UK Family Travels to Syria

By Rowan Williams
  • – Sisters travel to Syria with children
  • – Egypt’s Morsi handed life sentence
  • – China: South China Sea reclamation work nearly complete


Fears are growing for three sisters and their nine children who are believed to have travelled to Syria following a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The three husbands of sisters Khadija Dawood, Sugra Dawood, and Zohra Dawood, have spoken of their severe concerns for their wives and children. The youngest of their children is three years old. The brother of the three sisters, who are all aged between 30 and 34, is understood to be fighting with extremists in Syria. The family from Bradford had visited the Saudi city of Medina on 28 May, with ten of the family then believed to have boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, on 9 June. There is no record of two of the family’s children boarding the flight, however. Turkey is a common through-route for those attempting to travel to Syria. The husbands of the Dawood sisters have also complained about a lack of support from the police, according to their lawyer. The sisters’ disappearance was first reported on 11 June, their lawyer has said. The news comes just days after another Briton, Talha Asmal, became the UK’s youngest suicide bomber after blowing himself up while fighting with extremists in Iraq.

In Egypt, ex-President Mohammed Morsi has been sentenced to life in prison on espionage charges. Morsi had been accused of spying on behalf of militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as for Iran. Several other members the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a member, were also handed life sentences. The court is yet to decide whether to uphold a death sentence handed down to Morsi in May over his role in a mass prison break in 2011. The prison break occurred during the uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak. Morsi was overthrown by Egypt’s army following widespread protests in 2013. Morsi has previously described the court as illegitimate. Even should Morsi’s death sentence be upheld by Egypt’s most senior Islamic cleric, the Egyptian government is not expected to follow through with such a provocative act.

China will shortly complete its controversial land reclamation programme in the South China Sea, China’s Foreign Ministry has said. China said that infrastructure would now be built on the reclaimed land, to carry out functions ranging from maritime search and rescue to scientific research. Several nations in the region, as well as the United States, have expressed concerns over the reclamation work. Tensions have continued to bubble over competing land claims in the area, with military confrontations between China and the US in the region also growing in frequency. China’s construction work is within the scope of its national sovereignty, the country’s Foreign Ministry has said.

The Papers

Ongoing fears for Greece’s bailout talks make the headlines today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that Greece is on the “brink of euro exit”. The paper writes that as it lurches towards a default on a €1.5 billion debt repayment and “economic meltdown”, the “Embattled country could be forced out” of the euro by Germany. The Financial Times reports that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has vowed to “resist ‘pillaging’ of Greece” by its international creditors. Tsipras has said that Greece’s creditors “must propose new plan” to save Greece from bankruptcy. The Times writes in its headline that Greece is in a “state of emergency”, quoting a European Commission official on the issue. Markets across Europe have seen a “shudder” ahead of “crunch talks” on Thursday, the paper reports, while borrowing costs have risen for a few other European nations. In other news, The Guardian leads with news that the morning-after emergency contraceptive pill “can be sold to under-16s”, after the contraceptive was officially licenced for sales to under-16s. While pharmacists have welcomed the move, some have expressed fears that the pill’s high cost will deter “girls in crisis”. The Independent leads with a warning from Pope Francis of “‘unprecedented damage’ from climate change” in a leaked official letter. The Vatican has condemned the leak of the letter, in which the Pope “rails against ‘economic powers’ and global financial system” in accelerating global warming.

British Media on China

On the South China Sea: China’s land reclamation work in the South China Sea has received coverage from several UK media outlets on Tuesday, following a Chinese Foreign Ministry announcement that reclamation work was nearing completion. The BBC reports that China did not “give a timeframe or identify which of the seven reefs undergoing land reclamation would be finished soon”. The Independent writes that China has claimed the reclaimed islands’ “main purpose was peaceful”. The Guardian’s agency piece notes that the “announcement is likely to anger the Philippines and the US”, given both countries’ concerns over accessing the area around the Spratly Islands. The Daily Telegraph’s agency piece writes that tensions are “unlikely to ease” soon following the work.

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