Sunday, 17 March 2019

The people's revolution will end only with victory

 Abdul Baset al-Sarout:

 'We swear by God, we won't remain silent over the blood of the martyrs. We swear by God, to protect our women and children and martyrs and land, until our last drop of blood. Until our last drop of blood. Until our last drop of blood. We shall be victorious, or die. As God is our witness.

 Well, the revolution is entering a new year of sacrifices. I'm here today in Maarat al-Numan, to mark the anniversary of the Revolution of Freedom and Dignity. A revolution of new life, an eight year old revolution entering its ninth year. With every year, there are more sacrifices, more blood, more martyrs, and more destruction. This increases our determination and commitment to the principles of this Freedom and Dignity Revolution, till the last drop of blood.

 Today in Maarat al-Numan, we renew our vows to the revolution we began eight years ago. The revolution shall continue as long as this people has the will. The people's revolution will end only with victory.' 

 Hadi al-Abdullah:

 'I swear that we won't abandon the revolution. We won't abandon the detainees. I swear to God we will not betray the blood of our martyrs, or the cries of our detainees. As God is my witness.

 We chose Maarat al-Numan to renew the vow to our revolution in its eighth year, because the town is in our hearts. Every stone here has its story for us. The town has a special type of attraction for us. It has proven to be the revolution's unbreakable stronghold, and its good people are the rebels. They had us loving Maarat al-Numan more and more.

 We are telling the world that we will continue, even if the entire world conspires against us. Even if all the world's criminals and blood-suckers come here to kill us, our only option is to rise from the rubble, and say "We are continuing." We won't betray our martyrs or detainees. I'm here today to tell Raed, Hammoud, and Trad, that I'll try to remain loyal to the path they took. We won't leave, we won't retreat. This revolution will continue until all its goals are achieved.'

 Unknown Revolutionary:
 'Even if all the olives disappear, the revolution shall continue until victory, God willing. No matter the betrayal by others, and no matter how much they support Bashar. As long as an inch of land remains unliberated, we stand and say: "Damn your soul, Hafez Assad." '

Image result for Maarrat al-Numan demonstration with Sarout, Hadi Alabdallah on the 8th anniversary of the Revolution

Eight years of revolution, and a struggle that will not perish

 Hadi al-Abdullah:

 "May peace be upon you. Greetings to you all. This era shall not end. Eight years of revolution, and a struggle that will not perish. Eight years of revolution is such a long time; we lived together through sweet and bitter days. We have laughed and cried. We have experienced joy and sadness. 

 With the death of each martyr, and each massacre, we would swear never to betray the cause or stray from the path. We all swore the martyr's oath: to not stray from the martyr's path, or change, or betray our values. Our demonstration today is the greatest proof of our loyalty to the martyrs.

 Eight years have seen the numbers grow, and there is no criminal who hasn't come here and added to his crimes. But with every outrage, we would rise from the rubble and pledge to keep going. To continue, to never abandon this revolution. We will never abandon this revolution, until our souls leave our bodies.

 Eight years and no one defended us against the one who kills us. Eight years and the world has been unable to judge this criminal. Eight years of revolution and we will keep going. While we shall blame no one for leaving our path, no one should blame us for deciding to continue. 

 I advise everyone not to abandon this revolution. This revolution is the noblest thing, the highest value that a human can hold dear. We will not give up this revolution. We will renew it. I swear by God. We will not abandon this revolution. We will not abandon the detainees. I swear by God Almighty, we will not betray the martyrs. We will not betray the prisoners' cries of pain. I swear by God, for the martyrs, we would give our souls and our blood."

Image result for Hadi Alabdallah’s speech | The 8th anniversary of the Syrian Revolution in Maarrat al-Nu’man

Mass demonstrations in north of Syria to revive revolution

 'Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in the north of Syria on the 8th anniversary of the Syrian revolution, chanting anti-Russia and Assad militia slogans and confirming that the resistance is their choice against the continuous offensive launched on Idlib by the Assad militias.

 The anti-regime protests took place in Idlib city and in Idlib countryside’s cities and towns, including Kafr Nabl, Harem, and Binnish.

 The demonstrators asked the international community to force Assad regime to release the detainees.

 Similar anti-regime demonstrations took place in ِal-Bab, Azaz and as-Safira cities in Aleppo countryside where the demonstrators said they aimed to show solidarity with their fellow Syrians in Idlib.

 Significant participation of women and children was noted in Azaz demonstration.

 Idlib is the largest part of Syria controlled by opposition with a population swollen by Syrians who were displaced by the Assad regime and its allies’ advances in other parts of the country.'

Daraa protests show that city remains outside regime’s orbit

Father’s shadow. A young boy rides his bicycle in the southern Syrian city of Daraa with a gate behind him ornated with images of Syrian President Bashar Assad (L) and his late father Hafez Assad, last August.  (AFP)

 James Snell:

 'Demonstrations took place in the southern Syrian city of Daraa to protest something symbolic.

 In the former heartland of Syria’s revolution, protesters gathered March 10 to oppose the refurbishment of a statute depicting Hafez Assad, the father of Syria’s hereditary president, Bashar Assad.

 Although protesting is hardly alien to Daraa, given its position in more than a decade of open defiance of the Assad régime, this demonstration seemed to mark something new, coming, as it did, after southern Syria was reconquered by the régime and its allies last year.

 In other fallen cities, waves of arrests followed their capture and political dissent is heavily controlled, supervised by a state concerned about any criticism that could undermine its survival and claim to legitimacy.

 However, this protest took place under the auspices of the régime’s “reconciliation” programme, in which former rebel groups were substantially disarmed but remained in positions of influence in exchange for giving up their struggle against the state. This was under the auspices and with the support of the Assad régime’s Russian backer.

 Analyst Ryan O’Farrell said: “When the régime started its offensive, Russia had already been negotiating with important local figures, often tribal heads, to secure the peaceful surrender of towns, which was a huge factor in how quickly Daraa fell.

 “In some of them, the rebels were strong enough to get Russia to agree to local autonomy deals whereby the régime would not have a security presence inside the towns, which would still be held by [Free Syrian Army] FSA units, though they had to surrender their heavy weapons.”

 The contrast between locations that retained tenuous autonomy and those that did not is striking.

 “Protests have only been happening in these towns where the régime doesn’t have the kind of security presence that could crack down on them violently, while other towns have seen mass arrests, conscription campaigns and the other forms of repression that the régime carries out everywhere,” O’Farrell said.

 The Daraa protesters brought out old slogans opposing the régime while standing in continued opposition to its political project and were joined, as analyst Elizabeth Tsurkov pointed out, by “leaders who brokered the deal to surrender Daraa [and] now have ties to Russia: Adham al-Akrad, Abu Sharif Mahameed [and] Adnan Maasalameh.”

 The presence of the men seemingly signalled that this political activity was not prohibited. In these areas “people there can continue protesting and will continue to do so until the régime responds,” Tsurkov said.

 “We’re already seeing people taking precautionary measures, by covering their faces for example,” she said, adding that “there is a great fear that they will be interrogated eventually by the régime.”

 “Right now there is this space in which they can protest thanks to the protection of Russia and these commanders of factions that reconciled with the régime but this can be changed at any moment. This space for dissent can collapse at any moment,” Tsurkov said.

 “In my personal assessment, the current situation is not sustainable. Russia will not stay in Syria forever to protect these rebel factions.”

 Listing other areas where Russian presence gave way to régime reprisals, Tsurkov noted “when Russia leaves the area, the régime is free to do whatever it wants.”

 In Idlib and parts of Aleppo governorate, where the régime and its allies hold no territory, protests continue. They are defiant and showy and less spontaneous than the recent demonstration in Daraa.

 Protesters in what some call “free Syria” run many risks and face trouble from local Islamist groups and militias but chanting anti-régime slogans remains an activity that does not invite punishment.

