Sunday, 17 February 2019

My heart almost stopped from fear

 'Under this fire and flames there are 2 bodies, the siblings Mohammed and Amenah. Near them under the rubble there are the bodies of brothers who have physical disabilities. Khan Sheikhoun massacre yesterday.

 What is the guilt of this children? In the eyes of this child who was wounded today by Assad's shelling on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib is one question for us all... What did we do to deserve all this? What did we do to be killed in such a horrific way?!

 Since the morning, Assad’s forces have started shelling cluster bombs on the southern Idlib countryside.

 The first city was Khan Sheikhoun. At 1:20 the shelling began on the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man.

 When the first rocket landed on my city, I was very afraid. My heart almost stopped from fear.

 People started running down the streets to hide from the shelling.

 My sisters and children in school — I was very afraid for them.

 The ambulance began to rush to the bombing sites to save children and civilians. I went to the bombing site to document and photograph the location of the shelling.

 When I was there, an observer said there is a rocket in the sky. I ran and ran away.

The rocket landed 500 meters away from me. My legs no longer carry me with fear.

 Finally I went to my workplace and took a break. There were many dead and wounded civilians and children.
 We were afraid of cluster bombs falling on us.

 This is our life — when you live in the most dangerous country in the world.

 Now I am very tired. Today was very difficult from the severity of the bombing. I’m going to sleep for comfort

 Please everyone pray for us.'

Under Assad Regime Attack: A 1st-Hand Account from Idlib Province

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

How a play written 2,500 years ago is giving hope to Syrian refugees in Scotland

 'A new production of Greek tragedy The Trojan Women, by Euripides, is being staged by an Edinburgh-based theatre company, with cast comprising amateur actors and a story adapted to incorporate their experiences of fleeing Syria with millions of others.

 The play, written in 415BC, tells of the women of Troy after their city has fallen to Greece, their husbands have been killed, and a life of slavery beckons.

 More than two millennia later, it is being staged at an arts venue next to a fast-food drive-through and a bookies in Easterhouse, Glasgow.

 For producer William Stirling, who with his wife Charlotte Eagar has mounted several previous productions of the play around the world, the process is about much more than storytelling.

 He said: “A lot of women we have worked with in the past say they have lost their identities, crossing borders, losing their homes. If you are from Syria or the Middle Eastern countries, you typically live as part of an extended family of 30 or 40 aunts, uncles, cousins, like a big support group. You have to have a big family in order to survive. That’s something they lose. What we hope we have created is a bigger support group, a wider family for the people who have taken part. When we first did it in Jordan, we were told that theatre wasn’t big in the Arab world, that wives, daughters and mothers would not be allowed to go on stage. The opposite was true. We’ve found this helps give them back some of their identity.”

 Heba, 19, said her family fled Syria in 2013 when Bashar Assad’s forces targeted schools.

 “It was very bad, the village I lived in was very dangerous, the army started shooting in our schools, the people who were supposed to protect us. My dad had been taken to prison in Syria but he got to Jordan and we went to meet him there. When they started shooting at the school we hid at my teacher’s house. It was so dangerous to move in the streets, we had to hide in the trees and then in the evening I left for Jordan in a van with my brother and sisters and mother. Before this, I had a perfect life as a child, my family protected me. But when the war started, I couldn’t understand why the army were shooting us. They aimed for schools and hospitals. Can you imagine this? I don’t always tell people these things here, I worry about their feelings. Not everyone has the flexibility to listen to these stories and I don’t want to make people feel sad.”

 Heba is a social science student at Motherwell College, living in Milton of Campsie, and plans to become a clinical psychologist.

 She said: “The people I have met through the play I think of as my wider Syrian family now. When you speak your suffering for the first time, you cry. But when you say it twice, three times, you control your feelings. For three months I don’t think about Syria. This has been very positive for me.”

 Alaa, 27, works as a translator and interpreter and lives in Glasgow. She secured a scholarship to study literature in Edinburgh and left her home in the suburbs of Damascus in 2016. She doesn’t know when she will ever see her parents again.

“My village was under siege when I left. We had to pay a large amount of money at the checkpoint to get to Lebanon. My parents are still there. I feel sadness, anger but worst of all hopeless, because it feels like things are getting worse since the revolution, and now the regime is gaining control again. All the people who died, everything that has been done, is for nothing. I can’t go back to Syria, and I have not seen my parents since I left. It is very hard, especially when you know they are suffering, and they have no hope of seeing their children again. Taking part in the play has meant a lot to me, to see people from your country every week. Many had no purpose when we first started and this has given them something.

 Life here is different in ways I couldn’t imagine. Syria has technology, but it doesn’t have humanity. The main differences I see are happiness on the faces of children, how humans treat each other. People are downtrodden in Syria, trying just to get gas, electricity, money to feed their children. If you’d lived in another country which has no consideration for humanity, you’d see it every day.”

 Essam fled Syria after receiving a terrified phonecall from his daughter.

 “I was working in Egypt and my daughter phoned me. She said she wanted to come to where I was because there were bombs. She was three years old, she was scared. I realised we had to go away if we wanted to be safe.”

 Having successfully mobilised his family from Syria to Egypt in 2012, he arrived in Scotland in 2016 and now works as a delivery driver.

 “It is very hard for us, it is not easy to start again from below-zero in your 40s. This play sends a strong message from Syrian refugees in Scotland. We have to say who we are, why we are here. We are here for safety. We have to tell people that we are not Isis, that is so important. Syrian people have a massive civilisation and history.” '

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Monday, 4 February 2019

Change is possible in Syria despite Arab leaders normalising Assad’s genocide

Image of Syrian President Bashar Assad on 14 April 2017 [Inform the world/Twitter]

 Yvonne Ridley:

 'Bashar al-Assad must be buoyed by the support that he has these days across the Arab world. Such support includes the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), the Palestinian Authority’s official news channel, opening a new bureau in Damascus. The campaign to rehabilitate Assad’s brutal regime continues more or less unchallenged.

 There seems to be very little political will within the international community, let alone the Arab world, to stand up and question the Syrian dictator’s continued leadership, despite him presiding over one of the most devastating wars and humanitarian disasters on the planet. Nor does there seem to be much appetite at the UN to view Assad as one of the key obstacles to a peaceful solution in the brutal Syrian civil war which began in March 2011.

 This war has cost the lives of between 500,000 and one million people (we will probably never know for certain); displaced more than half of the country’s 22 million population; and involved countless atrocities and crimes against humanity. Shocking images smuggled out of Syria in 2014 provided clear evidence of the genocidal intent of the regime in Damascus, but they are conveniently ignored, or even forgotten.

 Moreover, while Qatar is adamant that it will not reopen its embassy in Damascus, both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain opened theirs last month, claiming that they are seeking to counter Iranian influence. Such claims are largely dismissed by Middle East analysts.

 Even as the repeated cries of “Never Again” from last month’s Holocaust Memorial Day events still echo around the world, the Assad regime rolls on relentlessly like an out-of-control juggernaut targeting its own people. I am still haunted by the Syrian women who told me of their horrific experiences as prisoners of the regime in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities. I despair at the lack of will and moral backbone of presidents and prime ministers from East to West to make real efforts to end this war, not least because of the alarming signs that the main effort at the moment is to bring Assad back into the fold and normalise his behaviour. This will include, we are told, a visit by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas very soon. This is appalling news; if any nation knows the pain of brutality and violence at the hands of a repressive regime, it’s the Palestinians. What is Abbas playing at?

 Despite what conspiracy theorists will have you believe, the democratic uprising against the Assad regime began over the arrest, detention and torture of a group of schoolboys in Daraa, as MEMO revealed back in 2014. It did not begin with CIA interference, nor an influx of foreign fighters, Al-Qaida, rebranded weapons from the West, NATO or a global call across the Muslim world for jihad. This was a reluctant revolution which was forced upon the people by the murderous response of an evil, malevolent regime to their call for justice and reform.

 Mercifully, while politicians with very short attention spans and an eye on the poll ratings have grown weary at the very mention of Syria, ordinary people are standing up to and taking action against the Assad regime. For this very reason, there is concern among the privileged elite surrounding the Syrian President. While state leaders and the UN seem powerless to do anything constructive, extraordinary individual efforts fuelled by exceptional determination can possibly bring about change.

 I have seen two examples of these in the past 48 hours, herculean efforts which could force a change in direction of the Syrian war if only the international community will show similar courage and leadership to bring an end to Assad’s brutal rule and the sectarian strife which has ripped the region apart.

 The first was when a US court ruled that American journalist Marie Colvin was murdered by the Assad regime during an artillery attack on Homs in 2012. She was not just another random casualty of war; following an exhaustive inquiry, Judge Amy Jackson ruled that she was targeted deliberately as part of the regime’s policy of violence against independent journalists, whom it considers to be “enemies of the state”. The court in Washington was told that this violence is ongoing.

 “Officials at the highest level of the Syrian government,” explained Judge Jackson, “carefully planned and executed the artillery assault on the Baba Amr media centre [in Homs] for the specific purpose of killing the journalists inside.” Colvin and a French photojournalist, Rémi Ochlik, who was also killed, were “specifically targeted” in order to silence their reporting of the growing opposition to Assad’s dictatorship and atrocities committed by regime forces.

 While it is unlikely that Colvin’s family will ever benefit from the court’s award of $302 million in punitive damages against Assad, his brother Maher Al-Assad and their associates, the verdict opens the way for the seizure of some or all of an estimated $1 billion in Assad family assets salted away around the world, some of which have already been identified and frozen. The premeditated murder of Colvin should now also form a part of the ongoing UN-led criminal investigation of Assad, which seems to have stalled of late.

 Make no mistake, though, this has only come about through the determination of Colvin’s family to get justice for this incredibly brave journalist who in death may just yet achieve as much for the innocents of war as she did in her amazing life. Colvin was a former colleague of mine at the Sunday Times and she was fearless in her determination to get to the truth; her defence of vulnerable people in conflict zones was breathtaking.

 As the verdict was returned in the US court, another group of equally courageous and determined individuals held a press conference in Idlib, in rebel-held Syria. This seemingly inauspicious occasion looks set to be a thorn in the side of the Assad regime with the unveiling of a civil society initiative called the Unity Project.

 Around 350 “ex-pats” from the West have come together in Idlib to help Syrians rebuild and develop their country. Using a variety of professional skills — including medical, education, engineering, science and media — the group has networked extensively with Syrians on the ground, charities back home and each other to rebuild and open schools, hospitals, playgrounds and community hubs to help widows and orphans.

 Most of the ex-pats — or foreigners as the Syrians call them — arrived in the war-torn country more than five years ago “for humanitarian purposes”. Their decision to stay has cost some of them their British citizenship because of the simple but toxic narrative that anyone leaving Britain to go to Syria can only be fighters or Daesh brides.

 I met some of the founders of the Unity Project during my visit to Idlib last month and was told by one that there are no fighters in the group: “Our only motivation is to help Syrian people rebuild their own country.” Sadly, rather than being applauded for their work which has convinced many Syrians to stay in their country, some individuals have been punished by the British government, which has cancelled their passports.

 Undeterred, and arguably more determined than ever, the ex-pats came together on Thursday and unveiled the project. Far from seeing Idlib as “the last stand”, this group sees the tide turning in the fortunes of the Assad regime despite its powerful Russian and Iranian allies which are counting on the West’s growing fatigue and general political malaise with regard to Syria.

 To this end, it is worth remembering the poignant words of the late theoretical physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking, who said about human beings and our place in the universe, “We are very, very small, but we are profoundly capable of very, very big things.”

 Perhaps self-serving politicians who are growing tired of Syria would do well to remember this and the millions of ordinary Syrians holding out in the rebel territories. With that eye on the poll ratings and public opinion, do they really want to be remembered as the lawmakers who allowed genocide, torture, suffering and abuse to become the accepted norm in the world? Surely not.'

Yvonne Ridley

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Syria Found Liable for the Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin

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 'Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of the D.C. District Court, has unsealed a $302 million judgment against the Syrian Arab Republic, finding it liable for the assassination of intrepid journalist Maria Colvin in Syria in 2012.

The judgment (still partially redacted to protect the identities of some sources) offers a stinging indictment of the Assad régime. It notes that the systemic suppression of the media during the revolution led to the rise of citizen journalists, who disseminated news about the conflict through social media networks and smuggled satellite transmitters, the locations of which were partially hidden through the use of proxy servers. The Assad régime considered media activists to pose an existential threat because they were helping to organize protests and reporting on the government’s abuses. Accordingly, the régime’s Central Crisis Management Cell ordered government forces to launch “daily joint security-military campaigns” against “those who tarnish the image of Syria in foreign media and international organizations.” This resulted in a policy and practice of targeting journalists and other media personnel for arbitrary detention, disappearances, torture, and summary execution.

 According to the judgment, Marie Colvin—“hailed by many as the greatest war correspondent of her generation”—traveled to Syria in February 2012 to cover the war via a smugglers’ route. She made her way to Baba Amr, in Homs city, which was the heart of the independent media movement. A defector, code-named Ulysses, offered testimony that the government had made it a priority to eliminate the Baba Amr Media Center. To this end, the government was intercepting communications coming out of the local neighborhood to try to pinpoint the Center’s precise coordinates. A network of intelligence personnel and informants intercepted Colvin’s final live broadcasts in which she charged the Syrian army with shelling a city full of cold, starving civilians. Having effectively located the Media Center, the Army began a new shelling campaign, “bracketing” the location of the satellite uplink. Journalists attempted to evacuate the area, assuming their location had been identified. A blast killed Colvin and French journalist Remi Ochlik as they tried to escape. After the attack, evidence revealed that the security officials celebrated Colvin’s death. Homs Security Chief Major General Sahadah stated: “Marie Colvin was a dog and now she’s dead. Let the Americans help her now.” He was rewarded with a new car from President Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad, and was later promoted to head of the Syrian Military Intelligence Department.

 All told, the evidence “shows that officials at the highest level of the Syrian government carefully planned and executed the artillery assault on the Baba Amr Media Center for the specific purpose of killing the journalists inside.” The attack was timed after it received information as to the location of the Media Center and was consistent with “Syria’s long-standing policy of violence towards media activists.”

 The court awarded $2.5 million in solatium damages (for pain and suffering) and $300 million in punitive damages based upon the unconscionable nature of the régime’s conduct, the grave harm to the plaintiffs, the imperative of deterrence, and the wealth of the defendant. The fact that Colvin was specifically targeted for her profession (unlike some victims of terrorism) for the purpose of silencing journalists justified an elevated award ($150 million is typically awarded per victim of terrorism). The court noted that “the murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide,” which warranted punitive damages to vindicate the shared global interest in the collection and dissemination of information about armed conflicts.

 Indeed, the court noted that, "By perpetuating a directed attack against the Media Center, Syria intended to intimidate journalists inhibit newsgathering and the dissemination of information, and suppress dissent. … A targeted murder of an American citizen, whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of warzones and of wars generally, is outrageous."

 Upon learning of the verdict, Cat Colvin, Colvin’s sister and the lead plaintiff, stated: "My heart goes out to the families of the many thousands of victims of the Syrian conflict. It is my greatest hope that the court’s ruling today will lead to other criminal prosecutions, and serve as a deterrent against future attacks on the press and on civilians. Marie dedicated her life to fighting for justice on behalf of the victims of war and ensuring that their stories were heard. This case is an extension of her legacy, and I think she’d be proud of what we achieved today." '

Syrians in FSA-controlled town rebuild their lives

 'Residents of the Syrian town of Qabasin are now rebuilding their homes after the war caused severe damage to infrastructure and the economy.

 Around one-third of the town's houses now lies in ruins – a problem that has forced residents to look for other places to live.

 "At the time of Daesh [ISIS] we couldn't get even a loaf of bread. They would not allow us to work or move around. They stepped into everything. They didn't allow us to live," said Abdullah Asani, a construction worker.

 For the past two years, the town has been in the hands of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by Turkey. With their help, reconstruction has started.

 "The project consists of five blocks. In total we'll have 190 apartments and 95 shops. In addition, there'll be a playground for children," said Jouma Muslim, the director of a reconstruction project in Qabasin.

 "The compound will house 2000 people when finished. Nearly 50 people work on the project."

 Amina Muharram recently returned after spending three years in Turkey with her six children. She said, "Daesh heavily persecuted us. They threatened to kill me and my children and seize our properties. They killed the sons of my brother. It was terrible here. But now I came back to my home, I can't leave my home any more."

 Turkish officials say more than 300,000 Syrians have returned since 2017, a move which was made possible after the Turkish military cleared out Daesh during Operation Euphrates Shield.'

With the help of the Turkish-backed FSA, Syrians are are rebuilding devastated areas in Qabasin, Syria.

Friday, 1 February 2019

White Helmet hero is haunted by loss and war

 ' “I was not afraid of dying. I was afraid of being caught and tortured.” Mayson al-Misri, 43, had been a reporter, covering the lies the Syrian government was telling the people about the deadly attacks they had levelled against the innocent citizens in her home-town of Daraa. She was pressured by the government to blame the bad news on al-Qaeda and ISIS, who were also plaguing the city with their extremism, but al-Misri told the truth.

 She joined the White Helmets after the régime had killed 10 members of her family, and learned how to use her wits to help her neighbourhood survive. She says, ‘You learn how to get from street to street by timing the bombings: the Syrian planes bomb a location, then they switch, and a Russian plane comes. The switch takes about 10 minutes — that’s when you make a run for it — one street to the next.”

 There was no safe place for a female White Helmet who is being hunted by the régime. So when her colleagues Jihad and Farouq got in touch with her in early July and said, “Start moving,” she packed what she could in a backpack along with her husband Maan Al Aboud, 40, who is also a reporter but not a White Helmet. They began a perilous journey to what’s known among Syrians simply as “74” — a strip of land between Syria and Israel, and a supposedly demilitarized zone along the frontier that still contains about 40 Syrian villages. There were as many guns, rebels and fanatics as there were government forces between Daraa and this 500-square-kilometre stretch of no man’s land.

 They were on the run for three weeks — sometimes without food and one full day without water. They lived under tarps and hid wherever they could. “We were scared all the time. The road wasn’t safe. It could be bombed, we could be seen and arrested. I knew to get to 74, we’d have to be very lucky.”

 She couldn’t even say goodbye to her nieces and nephews — the children of her dead brothers and brothers-in-law. They went partway by car but worried about being stopped and eventually left the car to go by bus. “We were on the bus when I had a call from Jihad, who said, ‘Get off the bus right now, the régime is moving it to a government-controlled town.’” He told them to go to the Golan Heights border which they thought was a very unusual instruction. “Israel and Syria don’t have good relations. I wondered, how are we going to get help from our enemy? ISIS was on one side of us, the Syrian army was on the other. We were in the middle — more than 400 of us, all of us terrified — walking toward the Israeli border.”

 At about 9:30 p.m., the gate opened and the order came to cross one family at a time. “I had to leave my backpack with my computer and camera and clothes behind. The only thing I could bring was my phone. That was because they needed to move us as quickly as possible and checking bags would take too long.” She shudders while retelling the story, remembering the abject fear she felt at the time. “I looked back – the last I saw of Syria was black smoke from the bombs and flashes of light from explosions. The régime was moving fast.”

 They were bussed to the Ayzak Camp in Jordan where they stayed until their relocation to Canada on October 23. As much as Mayson is quick to say she’s happy in Canada, she admits her soul is in Syria. “I’m afraid to answer the phone, afraid it’s bad news.” She can’t call her surviving family members as it might tip the régime to their relationship, so she gets her news from others in a scattered chain of information. “I only think short term. I can’t think long term,” she says.

 The agony of war and the memory of loss haunt this woman who says she can no longer cry. She scrolls through her phone naming each smiling person on the screen — a young man giving her a thumbs up, another boyish-looking fellow who is grinning at her. “Dead, my brother,” she says in her halting English, “dead, also my brother,” as the photos flash by. She knows she and her husband are safe now. “Canada is a place where you don’t have to be afraid. Everyone lives their own life here; no one looks at your religion or your scarf.” She’s very grateful for all that has been done to save her. But here in a strange city at the onset of winter, she struggles to hide her broken heart.'
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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Popular discontent in YPG militia-held areas as violations peaked

Popular discontent in YPG militia-held areas as violations peaked

 'Most areas under the control of the YPG militia have been in a state of popular unrest because of the militia practices and violations, which reached their peak in the recent period, and as a popular reaction, the people and some tribesmen began carrying out a popular movement that developed into armed clashes and attacks on military sites and checkpoints in the rural areas of Raqqa province.

 Dozens of youths from the Bukhmis tribe left Wednesday in the town of Mansoura in the western countryside of the province, attacked and burned some of the YPG militia's barriers, and managed to control a military headquarters run by the so-called Asayish, the security arm of the YPG.

 The move comes after a young man from the clan was shot dead by YPG militiamen while he was trying to escape in an attempt to arrest him to be taken to forced conscription camps.

 The protests reached the eastern districts of Deir al-Zour province, where the tribesmen of the "Shu'aytat" clan also decided to go out to express their resentment at the situation in their villages of deliberate neglect of services, forced recruitment of young people and the implementation of arbitrary arrests.

 The "roadmap" presented by the YPG to Russia to reach an agreement with the Syrian régime on the fate of northeastern region of Syria raised the fears of the people of those areas, especially since a small part of their residents fought against the régime at the beginning of the revolution and some are still fighting even now with the factions In northern Syria.

 The map will be under a Russian guarantee and pave the way for the militia to join the Assad army and recognize him as the "president" of the country, said Saleh Musallam, the representative of the YPG's political wing the PYD.. "The map included a decentralized administration of our regions, and the distribution of wealth in the north-east of Syria in addition to the border crossings and gates."

 "Suhaib al-Jaber," a member of the network "Furat Post," specialized in reporting events in the Eastern region said" that the main cause of protests, whether in Raqqa or other areas is the resentment of the population against the practices of YPG militia and violations on the one hand, and fear of hidden ties with the Assad régime, especially after the Kurdish units repeatedly announced their intention to reach a final settlement with the Assad régime, and this is an important reason that drives hundreds of thousands of people wanted by the régime to action.

 As a direct measure, YPG militia launched a large-scale raid in the town of Mansoura, west of Raqqa, aimed at arresting and forcibly recruiting participants in the protests and sending them to other areas to get rid of them in order to avoid their re-demonstrations.

 According to identical sources, more than 50 youths were arrested by the militias and taken to the detention centers in conjunction with the imposition of a curfew on some streets of the town.

 Deterioration of service and humanitarian conditions are pushing the population to revolt.
All areas of eastern Euphrates under the control of the YPG suffer from deliberate neglect of services despite the abundant funds resulting from the sale of oil, and the theft of millions of US dollars of financial aid by YPG forced the people to take to the streets.

 The villages of Abu Hamam, Granagh and Al-Kashkiya in the eastern suburb of Deir al-Zour witnessed for the second time in a row in less than a week the emergence of popular demonstrations to express dissatisfaction with the policies of the protection militia, where the protesters insisted on the implementation of their demands, including the allocation of part of the oil revenues to activate services and repair houses damaged by shelling as well as their emphasis on the need to stop arrests for the purpose of forced recruitment.

 "Civilians are in constant discontent and discontent in all respects, suffering from a lack of water, electricity, sewage services or even waste disposal," Al Jaber said. They also complain about the problem of removing rubble and recovering the bodies of their victims, which pushed them to protest several times denying the Kurdish units presence in the region. "

 "What these civilians need is humane treatment," said a Furat Post member. "They are not slaves at the al-Assad farm and for the YPG, and that's what they have said over and over again."

 Al-Jaber noted that the demonstrators' efforts and demands seem to have been displeased with YPG, which has been increasingly constrained by the curfew, which has become the standard weapon against which these protests sometimes reach 20 hours out of 24 hours.

 The spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Syrian tribes and clans, Mudar Hammad al-Asaad, led by the Free Army and Turkey, called for intervention and the expulsion of the YPG militia from the eastern Euphrates region, stressing that they received daily appeals and demands from the residents.

 Al-Asaad told Arabi21 website that the YPG militia "are working to kill the remaining residents of the region under the pretext of fighting terrorism, following the policy of demographic and geographical change in the region. This happened in Hasakah, Raqqa and Manbij, as Arab guys had been taken to the war fronts, most of them children, where hundreds of young Arabs have been killed in the past months by involving them in the battles of the Kurdish YPG-dominated "Syria's Democratic Forces" to achieve the separatist project that seeks to apply.

 A few weeks ago, a group of Arab tribes in Manbij issued separate statements calling on the Turkish army to enter their city and kick out the militia, stressing their readiness to provide all kinds of support to implement this.

 Turkey has mobilized tens of thousands of troops in the border area east of the Euphrates to launch a military operation against the protection YPG militia, but US President Donald Trump's proposal to create a safe zone has contributed to delaying the process. Turkish leaders have agreed to accept according to a set of conditions agreed between Washington and Ankara.'

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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Rebellion in Daraa against the Assad régime, dozens of young people demonstrate

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 'Dozens of people from the city of Daraa demonstrated on Tuesday to express their refusal to join the military service in the forces of the Syrian régime.

 According to local sources, dozens went out to protest the practices of the regime's intelligence services, the ongoing arrests, the imposition of forced recruitment on young people, and to demand that the crisis committee to abide by its commitments not to take the wanted to military service according to the time specified during the negotiation process.

 On Monday, hundreds of young people from the town of Nawa in rural Daraa joined the recruitment centers in the presence of Daraa Governor, Mohammed Khalid Al-Hanous, Secretary of the Baath Party branch Hussein Al-Rifai and the Negotiations Committee after the intelligence sent threats to the wanted and dissidents to punish them in the event of absence.

 It should be noted that the recruitment division of the Syrian régime sent to the reconciliation areas recently lists of thousands of wanted for compulsory and reserve military service, and circulated names at checkpoints and barriers and demanded their arrest.'


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Mass Arrests by Assad Regime Triggers Renewed Protests in Dara’a

Mass Arrests by Assad Regime Triggers Renewed Protests in Dara’a

 'The wave of protests in the province of Dara’a, the birthplace of the Syrian revolution eight years ago, were renewed following the Assad régime’s security forces’ arrest of dozens of young people in the town of Musaifra in eastern rural Dara’a.

 Local activists reported that the province is on the verge of a new uprising because of the Assad régime’s security forces’ harassment of the local population and the frequent raids on civilian homes, the most recent of which targeted many homes in the town of Musaifra in search of people who are wanted by the regime.

 The new wave of random arrests targeted dozens of military-aged people and former FSA fighters.

 In response, new anti-régime graffiti appeared on the walls in the neighboring town of al-Sahwa calling for the overthrow of the Assad régime with all its symbols. The graffiti also rejected compulsory service in Assad’s army as they reaffirmed commitment to the principles of the Syrian revolution.

 Despite the so-called the reconciliation agreement in place, the Assad régime’s security services continue to raid civilian homes in Dara’a province. A civilian was killed in one of these raids in southern rural Quenitra while two others were detained a few days ago.

 In recent weeks, Dara’a has witnessed the scrawling of new anti-régime on the walls defying the Assad regime and threatening its presence in the province. The revolutionary movement has intensified since last month despite the Assad regime’s tightened grip on the province.

 A new video was published on social media showing the flag of the Syrian Revolution raised on the minaret of a mosque in the town of al-Karak al-Sharqi. Such moves will likely threaten the Assad régime’s grip on the areas that fell to its forces following brutal military campaigns in the past few months.

 President of the Syrian Coalition Abdurrahman Mustafa earlier said that the revolution “will not stop," and that the Syrian people "will not give up their fight for freedom.”

 Dara’a province, the cradle of the Syrian revolution, last week saw renewed anti-régime demonstrations in central Dara’a city emphasizing the revolution would continue until the overthrow of the régime with all its symbols. Various areas across the province also saw the scrawling of anti-régime graffiti on the walls denouncing the régime and its security apparatuses.'

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Nothing compares to Syria

 This is the 4000th post on my blog, News of the Revolution in Syria. 99% of which represents the views of others, many revolutionary Syrians, collated over the last seven years. I think I've learned something about Syria and the world as a result, and I hope it can do the same for others.

 The short version of what I've learned is encapsulated in the video above. Here is the text :
 "In 2011, the Syrian people rose up in revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and declared that they now live in Free Syria where there would be liberty instead of mass arrests, justice instead of torture, and dignity instead of rape.

 To symbolise their new country, they adopted the Free Syrian flag, with a black stripe at the bottom, a green stripe at the top, and three red stars on a white background in the middle, and you can see it flying wherever there are Free Syrians.

 We can sit and watch as Assad rips the country apart, pretend it's some 4-5 way civil war where we don't know who will come out on top if Assad is overthrown. The truth is, the only way the country is ever going to be put back together again is as Free Syria.

 Please ask your government to supply the Free Syrian Army with anti-aircraft missiles so they can stop the bombing or if you live in Russia or Iran, please ask your government to leave Syria now. Thank you very much."

 The key points I was trying to make:

 1. It's a revolution. It isn't a civil war. It isn't a foreign intervention to get rid of Assad or the result of previous interventions.

 2. It isn't complicated. It isn't a multi-sided conflict. It is a genocide driven by Assad's need to stay in power. The position of other players in the conflict is either to line up with Assad, or to show greater or lesser opposition to him. It is the question of his survival that is the central dividing line of everything happening in Syria.

 3. The central reason for the conflict continuing was the exact reverse of the picture overwhelmingly presented in the world's media and by those supposedly progressive. It wasn't that the West had fed the conflict by backing the opposition, but that those words had been mere shadows while Free Syrians had bombs rained down upon them. It is our lack of the support to the opposition that means Assad has managed to stay in power, and he has visited barbarity without compare in the world today on the Syrian people to protect his throne.

However, we're in 2019, Assad is still in place, and the media story is Syria's Civil War is coming to an end. And so even among people opposed to Assad, there is a tendency to accept narratives that work in his favour. Most notably in relation to Syria, it is common to hear people saying that all states and politicians are as bad.  Specifically are these points.

 1. All Western leaders want to keep Assad in power. This is used to excuse those on the hard left that have opposed any assistance to the Syrian opposition, by claiming that centrists and right-wingers are no better. It is not true. It is those like Jeremy Corbyn that have invited mouthpieces for the Assad régime to come and speak in Britain, that have repeated Assad's lies about his chemical attacks, and supported the normalisation of his régime and demonised the opposition to him as a Western régime change plot at every turn.. Western policy, the left and fascist right excepted, has generally been to get Assad out, but they have deferred to Washington as the key player to bring this about. The US in turn, under President Obama's administration did have a policy of of preventing adequate support going to the rebels, that they might have a fraction of fighting power Russia and Iran give to Assad.

This however, isn't because of some demonic pact among world leaders to keep Assad in power, or to stop revolution from spreading. It was a specific policy choice, one that could have been reversed. It came about because President Obama's administration wanted to avoid foreign engagements, because of the bruising experience in Iraq, and because it wanted to obtain a nuclear deal with Iran and was prepared to see Iran dominate Syria in exchange.

 2. Other powers are just as bad. What Saudi Arabia or Israel do is just as bad, so the only people who can be allies are those who take exactly the same position in opposition to all of them, anyone else is just as bad as the Assad supporters. This isn't true. Talk to anyone who has experienced prisons in Israel and Syria and they will tell you the latter are far worse. Talk to doctors who know that if coordinates of hospitals are given to the Israelis they tend to avoid them, if they are given to Assad or Russia they bomb them. And while Saudi Arabia is fighting a bloody war in Yemen, one complemented by Iranian backing for the child soldier army of the Houthis that steals aid and attacks civilians deliberately, it is not torturing a nation to death the way Assad is.

 The Syrian revolution is the most distorted and lied against event in our lifetime. It has few enough friends as it is. I think that those who support the revolution should be given credit regardless of my disagreements with them on other issues. And when people give succour to Assad, it should be the first thing raised not the last. I would hope that approach would be followed by other supporters of the Syrian revolution, rather than cutting off all of those without an identical alignment.

 3. The real progressives in Syria are the YPG (aka "the Kurds"), and Turkey is allied to Assad. it isn't true. I finally wrote a piece about the YPG (also rebranded as the Syrian Democratic Forces to make them look like a separate organisation from the PKK that tries to break up the Turkish state by terrorist means) last year, called Rojava is Omelas. They are a cult round their leader Ocalan, whose portrait they paraded round Raqqa when they rook it from ISIS. They have collaborated with Assad against Free Syrians from the beginning of the revolution. Territory that they lose to Free Syrians should be a cause for celebration, despite the destabilisation the YPG continues to attempt in those areas.

  Untrue stories about Turkey fill the news and opinion columns whenever Syria comes up. From Owen Jones and the Labour leadership claiming in 2014 that the problem in Syria was Turkish support for ISIS, to claims today that Turkey is trying to hand over Idlib to Assad in return for Russian support in the northeast. Just because Turkey has diplomatic relations with Russia does not mean their interests are identical. Every few months the Turkish government announces that Assad is a mass murderer who cannot be allowed to govern Syria indefinitely. This is always ignored, and whenever a Turkish government spokesperson says that Assad might stay for a few months during a transition, it is taken as meaning that Turkey (or "Erdogan" as it is often tried to be personalised into a dictatorship) thinks Assad can stay forever. You do not have to agree with all of Turkey ruling AK party's policies, or even most of them, to recognise that it finds itself on the side of those opposed to Assad, even if it wants to use its own forces in Syria as sparingly as possible, just as it always wanted to keep the war on the Syrian side of the border and not go to war with Assad itself. 

 4. The Islamists are just as bad as Assad. This is something many Free Syrians believe, but I think they are wrong. There was a Syrian solidarity conference in London in early 2014 at which a leftist called Joseph Daher declared that all the Islamist groups were as reactionary as Assad and had to be fought as much as he (that is when leftists aren't deriding the taking up of arms entirely). I turned to a Syrian I'd just met who turned out to be a respected writer on Syria, and asked if Assad was the greatest threat, what if he couldn't be defeated without some alliance with the Islamists. The answer I got was "I don't know," and I haven't heard a better one since.

  I'm an atheist, and I believe people have the right to smoke what they like, so I wouldn't be comfortable being ruled by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist group now dominant in Idlib. But compared to be ruling by Assad, or forces that would surrender to Assad as the supposedly moderate groups in southern Syria did last year, it would be preferable by far. During the first five years of the revolution, HTS and its predecessors deliberately killed 350 civilians. Assad killed a thousand times that many.

