Author: Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.

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

When ISIS came to butcher the Yazidis of Iraq, they simply went next door.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

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

On August 3, 2014, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, orchestrated a pre-planned and systematic campaign of genocide against the Yazidis in northwest Iraq, driving hundreds of thousands of them from their ancestral homeland in Sinjar. Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking people who practice a pre-Islamic religion that ISIS ideologues equate with devil worship. All across Sinjar, wherever Yazidis were captured, the Sunni extremists forcibly converted or killed the men and enslaved the women and children.

The onslaught sent tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing to Sinjar mountain, where they were trapped for days in the punishing Iraqi summer heat. The dusty and rugged mountainous terrain was their refuge, but for some it became a tomb. Hundreds, especially children and the elderly, died of thirst and hunger.

According to Yazidi survivors I spoke to in Baghdad, Sinjar, Erbil and Dohuk, the 2014 assault was carried out not by strangers, but by their Sunni friends and neighbors, by people they trusted and considered family. While much has been documented about the horrors ISIS inflicted on Yazidis, there has been little examination of how their genocide was made possible by the cooperation and collaboration of their Sunni neighbors and its consequences on communal relations going forward. Yazidis are strongly distrustful of Sunnis. They fear and loathe them and never want to live in a place where they are outnumbered by Sunnis again.

Continue reading “Genocide in Iraq: When Local Sunni Became ISIS and Slaughtered Their Yazidi Neighbors”

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.

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

Before the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group the Golan Brigade was targeted for destruction by Israel and Al Qaeda, it was allied with them.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

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.

Founded as one of the dizzying array of fighting units in Syria’s six-year civil war, the genesis of the Golan Brigade was one of the most remarkable. The brigade was established in 2014 by Syrian fighters who had defected from the Free Syrian Army rebel group after they made a shocking discovery: their unit had been coordinating with the Israelis.

After switching sides to support the Syrian government, they witnessed the Israeli military providing direct air cover for attacks launched against them by Al Qaeda. The Israelis even tried to kill Majed on several occasions before Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Nusra, finally did him in.

This July, I met veterans of the Golan Brigade and heard their stories. They painted a picture of the war that stood almost entirely at odds with the dominant narrative of the conflict spun out in Western mainstream media. And this is perhaps why they have received so little attention.

Continue reading “How a Free Syrian Army Unit Uncovered the Rebels’ Israeli Connection and Switched Sides”

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.

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

Emails reveal that the Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a popular source for the mainstream Western press, is a UK-backed propaganda outlet that offered reporters huge sums of money.

By Rania Khalek / AlterNet

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.

The outlet stirred controversy this November when it released a video at the height of the Mannequin Challenge, a pop culture craze in which people compete for how long they can freeze in place on video. The RFS video depicted a staged rescue by the White Helmets, the Western-funded rescue group that operates exclusively in rebel-held territory. RFS quickly removed the video and issued an apology out of apparent concern that the staged rescue could raise questions about the authenticity of other videos by the White Helmets.

Over the summer, the Middle East reporter, who asked not to be named, was contacted by an American acquaintance and former colleague about working for RFS.

“I’m currently in Istanbul, working on a media project for the HMG [the British government],” wrote the acquaintance in an email time-stamped June 23. “We’re working on media surrounding the Syrian conflict, as one of their three partners.” The email included links to RFS Media’s English website and SMO Media, an Arabic website that covers the Southern Front, a Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group.

Continue reading “British Gov-Funded Outlet Offered Journalist $17,000 a Month to Produce Propaganda for Syrian Rebels”

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast.