US press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. An alliance the world can count on (Washington Post)

As two nations that support the human rights and dignity of all people, we continue to stand with those brave citizens across the Middle East and North Africa who are demanding their universal rights, write Barack Obama and David Cameron.

2. India's Democratic dividend (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Last week's election results in five Indian states turned the conventional wisdom on its head. Voters, especially in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, resoundingly favored parties that promised development. The elites are still in a state of shock, writes Barun Mitra.

3. Obama's pump debacle (LA Times)

Obama desperately wants people to think he's against higher gas prices -- at least until he gets reelected, says Jonah Goldberg.

4. Why isn't Mitt Romney "likable enough"? (Politico)

A candidate can attract or repulse in the same way a magnet can. Every time Romney tries to close the distance with voters and draw them closer, he seems invariably, to repulse them, writes J. Ann Selzer.

5. Afghanistan on edge (LA Times)

With each further crisis like that set off by the soldier's actions Sunday, the U.S. loses standing in the eyes of its Afghan government "partners," not to mention the increasingly skeptical population at large, says this editorial.

6. The perils of retreat (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Retreats are messy in warfare, and they can quickly become disorderly when the mission becomes something other than military victory, writes this editorial.

7. America's war on manufacturing (Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the wake of calls for tax breaks and other measures to support manufacturing from President Obama and the leading Republican presidential candidates, there has been an outcry from economists against such industrial policy, writes Clyde Prestowitz.

8. The double-edged health care debate (Oregonian)

It must be a bitter irony for the president that his greatest legislative achievement, a promise kept from his 2008 campaign, has become an albatross, writes Doyle McManus.

9. Obama goes to AIPAC (Plain Dealer)

Obama indeed did parrot the line that all options would be on the table. And he chest-thumped by saying Iran should not doubt his resolve, but he also said that all the war talk has not helped, says Jennifer Rubin.

10. Obama's phony compromise on religious freedom (Washington Examiner)

Obama had no intention of budging on the most critical issue -- whether the government or the church will decide how the church operates, writes this editorial.

Show Hide image

What it’s like to be a Syrian refugee in Paris

“We fled from terror and it found us again here. It feels like it is always behind us, stalking us.”

Walid al Omari arrived in Paris a little less than a month ago. Having fled the slaughter of his homeland and undertaken the long and dangerous journey, like tens of thousands of other Syrian refugees, to western Europe, he was finally safe.

Ten days later, a wave of brutal violence tore through the French capital as gunmen and suicide bombers put an end to the lives of 130 people who had been out enjoying a drink, dinner, a concert or a football match.

“It felt like terrorism was everywhere,” recalls the 57-year-old Walid, a former small business owner and journalist from the suburbs of Damascus.

“We fled from terror and it found us again here. It feels like it is always behind us, stalking us.”

Syrian refugees, not just in Paris but across Europe and North America, have since found themselves caught up in a storm of suspicion. The backlash started after it emerged that at least two of the attackers arrived in Europe among refugees travelling to Greece, while a Syrian passport was found next to one of the bodies.

It has not yet been confirmed if the two men were really Syrian – all suspects whose identities have so far been made public were either French or Belgian – while the passport is widely believed to be a fake. But, already, several US states have said they will not accept any more refugees from Syria. In Europe, Poland has called for the EU’s quota scheme for resettling refugees to be scrapped, while lawmakers in France, Germany and elsewhere have called for caps on refugee and migrant numbers.

“I fear the worse,” says Sabreen al Rassace, who works for Revivre, a charity that helps Syrian refugees resettle in France. She says she has been swamped by calls by concerned refugees in the days following the attacks.

“They ask me if the papers they have been given since they arrived in France will be taken away, if they’ll be sent back to Syria,” she says.

Anas Fouiz, who arrived in Paris in September, has experienced the backlash against refugees first hand.

“One waiter at a bar asked me where I was from and when I said Syria he said that I must be a terrorist, that all Arab people are terrorists,” says the 27-year-old from Damascus, who had been a fashion student before leaving for Europe.

The irony is that the terrorist organisation that claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, the Islamic State, is, along with Bashar al Assad’s army and other militant groups, responsible for the long list of atrocities that prompted many like Walid and Anas to flee their homes.

“As a man in Syria you have the choice of joining the Syrian army, the Islamic state or another militant group, or you run away,” says Anas.

He remembers seeing news of the attacks unfold on television screens in bars and cafés in the Bastille area of Paris – close to where much of the carnage took place – as he drank with a friend. Desensitised by having seen so much violence and death in his home city, he didn’t feel any shock or fear.

“I just felt bad, because I know this situation,” he says. “You just ask yourself ‘why? Why do these people have to die?’.”

Perhaps a more pressing cause for concern is how easily extremists in Europe can travel to Syria and back again through the porous borders on the EU’s fringes – as several of the Paris attacks suspects are thought to have done.

Both Anas and Walid speak of the lax security they faced when entering Europe.

“Turkey lets people across the border for $20,” says Walid.

“In Greece, they just ask you to write your nationality, they don’t check passports,” adds Anas. “It’s the same in Hungary and Macedonia.”

Nevertheless, and despite his experience with the waiter, Anas says he is happy with the welcome he has received by the vast majority of the French people.

In fact, at a time when fear and violence risk deepening religious and social rifts, Anas’s story is a heartening tale of divisions being bridged.

Upon first arriving in Paris he slept on the streets, before a passer-by, a woman of Moroccan origin, offered him a room in her flat. He then spent time at a Christian organization that provides shelter for refugees, before moving in with a French-Jewish family he was put in touch with through another charity.

He says the biggest problem is that he misses his parents, who are still in Damascus.

“I speak to my mum twice a day on the phone,” he says. “She asks me if I’m okay, if I’m keeping safe. She’s worried about me.”