TIME Syria

Cancer Wages Its Own War Against Syrian Refugees

A higher rate of cancer among Syrian refugees is forcing doctors, patients and humanitarian organisations to make difficult decisions about who does, and does not, receive care

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It was just before Syrian civilians started rising up against their government in 2011 that Fayhaa al-Dahr, 22, from the northern city of Raqqa, noticed a strange swelling in her neck. Doctors advised surgery to excise the tumors growing on her vocal chords, but even though Syria has one of the best government-subsidized medical systems in the Middle East, the operations and the follow-up treatment would be expensive.

To pay for al-Dahr’s care, her father sold some land than had been in the family for generations. When another tumor appeared, he sold more land. By the time the third tumor was taken care of, there was no more land to be sold, and the uprising had turned into a war that made it impossible for al-Dahr to travel to the capital for her chemotherapy appointments. When a rocket destroyed her home in December, al-Dahr and her family saw no choice but to take refuge in neighboring Lebanon. At least there, they believed, al-Dahr could continue her treatments. They were wrong.

Lebanon is host to some 1.1 million Syrian refugees, part of an exodus of 2.9 million seeking shelter from a war that has claimed more than 160,000 lives and has wrought untold damages to the middle-income country. Unlike refugees fleeing conflicts in Africa, where diseases of poverty such as diarrhea, malaria or cholera take their toll, Syrian refugees are afflicted with chronic and costly illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The international humanitarian agencies that provide for refugees the world over simply do not have the funds to treat these diseases, leaving many, like al-Dahr, without access to proper medical care. Her cancer has metastasized, and she now has a tumor in her upper thigh so excruciating, she says, “I am living on painkillers.”

A recent study published in The Lancet Oncology journal documented a high demand for cancer treatments among refugees from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Syria, with host countries and refugee organizations struggling to find the money and the medicines to help. Cancer, writes Dr. Paul Spiegel, Chief Medical Expert at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is likely to play a much greater role in refugee care going forward. “Cancer diagnosis and care in humanitarian emergencies typifies a growing trend toward more costly chronic disease care. Something that …. is of increasing importance because the number of refugees is growing.”

As it is, the UNHCR warned on July 3 that the organization had received only 30 percent of its $3.74 billion budget for Syrian refugee programs for this year, a shortfall that would see many vital programs, including health care, slashed.

Al-Dahr’s doctor in Damascus had warned her of the consequences of missing chemotherapy appointments, and when she first arrived in Lebanon, she did try to continue her treatment. But the costs—$1,900—were twice what she paid in Damascus. Her family was able to borrow enough cash to pay for one round in January, but when her Lebanese doctor called a few weeks later to remind her of her follow up, she knew she couldn’t afford another session. “He was very worried about me, and called several times to beg me to come, but there was nothing we could do and nothing he could do.” The doctor may have been willing to volunteer his time and expertise, but the drug and hospital costs are immutable.

“It’s a sad story,” says Dr. Dr. Elie Bechara, an oncologist in Beirut who works with other doctors to treat refugees pro-bono. “We are overwhelmed by these cases from Syria. Sometimes we are standing still, watching, and we are not able to help them. It is frustrating.”

Lebanon boasts some of the finest medical facilities in the Middle East, but nearly 90% are privately run, and most of them are for profit. UNHCR has spent tens of millions of dollars on treatment for refugees at private hospitals, but funds are limited. With the rising number of refugees — 1.5 million, a third of the Lebanese population, are expected to have registered by the end of the year — costs too will rise, forcing UNHCR to choose between funding emergency care and primary health clinics that can save thousands of lives and spending thousands of dollars to save one life.

Last year UNHCR covered medical treatment for 41,500 refugees in Lebanon, but each of those cases was judged on specific criteria: the cost of the intervention against the chances of a positive outcome. “It’s a horrible decision to have to make,” says Spiegel. “If there is a poor prognosis, we can’t go that route. It doesn’t mean the patients won’t get treatment—they may search elsewhere, and sometimes embassies or private donors step in—but we can’t afford to help where there is no hope.”

