Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi Won’t Attend Oscar Ceremony

The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign-language movie, said on Sunday that he would not attend the Oscars ceremony next month even if he were granted an exception to President Trump’s visa ban for citizens from Iran and several other predominantly Muslim countries.

Mr. Farhadi said he had planned to attend the Feb. 26 ceremony in Los Angeles and while there bring attention to a decision he called “unjust.” But the executive order signed by President Trump on Friday presented “ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip,” he said in a statement to The New York Times.

The executive order blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Dutch Somali Woman Among Those Arrested for Funding Al-Shabaab

July 23, 2014

A Dutch Somali woman is facing extradition to the United States on charges of helping to finance Al-Shabaab. The Dutch public prosecution says the woman has been arrested by U.S. authorities, and two other women were also arrested in the United States. The woman of Dutch nationality, born in Somalia, will appear in court to determine whether she will be extradited to the United States.

The arrested women face charges of providing support to al-Shabaab, which a United States Department of Justice statement identifies as conducting an insurgency campaign in Somalia. The statement said the women referred to the money they sent overseas in small amounts as “living expenses”, using terms such as “orphans” to refer to fighters.

If convicted the women face up to 15 years in jail.

Iman: ‘I am the face of a refugee’

June 29, 2014 

Its 24 years since Iman retired from modelling, but you’d never know it. She’s a completely unlikely looking 58 and is sitting in front of a stark all-white backdrop simply dressed all in black – black jeans and a black jumper that emphasises her extraordinary swan-like neck – and she is completely focused it’s not an accident that she was the world’s first black supermodel. The first black model to make serious cash, the first to become the face of global cosmetics brand (Revlon). That she seamlessly segued from model to businesswoman when she set up her own highly successful cosmetics brand. Or even, possibly, that she married an international music legend, David Bowie, and became one half of a global super-couple. Iman, you get the feeling, does it Iman’s way. Not least in that she is one of the surnameless, Mohamed Abdulmajid has played no part in Iman the brand.

Every model has a sort of creation myth, the chance encounter that led to global fame. She was walking down a street in Nairobi in 1975 and she was a 20-year-old Somali refugee living and studying in Kenya. The spotter was a man called Peter Beard, a well-connected photographer and Africophile. He asked to photograph her, and when she hesitated he offered to pay her. “How much?” she asked. “How much do you want?” he said. “$8,000,” she replied, the total amount of her university fees. It’s a fair amount of money even today. Back then it must have been an extraordinary sum. “Well, what could have happened?” she says. “He could have said no.” She shrugs. “I mean, what’s going to happen if you don’t ask? My mother taught me this. She said: ‘If God says to you: “I will grant you any wish you want – what would you ask for?” And I went: ‘Er…’ And she said: ‘If you have to think about it, you’re not worth it!’ And I said: ‘Why?’ and she said: ‘Look. Ask for everything! Ask for everything!'”

In 1975 an editor said she was like a white woman ‘dipped in chocolate’. And she didn’t even realise it was insulting: Iman continues, “I didn’t even understand it. People called me ‘Iman the black model’. In my country we’re all black so nobody called somebody else black. It was foreign to my ears. I was doing the same job as them. Why would I get less money? It didn’t even occur to me that it had anything to do with racism. I learned that quite fast. I wasn’t a major in political science for nothing, so I understood the politics of beauty and the politics of race when it comes to the fashion industry.”

Nearly 40 years on, not all that much has changed, it seems. Last year she launched a campaign with Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell to urge brands to use black models. They commissioned original research and discovered that some brands, like Chloé, had never used a non-white model and others like YSL, Versace, Gucci, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein hadn’t for years. “It sends a message that our girls are not beautiful enough,” she says. She had no issue with pointing the finger and calling them racist and urging a boycott until they changed their ways. But then she remembers the magazine editor who exclaimed at her beauty and said she was like a white woman “dipped in chocolate”.

“And she didn’t even realise it was insulting! I said: ‘Don’t take credit for it. I don’t have a white drop in me.'”

Iman supports, the Hawa Abdi Foundation, a Somalia-based organisation, run by three Somali women focused on bringing basic human rights – healthcare, education, agriculture – to vast swathes of the Somali population who currently have none. The foundation focuses its efforts on women and children.

“What has happened to women in Somalia? When I was growing up women wore traditional clothes or regular western clothes. We went to school. But the schools don’t exist anymore. And women are not even allowed to drive any more. It’s run by extremists. Somalia was 100% a Muslim country, but it had its own culture before it adopted Islam. So you were a Muslim, but you were a Somali first.”

