TIME Jordan

Radical Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada Cleared of Terrorism Charges in Jordan

Abu Qatada
Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada sits behind bars at the Jordanian military court in Amman, Jordan, on June 26, 2014 Raad Adayleh—AP

The British Home Office insists the 53-year-old is “not coming back to the U.K.”

Radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada has been acquitted of terrorism charges by a Jordanian court. He was deported to the Middle Eastern kingdom from the U.K. in 2013.

On Wednesday, a court in the capital Amman found him not guilty of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on Western and Israeli targets in Jordan during millennium New Year celebrations, reports the BBC.

He was accused of providing “spiritual support” through his writings to those alleged to have plotted the attacks.

In June, the 53-year-old cleric was also cleared of a conspiracy to attack an American school in Amman.

Abu Qatada had been involved in a decadelong legal battle in the U.K. Government ministers repeatedly tried to deport him to Jordan so he could face the charges in his home country, but judges were concerned he could face torture if repatriated.

After the U.K. and Jordan signed a deal in 2013 stating evidence gathered against Abu Qatada obtained by British deportees in Jordan could not be used, British Home Secretary Theresa May secured his deportation.

“It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan,” a spokesperson for the Home Office told the BBC.

In 1994, Abu Qatada was granted asylum in the U.K. but officials quickly saw him as a security threat.

British judges called him a “truly dangerous individual … at the centre in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda,” reports the BBC.

[BBC]

TIME Syria

Report Details Hardships Facing Syria’s Refugee Mothers

Syrian Refugees; Lebanon; North Lebanon; refugees
Sanaa, 26, washes clothes in a borrowed washing machine at a shelter in Saida, Lebanon, on March 4, 2014. Lynsey Addario—UNHCR

Some 145,000 refugee households are headed by women

A new U.N. report grimly details the daily plight of thousands of Syrian refugee mothers who have fled civil war and now toil as their household’s primary breadwinner.

Four-fifths of the 2.8 million Syrians who have fled their war-torn homeland since March 2011 are women and children, says the U.N., leading to some 145,000 refugee households headed solely by women. The survey, based on three months of interviews with 135 women in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, provides a snapshot of the complexities they endure while trying to feed and protect their children, find enough work to make rent and retain any semblance of the lives they enjoyed before war broke out.

They represent women who once managed their homes, even as their husbands usually handled physical and financial security, but who now lead households in unfamiliar and often insecure communities. Lebanon, a nation of 4 million, has taken in more than a million people. At least 600,000 have entered Jordan, with most gravitating toward urban areas, an influx that has crushed certain infrastructure. In addition, some 137,000 have made it to Egypt.

António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said “escaping their ruined homeland was only the first step in a journey of grinding hardship” and called their treatment “shameful” as the crisis worsens. “They have run out of money, face daily threats to their safety and are being treated as outcasts,” he added, “for no other crime than losing their men to a vicious war.”

Typically, their first challenge was simply finding a roof. Many make do with overcrowded or makeshift housing, due to few options and difficulties in securing a stable and sufficient income. Only one-fifth of those interviewed had paid work, and many others said they relied on cash assistance from aid groups or generosity from others in their community.

Paying rent is among their top stressors, as is feeding loved ones. With an average of 5.6 people per household, some mothers said their families ate less as a whole or individuals held back so others could eat more. “Rent is more important than food,” one woman who lived with her seven children in Amman told the U.N. “We don’t remember what meat or fruit tastes like,” echoed another, who kept a home of nine people in Giza, Egypt.

The vast majority of women interviewed relied on food vouchers from the U.N. World Food Programme, but very few complained that their households were going hungry.

Among a number of other issues reported were an inability to afford proper medical care, regular instances of verbal harassment and even offers of free accommodation in exchange for sexual favors. A significant portion said they left their homes much less often than they did in Syria.

The U.N. expects these problems to worsen, as it estimates the total number of Syrian refugees will reach 3.6 million by year’s end, unless aid agencies, donors and host governments renew their commitments of support.

TIME Iraq

Sunni Militants Push for Control of Iraq’s Western Border

IRAQ-UNREST
Members of Kurdish forces hold their position in the Iraqi village of Basheer on June 21, 2014 Karim Sahib—AFP/Getty Images

Sunni militants in Iraq have captured major border posts connected to Syria and Jordan and a string of towns in a western province

Sunni militants in Iraq have captured major border posts connected to Syria and Jordan and a string of towns in a western province, as they tighten their grip on key areas of the country, Iraq’s military authorities announced on Sunday.