Palliative care, at least, is not that expensive, adds Spiegel. “We never say, ‘There is nothing we can do, go away.’ We just say we can’t treat the cancer but we will treat the consequences.” Al-Dahr falls into that category. Instead of chemotherapy, she gets painkiller injections at her local pharmacy, and she tries not to dwell on her illness. “When you don’t know what is going to happen, it is better to stay in the present,” she says. “Thinking about the future only brings more problems.”

Given the funding shortages, cases like al-Dahr’s are likely to become more common, says Spiegel. “Syria is our biggest and most expensive operation to date, and there is a question of how long donors will continue supporting it as things get worse. If we continue like this, there will be more like this woman who will not be able to receive treatment.”

Like a cancer patient with a poor prognosis, Syria is starting to look like a hopeless cause, and thus less likely to receive aid.

With reporting by Hania Mourtada / Anjar, Lebanon

TIME Syria

Report: Pentagon Plans Combat Training for Syrian Rebels

Free Syrian Army fighters help a fellow fighter wounded after what they said was clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Morek in Hama province
Free Syrian Army fighters help a fellow fighter wounded after what they said was clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the town of Morek in Hama province, Syria on May 22, 2014. Reuters

But critics say the U.S. plan to train a 2,300-man force would not significantly shape the conflict

The Pentagon has drawn up plans to train a small group of Syrian rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar Assad in an effort to influence the bloody civil war that has engulfed the country since 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Citing anonymous sources, the Journal reported that defense officials told key congressional committees at closed-door briefings last week that preliminary military estimates call for training a 2,300-man force over an 18-month period.

The fighters would be vetted to ensure they are ideological moderates and not Islamic extremists, who have flocked to the country to fight against Assad’s Shi’ite-aligned forces.

The training would not begin until next year and would require congressional approval.

The plan, which would cost up to $500 million, would also provide military equipment to a pool of additional fighters. Training could be completed in Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, or Jordan, although officials said Jordan has said it fears retribution from the regime of President Bashar Assad and doesn’t want a training program within the country’s borders.

Some Pentagon officials and other critics inside the administration have said President Barack Obama is moving too slowly to aid the moderate Syrian opposition, whose support has dwindled as Assad has gained the upper hand.

“We’re losing ground every day,” Aiad Koudsi, deputy prime minister of the opposition Syrian interim-government, told the Journal. He said the U.S. was moving “very slowly, resulting in undercutting the moderate Free Syrian Army.”

The Obama administration has supplied Syrian rebels with nonlethal aid, including communications equipment and other items, but has hesitated to supply rebels with weapons out of fear they will fall into the hands of extremists.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in April that 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s Civil War, Reuters reported.

[WSJ]

TIME Syria

Syrian President Assad Sworn in for 3rd Term

(DAMASCUS, Syria) — Proclaiming the Syrian people winners in a “dirty war” waged by outsiders, President Bashar Assad was sworn in on Wednesday, marking the start of his third seven-year term in office amid a bloody civil war that has ravaged the Arab country.

Looking confident and self-assured, occasionally making jokes, Assad declared victory over “terrorism” and said countries that supported the Syrian opposition “will pay a high price.”

The grandiose ceremony at the presidential palace in Damascus caps what has been a recent reversal of fortune on the battlefield for Assad’s forces battling the rebellion against him. In the past year, the 48-year-old leader has managed to seize the momentum in the civil war, with his troops making steady advances on several fronts against outgunned rebels bogged down in infighting.

Syrian state TV broadcast what it said was a live ceremony Wednesday during which Assad took the oath of office. The TV showed Assad arriving at the People’s Palace in the Qassioun Mountain, the scenic plateau that overlooks the capital from the north.

A band played the Syrian national anthem after which Assad was seen walking a red carpet past an honor guard into a hall packed with members of parliament and Christian and Muslim clergyman.

Wearing a dark blue suit and a blue shirt and tie, Assad placed his hand on Islam’s holy book, the Quran, pledging to honor the country’s constitution.

“I swear by the Almighty God to respect the country’s constitution, laws and its republican system and to look after the interests of the people and their freedoms,” he said to thunderous applause from the audience.

He then launched into a speech in which he praised the Syrian people for holding the vote and for “defeating the dirty war” launched on the Syrian people.

