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The civil war is threatening an ancient way of life in Syria | Syria



For centuries, Bedouin tribes moved around the vast semi-arid steppe land in Syria, searching for water and pasture for their herds of camels, sheep, and goats. This ecologically sustainable mobility and way of life indelibly contributed to the rich cultural heritage of the country. 

About 100 years ago, first under the French mandate and later the new nation-state, a series of policies were implemented to pressure the Bedouin to give up their nomadic lifestyle and settle in villages, towns and on the outskirts of cities. As a result, Syria’s nomadic pastoral population declined, from 13 percent of the total population in 1930 to 7 percent in 1953 and less than 2-3 percent by the turn of the millennium.

The few remaining Bedouin communities managed to resist the forces pushing them to settle and continued to make a comfortable living moving around the desert, raising mainly sheep. The Syrian civil war, however, has brought a new set of challenges for these communities, further threatening their traditional livelihoods and culture.       

The semi-arid steppe in Syria, called al-Badia in Arabic, makes up about 80 percent of the country’s landmass – 10 million hectares (nearly 25 million acres) of the central and northeastern part of the country, spreading across the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Az Zor, Hamah, al-Hassekeh, Homs, al-Raqqa, and to a lesser extent, Deraa and al-Suwayda provinces to the south. 

These governorates became major battlefields in the Syrian civil war, gravely affecting Bedouin herders living there and making a living by selling pastoral products like milk, cheese and meat. Military operations hampered Bedouin efforts to access grazing land, water sources and post-harvest farmland stubble. After 10 years of conflict, many Syrian Bedouin herders can no longer maintain their livelihoods or find sufficient fodder for their herds. Many of them already lost significant portions of their herds and have been internally displaced or pushed across international borders.

Khaled Abu Amer from al-Mawali tribe, for example, told us how the conflict between the regime and opposition forces drove him to leave the countryside of Hama and seek safety in Idlib province in 2018. As a result of his inability to find pasture for his herd there, he lost three-quarters of his sheep.

Since the beginning of the conflict, seeking safety and sanctuary from armed groups, rather than looking after the livestock, became the main priority of Bedouin herders. In some cases, the nomadic herders were besieged by regime forces in opposition-controlled areas along with sedentary civilian populations. This was the case for Bedouin herders who got trapped in eastern Ghouta during the regime’s siege of the area. To avoid starvation, they were forced to slaughter and eat their livestock. As a result, they lost their capital – their herds – and were forced to work as daily wage labourers to survive. 

Bedouin herders also faced targeted attacks by both the Syrian government forces and ISIL (ISIS). 

Traditionally, Bedouin herders have had the ability to move across borders between states when local conditions became difficult. Over the years, this mobility has made the ruling regimes suspicious of their loyalties. These suspicions rose to the surface during the course of the Syrian civil war. The different factions involved in the conflict became increasingly suspicious of the intentions of the herders who refrained from openly aligning themselves with any group, and therefore were targeted indiscriminately.

For example, in 2018, the Syrian regime forces bombed the tents and the animals of Bedouin herders from al-Omour tribe near the city of Palmyra, claiming that they were members of ISIL. The attack killed four herders and destroyed most of their sheep. The same year, herders from the same tribe had to escape ISIL’s repressive rule and attempts to tax them in the countryside of Palmyra by heading north to the countryside of recently-liberated Raqqa.           

After losing much of their mobility and access to natural grazing land, Bedouin herders have been forced to buy fodder, which they can ill afford, to feed their animals. Moreover, as the government’s veterinary services ran out of animal vaccines and routine drugs, it has become harder for herders to keep their animals healthy and productive. Many have been forced to smuggle their herds across the borders to Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey to sell them at reasonable prices. Where this has not been possible, Bedouin have had to sell their sheep in Syria for whatever they can get in order to survive the war. 

The impact of Syria’s armed conflict on Bedouin herders is rarely mentioned in the media. Yet among the many narratives of loss and suffering during the Syrian civil war, the Bedouin’s stand out. 

Sheepherding makes up a significant part of Syria’s GDP, but the rapid disappearance of Syria’s nomadic herders is not merely an economic loss. Mobile sheep herding is the most efficient and ecologically sound approach to life in the semi-arid lands of Syria. No other occupant can take care of this vast land the way nomadic herders do. 

Today, a way of life that has withstood the vicissitudes of cyclical drought, of conflict between tribes, and settled societies for more than a thousand years is shrinking, perhaps irreversibly. As Bedouin herders are forced to settle in villages and towns, take up employment as labourers or seek refuge in neighbouring countries, not only an ancient, sustainable way of life but also a significant component of Syria’s cultural heritage is being lost. 

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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