Jihadist-ruled city offers glimpse into post-Assad Syria

April 10, 2013

Jihadists face the test of government in Syrian city, Iran picks shaky spot for a nuclear reactor, and Brazilian Indians face off with agricultural interests. Today is Wednesday, April 10, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A fighter from Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra runs with his weapon as their base is shelled in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib

A sign of what’s to come?  Syria’s eastern city of Raqqa is the largest yet to be captured by rebels. The local population shows resistance to living under an Islamist regime, but the new order could be representative of life in Syria after Assad:

Since falling, Raqqa has been in effect run by Ahrar al-Sham, one of the best organized of hundreds of opposition formations fighting to oust Assad, and its Islamist allies, opposition campaigners in the area said. They said the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has a strong presence in the city and cooperates with Ahrar. The Iraqi wing of al Qaeda announced on Tuesday that Nusra was now its Syrian branch and the two groups would operate under one name — the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Things in Raqqa are off to a rough start, as citizens greeted their new leaders with strikes and protests.  Several hundred state employees have not been paid since rebels took hold of the city, and local sources reported demonstrations last week. Raqqa’s Islamist rulers replaced the failed local judiciary with religious courts. They also have tried to restrict cigarette sales, but stopped short of imposing dress codes on the conservative Sunni city.

This seems like a good place for a nuclear reactor? One day after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake killed 37 and injured at least 900 in Bushehr, a city close to Iran’s only nuclear plant, the head of the Islamic state’s Atomic Energy Organisation announced plans to build more reactors on the country’s quake-prone coast:

The Bushehr site is capable of holding six power reactors and construction of two more units of at least 1,000 megawatts will start in the “near future” there, he said. Iran has identified 16 sites elsewhere in the country suitable for other atomic plants. Iran sits on major faultlines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes.

Iranian officials said that the $11 billion plant was unaffected by Tuesday’s quake. Experts have expressed concern over Bushehr as a nuclear site, and a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment and the Federation of American Scientists said warnings have “fallen on deaf ears.”

Brazil returns land to native Indians. Almost fifty years after evicting native Indians and seizing their land, the Brazilian government is returning farm plots to members of indigenous tribes with little recourse for the farmers and current owners of the land:

As President Dilma Rousseff’s government tries to redress past wrongs, it has evicted some 7,000 farmers and other settlers and turned their holdings into a reservation so that the Xavantes can return home. “This is a traditional land,” said Chief Paridzané. “It has nothing to do with white men, with ranchers, or with foreign companies.” But this is no happy-ever-after story. Violent clashes have erupted. Farmers have contested the evictions before Brazil’s Supreme Court. The town left behind by the ousted settlers has gone to ruin.

The agriculture lobby worries that the return of farmed land to indigenous tribes will lead to future land grabs and stand in the way of Brazil’s goal of becoming the largest producer of soy. One tribe, the Xavantes, requested that the government destroy grain silos and other traces of the farmers’ occupation of the land in an attempt to restore previously untouched traditional land to “thick, dangerous forest.”

Nota Bene: Myanmar’s Muslims live in fear after dozens were killed in violence incited by the violent Buddhist group “969.”


Syria special – A PBS Frontline documentary examines everyday life from both sides of the Syrian conflict.  (PBS)

Django diluted – Violent scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained are toned down for a Chinese audience (BBC)

Maggie vs. the world – Reuters columnist Walter Russell Mead discusses how Margaret Thatcher’s talent sullied her reputation. (Reuters)

Cool it on the comedy crackdown – Egypt could learn a lesson from Algeria on how to deal with satirical sting. (Time)

South Korea holds its breath – With Psy’s newest single about to drop, who’s thinking of nuclear war? (The Guardian)

From the File:

  • South Korea increases surveillance as North moves missiles
  • Capriles needs late surge to win Venezuela vote
  • UK to urge more help for Syrian opposition at G8 talks
  • Thatcher’s funeral plans as divisive as Iron Lady herself
  • Islamists storm Tunisian school after it bars veiled student
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