“They wanted it to be a revolution but you were the real rebels,” he said. “They failed in trying to brainwash you, or break your will.”

Throughout the crisis, Assad has maintained that the conflict that has torn his nation apart was a Western-backed conspiracy executed by “terrorists” — and not a popular revolt by people inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, seeking democracy and disenchanted with his authoritarian rule.

As the conflict slid into civil war, Assad refused to step down and last month, he was re-elected in a landslide victory in a vote dismissed by the opposition and its Western allies as a sham.

He won 88.7 percent of the ballots cast in the first multicandidate elections in decades. The voting didn’t take place in opposition-held areas of Syria, effectively excluding millions of people from the vote.

Syria’s civil war, now in its fourth year, has killed more than 170,000 people and displaced one third of the country’s population.

Reflecting the security threat surrounding Assad, the inauguration ceremony was for the first time held at the presidential palace and not in the Syrian parliament as has been the tradition.

Syrian TV announced Wednesday morning he would be sworn in at noon. His previous term in office was to expire on Thursday, and he had been widely expected to be sworn in then.

Assad’s wife, Asma, was also in the audience Wednesday, sitting alongside several women in the front row.

“Congratulations for your victory and congratulations for Syria and its people who have defied all kinds of terrorism,” Assad said.

He mocked Arab and regional backers of the Syrian rebels fighting to topple him. “Whoever has supported terrorist whether in the West or the Arabs will pay the price sooner or later,” he said.

Assad did not mention recent developments in Iraq and Syria, where militants from the so-called Islamic State group have taken over large chunks of territory, declaring it a self-styled caliphate.

He vowed, however, to continue to fighting “terrorism” to liberate Syrian cities from rebels, including Aleppo and Raqqa in the northeast. Raqqa is under the full control of Islamic State fighters.

“We will not forget our beloved Raqqa, which we will liberate from the terrorists, God willing.”

TIME Syria

Western Families Struggle With Loss of Relatives to Jihad

Abubaker Deghayes at home in Saltdean, United Kingdom, mourning the death of his son Abdullah, 18, who was killed in Syria after he volunteered with some of his brothers, to fight alongside the rebels in the civil war.
Abubaker Deghayes at home in Saltdean, United Kingdom, mourning the death of his son Abdullah, 18, who was killed in Syria after he volunteered with some of his brothers, to fight alongside the rebels in the civil war. Andy Hall

Some 12,000 foreign fighters from 81 nations are estimated to have entered Syria over the past three years, leaving behind angry and distraught families and friends

Two British men admitted last week to preparing acts of terrorism, after returning from fighting with jihadist militants in Syria. Mohammed Nahin Ahmed and Yusuf Zubair Sarwar, both 22, had been fighting with rebel groups in the country for eight months but were arrested as soon as they set foot back in the U.K.

Intelligence officers, who had been investigating both men for months and amassing significant evidence against them, were first alerted to their whereabouts not by deep embedded sources or intelligence analysts in the field, but by Sarwar’s parents, who acted to protect their son in one of the only ways they had left.

Sarwar’s family is hardly an outlier. Some 12,000 foreign fighters from 81 nations are estimated to have entered Syria over the past three years. Faced with such staggering numbers, intelligence services are increasingly relying on the fighters’ families to supply them with information, who face the agonizing decision of whether to betray a loved one. But how else can you protect your relatives when they’re fighting for groups whose sole purpose is to kill or be killed?

Some families refuse to call the police, instead traveling to the Turkish-Syrian border to beg their relatives to come home. Others contact law-enforcement authorities in the hope they can somehow extract their family member from danger. Many others simply never hear from their loved ones again.

When Amer Deghayes, 20, traveled to Syria with an aid convoy in November 2013, his father Abubaker thought he’d be working in the Atma refugee camp in the north of the country. A few weeks later, Deghayes heard from his son. He’d joined al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Struggling with his son’s news, Deghayes was dealt another blow when sons Jafer, 16, and Abdullah, 18, followed their brother at the end of January. “I realized they’d gone on the second day when I saw their passports were missing,” he says. Deghayes traveled to the Turkish border to persuade them to come home, but they refused.

In an April firefight, Amer was shot in the stomach and Abdullah was killed. His father learned of his death on Facebook.

Deghayes, who considers Abdullah a martyr, believes the West bears some responsibility for his son’s death. “Why didn’t the West do something before these organizations popped up like mushrooms? They have the capability to stop this war like they did in Libya … Syria would move the emotions of any Muslim, or anyone who is human.”

That may be why Deghayes refuses to censure his sons Amer and Jafer, who are still fighting in Syria. “They want to help the Syrian people and join the fight against Assad,” he explains. “There are always people who get attracted to what they think is a just cause.”

The boys are nephews of Omar Deghayes, a U.K. resident who was held as an enemy combatant at Guantánamo Bay between 2002 and 2007 before being released without charge.

Some would-be martyrs go to Syria from across the Atlantic. The mother of a Canadian jihadist who calls himself Abu Muhajir spoke exclusively to TIME from Windsor, Ontario, on condition of anonymity, about her son’s departure to Syria.

The man, whose real name is known to TIME, told the New York Times in May that he was a high school science teacher, raised in a religious family in North America, who had decided to wage jihad in Syria with Islamist groups. His mother gives an alternative take of his background.

“We don’t go to mosque, a few times only,” she says. “Before Syria, my son went to Egypt to study Arabic. The Canadian intelligence services got him at the airport and questioned him. They were always after him and interviewed him many times.”

Aware that her son was becoming more secretive, Muhajir’s mother tried to stop the inevitable. “The Canadian police asked for information about my son, they told me to tell them if I saw any changes.”

Then one Sunday in November, Muhajir said he was going to Niagara Falls with a friend. Suspicious, his mother called the authorities. But the police didn’t respond, and intelligence services said they would deal with it on Monday. By the following day, however, her son and his friend had gone. “They let him go,” she says.

Like Deghayes, she speaks to her son regularly online. Audibly upset, she doesn’t know where her son is or whom he is with. “He doesn’t share these things with me because he knows I’m against it,” she says. “I am crying for my son, I am praying for him.”

When TIME contacted Muhajir, he refused to respond to news of his mother’s grief, though he claimed, “Any mother would be upset. But mine isn’t upset”.

“Whenever I ask him how he is, he just says ‘alhamdulillah [praise God],’” says his mother. “He said, ‘Mom I want to stop that oppression because it’s un-Islamic.’” Muhajir has also told his mother he’s working in a humanitarian team and not to worry, she says.

For his mother though, that is easier said than done. “I used to go to al-Jazeera [to read about Syria]. The miserable things I saw, I was always crying and it impacted my health … I am a mother and I have a mother’s heart.”

Her son’s travel companion eventually returned from Syria, dragged back by his wife. In her community, where neighbors fear police monitoring if they’re seen to be sympathetic, Muhajir’s mother is now alone in her grief.

This is not the case in Minnesota, whose Somali population has seen 15 of its young men leave for jihad. In June, Minnesota Public Radio spoke to a Somali-American man who called himself Abdirahmaan Muhumed who had left the Twin Cities for Syria. His brother Abdirahman Ahmed, who has been estranged from his sibling for 10 years, told TIME that his brother’s real name is Abdifatah Ahmed.

Though he spoke to Minnesota Public Radio, Ahmed hasn’t been in contact with his family since he left for Syria in December 2013. They don’t know where he is or whom he’s with, said his niece, who spoke exclusively to TIME on condition of anonymity. “I’ve tried to contact him, but there’s no answer,” she says. “I feel really upset, like I’ve lost my best friend. I was the closest to him and used to see him every day.”

Fiercely protective of her uncle, she declares, “I believe that he’s doing the right thing. I’m supporting him with whatever he decides as long as he’s O.K. He’s always been a believer. I feel like he’s trying to prove a point by fighting for what he believes in.”

Ahmed was one of the first Somali Minnesotans to go. At the end of May, Abdi Mohamud Nur left Burnsville, Minn., for Syria along with 12 other men. He graduated high school only one year before. His elder sister, Ifrah Mohamud Nur, told TIME that she has had no news of her brother’s whereabouts.

Nur believes her brother is fighting chiefly because he has been led astray. In a Facebook status posted shortly after he left, she wrote, “It’s still so unreal that my brother could leave us all behind for what? May Allah … punish these so called Muslims sending young boys to do their dirty work.”

Angry and distraught at her brother leaving home to fight on a foreign battlefield, Nur suggests challenging extremists who might ensnare young minds. “We as a community have to stand up to these [people] or else it’s gonna keep on happening,” she wrote.

TIME Syria

The Vast Majority of Syrians Are Opposed to an Islamic Caliphate

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

The data affirms the sentiments of some prominent Muslim leaders and academics in the region

The Islamist insurgents who have seized towns and cities across Iraq and Syria in recent weeks have not received the warmest of welcomes from their new charges. A survey conducted by a British polling group reveals that only 4% of Syrians support the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group’s crusade for a pan-Arab Islamic caliphate — with one in three Syrians still backing the government of President Bashar Assad.

“This [research] is a unique insight into public opinion in Syria,” Johnny Heald, managing director of the polling firm, told Reuters. “They don’t believe the extremist groups best represent their views.”

The poll, conducted by local interviewing teams, spanned 12 of Syria’s 14 provinces.

The data affirms the sentiments of some prominent Muslim leaders and academics in the region, many of whom have recently spoken out against the struggle for an Islamist state spanning the Middle East as socially reckless and scripturally ill-informed.

“The Baghdadi caliphate is rejected by most mainstream Islamists because they feel it damages their cause to establish an Islamic system through peaceful means,” Farid Senzai, a professor of Middle East politics at Santa Clara University, told al-Jazeera on Monday.

[Reuters]

TIME Syria

Jihadi Brides Swap Lives in West for Front Line With Syria Militants

Syria Rebel Fighter
A rebel fighter walks with his weapon at the Handarat camp frontline, an area located beside Aleppo Central prison July 6. Hosam Katan—Reuters

The sixteen-year-old twins slipped out of their beds in the middle of the night, grabbing passports and a few possessions. With that they were gone, hopping a flight from Britain to Turkey and sparking fears they were lost to a troubling and growing sisterhood: jihadi brides.

Since the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011, numerous reports have surfaced of Western women traveling to marry Islamist fighters. Two Somali sisters from Norway reportedly took the same route as the teens who disappeared from England’s northern city of Manchester this week, flying to Turkey and disappearing along the border with Syria…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

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 Terrorism

Denver Teen Arrested for Support to ISIS Called Herself a ‘Slave of Allah’ on Facebook

Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. Reuters

Documents show Conley told FBI she wanted to help wage holy war against forces attacking Islam

(ARVADA, Colo.) — She was a memorable figure in this western Denver suburb, a teenager wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf and dress, sitting alone on a park swing or walking into a Christian church with a backpack and notebook.

People who encountered 19-year-old Shannon Maureen Conley over the past few months said Thursday they were shocked, unnerved or simply sad to learn she had been arrested on charges of conspiring to help terrorists.

“I feel sorry for her,” said Mary Beth Brugler, a member of Faith Bible Chapel, where Conley visited several times last fall before concerned church officials asked her to leave.

“She needs a lot of prayer,” Brugler said.

The FBI says Conley was a convert to Islam who was planning to travel overseas and marry a man she believed was a Tunisian fighting with an al-Qaida splinter group in Syria. She told FBI agents she wanted to help wage holy war against forces attacking Islam, according to court documents.

Conley wanted to fight, the FBI said, but if she couldn’t, she would use her skills as a licensed nurse’s aide to help jihadi warriors.

The FBI said Conley was arrested at Denver International Airport in April while boarding a plane on the first leg of a trip to a town in Turkey three hours from the Syrian border. Authorities didn’t disclose her arrest until Wednesday, citing an active investigation.

Conley’s attorney didn’t return calls Wednesday and was out of the office Thursday. Her father declined to comment.

Conley’s family moved into an Arvada cul-de-sac in the past two years or so, neighbors said, and about a year ago she began wearing a headscarf.

On her Facebook page, she called herself a “slave of Allah,” and one of her posts — now removed — linked to a YouTube video about British women joining fighting in Syria.

Neighbor Bob Taylor recalls seeing her in a headscarf and long dress, sitting on swing in a nearby park for about a half hour at a time.

