Saturday, 26 April 2014

FSA strikes jihadist-held stronghold

The city of Raqqa is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham

 "Syrian rebels launched their biggest offensive yesterday against thousands of jihadists in the north who have used terrorist tactics and imposed strict Islamic rules on minorities.

 About 1,500 members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were involved in the push towards the city of Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), according to an opposition spokesman.

 At least five villages in the province of the same name were seized and eight Isis militants killed, Omar Abu Layla said. A few FSA fighters died when a car bomb detonated..."
Image result for bbc documentary The Rise of Islamism

The Rise of Islamism

"Each time there is radicalisation it is a response to the actions of the state."
There's also a bit where one speaker describes how after Assad Senior had massacred 20,000 Muslims in Hama, "they went street by street, woman by woman, taking off their headscarves. A policeman took off my mother's scarf, and danced on it. She could never look her children in the eye again."
I also watched Dateline London*, where the Israeli journalist mentioned Obama's abandonment of the Syrian people when he allowed Assad to cross red lines with impunity. When they got on to the subject of Tony Blair's call for an alliance with Putin against Islamism, Abdel Bari-Atwan bemoaned the destruction the West had wrought on secular states like Iraq and Syria.

Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia speaks
about his new film, ‘Return to Homs’
“When an American audience finally feels that what’s happening in Syria is a human situation they can identify with, then we can all together find a way to do something.”
Nyrabia is quick to add that his criticism of Western indifference does not apply to the cinematic world. “We always have wonderful support from organizations, filmmakers, festivals. All of these people who are not [political] decision-makers are really very human and connected and believe in what we’re doing.
In that sense, we’re not alone. We couldn’t have done it alone.”

'The chaos continues' in Syria

“The lack of support for the FSA is a factor that led to the increased presence of Al-Qaida, and the Syrian people will hold the international community in general and the U.S. in particular responsible for that result,” Muhannad Ali said. “What happened is we have the FSA fighting on two fronts against the regime and Al-Qaida, and this is what hindered the revolution.”

Raging with the Machine: Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Syria

Yassin al-Haj Saleh:
"By methodically ignoring the Syrian people and by focusing on Al Qaeda, Robert Fisk and Seymour Hersh have done us all a huge disservice. The perspective on Syria portrayed by these writers is exactly the view of Syria that Bashar Assad wants the rest of the world to see."

Friday, 25 April 2014

Hunger Games

On the topic of Mockingjay, Dormer says, “It’s incredible how poignant an allegory it is for what’s going on in the real world,” says Dormer of the series. “You only need to turn on the television and watch the terrible things about Syria, about a government turning on their own people.”

When even the Co-op wants to break ties with you for the sake of its image, you know things must really be bad

Image result for When even the Co-op wants to break ties with you for the sake of its image, you know things must really be bad

 "Blair declares that we should back Putin, be thankful we invaded Iraq, and bomb Syria."

 Mark Steel yet again ignorant about Syria. As Sam Charles Hamad pointed out a few days ago: Tony Blair now openly pro-Assad: "Syria. This is an unmitigated disaster. We are now in a position where both Assad staying and the Opposition taking over seem bad options. The former is responsible for creating this situation. But the truth is that there are so many fissures and problems around elements within the Opposition that people are rightly wary now of any solution that is an outright victory for either side. Repugnant though it may seem, the only way forward is to conclude the best agreement possible even if it means in the interim President Assad stays for a period." []

 I didn't bother with the rest, though Mark is probably right and funny about the Co-op, or Blair's interview with Huw Edwards yesterday, which was probably mostly about the collapse of the Middle East peace talks.

Image result for Syria Civil War Forces Brutal Split in Aleppo

Syria Civil War Forces Brutal Split in Aleppo"Several industrial zones housing mainly garment and textile factories had sprung up all around this northern Syrian city, located a mere 40 miles from the Turkish border. In the eyes of the European Union, it was a gateway for greater economic cooperation with Syria.
But those hopes—along with a boom that brought a face-lift to Aleppo's historic center as well as some new luxury boutique hotels—have gradually turned into a nightmare. The initial shift was when the impoverished and less developed countryside, which supplied much of the labor for the factories, rose up in solidarity with other parts of Syria against Mr. Assad. Peaceful protests, including in some working class sections of the city and at universities, were brutally suppressed by hired thugs on the payroll of some businessmen, say residents."

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Assad's strategy & why exposing his crimes is so critical
'The children need to get back to being children and the refugees need to be able to go home. This requires not the end of the uprising, but its successful conclusion. People vested in the revolution understood that even when victory seemed remote, as it did in the beginning.
Others, less personally involved, especially the broad mass of people in say, the United States, that haven't paid close attention and just know something very ugly and terrible is happening in Syria, may well settle for any outcome that just makes it go away, even if that means the same violence is going on at night and behind "detention center" walls.'

A group of armed anti-government fighters in Syria

Police make Syria plea to UK Muslim women

On last night's Sky Press Preview.
Anna Botting: "But won't some of them have gone to fight Assad?"
Stig Abell: "Yes, but there are some bad moral choices on both sides of the civil war in Syria."
He's the managing editor of the Sun. The organ through which Rupert Murdoch has influenced British politics for three decades. If there are any Western-backed rebels in Syria, it isn't from that part of the ruling class, that is happy to spread the lie that those fighting oppression are like the torturers.
As with the David Wearing piece in the Guardian* recently, in isolation, telling young men not to go to fight in Syria is not a bad thing. By and large , they do as much harm as good, and if they end up with an Islamic group fighting against the revolution rather than Assad, they are not helping at all. But much of the media narrative is designed to discredit the cause of overthrowing Assad. Referring to all those going to fight as jihadists. Claiming that there would be a problem of them being 'radicalised' and coming back to Britain to blow themselves up. One newsreader made the obvious point about this latter claim, "won't they have been radicalised before they go?" There was a woman from the Charity Commission on saying that there is no need to go to Syria, because they could donate money instead, and said in a confused manner that 87% of aid was getting through to people who need it. The truth is that aid is not getting through, because Assad is allowed by fear of Western intervention to pursue a policy of starving and brutalising civilians in Syria, that the only way there is going to be peace and a return of refugees is when the rebels get sufficient weaponry to defend civilians against the depredations of the régime, at which point it will have a short life expectancy, as its strategy will have failed.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

