US press: pick of the papers

1. Kony is not the problem (New York Times)

Killing Mr. Kony may remove him from the battlefield but it will not cure the conditions that have allowed him to thrive for so long, says Angelo Izama.

2. A Javelin or a Petrus in the White House? (Washington Post)

Romney, though not an athlete, does look as though he stepped down from Mount Olympus, says Kathleen Parker.

3. Heart of darkness (New York Times)

The impossible has happened in the past few weeks. A war that long ago reached its breaking point has gone mad, with violent episodes that seemed emblematic of the searing, mind-bending frustration on both sides after 10 years of fighting in a place where battle has been an occupation, and preoccupation, for centuries, writes Maureen Dowd.

4. Any given Sunday (Wall Street Journal)

In his budget speech today, Chancellor George Osborne is set to give London something to which it can honestly look forward: a suspension of Sunday-trading restrictions for the duration of the games, says this editorial.

5. How al-Qaeda tried to control the media (Washington Post)

The al-Qaeda spinmeister didn't like Fox News ("let her die in her anger"), but it's hard to understand why, says David Ignatius.

6. Not the same old North Korea? (LA Times)

Pyongyang has us right where it wants us, in a sense, which shows again the bankruptcy of a policy designed to bargain for nuclear and missile concessions that the North is never going to provide, says Michael J. Mazarr.

7. Mistakes were made (New York Times)

Romney and his staff made three mistakes: They didn't know how to talk about Romney's wealth, they played a prevent defense in South Carolina and they let up after Florida and let Rick Santorum back into the race, writes Ross Douthat.

8. Santorum's contraception deception (Boston Globe) (£)

Rick Santorum portrays himself as an unabashed, open-book conservative. But in courting religious voters while dismissing questions about his faith-based beliefs as unfair, he's trying to have things both ways, writes Scot Lehigh.

9. Seven principles of real health care reform (Politico)

Though the Obama administration has issued 10,000 pages of regulations since Democrats in Congress passed the more than 2,000-page behemoth, the law still does little to protect patients and is unlikely to make care more affordable, writes Governor Bob McDonnell.

10. Romney's romp (Chicago Tribune)

On Tuesday, Illinois Republicans established that Romney's message -- more attuned to economic rather than social issues -- makes him the party's dominant force in urban and suburban areas, says this editorial.

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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.”