 “Amid a campaign of arrests and disappearances in Daraa, it is likely the protesters face grave risk, although the régime is probably more likely at this stage to enact retaliation privately — through abductions — than to actively disperse protests of this size,” US analyst John Arterbury said.

 “The potential return of an organic protest movement in Daraa… testifies not only to the deep unpopularity of the régime but to the resilience of civilians willing to put their lives at risk following years of wartime privations and a life lived in an authoritarian state,” Arterbury commented.

 Even with the presence of local commanders and the perhaps temporary licence afforded by Russian protection, the protesters know they face tremendous risks in engaging in any political activity that is not officially sponsored and does not meet official sanction. Reprisal will likely come, now or later, as the régime grows in strength and lets its promises lapse.

 However, Arterbury notes: “Protests in Daraa perhaps more directly challenge the régime’s fundamental power structure and its claims to legitimacy rooted in returning Daraa to its control.” '

Image result for daraa

Protest, torture, siege, displacement: The Syrian revolution through a rebel's eyes

 'In the dusty backyard of a small house with cracks down its walls sits Obada Dabbas, cooking eggs.

 Despite suffering from old wounds, a broad smile is drawn across his face.

 Dabbas's story is the story of the Syrian revolution. He has at turns been protester, detainee, rebel fighter and one of 14 million Syrians who have been displaced from home.

 Though it has been eight years since demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad’s government began on 15 March 2011, those early days of the revolution, a time when protests were toppling autocrats across the Arab world, are seared into his memory.

 Dabbas's hometown, Daraya, became rebellious soon after the first demonstrations began in southern Syria's Daraa.

 Known as the "city of grapes," the Damascus suburb had a reputation for the sweetness of its fruit and beauty of its trees.

 It is purportedly the site of Paul the Apostle's vision on the road to Damascus, and many of the city's residents had their own Damascene conversion when protests began sweeping through Syria like wildfire.

 "The aim of the demonstrations was to secure public freedoms, allow multi-partyism, curb violations by the security services and put an end to the ruling family's monopoly on power," Dabbas says from al-Dana, a small town in northern Idlib province, the opposition's last redoubt.

 Dabbas was 19 then, working as a carpenter building furniture. Every Friday, he and his friends would help organise protests in mosques, raising banners decrying corruption and handing out fliers promoting the revolutionary movement.

 Thousands gathered to chant slogans against Assad, whose presidential palace could be seen atop a hill just a handful of kilometres away.

 "The Syrian army and security forces stood for hours waiting to break up the demonstrations by force," Dabbas says.

 "We distributed water and roses to them, but to no avail. We were confronted with live bullets and were arrested randomly."

 While handing roses and bottled water to the soldiers deployed to quash a protest - a peaceful gesture that became an iconic image of the early days of the revolution - Dabbas's cousin Khairou Dabbas was arrested.

 Soon after, on 24 February 2012, Dabbas himself was also detained.

 Walking to the mosque to pray, he was intercepted by soldiers. They took his ID card and mobile telephone, on which they found a photograph of one of Daraya's dead wrapped in the green, white and black of Syria's revolutionary flag.

 That photo condemned Dabbas to 74 days of detention under the notorious Air Force Intelligence Directorate - time spent between overcrowded cells and solitary confinement.

 "I underwent five sessions of interrogation and torture, each lasted about four to five hours. I cannot forget the cries of tortured women."

 During the last interrogation session, his captors blindfolded him, took his thumb and pressed it on a sheet of paper, making him implicitly sign a confession the contents of which he was not told.

 "I was released in deplorable condition at 3 in the morning, barely able to reach my house and cross hundreds of checkpoints."

 Despite his gruesome experience, Dabbas was one of the lucky ones. His cousin Khairou was not.

 On Dabbas' phone is a picture of Khairou, and as he gazes at it a grave sadness descends on the otherwise lighthearted man.

 Khairou's death in detention was recently confirmed by the Assad régime.

