Bilal Abdul Kareem Interviews from Syria

Lauren Booth


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Welcome, everybody. My name is Bilal AbdulKareem. And we are live from northern Syria. Now. I've got a guest here today. So you might be thinking, Wait a minute, you must be in the UK or someplace else. No, she's here with me. And she is a journalist, a writer, and activist, and, and a good friend to go along with all of that. And her name is Lauren booth and I want to say to you as salaam alaikum wa Rahmatullah Wa Alaikum. Salaam Rahmatullahi. Wa Barakatuh. How amazing is this? I'm here. Yes, you are here. Or either you're here on there. Were somewhere. So look, let's jump right into this. You are in northern Syria? Yeah. What are you doing here? First of all, just Akron, Ohio, for

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asking me on to your stream and Santa Monica rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh to all of you. And thanks b to the people who are hosting me here. So I've been brought over by tox, who's a mutual friend. And he runs an amazing organization called Eco who are working with people on the ground and actually working to empower is such a misuse word, but really to produce a generation of hope going forward. And so yeah, I'm here looking at those projects, trying to help as much as I can. And just visiting Syria for the first time. I put off coming to Syria. Why? I was like, everybody, I was nervous, you know that there hasn't really been a corridor until now. And I think it's been maybe would you say

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it's been six, eight months since Turkey has established a route for charities that is okay. Legitimate and has no backlash. Right, right.

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Yeah. And so here it is, people like myself, we can come in. And actually, it's like, coming in to somebody's home. And there's been, there's been a terrible fight. There's been some there's been a cataclysm there, and you You're literally picking through things going, This must have been beautiful. And can it be beautiful again, and what people still live here?

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What is your impression of the people now you've mixed with them just a little bit? How do they receive you Subhanallah I'm someone who, because of my face, our face, Islam, hamdulillah chakra Allah always

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just tends to tends to look for the positive and to seek out the man or the faith or the the goodness in people. And so so that's visible here, you know, the smiles of the children who have learned to play with rocks and stones, much like they do in Gaza or Yemen, that that facility of the human being to just get through and to make the best of every day, or not to know any different. So they've been wonderful. However, however, I've really noticed some differences here. between here and for example, when I go to Gaza Strip, and the Gaza Strip, has a government, it has a police force, and it has people who are in charge. And so there's a security situation. And so you can feel

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safe, I go where everywhere and say hi, Salaam Alaikum when people come over, and that doesn't feel like there's a barrier there rabies, there may be some security in the distance, and they're keeping an eye on things handler right? Here. What I've noticed is I've wanted to walk around, spend time with people and every time I've done that someone's gone. Hey, time to leave. Okay, because this is not 100% secure situation. Well, it's still a war zone. It's still a war zone is this is an active situation. And that's what I've kind of realized. Not that Gaza or the West Bank, they're in peace.

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But this is a sort of different volatile situation with so many different active players. I can't get to the bottom of it. And I don't know. And I think that's a dystopian reality that the people are living in here. They, they want to give the same old Fidel, Fidel and welcome. And they don't, they kind of don't know how to do it and safety.

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Well, you have to have safety in order to, to give it and I think that the people, they're struggling in that regard, you know, it's been more than 10 years of war. So, you know, even the people are a bit scarred. Now. You're no stranger to Shin, as you said, You've been to Gaza and such like that.

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You're involved in charity work? How's the charity dynamic differ in terms of giving out aid and such like that in Syria, as opposed to Gaza? In some ways? In some ways, it's tragically the same. It's it seems to be about keeping people in the same position, rather than getting them out and moving them forward. None of none of you know, I can't say none of us you're in the war situation. For those of us who live in peaceful countries and you know, we have the world and everything in it, as the Prophet said, peace be upon him if you've got food

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in a bad place, and there's no wall around you, you've really got got dunya as as good as it gets. For those of us who live that, coming here, you just, it's annoying. It's like, I don't, I don't want to applaud any more children eating a piece of bread on a dirty rug and calling that progress, right? Because they're not on the streets. So I, I'm frustrated for the people here.

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yeah, I respect the emergency work. But should we still be in that emergency situation? After 10 years? There are people have been in camps for nine years, right? There are children of eight, who've never known any other life. What are we doing with that money? Really? What changes would you say the charity sector needs to go in to be more effective in the days going forward?