We cannot still ignore the perils of intervention

Image result for We cannot still ignore the perils of intervention

"In Syria for instance, the US and its allies have been claiming for three years that the real representatives of the Syrian people are discredited but well-financed exiles who dare not visit either government or rebel-held areas."
I was expecting to want to explain again how we should unpack the word 'intervention', as it is being used by the enemies of the Syrian revolution to make the token threat of airstrikes or the provision of weapons to the Free Syrian Army elide into a rerun of the Iraq invasion, but this prompts me to go: just fuck off. The Syrian opposition leadership suffers from many of the problems of those who don't actually have the power on the ground, but the idea that they are out of touch while Assad has the support of the Syrian people is an insult to those he is bombing.*
Nader Atassi suggested that Assad's re-election slogan should be, Because Syria Won't Barrel Bomb Itself.
Quickly flicking back to Cockburn's piece, I see this, and snigger at his friends on the Left, or what used to be one,
"By accepting as legitimate a government in Kiev installed by direct action, the US and EU irresponsibly destabilised a tract of Europe."

A portrait of President Bashar al-Assad looms behind a young Syrian at a Damascus intersection in 2010. (Photo by Alex Stonehill)

Lessons of fear and freedom in Syrian schools

"The revolution has shattered this lens through which the regime had conditioned its people to see it and the world, and a return to the unconditional support Assad had once succeeded in instilling is far from likely."

Monday, 21 April 2014


 Opposition activists in Syria have accused the Assad regime of dropping chlorine gas 'bombs' on a town in a rebel-held area of the civil war-torn country.

 It is claimed that helicopters dropped the poisonous gas on Kfar Zeita on 11 and 12 April.


Review: Return to Homs - the capital
of Syria's revolution destroyed
"Death is frequent in the fighting. Many are injured, including Basset and Ossama. Ossama appears more visibly traumatised by his ordeal, but all the young men are affected. Despair and desperation creep in, how can it not. They have gone from being labourers, blacksmiths, factory workers, teachers and footballers, to fighting one of the most brutal and totalitarian regimes of the modern age, with a massive imbalance in firepower and support. And yet they keep fighting. And singing.
Basset is still in Homs. Still fighting under siege. Still trying to liberate his country. Orwa Nyrabia, the film’s producer, commented after the film screening, “There is a Basset in every town in Syria. I speak to many of them regularly, but the media does not talk to them or about them.” Orwa stated the mainstream narrative, that it is the regime versus Islamic fighters, is false, that the vast majority of those fighting are moderates, but they receive little or no coverage. This must change. But it will require action, action which has not been taken by many.
Orwa remarked during the Q&A, “When the West threatened to attack the Assad regime, which did not actually happen, tens of thousands marched around the world. When the regime used gas on Ghouta, and killed 1,500 people, not a single march was held anywhere.” Alongside the brutality of the regime, this memory will linger for a long time, the lack of aid given by much of humanity and its progressive forces to the Syrian people.
All progressive and anti-war activists must feel a deep shame at the lack of support for the Syrian Revolution which has left it isolated and battling the world superpowers alone. This feeling should be used to motivate, not as an excuse to ignore what is happening. There is much we can do, if we are willing to spend the energy."
Image result for azmi bishara
Azmi Bishara on the Continued Barrel Bombing of Aleppo (12 April 2014)
"It shames humanity that an entire people are abandoned to face the most brutal forms of oppression and slaughter, that the tyrannical regime which they face is supported by global and regional powers. In the broad daylight of the twenty-first century, they face bombardment and displacement and forced starvation, all on their own. On top of this, everybody under the Sun gives them instructions on how to behave.
Those abandoned to their own fate cannot be blamed for what they do to protect their lives and dignity; only those who stand by these people, in deeds and not only words, have the right to criticise and advise and suggest alternatives to them."
Image result for Three years on, the conflict in Syria is still raging. Our leaders cannot continue simply to look the other way

Three years on, the conflict in Syria is still raging. Our leaders cannot continue simply to look the other way

"The way that Western leaders have washed their hands of Syria, having decided that they don’t like rebels after all, is almost breathtakingly cynical because countless people who have nothing to do with al-Qa’ida or its affiliates remain locked into a revolt that has had the carpet pulled from under its feet."
There are some problems with this piece, the idea that Western leaders encouraged the Syrians to revolt, when they would have preferred some sort of coup, and the minute there was an armed revolt the story was that we didn't know who these people was, and had the Arab Spring turned sour with this turn to violence. And, "they forgot to factor in Plan B: what if the Assad regime declines to fold, or if a democratic revolt against the regime morphs into a sectarian crusade?" suggests that the West was serious about arming the rebels at some stage, that it wasn't the almost complete lack of arming that encouraged sectarian groups on the rebel side, omits the sectarian crusade already being spearheaded by Hezbollah to ethnically cleanse Sunni villages.
But the headline is at least shifting the debate onto the need to address the conflict, rather than to pretend that "intervention" is a route to an Iraq-style invasion. It would be nice if this gives solutions that empower the Syrian people a chance to be heard.