Rania Khalek

Genocide in Iraq: When Local Sunni Became ISIS and Slaughtered Their Neighbors

This is the third in a series of articles on the plight of Yazidis in Iraq. Read the first and the second installments.

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How ISIS Wives Helped Their Husbands Rape Yazidi Sex Slaves

DOHUK, IRAQI KURDISTAN - Seeham Haji Khudayda, a 22-year-old Yazidi woman from northern Sinjar, was sold seven times during her ISIS captivity. Like chattel, she was passed from one ISIS fighter to the next. She was raped almost daily. Sometimes she was gang raped by her owner’s guards. But of all the abuses she endured, what outraged her the most was the women who were complicit in it -- and who participated directly in her rape.

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In the Field With Yazidi Fighters, Tales of Genocide at ISIS's Hands and More Conflict to Come

SINJAR, IRAQ—On a Sunday afternoon in mid-August under the baking Iraqi sun, 980 Yazidi soldiers marched in formation at a military camp south of Sinjar mountain. Graduation music blared from loudspeakers as several dozen seated Yazidi elders applauded. After a month of training, the Yazidi soldiers were now official members of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), bringing the total number of Yazidis in the PMF to 1,350.

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How a Free Syrian Army Unit Uncovered the Rebels’ Israeli Connection and Switched Sides

QUNEITRA, SYRIA—Ahmad Kaboul has big shoes to fill. Earlier this summer, his childhood friend and commanding officer of the Golan Brigade, Majed Hamoud, was killed by Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate, which now goes by the name Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.

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How Some Western Feminists Betrayed Women in Syria, and Beyond, Ignoring Threat of US-Backed Islamist Rebels

Feminist author and scholar Valentine Moghadam participated in the Iranian revolution of 1979. But after the downfall of the Shah, she and her leftist comrades “were crushed immediately by the Islamists,” Moghadam told me. “That’s why so many of us are in exile and so many others were executed, tortured, arrested.”

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As the U.S. Backs Away From Syria’s Civil War, War-Weary Residents of Damascus Struggle to Survive

DAMASCUS, SYRIA—I was sitting at a bar in the Old City with off-duty Syrian soldiers when I learned that Donald Trump was officially ending the CIA’s covert support for the anti-government insurgents the Syrian army has spent the last six years fighting. I immediately told a group of patrons the news, but they didn’t believe it. “Trump is a liar,” they said.

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Ignored By Western Media, Syrians Describe the Nightmare the Armed Opposition Brought Them

Supporters of the Syrian opposition have relentlessly demanded that Western observers listen to “Syrian voices.” The idea is that by absorbing the testimonies of Syrians who have experienced the violence of the conflict first hand, Westerners will know how to best help them. Yet Western media consumers have scarcely heard from ordinary people who reside within the areas controlled by the government -- the areas where the vast majority of Syrians live. Indeed, the voices of Syrians like Areej, one of many people I spoke to inside Syria’s government-held areas for this report, present a testimony that is simply too inconvenient for Western media to consider.

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How U.S. Support for Syrian Rebels Drove the Refugee Crisis That Trump Has Capitalized On

President Donald Trump’s travel ban for seven Muslim-majority countries ignited an outpouring of protest and was ultimately shot down by the Ninth Circuit. But the fight is far from over. Trump plans to introduce a new travel ban, one that might actually stick. And he has a substantial base of support to rally for its ratification.

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In Syria, Western Media Cheer Al Qaeda

The Syrian government—a dictatorship known for imprisoning, torturing and disappearing dissidents—is easy to vilify. And over the last five years of Syria’s civil war, it has committed its share of atrocities. But there is more than one side to every story, and US media coverage has mainly reflected one side—that of the rebels—without regard for accuracy or basic context.