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I think there are, you know, you need to establish and villages and towns and give people a working momentum out. And there needs to be a political progress to secure, whether it's passports, whether and training. And, you know, getting people out of the black economy. One of the things that's really disturbed me here, and I know, check the charity sector don't like to talk about it, but we should,

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is that there's been a very weird amount of drugs poured into the refugee camps. I'm sure you're aware of this. Yes. So even within that structure of Al Hamdulillah, we're holding on, we want better for our children, the kids are still scrubbed clean and going to their little class in a container and doing our best. The breakdown and family isn't over. It's like the elevator hasn't reached the bottom yet. That's the first thing and why? Well, I've heard from several sources that many were injured in the war, were given an American opioid drug for free. Okay, that suddenly appeared like in all the press, all the all the pharmacies, what you can get this for free. Did you

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know that over the count, as we saw over the counter free, how is that happening? And that went on for six months. And then after that was Drew, there was another replacement drug. And then that was you couldn't find that, and then came in crystal meth.

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And I don't know, there's lots of rumors about where it's come from.

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I don't know if I should say that, because it's a fitna, but it's x outside sources. And what does crystal meth do? It makes people violent, completely out of control. And it destroys families with violence.

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That's something that I think a lot of people don't realize, you know, when things are not regulated, you're in a war zone, all kinds of skin can come about all kinds of bad actors can start to implement the plans and such like that. Now, you're sitting here in the land of shed, and I'm sure that 99.9% of those watching are not from have never been here before. Yeah. What do you think that they should know about? What's going on here? Your experiences that they don't know? Oh, nice question.

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Man Raheem?

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Well, first of all, just take the idea of this being some third world country that was always like this people of Shama, and established multitude of nations joined under one, you know, several tribal nationalities that have been here for 1000s of years. They have structure, they have beauty, they have history, they have a wonderful, rich, diverse, you know, a very layered culture here. And that's been deliberately broken down by multiple outside forces. And we I think we have to think of what would we like for ourselves? If If war, God forbid, comes to America or the UK or Europe like this? Okay. We're also afraid about Ukraine. How do they rebuilt? What is the purpose of their of

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our support for their society? And when do we back off? Right.

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You know, I think you should know that, perhaps, Syria as we know, it is gone.

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It is gone, it's gone. But the issue is what's going to replace it? Yeah. Is it going to be something better? It's gonna be something worse. That's what the real question is. Yeah. But it's gonna be different. And the people I feel, are studying them studying themselves for they don't know what the move is, but they're put there. I think there's a there's a sense here of gritted teeth. So if I was going to tell you something about Syria, I'd say, you know, the people are hanging on and they're good people and they will still give you a smile and they will still invite you to their homes, even if their home is a ditch to be quite honest.

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Now you've met some, some Western Muslim females here.

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What was that? Like? What's the vibe you got?

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Do they differ from the Syrian women in terms of their thinking?

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mean they're

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here and they're their sisters, who are the niqab?

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Yeah, to fit in, I guess. And to have a bit of an anonymity, it's not nice to stand out necessarily, when you're somewhere strange and, and things are in a changeable situation. They, once they respect all of the rules and regulations here, and work with the sisters and the widows here, but they're very different, they have their cultural mores, maybe they laugh a bit louder, maybe they have more access to work and jobs, maybe, obviously, they're dynamic in the households is going to be slightly different, because we do things differently in the West. And, and yet, they're becoming a part of the society. And I guess when I,

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when I would have seen the copies, the only time I've seen the copies in Syria from the west on TV, they'd be nice as brides. Okay. You know, I used to say to my kids, you know, when we were going out walking, you know, in the hills, and they looked grumpy, and they, I said, you know, put a smile on your face, you look like an ISIS bride, it's become a sort of part of our lexicon of language, and you don't want to look like that. And you definitely don't want to meet those, those those strange, poor, broken women. But there are a whole range of women here who have come for different reasons. And all of them are good. You know, they're not ISIS, and they're definitely absolutely 100% not

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anything to do with that criteria or that agenda. There are women that I would meet in East London, or, or the Midlands, who just want to explore a different way of life, not a different way of life, as in, oh, my God, an extreme version of Islam, because that's what people hear when they think Syria and Muslim women, but to live somewhere else, maybe you want to go and live in Greece, right? Because Greece is your thing. Ancient Greece is your thing. Maybe you you're American, and you're like, you know, I really like it down in Costa Rica. Does that mean you're droite joining a cult in Costa Rica? Or does it mean you'd like travel? But, you know, if we're just being honest here, you