 He joins one of Dabbas' brothers as a victim of Assad's notorious prisons. Another brother detained by pro-government forced is yet to be accounted for.

 According to the Syrian Network of Human Rights, 128,00 people have been arrested or detained by the Syrian government since 2011. The group estimates 13,983 people, at least, have died under torture in Assad’s prisons.

 "The government has resorted since the crisis in 2011 to a systematic practice of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances of a harrowing scale in order to silence its opponents - journalists, civil society activists, human rights lawyers," said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International.

 "It is an issue that has affected every single community in the country and will no doubt bear its scar on the society’s fabric for generations to come."

 The heavy-handed tactics of Assad's forces only succeeded in angering the people of Daraya more. Residents took to arms and tried to wrest the city from the soldiers arresting protesters en masse.

 In the summer of 2012, the Free Syrian Army rebels took control.

 However, with Daraya only some 10km from Assad's seat of power in Damascus, the Syrian government was not going relinquish the suburb easily.

 Between the 20 and 25 August, Assad's forces stormed the city.

 "It was a day like the Day of Resurrection," Dabbas recalls. "The smell of blood rose from the entire city of Daraya after the Syrian government forces invaded the area from all directions."

 The city was subjected to four days of continuous bombardment, and all contact with the outside world was cut off.

 "News coming from different neighbourhoods told of how the Syrian government forces conducted mass killings in brutal ways as they progressed and combed the buildings.

 "Nothing could be done other than wait for an unknown fate. The Syrian army was driving young men, women, children and old people into cellars, then throwing grenades at them or setting them on fire."

 Totally surrounded by Assad’s forces and trapped, Daraya's residents had no other choice but to hide and hope for the best.

 "It was hard to forget the sound of the bullets and the screams of women and children. They drove young people out of the houses and tortured them to death."

 Terrified, Dabbas tried to hide wherever he could, in places such as water tanks and sheds. But the growing realisation that his family too was at risk drove him home to seek them out.

 "I watched the street through a bullet hole in the wall of the house. I saw dozens of soldiers storming the neighbourhood, carrying sharp objects stained with blood."

 The sight became too much for Dabbas to bear.

 "In fact I am not a hero, I lost my consciousness completely.

 "When I woke up, my family told me that the soldiers did not enter the house. They shot at the building's door and ordered all the young men to leave, threatening to demolish the building if they refused. After most of the young men were arrested they left."

 Worried the soldiers would return, Dabbas and his family moved to a different house, only for the forces to congregate outside that one too.

 "The soldiers were about to enter the house, but they were busy chasing young men running through the fields. I was even more appalled by the news that many of my friends and relatives had been brutally killed."

 As many as 500 people were killed in the assault, one of the bloodiest of the war.

 After the massacre, Dabbas saw no other option but to take up arms and join the Martyrs of Islam battalion of the FSA.

 By November, the rebels had taken Daraya back and the government had laid siege to the suburb. Little did Dabbas and his comrades know Daraya's siege would last for four long years.

 Over the course of the war, sieges have been a brutal weapon used by Syrian government forces, the opposition and the Islamic State militant group.

 According to Siege Watch, a monitoring organisation, 2.5 million Syrians have suffered under sieges between 2012 and 2018, when the last were broken.

 In the Damascus countryside, Assad's forces kept several urban areas such as Daraya under total lockdown, depriving them of food, medicine and other necessities.

 "The siege strategy flourished and spread because it was effective for its perpetrators," Siege Watch noted in its final report issued this month. "Today, the Syrian government and its allies have reasserted control over all of the areas they once besieged."

 Dabbas and his Martyrs of Islam did fight back, however, and tried to keep lines of communication open between Daraya and the neighbouring rebel-held town Moadamiyah.

 In the process, Dabbas was severely wounded.

 "We were targeted by a tank shell and I was hit. I felt that I had been killed, I was thinking about whether I was going to meet my brother, and whether the victim does not feel his wounds after death."

 Sounds of gunshots broke Dabbas from his daze.

 "I tried to crawl and search in the dark for survivors around me. I found an extended hand and tried to awaken the owner, but it was not connected to the body."

 Dabbas, who suffered shrapnel wounds in his eyes and feet, was rescued from the fray and taken to a hospital.

 "The doctors told me that I would lose my sight. I do not know how I was cured. It's a miracle."

 According to Dabbas, the battles waged in the Damascus countryside were more ferocious than any other across the country.

 Ill-equipped and lacking any kind of professional training, Daraya's rebels fought against, among others, the seasoned fighters of the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

 "We fought very fierce, face-to-face battles," Dabbas recalls.

 "The distance between the Syrian government forces and the opposition was no more than a kilometre, and we fought street to street."

 Eventually, the rebels cracked.

 In August 2016, the Free Syrian Army negotiated a withdrawal agreement with Damascus, handing Daraya to Assad in return for safe passage to opposition-held northern Syria.

 Green buses, which would become notorious as more and more rebel-held areas fell, pulled up to take the rebels and the rest of Daraya’s residents away.

 "I cannot describe the feeling of leaving Daraya, the city where I was born and raised. Which I fought for, and lost so many of my friends. It was the city that carried us in its difficult times," Dabbas says.

 "Parting from Daraya was like parting the spirit from the body. All those destroyed houses, witness to the criminality of the Syrian government, and Daraya's steadfastness.

 "I wish I could die in Daraya, and be buried under its land forever."

 Daraya's residents arrived in Idlib province to a hero's welcome. They had surrendered, but only after holding out for more than four years, starving, outgunned and alone.

 "We did not give up, we did not surrender our weapons and equipment, and we basically had no heavy weapons."

 Alighting from their green buses, Daraya's residents found a whole new world within their own country.

 "When we reached the north it looked like a fortress that could not collapse, because there were vast areas, wide and large fronts," Dabbas says.

 "There were thousands of fighters in the north and many heavy and medium weapons any fighter would dream of. We hadn't seen equipment like this except with the Syrian government."

 Around four million Syrians now reside in Idlib province, most of them displaced from around the country.

 Daraya was the first significant rebel centre to negotiate passage to Idlib. But by New Year 2017, east Aleppo had fallen. After that Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, then Daraa, the cradle of the revolution.

 Idlib is now a hodgepodge of civilians from every region. Dialects and cuisine from across Syria can be found mingling together.

 But it is also home to rebel fighters of varying degrees of militancy, including Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly linked to al-Qaeda.

 "The makeup of the opposition factions is very chaotic, even though they are all sons of one land. I do not know why they are scattered with different affiliations," Dabbas says.

 Dabbas decided to take a course in medical care, and he now works in a centre in al-Dana, tending to wounded fighters.

 "Having been wounded twice in the past, I preferred to take a field ambulance course," he explains. "The fighter must have knowledge of everything to help himself or his friends on the battlefield."

 Many in Idlib see a battle approaching, especially with the rising violence in the south.

 Dabbas says he will be ready if and when that happens.

 "If there is will, we can resist the régime for years, as we resisted in Daraya with only Kalashnikovs," he asserts.

 "All the north needs is the will to fight and nothing more, then we will be able to withstand." '
Dabbas tends to a wounded rebel fighter, in nothern Syria's Dana (MEE/Harun al-Aswad)

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

It is an occupation by Russia and Iran

Image result for moustafa assad puppet

 Mouaz Moustafa:

 "It's really hard to sit here eight years in. We thought that when these protests cam out, calling for freedom and democracy, for the God-given rights we enjoy in the West, the United States, in Europe, and elsewhere, didn't think the brutality of the régime would be to this extent. But the winners right now are Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, extremists and their propaganda. Not the Assad régime. General McMaster, the former National Security Adviser to President Trump, said that 80% of on the ground troops for Assad are Iranian militias. It is the Russian air force that has bombarded and targeted civilians. So the winner isn't Assad. It is an occupation by Russia and Iran of our country because its people came out calling for their dignity.


 Assad is merely a puppet. He's a puppet of Tehran, and to a lower degree, of Moscow. If you look at the areas he controls right now, he's unable to govern. Even some of his loyalists have been critical of the régime. They have to be careful, because anyone who shows any criticism, even loyalists of the régime, are tortured to death in some of the worst dungeons. Even though he has the Russian air force and Iranian ground troops, he still has not taken over the entirety of Syria, and even those in the "reconciliation" areas that came under régime control, have come out in protests in the last 48 hours, calling for democracy. He's there now, but he's more of a puppet than anything, and I think the Syrian people will still call out for their democracy, for their freedom, for their rights of self-determination, as long as they have the power to do so, despite the fact that the world has deserted Syria, has deserted our Never Again moment.

What's shocking is the Assad régime, Jamil Hassan who heads his Air Force Intelligence Branch, at one point announced that there are three or four million arrest warrants still out. Those refugees who essentially came back on the basis of guarantees that nothing would happen to them. were either arrested, killed, or forcibly conscripted to go kill their own people. The conditions in Assad's jails since Caesar - an incredibly brave humanitarian hero, not just a Syrian national hero, that brought out almost 55.000 pictures of men, women, children and elderly tortured to death - that systematic machinery of death, continues. It continues to kill people, it continues to torture people in the most sadistic ways. I was talking to a Holocaust survivor, and he mentions that he's hearing from victims of Assad's régime about the sadistic torture; he can't imagine that this is sort of OK in this century, that we allow this to happen, knowing we have the documentation, having someone like Caesar, a defector who documented on behalf of the régime what happened, and showed the world.

 It is mind-boggling that we aren't doing more to stop him, and what's more disturbing is that the Assad régime probably holds more American citizens than any state or non-state actor in the world. So I call on President Trump, who has had a success record in bringing Americans home, to bring every American held by the Assad régime home, and to hold him accountable for what he's doing to his own people. There are a large number of foreign nationals being held in Syria today. The American families for the most part have decided not to go public, but I could point to one amazing family, who decided the bring their case publicly, the family of a man called Majd Kamalmaz, who is a humanitarian therapist, who was arrested when he went to visit his elderly family in Syria, he spent less than 24 hours there before he was arrested. This American citizen continues to be held by the Assad régime, as does Austin Tice, an amazing journalist. There are quite a few other who have not decided to go public yet, but even one American is one too many and they need to be home yesterday.

 There are two ways to go. Either the world can continue to do nothing, and the Assad régime will slaughter millions. You have in Idlib, a province with three million people, one million of them children. You have countless civilians who continue to be targeted, and you have hundreds of thousands of people who are being tortured to death. If we do nothing about it, this will continue, this will empower more extremists. ISIS, al-Qaeda and others will point to this and say it shows the world doesn't care about the Syrian people, and try to recruit. And the Assad régime is very smart about manipulating and utilising extremists.

 There is a ray of hope. There is a Bill in the United States Congress, called the Caesar Civilian Protection Act. It has passed the House three times. It has passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote. It has passed the Senate in a different form. I call on members of Congress, of the House and Senate, to put this at the President's desk at the nearest possible opportunity. I know the White House is in support of the Caesar Bill, which calls for the protection of civilians. I also call on the President, who has done this in the past, to continue to raise the alarm about Idlib, to continue to make it clear that Iran, Russia, and the Assad régime, cannot murder civilians in Idlib province which has the potential to double the number of refugees in Europe. I call on everyone, all human being, to know, that sometimes when the Holocaust happened we should all have been calling for the bombing of the railroads so that six million Jews don't get murdered. When Rwanda happened we should have stopped the machetes being shipped. When it comes to Syria, civilians are targeted, and men, women, and children, are tortured in prisons. It is our obligation to raise our voices, to do all we can, to put a stop to the killing."

Image result for moustafa assad puppet