The takeover of the Walid crossing to Syria and the Turaibil crossing to Jordan follow the recent captures of a number of towns in Anbar province, which has been controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Associated Press reports. ISIS, a militant extremist group once allied with al-Qaeda, has been pressing on toward Baghdad in recent weeks.

The capture of Rutba, a town located approximately 150 km east of the Iraqi-Jordanian border, gives insurgents major control over a key route to Jordan. The control of border posts and towns like Rutba will allow insurgent forces to more easily move weapons and soldiers between countries.

The seizure of Rawah and Anah suggest movement toward the city of Haditha, where a major dam lies — which, if destroyed, could wreak havoc on the country’s electrical systems and cause major flooding. Iraqi authorities speaking to the AP on the condition of anonymity say 2,000 troops have been dispatched to protect the dam.

Iraqi military spokesman General Qassim Atta commented on the captures, saying security forces in Rawah, Anah and Qaim had previously been pulled to support other troops elsewhere, the New York Times reports.

During a Sunday appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, U.S. President Barack Obama called ISIS a “medium- and long-term threat.” While ISIS is one of several groups the U.S. should continue to monitor, he said, the organization poses a “destabilizing” threat to Iraq and neighboring countries that makes it a particular concern in the region.

Obama said while the U.S. needed to address unrest in the region, action needed to be a “more focused, more targeted strategy” done in partnership with local law and military officials. Obama’s remarks follow both Iraq’s request for air-strike support and comments from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, who accused the U.S. of stirring up unrest in the region to advance its own interests.

During a visit to Egypt, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called ISIS a threat to “all the countries in the region,” Reuters reports.

TIME Pope Francis

Photos: The Pope’s Historic Holy Land Visit

In his first visit to the region since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis made stops in Amman, Jordan, and Bethlehem in the West Bank

TIME Jordan

Pope Calls for Peace in Syria During Historic Holy Land Trip

JORDAN-VATICAN-RELIGION-POPE
Pope Francis leaves the Amman stadium after celebrating a mass on May 24, 2014 in the Jordanian capital. Patrick Baz—AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis commended Jordan's commitment to "lasting peace for the entire region" during his first trip to the Holy Land as pope

Pope Francis called for a peaceful end to Syria’s three-year-old civil war during a Saturday stop in Jordan on his first Holy Land trip as pope.

“This great goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II in remarks that departed from the script, Reuters reports.

The pope also commended Abdullah for his efforts in seeking “lasting peace for the entire region.” Millions of Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan and other nearby countries during Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 160,000 people so far.

Pope Francis also addressed the conflict during Friday mass at the International Stadium in Amman.

“Peace is not something which can be bought; it is a gift to be sought patiently and to be ‘crafted’ through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives,” he said.”I also embrace with affection the many Christian refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq: please bring my greeting to your families and communities, and assure them of my closeness.”

Christians in the area hope Pope Francis’ visit will bring hope to the region’s declining Christian minority.

[Reuters]

TIME Pope Francis

Pope Francis Kicks Off Holy Land Visit in Jordan

JORDAN-VATICAN-RELIGION-POPE
Pope Francis blesses the crowd before celebrating a mass at the Amman stadium in the Jordanian capital on May 24, 2014. Khalil Mazraawi—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff's historic, three-day journey to the Middle East begins with a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. In a papal first, he is traveling with both a rabbi and an imam

Pope Francis arrived in Amman, Jordan on Saturday morning, kicking off a jam-packed three-day trip to the Holy Land.

In his first official visit to the region, the Pontiff will meet with King Abdullah II, then celebrate mass at the International Stadium, visit the site of Jesus’ baptism, and meet with refugees from neighboring Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, he will take a helicopter to Bethlehem in the West Bank, then head to Jerusalem later that night.

As TIME’s Elizabeth Dias writes, the Pontiff’s reputation as a trend-bucker will be on display throughout the trip. He has refused to use a bulletproof car and is traveling with an imam and a rabbi, marking the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths.

The Pope’s visit is under particular scrutiny from Palestinians, many of whom are Christian, who are hoping that he will spotlight the Israeli occupation. Francis has emphasized that the pilgrimage to the region is for “strictly religious” purposes, but his decision to fly directly into the West Bank rather than go through Israel’s security barrier from Jerusalem has already drawn note.