 I've seen people argue that because Assad let some future HTS leaders out of prison as he was imprisoning secular activists, they must be working for him. It doesn't follow. The revolution's last advances, conquering Idlib in 2015, relieving the siege of Aleppo once in 2016, and taking the Manshiya district of Daraa, were all because the rebels from FSA and HTS fought together, not against each other. I find myself comparing it to the situation in Germany in the 1930s, where Communists and Social Democrats were so obsessed with their differences that they couldn't unite to stop the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. In the words of Malcolm X on my T-shirt below, Free Syria by any means necessary.

 Maybe I'm wrong on some points. In that case I would hope that I would learn from my mistakes. Just as I would hope that those who thought it were better not to intervene after Assad killed 1500 people in the sarin attack in August 2013 would recognise that not stopping him then is what has allowed years more of mass murder. Or that those who claimed there would be a genocide against the Kurds in Afrin or that Turkey would use their observation posts in Idlib to hand the province over to Assad would learn when those things didn't happen. Mostly people, as Talleyrand wrote of the Bourbons, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. For me the two things that most surprised me was finding out that as early as 2015 Saudi Arabia was offering support to Assad if he kicked out the Iranians, and the collapse of the Southern Front into surrender agreements in 2018. I hope I learn something more generally from that.

 So this is my blog, and I commend it to you. If people have suggestions on the layout, I'm open to advice. I don't label most posts with the original author, as much of it is taken from news stories where I was only interested in the contributions of Syrians, and not the potted and misleading accounts of the situation otherwise provided. As I wrote in a piece called Assad Will Fall, I think the unstable nature of Assad's torture-theft régime means he will never be able to crush the resistance, and my hope is that sooner than anyone dare imagine the revolution will be successful, and this blog will be history.

Image may contain: Andrew Burridge

Saturday, 19 January 2019

How the Assad régime has exploited “evacuation deals” to redirect Isis against the rebels

 Omar Sabbour:

 'In September 2018, when the Assad régime was preparing to launch its (now on-hold) offensive against rebel-held Idlib in northern Syria, a rather surprising report emerged in the Times. The report alleged that the régime had transported 400 Isis fighters from the province of Deir Al-Zor, where the group has been under siege by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the régime, to the vicinity of Idlib.

 Idlib had been Isis-free since 2014, when opposition fighters managed to expel the fighters that had briefly held territory. In early 2018, the group staged a brief comeback, but were once again repelled.

 The Assad régime has long claimed its aim is to "fight and crush terrorism", so the idea that it aided and abetted Isis fighters may seem shocking. But in fact, the claim of a régime-Isis deal was not the first of its kind. Over the past two years, a pattern has emerged, where the Assad régime and Isis have co-existed on the battlefield while attacking rebel forces. The two so-called enemies have struck evacuation deals, and the Assad régime has been accused of smuggling Isis fighters into rebel-held areas.

 The flow of Isis fighters into rebel-held areas begins with the evacuation deals. The first one to be agreed between the régime and Isis was publicly recognised to have taken place in August 2017, with the involvement of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. A month later, another deal would be announced for the evacuation of ISIS fighters trapped in a pocket of territory in the countryside of Hama in north-west Syria, surrounded by régime-held territory. Late that month, the régime announced it had reached an agreement in which the besieged fighters would surrender.

 The Assad régime claimed the deal as a victory. As reported by pro-régime media, the régime declared that Isis had been “completely defeated” in the province of Hama. On 4 October, one prominent régime-sponsored national newspaper, Al-Watan, declared that “Daesh is no longer present in Hama province” and that the Syrian Army had taken “complete control” of the region.

 According to the September evacuation deal, Isis fighters would be evacuated from their besieged Hama pocket to Isis-held territory in Deir Al-Zor, some 200 miles east.

 But this did not happen. Instead, military maps shared by pro-régime, opposition and neutral monitors during the subsequent period all demonstrate that the group was simply relocated a few miles further north onto the frontline with rebel forces. Looking at the maps shared by pro-régime sources, it seems that the only way Isis could move out of its besieged Hama pocket and affix itself onto the rebel frontline was by passing through régime territory – namely, a corridor in the area of Ithriyah. One media activist in the area claimed that the régime had “opened its barricades along 13 kilometers to allow Isis to cross from its control areas”, whilst moving south in exchange to take control of the vacated Isis pocket.

 Viewed from this perspective, evacuation deals have not “fought and crushed terrorism”, but instead allowed the Assad régime to redirect it against rebel-held groups.

 Between October 2017 and January 2018, both the Assad régime and Isis launched assaults on rebel-held Idlib. The Assad régime would go on to succeed in recapturing the eastern portion of the province – home to a crucial highway linking Damascus to Aleppo, as well as critical electricity supply lines running through the area.

 While Western media did cover the régime's entry into Idlib, the simultaneous Isis incursion was far less well reported. This began on 9 October in the northern countryside of the province of Hama. The rebels preparing to fight encompassed a plethora of factions, from the extremist Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (commonly known as HTS, the successor of the former Al-Nusra Front), to the Free Syrian Army coalitions.

 A small and besieged Isis pocket situated east and south-east of the city of Hama was vacated, to be replaced with a new and huge Isis presence north-east of Hama. While the régime and Isis did clash in January, the main régime operation to take control of the new, larger Isis territory did not begin until February. Within four days, the Syrian régime would take control of it in its entirety - recapturing more than 100 towns, villages and hamlets. At the same time, rebels again accused the régime of facilitating the infiltration by “evacuated” Isis fighters into their territory, after arresting hundreds of suspected militants.

 The tactic of using militants to sow chaos is a tried and tested one of the Assad régime: in the mid 2000s, Assad was suspected of allowing jihadis to pass through Syria in order to destabilise the US occupation of Iraq, and has regularly been accused of deliberately releasing Islamist prisoners in 2011 to undermine the idea of a democratic revolution.

 But if the Assad régime is redeploying Isis fighters within Syria, it is playing with fire. Four months after the Hama deal, rebels in the southern province of Dara’a would report the systematic infiltration of Isis fighters from régime-held areas. The consequences would affect civilians in régime-held areas as well as those under control of the opposition.

 The birthplace of the 2011 uprising, by the start of 2018, Dara’a was dominated by a coalition of more than 50 major Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions, known as the Southern Front. In May, rebels in Dara’a claimed to have arrested Isis infiltrators. They accused the régime of attempting to use an “evacuation deal”, this time concerning the Yarmouk refugee camp and areas south of Damascus, to facilitate their entry into the southern regions.

 In an interview recorded in June, a commander in the FSA’s Southern Front – whose name at the time was willingly provided, but which we have decided to withhold due to the sensitive situations of former rebel fighters who have since signed “reconciliation” agreements with the régime – declared: “The régime is trying to smuggle the Dawaesh [a pejorative term for Isis fighters used by Syrian rebels] of Southern Damascus, particularly from the Hajar Al-Aswad and Tadamon areas [adjacent to the Yarmouk refugee camp], through the province of Sweida into the direction of Dara’a”. One of the factions of the Southern Front reported capturing 19 suspected Isis fighters on 24 May at a border crossing in the area of Al-Lajat.

 On the same day, another rebel commander from a different Southern Front faction reported capturing a further 20 Isis fighters at the checkpoints of the city of Eastern Mleiha, followed by a further four three days later. The commander also claimed that the Isis fighters had arrived as a result of a “deportation-transfer”.

 According to this commander, Isis fighters were sorted according to importance. The rank-and-file Isis fighters were transferred to the city of Suwaida, in Sweida, where they met middlemen who took them to the eastern border of the province, and handed them over to local smugglers. They in turn took them over the border into rebel-held territory, usually to the city limits of the city of Eastern Mleiha. Higher-ranking Isis fighters – the commanders and leaders known as "emirs" – were taken in groups of three. The rebel group Jaish al-Islam reported their capture in the area of Tafas of two foreign emirs, an Algerian and a Jordanian.

 The rebels’ complaints about infiltrators were largely ignored. A month later, Isis launched a massacre in the neighbouring province of Sweida.

 The province of Sweida is dominated by the Druze, followers of a monotheistic faith that many consider separable from mainstream Islam. Isis views members of the heterodox Druze community as heretics. Whilst the Druze of Sweida cannot be put strictly in the same “opposition” bracket as their counterparts in Idlib and Dara’a, the area has nonetheless long resisted the imposition of full régime control. Sweida has long been a semi-autonomous province where security is controlled by local Druze militias, most important amongst them the Rijal Al-Karama or the “Men of Dignity” grouping. The group has long attempted to establish itself as a “neutral” force in the conflict - crucially, refusing to be conscripted by the régime in areas outside of Sweida.

 One testimony of what happened in July 2018 has been widely circulated among activists in the province. In it, a local man in his fifties from the village of Shbeika recounts the events of the day:

 “At 4.30 in the morning, they [Isis fighters] were knocking on the doors of the houses in the village: the woman or the man of the house would open the door and find the knife in the middle of their chest the moment they opened the door. Then they would slaughter the children with knives, leaving one boy to witness it, leave him terrorised so that he can relay the image. By the time the [rest of the] people found out and the sun came out, it took four hours, and they had already killed the people they had killed.”

 The attacks sparked widespread anger amongst Druze locals, not just against Isis, but the régime, which was blamed for a conspicuous lack of security. Angry locals expelled the régime’s provincial governor from a funeral held for victims of the attack.

 Some locals suspected the régime of being complicit in the attacks, in particular as punishment for refusing to participate in the régime’s offensive in the neighbouring province of Dara’a. During the Dara’a offensive, the “Men of Dignity” declared that they would adopt a stance of “positive neutrality in the ongoing conflict between the sons of the same nation”. Indeed, a month before the Isis attack, Russia would attempt to designate the group a “terrorist” grouping.

 Understanding the political status of Sweida during the war helps explain why Isis fighters would be relocated to its vicinity instead of Deir Al-Zor. Fighters from an “evacuation deal” agreed between the Syrian régime and Isis – following the former’s recapture of the Yarmouk refugee camp and adjacent areas south of the capital Damascus in May – were evacuated in large convoys to the desert east of Sweida (known as the Badia), much to the annoyance of Druze locals. This evacuation deal was at the time additionally reported by pro-régime media – which even offered claims that régime officials had entered the Yarmouk refugee camp to directly negotiate with ISIS commanders.

 The Shbeika witness’s accusation of regime complicity in the attacks went beyond one of passivity:

 “The régime provided everything logistically to allow this to happen… The coordination was blatantly obvious. They withdrew their forces a month ago, they took away the weapons three days beforehand, they cut off the electricity, they put them [ISIS] to the east of Sweida, where they’ve been training for three or four months, moving them in their green buses.”

 The witness even claimed that the régime had withdrawn the weapons of locals in the area a few days before the attack. Other local reports also made this accusation. The main local Druze militia in the area accused the Syrian régime of failing in its duty to protect the community, and an activist with the Suwayda 24 network told Reuters: “There was a complete absence of the Syrian Army, which was not present at all, and the people who tried to defend the area were its locals.”

 The régime claimed that the Syrian Army played a key role in pushing back Isis attackers. Following the massacre however, footage began to emerge of angry Druze locals and notables confronting régime officials. In one video, an elderly Druze notable is seen asking a Syrian Army officer a series of questions: “Why were the weapons taken away three days before the attack? Why was electricity cut from this village? Why were the Dawaesh [pejorative term for Isis fighters] moved from the Yarmouk camp to here?”

 Without addressing the accusations, the régime officer attempted to pacify the anger by repeating official rhetoric: “The conspiracy is on a scale bigger than you can imagine. We need to respond by strengthening our bonds, under the political and military leadership of the [Army] guys here”. At this point the officer was interrupted by an angry member of the crowd: “It is our boys that protected the area, not you”. The régime official attempted to continue – “This is a victory for Syria” – before again being rebuked by a member of the crowd: “This is a victory for the Jabal [Druze Mountain]”.

 Despite the outcry, days later the Syrian régime would subsequently again relocate an estimated 400 Isis fighters to Sweida’s desert. The relocation was again reported on by pro-régime media.

 An unwitting consensus of pro-régime, pro-opposition as well as Druze sources clearly demonstrate how the régime has capitalised on evacuated Isis fighters in Idlib and Dara’a/Sweida. It remains to be seen whether in any potential future régime offensive on Idlib, we will once again see a phantom Isis presence “re-emerge out of thin air” – as one pro-régime outlet once put it– in the area.'

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Syrian Clan Coalition is ready to replace the American presence in Syria

The Syrian Clan Coalition is ready to replace the American presence in Syria

 'The head of the Syrian Clan Coalition, on Thursday, expressed the readiness of the "Tribal Army" to go to the east of the Euphrates to fill the American void in Syria.

 "The army is composed of 10,000 fighters. It aims to fight the terrorist organizations and the Syrian régime," Abdulkarim al-Fahel said. "The army's priorities are to liberate the city of Manbij and then to turn east, to be a legitimate alternative to the American presence."

 He explained that the expanded conference held by the Arab tribes two weeks ago in the city of A'zaz north-west of Aleppo, including more than 1200 people representing all Syrian clans, in addition to the presence of representatives of the factions of the Free Syrian Army and popular organizations and relief in coordination with Turkey.

 He pointed out that the meeting discussed ways to face the new challenges of the revolution and the full readiness to deal with them, and the development of civil administration in the liberated areas, and provide security and services to citizens and displaced persons of Syrians, stressing that everyone gave up on the Syrian people and left them alone to die under the régime''s barrel bombs and air strikes and the missions of its allies Russia and Iran-backed sectarian militia.

 It is noteworthy that the Supreme Council of Tribes and Syrian tribes held its first conference last year 2018 in the city of Azaz in the countryside of Aleppo; in an effort to unite the Arab tribes in Syria under one title and one vision.'

Syria tribes united against YPG/PKK, support Turkish op

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Crushing of the Society and Dismantling of the State

The Annual Report of the Most Notable Violations of Human Rights in Syria in 2018

 'SNHR has released its annual special report for the year 2018 which was entitled: “The Crushing of the Society and Dismantling of the State”. The report documents the most notable violations of human rights by the main parties to the conflict in Syria during the last year.

 Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:

 “Since 2011, the Syrian régime has perpetrated various forms of brutal violence against society, including the arrest and torture of tens of thousands, and the killing of hundreds of thousands of others, along with the displacement of half of the Syrian people, which has been an intentional and deliberate goal of this ruling authority in order to crush society, punish it and subject it to the rule of the family, forever. Consequently, there is a complete termination of any opportunity or even any idea of a new popular movement due to the high cost paid by the community for demanding freedom, dignity and political pluralistic transition. However, the ruling family hasn’t cared about the material or human cost in order to achieve this brutal goal, even if this causes the dismantling of the entire Syrian state”

 According to SNHR’s database, 6,964 civilians, including 1,436 children and 923 women (adult female), were documented as being killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict in 2018. Of this total, 4,162 civilians, including 713 children and 562 women, were killed by Syrian régime forces, and 467 civilians, including 169 children and 51 women, were killed by Russian forces. 2018 saw also the death of 417 civilians, including 175 children and 90 women at the hands of International Coalition forces.

 Further, the report records that Kurdish Self-Management forces killed 285 civilians, including 29 children and 26 women, while extremist Islamist groups killed 478 civilians; of this total, ISIS killed 446 civilians, including 82 children and 41 women, while 32 civilians, including seven children and one woman, were killed by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.

 The report documents that factions of the Armed Opposition, in 2018, killed 84 civilians, including 14 children and seven women, all of whom were either killed by executions, indiscriminate shelling, or torture. Lastly, the report records that 1,107 civilians were killed in attacks whose perpetrators could not yet be identified, or in attacks by border guards affiliated with neighboring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

 According to the report, 2018 saw approximately 7,706 cases of arbitrary arrest, including 504 children and 699 women (adult female). The Syrian régime was responsible for the arrest of nearly 5,607 of these individuals, including 355 children and 596 women. Extremist Islamist groups arrested at least 755 individuals, divided into 338 arrested by ISIS, including 28 children and 13 women, and 417 individuals were arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, including 15 children and three women. The total number of detainees arrested and imprisoned by factions of the Armed Opposition was nearly 379 individuals, including 23 children and 13 women, while Kurdish Self-Management forces arrested 965 individuals, including 83 children and 74 women.

 The report states that 976 individuals were documented as being killed under torture in 2018, including 951 individuals who died due to torture at the hands of Syrian régime forces, and nine in detention centers of factions of the Armed Opposition, while one woman died due to torture at the hands of ISIS.

 The report also outlines the most significant violations against medical personnel by the parties to the conflict, through acts of killing of medical personnel and targeting of medical facilities in 2018, documenting the deaths of 53 medical personnel and 108 attacks on medical points and facilities. The Syrian-Russian alliance was responsible for the majority of these violations, killing at least 38 medical personnel and carrying out 85 attacks on medical facilities and clinics.

 In addition, the report states that 24 media workers were killed in 2018, with 63 percent of this total killed by Syrian régime forces and their Russian allies.

 The report also documents six attacks in which chemical weapons were deployed in 2018, in Idlib and Damascus Suburbs governorates, all by the Syrian régime. Meanwhile, cluster munitions were deployed in 13 attacks, with seven of these carried out by Syrian régime forces, and the remaining six by Russian forces. According to the report, Incendiary weapons were used in 28 attacks on Syrian territory last year, with 11 of these attacks carried out by Syrian régime forces, and 14 by Russian forces, while the remaining three attacks in this category were launched by International Coalition forces. The report also notes that at least 3,601 barrel bombs were dropped by Syrian régime forces in 2018.

 As the report details, 2018 was another year of massive waves of forced displacement, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to leave their homes and land by military operations launched by the parties to the conflict, especially the Syrian-Russian forces, which were by far the main parties responsible for the displacements. The report states that nearly 670 thousand people were subjected to forced displacement in 2018, including 134,000 who were forcibly displaced as a result of agreements and truces which contravene international humanitarian law.

 The report stresses that the UN Security Council must take additional steps following the adoption of Resolution 2254, which states unequivocally that all parties should: “… immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such…”. Also, the report states that the Security Council should refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and hold all perpetrators accountable, including the Russian régime whose involvement in war crimes has been proven.

 The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the security and safety of millions of dispossessed Syrian refugees, especially women and children, who have been displaced to countries worldwide, and to ensure their safety from arrest, torture or enforced disappearance if they choose to return to areas controlled by the Syrian régime.
The report also recommends that the relevant United Nations agencies make greater efforts to provide humanitarian and food aid and medical assistance in the areas where fighting has ceased, and to camps of internally displaced persons, and to follow up with the States that had pledged to make necessary contributions.

 The report emphasizes that the OHCHR should submit a report to the Human Rights Council and other organs of the United Nations on the incidents mentioned in this report since these attacks were perpetrated by the parties to the conflict.

 Moreover, the report calls upon the international envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of the crimes, including massacres, and those who were primarily responsible for dooming the de-escalation agreements to failure, and to redirect the peace process to its natural course after Russia’s attempts to distort it and to place the Constitutional Commission prior to the transitional government.

 The report calls on the international community to take steps at the national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people, to protect them from the daily killing, and to lift the siege, as well as to increase support for relief efforts.

 The report further calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) norm, after all political channels through the Arab League’s plan and then Mr. Kofi Annan’s plan were exhausted, proving as fruitless as the Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana agreements that followed. Therefore, steps should be taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and the norm of the “Responsibility to Protect”, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. In the current situation, the Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.

 The report demands the Syrian régime end its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, stop its torture that caused the death of thousands of Syrian citizens in detention centers, reveal the fate of some 82,000 Syrian citizens arrested by the security services after concealing their fate to date, and comply with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.

 The report stresses that the Russian régime should launch investigations into the incidents included in this report, make the findings of these investigations public for the Syrian people, and hold the perpetrators involved accountable. Also, the Russian régime should compensate all the damaged centers and facilities, rebuild and rehabilitate them, and compensate all the victims’ families, who were killed by the current Russian régime, as well as compensating all the wounded.

 The report further adds that the Russian régime, as a guarantor party in the Astana talks, should take steps to stop the wrecking of de-escalation agreements, and apply pressure on the Syrian régime in order to end all indiscriminate attacks, and should begin making progress with respect to the detainees’ issue by revealing the fates of 82,000 forcibly disappeared persons by the Syrian régime.

 The report calls on the international coalition forces to unequivocally acknowledge that some of their bombardment operations have resulted in the killing of innocent civilians. The report calls on international coalition forces to launch serious investigations and take speedy steps to compensate and apologize to the victims and others who were affected.

 Lastly, the report calls on the states supporting the SDF to apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns under their control, and urges these states to cease all forms of support, including weapon and otherwise.'