Faisal Al Yafai
The writer is currently writing a book on the Middle East and is a frequent commentator on international TV news networks. He worked for news outlets such as The Guardian and the BBC, and reported on the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. ©Syndication Bureau.
In the murky world of Daesh families, all diplomacy is conducted quietly. Last Monday, the Spanish government quietly admitted it would bring back several Spanish wives and children of Daesh fighters, before the end of the year. Newspaper reports placed the number at three women and 13 children — a figure which, while small, represents a significant change for European countries.
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, and the misery of Ukraine war has dragged some of Russia’s unusual bedfellows out of the shadows.
There has been a second coup in Burkina Faso; the third in the Sahel this year. Mere months after Paul-Henri Damiba overthrew the country’s democratically elected president, he was himself overthrown last month, and for the same reason. The Islamist militias in the ungoverned spaces of the country continue to claim lives, and have displaced two million people within the country’s own borders. The countries of the Sahel are fracturing.
Since the Syrian uprising erupted more than a decade ago, tens of thousands of Syrians have simply vanished. Protestors arrested at checkpoints, men and women taken from their homes, regime opponents bundled into cars in the middle of the day. Perhaps 100,000 people — maybe fewer, maybe many times more — have disappeared, with their families having only the dimmest idea of where they are or whether they are even alive.
The election victory of Giorgia Meloni in Italy has left journalists scrambling around for adjectives. Is her Brothers of Italy political party fascist? (It certainly uses the same logo as a party formed by Mussolini’s lieutenants.) Is it neo-fascist, or far right, or merely populist?
Quietly last week, the West African state of Togo extended a state of emergency for another six months. The country had declared a three-month state of emergency in the northern region in June after terrorists attacked a military outpost, killing soldiers. That attack was the first inside Togo since militant extremist attacks began in the wider region in the mid-2010s. More have followed in the weeks since.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron is fond of grandiose language. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he declared Europe had entered a new era. After he became president, he declared a new era in Franco-African relations, with the country’s former colonies. And in Algeria last week, he declared another new era, one with an “irreversible dynamic of progress” in relations between the two countries.
Although the war in Syria has fallen away from the front pages, the conflict continues to simmer. So too does the endless diplomacy as the myriad groups and countries involved seek to extract deals that prioritize their national goals. In the midst of so much shifting sand, it is little wonder that rumors and comments spread like wildfire among Syrian communities — and that those rumors provoke real-world responses.
As the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month, with no signs of the conflict ending any time this year, the diplomatic war for hearts and minds has shifted to the African continent.
One could almost hear the glee in Ankara when the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upended NATO consensus by declaring he would not support the Swedish and Finnish bids for membership of the alliance. For Turkish political elites, this was not a fractious president being difficult – it was a Turkish leader refusing to be a yes man for Europe.