“We feel he has been able to speak about the poor in Latin America,” Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest, told TIME ahead of the trip. “Now we would like to see him speak about the oppressed in Palestine.”

Christians in the region are also hoping that the Pope’s visit might rejuvenate the dwindling minority of Christians in the region.

But the Pope, who was TIME’s Person of The Year in 2013, is set to meet with representatives of many faiths and groups. He is expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Visits Jordan, Israel, Palestine: Expect the Unexpected

Pope Francis
Pope Francis Leads his General weekly Audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 21, 2014. Alessandra Benedetti—Corbis

In a region where politics and religion have been enmeshed for centuries, the Pope's simplest actions will carry both spiritual and social weight. It will be the first time that an official papal delegation will include members of other faiths—an imam and a rabbi

Pope Francis hasn’t even left for his weekend tour of the Holy Land and his trip is already breaking with tradition.

He won’t use a bulletproof car, unlike most every head of state to visit the region, opting instead for an open-top vehicle. He has invited an imam and a rabbi to travel with him—the first time an official papal delegation has included members of other faiths; Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a leader of Argentina’s Islamic community, are the Pope’s longtime friends from Argentina. He’s also emphasizing that his trip is a pilgrimage with a “strictly religious” purpose, as he said in his general audience on Wednesday.

Pope Francis is also packing an enormous amount into a short weekend: three regions in three days, and at least 13 speeches or homilies.

On Saturday, he flies to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II, whom he has already met with twice at the Vatican, celebrate mass at the International Stadium, visit the site of Jesus’ baptism, and meet with refugees. Sunday morning he will helicopter to Bethlehem in the West Bank. There he will meet with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, whom he met in Rome last October, and then celebrate mass in Manger Square, tour the Church of the Nativity that marks Christ’s birthplace, and meet with children from the refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida, and Beit Jibrin.

Sunday evening he will head to Jerusalem and meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. On Monday, he will visit the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and Yad Vashem. He will spend time with the two Chief Rabbis, and with Israel’s president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. To wrap it all up, he will meet with men and women religious in the church of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, celebrate mass one more time, and then depart for Rome at 8 p.m.

The rigorous schedule aside, the trip’s unexpected and symbolic moments may be the most significant. The Holy Father has made it clear that, in all things, the church must affirm mercy, and no doubt that theme will emerge again this weekend. Francis is a canny operator, aware that saying mass at the island of Lampedusa indicates that the Vatican stands with the immigrant, or that washing the feet of Muslim women pushes the church towards humility. This trip’s immediate focus may not be political, but in a region where politics and religion have been enmeshed for centuries, it is hard to imagine that even his simplest actions—where he celebrates mass, for whom he prays, and what or whom he blesses—will not carry both spiritual and social weight.

Anticipation for what is to come, both planned and unexpected, is running high. Jordan has a website, far more sophisticated than the Vatican’s, dedicated solely to the less-than-24-hours visit. Israel has assigned an extra 8,000 officers to security detail in Jerusalem. For now, however, Francis has asked people worldwide to simply pray. He has two prayer requests: one, for his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who represents the Eastern churches, and two, for peace in the region. The land, as he said in his Wednesday audience, “has suffered greatly.”

TIME portfolio

Syrian Refugees by James Nachtwey

The state of being a refugee is temporary, in theory, but without a place to go back to — a nation, a city, a home — limbo begins to look permanent, a designated space carved out of someone else’s country, where the basic needs of physical survival might be provided, but the rights of citizenship are forfeit, and human aspirations lose both their means and their direction.

Refugees are not only sequestered in space, they are incarcerated in time, walled-in between a past that’s been obliterated and a future that no longer exists. But things can get worse. Intense suffering from disease and starvation can render strictures of time and space merely negligible, and what might have been purgatory becomes a living hell. With the refugees from Syria, thankfully, that is not the case.

The international community has responded. Neighboring countries, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, have extended hospitality and NGO’s have organized food, shelter, water and medical assistance. And people have each other. Whole communities have been uprooted and have managed to stay together. But will they ever be able to safely return to Syria? If they cannot return, then how will the rest of the world accommodate not only their basic survival, but meet the challenge of establishing new citizenship, and the opportunities for self-determination inherent in that responsibility, rather than accepting the creation of another stateless people?


James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.


Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser