Jarlbro

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Stuck in a lawless no man’s land

The photographer Niclas Hammarstrom and journalist Magnus Falkehed is abducted in Syria. Helsingborg photographer Olof Jarlbro who earlier this year (in HD) reported from Aleppo writes here about war correspondents difficult situation in the country.

My first thought goes to the journalists’ families. Uncertainty and lack of information means that the families are suffering every imaginable torment. It doesn’t surprises me that the Swedes were kidnapped. The borders are worst because there are newly arrived fundamentalists and their moral compass is appalling distorted.

I’m currently working on a book project about Syrian refugees in Bulgaria. Since Bulgaria is EU’s poorest country it’s economically hard for them to deal with the thousands arriving Syrians who crossed Turkey.

I regularly visit refugee camps that mostly are located in the post-Soviet buildings where neither drains or heat works. The worst thing is to see young children with “post- dramatic stress disorder ” from the war.

Although doctors regularly visit these camps, they write prescriptions for medications that refugees do not have the money to buy.  Refugees receive 1 euro a day in Bulgaria. Obviously it is not enough even for the most necessary.

Their stories are all unique but all share a common factor, namely the story of the fundamentalist group Jabhat al- Nusras spread in Syria who has the population in fear by their horrifying murders and kidnappings. Many refugees are Kurds fleeing al- Nusrars threat to kill all Kurdish men. Some have managed to escape with his entire family while others still have relatives in Syria, which they have not had contact with for months.

In these camps are also some deserted Assad soldiers who tell me they did not want to kill women and children, I also meet FSA soldiers and all say they are fleeing al- Nusra.

Just over a year ago, Bashar Assad, was the big villain who both bombed and shot at civilians, but currently al- Nusra stands for even more violence and evil than the regime.

The rebel movement FSA , which I followed in my book“Syria – The War Within”, was previously a positive force in Syria. Now the movement is destitute and living from criminal activities like several other groupings in the country. But rather a criminal group that kidnapped the Swedes than Jabhat al- Nusra .

Even a year ago, when I visited Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, was kidnapping a huge risk that was hanging over our# heads, another stress factor on top of the constant bombings, snipers and every other hell we encountered. A visit I made to a bakery ended with a rebel pulled out a sprinter of his grenade and was prepared to blown him self up to take with me and my colleagues because he did not want us to photograph bakery.

I did not think much of the incident then because there was much that happened all the time with bombs, gunfire and other things. But months after, I’ve thought about that particular incident and what dark hole of evil and despair country Syria has become. Colleagues who I shared a room with, talked all the time about the kidnapping and react before it’s too late – which is an impossibility.

In recent months, Syria has gone from being a hell for journalists to Russian roulette – but with five bullets in the chamber.

My so-called ” fixer ” was kidnapped a few months ago and journalist he helped was executed by Jabhat al- Nusra.

My American colleague got a concrete death threats by al- Nusra and escaped out of the country just barely.

Another local journalist I knew was killed a few months ago.

All the journalists who have been in Syria know someone who’s been abducted or killed. It’s gone so far now that some journalists have begun to bear arms.

Would it now be a criminal group that has kidnapped the Swede’s so fast action is important so our Swedish colleagues do not end up in the hands of the fundamentalists.

In a war-torn country like Syria you have to think ” Out of the Box ” if you want to free, Niclas and Magnus. Quiet diplomacy might work between states but not in a lawless no man’s land.

Olof Jarlbro

 

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