“I thought it was meditation or something. It just looked unusual,” Taylor said.

“I was shocked, and it’s a little unnerving, scary, you know,” he said of her arrest. “In here, you don’t expect that, you know, as neighbors.”

In October she began showing up at Faith Bible Chapel, sometimes with a backpack, said Jason King, an associate pastor. That caught the attention of security personnel at the church, where a gunman killed two missionary workers in 2007.

“We did ask her what she was doing here, because our first heart is to help and serve anyone,” King said. “So as she was walking around, she was acting a little different, so we just wanted to have a conversation with her.”

Brugler, who serves Sunday coffee and breakfast to worshippers at the church’s small cafe, said Conley ordered biscuits and gravy one morning.

“She asked me if it contained meat,” Brugler recalled. “I said, ‘Yes.’ She cursed and threw it in the trash.”

Church officials eventually asked her to leave.

“There was obviously some resistance, a little bit of hostility,” King said.

Conley later told FBI agents she thought church members were following her, the agency said.

“If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am,” she told the agents, according to a court document. She said she began keeping a notebook and acted as if she was diagramming the church “to alarm them,” according to the document.

Doug Newcomb, another associate pastor, said none of Conley’s conversations with church employees involved terrorism.

“All of our conversations with her were pastoral in nature, all related to explaining the Christian faith,” he said.

The FBI said when officers first asked Conley why she went to the church, she replied, “I hate those people.”

She told an FBI agent and an Arvada police detective she first went there to learn about other faiths, but that she disapproved of Faith Christian’s support of Israel.

Senior Pastor George Morrison said the investigation began when pastors expressed suspicions about Conley to security staff, which includes Arvada police officers. When officers learned the church asked her not to return, they started a probe on their own that eventually involved the FBI.

Court documents say FBI agents met with Conley eight times from November through April and that she freely described her plans — even though she knew she was speaking to government agents, and even though they told her what she wanted to do was illegal and tried to talk her out of it.

“It grieves your heart,” said King, the associate pastor.

“We know that this is not the best track, let alone for anyone, but especially a 19-year-old gal who is probably just trying to seek truth and find a place somewhere.”

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 3

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces; ISIS; Obama's Syria strategy; Obama's religion problem; U.S. jobs report; Hurricane Arthur

  • “The abduction and suspected revenge killing of an Arab youth sparked intense clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem on Wednesday, raising the specter of wider violence two days after three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found dead in the occupied West Bank.” [WashPost]
    • “…Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies on Israel’s political right appear to have extracted what they wanted from the crisis. And that has been disastrous for Palestinian civilians, who are suffering what, by every indication, appears to be collective punishment by the Israeli government for the actions of a few rogue militants.” [Vox]
  • How ISIS Came to Control Large Portions of Syria and Iraq [NYT]
  • “There’s a battle raging inside the Obama administration about whether the United States ought to push away from its goal of toppling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and into a de facto alliance with the Damascus regime to fight ISIS and other Sunni extremists in the region.” [Daily Beast]
  • Secretive agency leads most intense anti-corruption effort in modern Chinese history [WashPost]
  • “Relations between the CIA and Congress are more fraught than at any point in the past decade. The source of the tension is the Senate intelligence committee’s classified report on the CIA’s controversial post-9/11 interrogation program—and the agency’s response to it. The bad blood could get worse in coming weeks, when portions of the report and CIA response are expected to be declassified.” [WSJ]
  • With Change Proving Difficult, Barack Obama Returns to Hope [TIME]
    • “That Obama has grown frustrated by Congress is nothing new, but the fact that he is wearing it on his sleeve is.”
  • “The unemployment rate, at 6.1%, is at its lowest since September 2008, the month of the Lehman collapse. However, the labor force participation rate is still at 62.8%—also the lowest ever.” [Reuters]
  • “This week, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a religious employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of contraception. That decision is beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.” [Atlantic]
  • “Thousands of Facebook users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real. In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate.” [WSJ]
  • “Tropical Storm Arthur became a hurricane early Thursday morning and continues to accumulate strength as it approaches the North Carolina coast.” [TIME]

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