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know, there's a different criterion of for Muslims. Islamophobia is live. It's, it's alive and kicking. There was one Ukrainian soldier who was not Muslim, who blew himself up to stop the Russian tanks from coming across a bridge. And even in western tabloids, I think one of them was the son, if I'm not mistaken, wrote the word hero above his above his picture. Now, okay, that's fine. Now, let's say that that's the case. But then when you go into Muslims doing the same thing, it carries a completely different context. Yeah, we're not supposed to protect our lands. But to go back to what we were talking about the sisters here because I think it really pivotal that we that we do look

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honestly about why Westerners would come to Syria, right. Okay. You got your own story. You've told it before. So I also won't try and delve into that. But that Muslims will travel because we love Muslim lands, right? And it's like, we love the soil, and we love.

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Siri like, yeah, one's a warzone. One makes coffee. Right? Okay. Like, yeah, okay, I get that you've got a fair point. Not everyone who's going to live under bombs. But when you love people so much, and you have a charitable heart, and you're fascinated, perhaps by the history of your face, then you go and live there. And you go and look for the people and, and come what may? Yeah.

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How has this? Well, first of all, I have to ask you, has this trip changed you in a positive or a negative direction? Nice. Nice question. I think it's a it's been a while since I've been on deployment to, to somewhere that where war is happening. And I needed that, which is weird. Only, I guess only journalists kind of understand that. Yeah, I needed that. Like, I remember you said it, like she said something. This was off camera. And she says, you know, you know, we're journalists and we don't live normal lives. Yeah. And she was telling the truth. Yeah. We don't live in the everyday context of what's what's, what should be sought out. So I needed this because I needed to

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connect with the people, their pain and their hopes and their

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ality and to do some learning here and and that makes me just love the OMA more and actually have more hope for our use because you know our immense talents as human beings and as people of faiths will come through this and now I know the Syrian people a little bit four days is not a long deployment

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it just goes on for a little while but they can hear you just finish a point

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I never took over there

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sorry guys

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know with us you got the event in Syria?

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are you

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how are you

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how are you?

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you were basically talking about some of the Muslim women that you've met here?

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And has your general experience more positive or negative? Yeah, so we were just saying that that as a journalist, I needed to come here I wanted to I want to see the situation with their own I my own eyes, I've understood that the role that Turkey is playing a bit better, I didn't know that this area of northern Syria was even called the Euphrates Shield. Because it's so complex that when you try to dip in, and it's just words on a page, it just kind of like what we're doing this, and this regime is doing this and there's APs and you know, you kind of if you're trying to make sense of something, you need to touch it with your hands and taste it with your, with your eyes, you know,

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it's really taken in so I feel I've got a bit more of a handle of that. And that hopefully will make me more useful. Okay, look, we're gonna get ready to wrap up and all but this is your camera right here. And we want you to say something to the people who are watching. Tell them something from northern Syria that you want them to know. And it's, it's all on you Subhanallah

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This is brothers and sisters, wherever you are in the world, develop humanity in your

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Never Never give up on other people. It's to growth to security and the things that you enjoy and know this, those sayings that first they came for the communists and the Jews and then they came for us or you know, ignore the rights of others and then your rights will be lost. Or perhaps as a Manic Street Preachers famously said, If you tolerate this, then your children will be next. We live in an age

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Where Devil's walk amongst us. That's what I've, that's what I've actually seen today we went to a place and I saw for the first time, several men who have been tortured by the regime here in Syria, and I have never seen such broken human beings, shells. They went in young men of 19 Shabaab full of life and hopes, like our own children and young people. And now, it's terrifying, you know, broken internally and externally and whoever did that, my message to you, you're broken, you're broken, look into your soul, make Tober you know, it, desist at once from this devilish behavior. And there are angels that walk amongst us, and there's incredible good to be done. So please, don't turn your

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back on those in need. Change your soul and interact with Syria, where you can inshallah to Allah. All right. With that in mind, we're going to wrap up this live broadcast. We want to thank you. We've been with Sister Lauren booth, who is a journalist, writer, and activist, and somebody that loves sham food. Is that right? That's what I heard. Oh, yeah, I do. I do. I've had enough per day for now. The bread, the breads, beautiful, but I'm really getting into I want that rice and chicken to like, please. Yeah, Robbie, if you will.

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Oh, okay. Then. We want to thank everybody for joining us. We will be having our FX swap program. So please do stay tuned for that. Docomo Qaeda was salam ala