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British Govt-Funded Outlet Offered Journalist $17,000 a Month to Produce Propaganda for Syrian Rebels

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a major Syrian opposition media outfit and frequent source of information for Western media, is funded by the British government and is managed by Westerners operating out of Turkey, according to emails provided to AlterNet by a Middle East reporter RFS tried to recruit.

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Hillary Clinton Attacks Dead Palestinians in Battle Against Bernie Sanders

With the presidential race heating up ahead of the New York primary, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has joined right-wing proponents of Israeli violence in attacking Bernie Sanders for his criticism of Israel’s 2014 military assault on Gaza.

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Netanyahu’s Dreary and Menacing UN Speech Provokes Internet Mockery

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mean-spirited and angry address to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday was mostly as predictable as it was desperate and creepy.

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Israeli Arms Fuel Atrocities in Africa

Israeli weapons are fueling atrocities in South Sudan, according to a United Nations report that sheds new light on the secretive Israeli arms trade in Africa.

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6 Creepy New Weapons the Police and Military Use To Subdue Unarmed People

The U.S. is at the forefront of an international arms development effort that includes a remarkable assortment of technologies, which look and sound like they belong in a Hollywood science fiction thriller. From microwave energy blasters and blinding laser beams, to chemical agents and deafening sonic blasters, these weapons are at the cutting edge of crowd control. Recently, we've seen many of them deployed on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri and New York City to disperse those protesting police brutality.

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Why Is Public Education Being Outsourced to Online Charter Schools?

Virtual charter schools, which offer classes online instead of in a classroom, have become the fastest-growing segment of the charter school industry. And while data on their effectiveness is scarce, state legislators across the country are passing laws to expand cyber schools at the behest of privatization advocates and online education companies at an alarming rate, with little regulation. 

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Why You Can Be Branded a Terrorist for Fighting Animal Abuse

Five longtime activists are challenging a federal law that defines a wide spectrum of peaceful – and in some cases, otherwise lawful – animal rights activism as acts of terrorism. They say that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) violates their First Amendment right to free speech and has had a chilling effect on activists who are refraining from participating in what should be constitutionally protected activity out of fear of being labeled a terrorist.

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Why Are American Citizens Getting Locked Up and Even Deported By Immigration Authorities?


On November 5, 40-year-oldAntonio Montejanowas holiday shopping with his four children at a Los Angeles mall and unintentionally dropped a $10 bottle of cologne that his young daughter begged him to buy into a bag of items he had already purchased. Upon leaving the store, Montejano was stopped by security guards and arrestedfor shoplifting. He assumed the ordeal would end quickly since he had no prior criminal record. Instead he spent two nights in a Santa Monica, CA police station followed by another two nights in a Los Angeles county jail on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant.


Montejano pleaded with officers about his citizenship, presenting them with his driver’s license and other legal identification, but they wouldn't budge.“I told every officer I was in front of that I’m an American citizen, and they didn’t believe me,”MontejanotoldtheNew York Times. He believes his detention was a direct result of his ethnicity. “I look Mexican 100 percent,” he says.


Because of an “immigration detainer,” Montejano was denied bail and held even after a criminal court judge canceled his fine and ordered his release. He was finally freed on November 9, following intervention from the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a copy of his passport and birth certificate to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


This is the second time Montejano, who was born in Los Angeles, has been mistakenly targeted by immigration authorities. They failed to recognize his citizenship in 1996 as well, prompting his wrongful deportation to Mexico. The ACLU discovered that his records were never corrected, which explains why his arrest led to a positive match in the DHS database. 



Montejano's mistaken imprisonment comes on top of an explosion in immigration detentions and deportations in recent years, as well as federal immigration programs that rely on participation with local law enforcement. He is just oneof the hundreds of thousands of people, mostly undocumentedimmigrants, whose lives and families are torn apart each year by our dysfunctionalimmigration system.


“Secure Communities” is the latest of these controversial programs, introduced and piloted by the Bush administration in 14 jurisdictions beginning in 2008. According to an October 2011 report by researchers at UC-Berkeley School of Law,“Secure communities by the numbers,” the program has "expanded dramatically"under President Obama and is currently "active in 1,595 jurisdictions in 44 states and territories, a 65% increase since the beginning of this year." Since the beginning of Obama's term, his administration has overseen the deportation of 1.1 million people, “the highest number in six decades"according to theNew York Times. ICE is so pleased with Secure Communities, it plans to expand its reach to all US jurisdictions by 2013.


The program requires local jails to crosscheck fingerprints of jailed individuals with Homeland Security's immigration database. If a positive match is found,federal immigration officials can issue detainers that authorize local law enforcement to hold the suspect in custody for up to 48 hours.


However, the DHS database is riddled with flaws, as demonstrated by the growing number of US citizen being wrongfully tagged.TheNew York Timesnotes, “Unlike the federal criminal databases administered by the FBI, Homeland Security records include all immigration transactions, not just violations. An immigrant who has always maintained legal status, including those who naturalized to become American citizens, can still trigger a fingerprint match.”


Although it's difficult to obtain an exact number of Americans illegally detained by ICE, Jacqueline Stevens,a political science professor at Northwestern University estimates that over 4,000 US citizens were detained or deported in 2010 alone. According to astudypublished by Stevens last spring, this raises the total number of American citizens detained or deported since 2003 to well over 20,000.


TheTimespoints outthat “Any case where an American is held, even briefly, for immigration investigation is a potential wrongful arrest because immigration agents lack legal authority to detain citizens.” Stevens has even referred to the “potential wrongful arrest” of US citizens as “kidnapping” because “ICE has no jurisdiction over U.S. citizens.”


Furthermore, wrongful detention and deportation is not limited to US citizens with easily accessible state-issued identification in their wallets. As Joshua Hollandnotes, "permanent residents,students,tourists, andpeople seeking asylum from torture and persecutionare also swept up in the maw of Homeland Security in not-insignificant numbers."If American citizens, like Montejano, who are guaranteed the right to due process, have trouble proving their citizenship to the authorities, it's likely even more difficult for legal residents as well as other vulnerable populations, such as the mentally disabled, who may lack a clear understanding of the circumstances.


Mark Lyttle, a North Carolina native with a mental disability, spent four months wandering around Central America after being deported in 2008 because he told jail officials that he was born in Mexico City, Mexico. According to theAssociated Press, Lyttle was "coerced and manipulated" by immigration agents into signing false statements that allowed his deportation.


According to his lawyers, Lyttle, who spoke no Spanish, was flown to Texas and "forced to disembarkand sent off on foot into Mexico, still wearing the prison-issued jumpsuit.” Over the next 115 days, Lyttle drifted around Central America with no identification or proof of citizenship, which got him arrested and jailed in Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua. Meanwhile, his family was frantically searching for him with no help from the authorities whatsoever. The ACLU has since filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf.


Sadly, this shameful episode isn’t the first of its kind. Lyttle’s abuse at the hands of immigration enforcement sounds eerily similar to the deportation of another mentally disabled American citizen, Pedro Guzman. Hollandexplainshow the"mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was born and raised in Los Angeles, was deported to Mexico last year, sparking a frantic search by relatives until he was finally found, three months later, alone and desperately trying to get back to the United States."


More recently, an immigration detainer mistakenly snaredRomy Campos, a 19-year-old American college student. Following a November 12 arrest for a minor misdemeanor, Campos was held in a California jail for four days and denied bail.


She was assigned a public defender in state court, but the attorney told her that nothing could be done to lift the federal detainer. Campos wasn't released until four days later when ACLU attorney Jennie Pasquarella provided ICE with Campos' Florida birth certificate.Campos is a dual citizen of the US and Spain and has both a US and Spanish passport, which she has used interchangeably. Because she once entered the US with her Spanish passport, she is recorded in the DHS database.


“I felt misused completely, I felt nonimportant, I just felt violated by my own country,”CampostoldtheTimes. While her detention was inexcusable, Campos is one of the luckier ones who got out quickly. Others have been detained for weeks and even months before proving their citizenship.


In 2008, 53-year-oldAnthony A. Clarkewas illegally detained for 43 days by immigration authorities who tried to have him deported. Clarke, who was arrested by federal agents during a midnight raid on his sister's home, was born in Jamaica. He came to the US as a teenager and became a citizen in 1975 when his mother was naturalized.According to theStar Tribune, FBI records indicated that immigration officialsknew of Clarke's legal statusat the time of his arrest, yet they detained him anyway. Clarke has since filed a lawsuit in federal court for “false arrest and malicious prosecution.”


John Morton, the director of ICE,insiststhat his agency gives“immediate and close attention” to detainees claiming they are American citizens. “We don’t have the power to detain citizens,” says Morton, adding, “We obviously take any allegation that someone is a citizen very seriously.”


Regardless of how committed ICE might be to correcting its mistakes, these stories, at the very least, should raise questions about our increasingly disturbing immigration enforcement system that so easily dismisses the rights of those unfortunate enough to get mangled in it.

8 Stories Buried By the Corporate Media That You Need to Know About

As 2011 comes to a close, we will see lists of the year’s most memorable events and most important people, as is the pattern every year. But not all stories are created equal. When the corporate media bury significant developments in the back pages of the paper or the second to last paragraph of an article, it’s easy for stories to go unnoticed.

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10 of The Craziest Things Newt Gingrich Has Ever Said

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is the latest not-Romney to capture the attention of GOP primary voters. With a solid lead in three early primary states, he’s giving the erstwhile front-runner a serious run for his money. While Newt may be the flavor of the moment, the Iowa caucuses are just three weeks away, so while he's behind in fund-raising and has had trouble organizing a nationwide campaign, it's impossible to count him out.

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The Shocking Ways the Corporate Prison Industry Games the System

The United States, with just 5 percent of the world's population, currently holds 25 percent of the world's prisoners, and for the last 30 years America's business entrepreneurs have found a lucrative way to cash in on the incarceration surplus: private for-profit prisons.

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Activists Gather to Protest Koch Brothers Gala

Update: AlterNet's Adele Stan reports from inside the gala, where Occupy protestors infiltrated the party and surrounded the building. Read her report here.

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Why Are Police Attacking Peaceful Protesters? How OWS Has Exposed the Militarization of US Law Enforcement

As the number of Occupy Wall Street arrests nears 1,000, instances of police brutality continue to pile up. Felix Rivera-Pitre was punched in the face in New York

during a march through the city's financial district; Ryan Hadar was dragged out of the street by his thumbs at Occupy San Francisco; and at Occupy Boston, members of Veterans for Peace were shoved to the ground and dragged away for chanting and peacefully occupying a local park.

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The Rise of Killer Drones That Can Think for Themselves

There must be a crazy-haired mad scientist roaming the U.S. military’s research laboratories unsupervised.  That’s the most reasonable explanation for the military's latest advancement in drone technology.  

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6 Right-Wing Sports Team Owners Bankrolling Their Radical Agenda With Your Tax Dollars

Chances are that basketball fans cheering on the Orlando Magic’s star center Dwight Howard haven’t a clue they’re also supporting the radical right-wing ideology of the team’s billionaire owner, Richard DeVos. And when hockey fans root for the Philadelphia Flyers, they are likely unaware that the team’s war-mongering owner, Ed Snider, is profiting off of their support.

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4 Desperate Ways the Hardest Hit Are Coping with Economic Crisis

As the economy continues to tank in the wake of congressional budget showdowns and stock market crashes, stories of those hardest hit remain hidden from view. The unemployed and underemployed, the homeless and the hungry have all been relegated to the back pages of our local newspapers; that is, if they are reported on at all.

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