Set up by Dr Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynaecologist and a nominee for the Nobel Prize, the foundation has fearlessly defended the rights of ordinary Somalis, caring for up to 90,000 people at a time despite attacks on both the compound and the foundation’s hospital by Somali forces. Dr Hawa wrote in her book that it was only when she lost her first baby that she realised she had undergone female genital mutilation, girls cannot go to school and the country has not had any schools open since 1990. Dr Hawa has built up the first school in the south of Somalia. Last year a documentary was made of its work, Through the Fire. Afterwards she stated that she didn’t know if anyone can fathom it but the Somalia she grew up in doesn’t exist anymore.

Do you think about if you’d taken a different street on a different day, I ask, and never met Peter Beard? “Absolutely.” You think it could have been another street, another girl? “I absolutely believe that. It was just my luck. I could be in a refugee camp now. There are people who have been in refugee camps for 20 years, and I could be one of them. That’s one of the reasons I’m compelled to help. First because overnight my life changed from a diplomatic daughter to a refugee and my father could not fend for us. The only time I’ve ever seen my father cry is when he couldn’t pay for us to finish our education. And the NGOs looked after us. They found me a hostel, a job, a university.”

There’s a genuine humility to the way she views her success. “I am the face of a refugee. I was once a refugee. I was with my family in exile. “

Terror suspect Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed on the run after changing into burka on London mosque visit

November 3, 2013

 

A terror suspect who escaped surveillance by changing into a burka on a visit to a mosque was on the run on Sunday night. Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed was last seen at a west London mosque on Friday afternoon. The 27-year-old is “not considered at this time to represent a direct threat to the public”, Scotland Yard said, but urged anyone who sees him to call 999 immediately.

Somalia-born Mohamed, who is 5ft 8in tall and of medium build, arrived at the An-Noor Masjid and Community Centre in Church Road, Acton, at 10am on Friday and was last seen there at 3.15pm that day. He is subject to a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures notice (Tpim).

He is the second person to breach a Tpim since they were introduced to replace control orders early last year. In December, Ibrahim Magag, who is understood to have attended terror training camps in Somalia, absconded after ripping off his electronic tag. Police are still searching for him.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/terror-suspect-mohammed-ahmed-mohamed-on-the-run-after-changing-into-burka-on-london-mosque-visit-8920055.html

American Jihadist Is Believed to Have Been Killed by His Former Allies in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya — A young man from Alabama who traveled to Somalia and became an infamous Islamist militant, commanding guerrilla forces and earning a $5 million American bounty on his head, was believed to have been killed by his former extremist allies on Thursday, according to news reports and Islamist Web sites.

The jihadist, Omar Hammami, known for his rap-infused propaganda videos for the Shabab, a brutal Islamist group in Somalia, was reported killed in an ambush on Thursday morning. If true, his death would bring to a close one of the more unusual chapters in more than two decades of fighting in the Horn of Africa.

 

But Mr. Hammami, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, “the American,” has been declared dead before, only to resurface alive.

There is little question that Mr. Hammami has been on the run from his former comrades. His recent troubles brought to the surface rifts within militant circles in Somalia, particularly between foreign fighters and Somalis. In a Twitter message in April, Mr. Hammami said the group’s leader had “gone mad” and was “starting a civil war.”

J. M. Berger, the editor of the Web site Intelwire.com and author of the book “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” said that it appeared this time that Mr. Hammami had indeed been killed.

Mr. Berger, who has been monitoring hundreds of Shabab-related social media accounts for over a year, cited a death notice on a Jihadi Web site that had supported the American militant and posted interviews with him in the past.

 

The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim father, Mr. Hammami was raised in Daphne, Ala., where he was a gifted student and high school class president. He later embraced the ultraconservative form of Islam known as Salafism before ultimately moving to Somalia in 2006 to fight for the Shabab.

 

The charismatic American fighter was a propaganda coup for the Somali militants. He worked on recruitment and handled financial affairs for the group. But Mr. Hammami was more than just a YouTube sensation and back-office militant. He is believed to have personally commanded forces in the field and organized guerrilla attacks.

 

He did not consider his native land off limits. “It’s quite obvious that I believe America is a target,” he wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times in 2010.

 

Growing up in Daphne, a city of 23,000 on Mobile Bay, Mr. Hammami loved Kurt Cobain and Nintendo and dabbled in drugs. But he also attended Bible camp. His decision to join a violent group responsible for beheadings and forced amputations was especially bewildering to family and friends.

 

No-fly-list challenge back in court 2 years later; Va. man still barred from travel

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It’s been 2 ½ years since Gulet Mohamed, then 19, found himself stuck in Kuwait, unable to return to the United States because of his apparent placement on the government’s no-fly list.

 

Mohamed made it back to the U.S. not long after a federal lawsuit was filed on his behalf in January 2011, but the lawsuit challenging his placement on the list remains unresolved.

 

On Friday, Mohamed was back in a northern Virginia courtroom, where his lawsuit has been revived but as a legal matter is no further along than it was in 2011.

 

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed Mohamed’s case last year, deciding he did not have jurisdiction to hear it. Earlier this year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit and sent the case back to Trenga.

 

Mohamed’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the court should now be in a position to rule on the substantive issue of whether the no-fly list is constitutional, and whether those placed on it must be given a fair chance to challenge their inclusion.

 

There has never been any explanation of how Mohamed — a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Somalia — ended up on the list, much less government confirmation of his placement on the list. His travel difficulties began after he traveled to Yemen and Somalia in 2009 to learn Arabic, then to Kuwait where he stayed with an uncle. He said he was questioned by FBI agents who wanted him to become an informant, and when detained by Kuwait he was beaten and tortured.

 

Mohamed’s challenge to the list was among the first in a wave of lawsuits that followed a dramatic expansion of the list that occurred after the failed plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underwear.

 

Moving in the right direction on Somalia

David Cameron, speaking to the BBC Breakfast show, described the reason for sending aid to countries like Somalia, was essentially to keep Somalis out of Britain. By investing, the Prime Minister claimed, “we can stop them ending up on our shores”.

However as the author critiques the prime minister he highlights that there are many better reasons for investing in Somalia than preventing immigration. We might start in 2010, when the failure of rains, coming on top of two decades of absent government, lead to a famine that over the next two years would kill 258,000 people, roughly 5 per cent of the population. Or you might instead emphasise the need to build security and quell Islamic jihadist group Al-Shabaab, who have issued threats against Britain in the past. Then again, though Mr Cameron would be loath to admit it, you could argue that the main reason we invest in Somalia is in fact to fund Islamic extremism. It was revealed this weekend that £500,000 worth of supplies from the Department for International Development has been stolen by Al-Shabaab. We’ve been here before. In 1993, so much aid was ending up in the hands of Somali militants that it contributed to the US-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the country, a disastrous failure which ended after Black Hawk Down.

That DfID have owned up to this latest loss, albeit quietly, is a fine thing. They must learn from it. Mo Farah (a Somali-born distance runner for great Britain recently took the 5,000m and 10,000m world title in Moscow – and is seen by some as the greatest British athlete of all time) is currently campaigning to stop Barclays shutting down its money-transfer services to Somalia, a service upon which 40 per cent of the country is said to rely and through which £100m is sent from Britain every year. Since the UK government is not perfect at helping Somalia, closing a route through which Somalis can help themselves seems crazy. Farah’s campaign should be backed to the hilt.

Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign

In MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota.

The popularity of the site, Somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.

In a May 2012 report, the contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, branded the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group. The contractor then delivered a copy of its dossier — including Warsame’s Minnesota home address and phone number — to the FBI. A few days later, federal agents knocked on the webmaster’s door.

Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation, according to public records and interviews.

 

Woolwich murder probe: suspect Michael Adebolajo held in Kenya in 2010

One of the suspects in the Woolwich murder case was arrested in Kenya in 2010, the Foreign Office has confirmed. It said Michael Adebolajo was arrested there and it gave consular assistance “as normal” in the circumstances. He was believed to have been preparing to fight with Somali militant group al-Shabab, a Kenyan government spokesman told the BBC, and was later deported. Confirmation of Michael Adebolajo’s arrest in Kenya in 2010 -preparing, according to the Kenyan authorities, to train and fight in Somalia – raises troubling questions. British security officials have had long-standing concerns about the risk of young men travelling to join the militant group, al-Shabab, and returning to pose a danger on the streets of the UK.

Earlier this month, when David Cameron hosted a conference on Somalia he said the challenges of terrorism and extremism “matter to Britain – and to the whole international community.”

So you might have expected Michael Adebolajo to have been firmly on the radar of the security services when he returned to the UK. They will now be under renewed pressure over exactly what they knew about him, and whether more could have been done to prevent the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab is affiliated to al-Qaeda and is thought to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. It killed 76 people in a double bomb attack in Uganda as they watched the 2010 World Cup.

Netherlands Most Likely EU Country to Grant Asylum Seekers Residency

24 May 2013

The Netherlands is more likely to give asylum seekers residency papers than the rest of the European Union, according to the head of the Dutch immigration service. In 2012, 13,650 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands, a drop of almost 7% on 2011. The reduction was particularly apparent in the first half. At the same time, the number of people making a second application rose 26%.

Most applicants came from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The number of requests for naturalisation rose almost 10% compared with 2011 to almost 29,000.