Saturday, 5 September 2015

Kafranbel and the Refugee Problem

Raed ShekhFares

CAIR Joins Call for No-Fly Zone to Protect Syrian Civilians

 “Earlier this month, air strikes by the Assad regime killed more than 100 people shopping at a market in Douma. That massacre was just one of countless others carried out by this brutal dictatorship since 2011, when the Syrian people began their peaceful fight for freedom.
 The destruction of Syria and the death and displacement of its people are of great concern to the American Muslim community, and should be of concern to the entire world community.
 In one of the earliest revelations in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, God condemned the withholding of humanitarian assistance by condemning those who refuse to share the necessities of life. (Chapter 107, The Holy Quran)
 The world can no longer ignore the suffering of the Syrian people or its obligation to assist those who are being daily displaced, tortured, starved, raped, and killed. The unwillingness to protect civilians and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria is creating conditions that facilitate the rise of extremist and terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. If left unaddressed, extremism and terrorism will only grow.
 We urge American Muslims and all people of conscience to contact their elected representatives and the Obama administration to push for the United States to work with key allies to immediately establish and enforce one or more no-fly zones in Syria.
 These zones would be an effective way to protect civilians from attack, provide essential protection for displaced Syrian civilians and offer a safe transit route for desperately needed humanitarian supplies. They would also allow many refugees to return to Syria and thereby relieve pressure on neighboring countries struggling to cope with an unrelenting exodus.”

I'm a Syrian Refugee in Turkey, but I've Decided to Return Home

Sheriff and author John Lubbock in Istanbul. PHOTO: John Lubbock

"I joined the Syrian Revolution right from the first events and demonstrations, so I couldn’t go back to university because I was wanted by the regime. I returned to Amouda as the war slowly destroyed all of Syria.
I wanted to stop the kids in my area from losing an opportunity to get an education, so I began teaching high school students for free to help them in their examinations. 
In 2013 I took part in a hunger strike to protest the arrest of local political activists by the Kurdish political party, the PYD, who were asserting control over the Rojava region. On 27 July 2013 the PYD's militia, the YPG, attacked our peaceful protest and killed six civilians, injured more than 30 and arrested more than 90. They broke into my house three times… thankfully I wasn’t there. So I left for Turkey."

Friday, 4 September 2015

Despair Surrounds Pro-regime Areas: Alawite Youth Screaming 'We Will Leave!'

Despair Surrounds Pro-regime Areas: Alawite Youth Screaming

It might be noted that they are facing death as part of Assad's collapsing army, not the direct attacks by the régime that have forced most to flee, and if they can keep their documents are more likely to be able to use safer emigration routes, rather than risk death in the Mediterranean. Still, it is still horrible to be part of a sect tied to mass murder, and it restores faith in humanity that they revolt against that.
 “We now live in a gigantic prison and our names are already on the death list at recruitment centers. Our families encourage us to leave before we turn into mere numbers on coffins that return to the coastal cities every day.”
 “People organized several sit-ins in Tartous to implore the regime to save their sons, after which they realized that the regime does not care about the lives of the soldiers. It is only natural that Alawite youths are looking for chances to survive. Against the odds that await them on the emigration routes, they have made their choice: do not get embroiled in the Syrian massacre.”

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Dani Qappani

لماذا تحرك عشرات الآلاف في أوروبا لحض حكوماتهم على استقبال اللاجئين الهاربين من براميل الموت و لم يتحركوا لدحض السرطان المسبب" بشار الاسد " و حض حكوماتهم على التوقف عن دعمه و مساعدته في تهجيرهم؟!

 "Why have thousands demonstrated in Europe to exhort their governments to allow the refugees in, who were forced to leave their houses out of fear of barrel bombs, but haven't demonstrated against the reason behind it and the cancer; Bashar al-Assad‬, to exhort their governments to stop their support for Assad and helping him out with the displacement of ‪Syria?"
The ultimate injustice one can commit to Aylan Kurdi and his family is to omit the parts of his story which explain why he ended up dead on the beach. The details matter:
1) Abdullah Kurdi, the father, was detained for 5 months in Air Force Intelligence in Damascus. While in detention, he was tortured and his teeth were pulled out. He had to sell his shop in Damascus in order to bribe the officers to let him out. This cost him 5,000,000 Syrian Liras (around $25,000)
2) After he bribed his way out of jail, Abdullah fled to Aleppo with his wife and sons, Alyan and Ghalib. The situation in Aleppo became dangerous due to the constant aerial bombardment, so he fled again to Kobani, his hometown.
3) When ISIS attacked Kobani last year, the family could no longer live in their hometown, so they fled to Turkey. Once in Turkey, the Turkish government did not provide them with assistance, so they paid almost $6,000 to secure 4 spots on a rubber dingy to the Greek island of Kos.
4) While on the boat, rough waters caused the boat to flip. The lifejackets they were given were fake. His sons and wife all drowned in front of his eyes, in his arms.
5) Kurdi had applied in June for refuge to Canada, but was rejected. After Aylan's photo became a media story, he was reportedly offered citizenship to Canada. But he doesn't want to go to Canada or Europe anymore. He says he will go bury his family in Kobani and stay there to fight against ISIS, because everything has been taken away from him and he has "nothing to live for."
So if the world wants no more Aylans on the beach, someone needs to do some combination of the following based on above: (1) stop torture and arbitrary detention by the Assad regime, (2) stop the regime's aerial bombardment, (3) stop ISIS, (4) make traveling to Europe safe, (5) get Canada and the USA to accept more refugees.

The Orchid

 "My name is Mohamed and I’m from Dera’a, Syria. My family, friends and neighbours know me as 'Abul Ward,' Arabic for 'father of the roses.' I got this name since I was known for my garden filled with flowers, and because I loved to give everyone a flower that passed by my house.
 In early 2011, I had been a fire fighter for the Syrian government for 13 years. When my neighbours’ kids were caught, tortured, and thrown into a prison for writing ‘anti-government’ slogans on the walls of their school, I defected. How could I stand to support a system that supports torturing innocent children? I was the first to leave my team, but soon after, most of my squad defected behind me.
 A couple weeks after I defected I was stopped at a checkpoint by the regime. They took me to a state prison for two months. My experiences of torture in a sweltering pitch-black confined room with over 100 people are memories that will scar my past but empower my future. For every moldy piece of bread I was forced to eat, for every kick and punch I got, and for my fellow inmates who didn’t make it out alive, I am living my life more fully for it.
 From the time I was hung by hands for four days straight, to when my heart stopped for three minutes before I was revived, all the suffering I experienced made me stronger and more resilient. Now I am a White Helmet volunteer. After I left prison, I heard about these men and women who were rescuing people from under the rubble, and were also fighting fire. I knew this was the place for me.
 For the past year we have been saving lives and pulling people from under the destruction of their homes and buildings, but we can’t save everyone. Destruction, pain and heartbreak can last for a lifetime, but beautiful things may appear in the wake of tragedy. Once, we buried a few young men killed by barrel bombs. We buried the men a day after their murder; when our team and family returned to the gravesite a few weeks later, we were surprised to find no foul stench and the most beautiful flowers growing there.
 When I think about the Syrian struggle, I can’t help but think of my favourite flower, the orchid. The orchid is a symbol of the Syrian people, for regardless of what season it is, the flower is able to survive. This flower demonstrates strength, resilience and beauty, just like those Syrians who are still struggling for freedom peacefully despite all the obstacles.
 My dream for my beloved Syria is for it not to be covered with barrel bombs, destruction, war and blood, but with flowers, from my city of Dera’a all the way to the north of Syria and the border of Turkey. Every flower will represent our brothers and sisters for their strength, resilience and beautiful memories for reaching a better tomorrow."

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Koenders urges release of Syrian human rights activists – heroes of our time

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 "On Sunday, the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders called for the immediate release of ‘the Douma Four’, a group of Syrian human rights defenders that had been active since the start of the peaceful uprising against the regime of President Assad in 2011.

 ‘There is a chilling silence surrounding the mass murders and other crimes committed by the Assad regime,’ Mr Koenders remarked. ‘Our commitment to fighting ISIS should not lead to when it comes to massive human rights violations perpetrated by Assad.’ The minister went on to call the Douma Four ‘heroes of our time’.

 Razan Zeitouneh, Samira al-Khalil, Wael Hamade and Nazem Hammadi are four Syrians who have been taking a stand for human rights at risk to their own lives. Through the Violations Documentation Centre, an NGO, the four worked to record human rights violations committed against the Syrian people, until the day they were abducted from their offices in Douma by armed men. Since then, nothing has been heard from them."

Monday, 31 August 2015

Why Americans must change the conversation about Syria

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'Syrians know that the US is not at war with Syria just by looking up at the sky, which is filled with a criss-cross of Assad régime aircraft and US-led coalition aircraft that never skirmish. They see US support of the opposition forces as consistently inadequate, and indicative of a "bleeding out" policy. When Americans position the US as a primary aggressor in the Syrian conflict, and frame the coversation exclusively within the logic of US imperialism and the War on Terror, they're proliferating a narrative that doesn't apply to the Syrian civilian. This framing is dangerous, erasing the Syrian context by homogenizing its conflict with the illegal US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. This leaves little room to consider the anti-dictatorship movement that gave rise to the conflict.  To understand the structures of violence operating in Syria today, the conversation should place the Syrian civil society activist at its center and map out culpable parties based on their responsibility to safeguard the inherent dignity of the civilian. This “civilian-centered approach” immediately places the Syrian regime as the primary actor culpable in creating and perpetuating violence within the state. All other actors, therefore, commit violence in Syria in relation to the Syrian regime. The goal of the Syrian régime wasn't to wholeheartedly brainwash citizens, but rather to coerce them into behaving as if they believed in the régime, making them aware of their submission through regurgitated illusions. No international state has directly challenged the Syrian régime militarily. This is because the original conflict is between the Syrian régime and Syrian civilians, and all other state and non-state actors commit violence within the country in relation to the Syrian régime. Iran is directly complicit with the actions of the Syrian régime, providing financial and military support that is responsible for propping up Assad. The Obama régime has been consistent in publicly condemning the régime, and avoiding any action to check their power. The repercussions of failing to center our conversation around civilians can already be seen in the mainstream conversations about Syria: the "Hands Off Syria" movement, refugees fleeing to Europe are simply labelled as migrants, and daily casualties from régime bombing have yet to stoke mass public outrage.'

The Dissolution of Past and Present


Robin Yassin-Kassab

 "When Daesh destroys Baal’s temple, when the regime destroys the Zabadani mosque (or Aleppo’s Umawi mosque, or Deraa’s Omari mosque), it’s as if fascist forces have destroyed Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London, as if the British Library and British Museum have burnt. It declares a total rupture with the past.
 All borders are acts of the imagination, and the Sykes-Picot borders are more artificial than most. They were drawn by foreign imperialists – either clumsily or maliciously, according to your reading – and manifested an order in which minorities wielded power over majorities.
 The dissolution of these false borders would of course be welcome if it implied a dissolution of repressive state structures (and foreign interference), and a corresponding empowerment of individuals and communities. It would be welcome if it ended the political exploitation of sect. But both Assad and Daesh offer the opposite, and neither of their projects can provide stability. At once a perverse reincarnation of Baathist tyranny and a homeland for international fantasists, the Daesh state is a temporary phenomenon, a parasite feeding on Assad’s war. And Assad’s shrinking state is an Iranian puppet; running low on Syrian manpower, it implements a foreign agenda.
 This has never been clearer than today. When negotiations were held over Zabadani, the Islamist militia Ahrar al-Sham spoke on behalf of the rebels. Its interlocutor was not the Syrian regime, but the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ahrar hoped to win a mutual ceasefire from the negotiations – that Hizbullah stop attacking Zabadani, and the rebels in return stop attacking Fu’ah and Kafraya, pro-regime Shia towns in Idlib province. But Ahrar broke off talks when the Iranians demanded instead a population exchange – that Sunni residents leave Zabadani, and Shia residents leave Fu’ah and Kafraya.
 Having failed to hold most of Syria, Assad and the Iranians aim now to retrench in an area stretching from the coast through Homs along the Lebanese border to Damascus. This is their version of what the French occupiers called ‘la Syrie utile’. The sectarian cleansing of strategic zones in this area began in 2013 (especially around Homs), and continues with the current assault on Zabadani and the increased aerial bombardment of the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, already subjected to sarin gas, artillery barrages and two years of starvation siege. On August 16th, for example, barrel bombs murdered over a hundred people in a Douma marketplace.
 It goes on day by day – Syria’s present, past and future dissolve, and the world participates in the tragedy. Britain reopens its embassy in Tehran. The UN sups with Assad. The US, long retreated from its anti-regime threats, bombs moderate Islamist opposition groups like Jaish al-Sunna as well as Daesh. Worse, it seems the Americans are using their involvement in the multinational operations centre in Jordan to hold back the Free Army’s Southern Front from victory in Deraa."

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Syrians defying napalm bombs and sniper fire to build a library

 "Syrians in the rebel-held town of Darayya have faced sniper fire, napalm bombing and indiscriminate killing at the hands of the Assad regime.
 But among the destruction, one group of young men managed to create a place of sanctuary - a library.
 After residents of the besieged town fled, the students rescued books from their abandoned private libraries. In some cases, the buildings were still burning.
 Darayya, on the outskirts of Damascus, was a rallying point for protestors calling for an end to the Assad regime in 2011.
 When the conflict turned violent, Syrian rebels made the town a stronghold. But in 2012, the Syrian army entered the town and massacred hundreds of residents.
 After rebels regained the town, the Assad regime responded by besieging the residents using weapons banned by the UN."
It was after the 2012 massacre that Robert Fisk rode in with Assad's army, and claimed it was the FSA that had done it.

David Cameron lacked 'balls' to head off the rise of Isis, says former defence chief

David Cameron

 'Lord Richards reportedly told author Sir Anthony Seldon that the prime minister had in 2012 rejected a “coherent military strategy” to take on the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, which would in his view have seen the Islamic extremists “squeezed out of existence”.'
 He's certainly had the cojones to claim he's doing what he can to get Assad to go. Idiots claim he tried to drag us into a war in Syria in 2013.

Iran seeking to expel 200,000 Sunnis from Damascus — report

Syrian President Bashar Assad (center), shakes hands with a member of Iran's parliamentary committee on national interest and foreign policy, in Damascus, Syria, April 22, 2013. (photo credit: AP/SANA)

 "Iran is working with the Syrian regime to clear hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslim residents from Damascus in an effort to alter the demographic makeup of the city, according to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.
 According to the report, the overwhelmingly Shiite Iran is helping the regime to raze homes in the relatively plush Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, pushing out the Sunni residents in an effort to cement local support for the regime.
 Hundreds of families living in the area were given just a few hours to evacuate their homes, the report said.
The report said that Iran and the Assad regime are seeking population transfers in order to strengthen the government’s control over key areas linking the Syrian capital with the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of the Alawite community, the Shiite sect to which President Bashar Assad belongs."

As tragedies shock Europe, a bigger refugee crisis looms in the Middle East

 ' “It is a tragedy without parallel in the recent past.”
 The crisis has gone on so long that some children have forgotten where they are from. Rashid Hamadi, 9, remembers his house, with bedrooms for himself and his siblings and a garden where roses grew. He remembers tanks and bullets and running in fear from bombs. But he hesitated when asked the name of his home town. “I don’t remember,” he said.
In Turkey, the only country in the region that has made a point of welcoming the refugees, some Syrians are allowed to work, attend school and receive medical care. The Turkish government has already warned Turks to prepare for the eventuality that the presence of 1.9 million Syrians in their country of 75 million may be permanent.
 The Lebanese government has refused to allow the construction of camps for the Syrians, so the refugees are left to fend for themselves. “It’s like being in prison,” said Nour Msaitef, 25, who fled Idlib province three years ago and dares not leave his camp, on the outskirts of the Bekaa Valley town of Zahle, even in daylight for fear of being detained by Lebanese authorities or beaten up by local residents.
Some fled the excesses of the Islamic State, others government ­forces. Many now find their home towns on the wrong side of front lines that are unlikely to budge.
Fitnah al-Ali’s nephew returned last year to the family’s home in Homs, an epicenter of the anti-government revolt in 2011 that led to the civil war. The city is now under government control. He was detained and has not been heard from. “Just because you fled, they will say you were with the revolution,” said her son, Abdullah, who dares not go back.
Watfa Assad Saleh and her family have added a wooden roof, walls and little shelves decorated with china dogs to the shack they inhabit just across the border from Syria, within earshot of the daily airstrikes pounding their home town of Zabadani, another early focus of the revolt. Their house there has been leveled, neighbors have told them, and she questions whether they will ever go back.
“We say, ‘God willing,’ ” she sighed. “But I don’t believe we will ever return.” '

War for Decades to Come? One Year After Islamic State Advance, US Could Send Hundreds More Troops to Iraq

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Amy Goodman asks Patrick Cockburn about Idrees Ahmad's criticism and receives waffle:
AMY GOODMAN: Patrick, last month The Daily Beast featured an article criticizing your Syria reporting. The author, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad alleges you discount any Syrian nationalist opposition to the al-Assad regime and that your position is, "Bashar al-Assad is at war with jihadi terrorism; the West has erred in supporting his opponents; and to support the opposition is to support ISIS." Ahmad goes on to say, "For Cockburn, the situation in Syria is stark: you are with the regime or you are with the terrorists. He is an enthusiast for the war on terror—Bashar al-Assad’s war on terror. He criticizes the U.S. for excluding from its anti-ISIS coalition 'almost all those actually fighting ISIS, including Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and the Shia militias in Iraq.'" Ahmad later accuses you of "turning a blind eye to the regime’s ongoing slaughter of civilians." He says, "He is helped in this by the obtrusive barbarism of ISIS, which uses spectacle in the place of scale to force media attention. ISIS has been a godsend for the regime. It has helped divert attention from its crimes — and regime-friendly journalists have obliged in the deflection." Patrick Cockburn, your response?
PATRICK COCKBURN: Oh, I get a lot of this. Anybody who’s gonna report the Syrian civil war, or the Iraqi civil war is going to be accused by one side or the other of being partisan. And what happens in the Middle East has always happened, but is happening worse now, is when you analyze something and you say this is the situation, that I don’t think Assad is going to go down, both sides are incredibly brutal in this Civil War, then people think you’re justifying it. They mistake analysis for justification. I have had that, really, since 2011. I remember a rather nice Syrian I knew in Lebanon. I had just been in Syria and I had reported that Assad, for various reasons, was not going to collapse as a lot of media was saying. And as I came back into Syria, I switched on my telephone and there was the same guy shouting at me, shouting, shame on The Independent, shame on you. It was just that I had reported the situation as I saw it. Objectively. But he sort of wished that reality was different, and that’s why he was shouting at me. And this is the same sort of stuff. I can understand the passions involved, that both sides commit appalling atrocities using maximum violence, whatever they have against civilians. This is true of the Assad government dropping barrel bombs on civilians. It’s true of the Islamic State; 500, 600 members of another tribe in Syria were massacred. So I can understand how people feel like that. It’s part of the war, so I get attacked like that. I’m sure I will be attacked again. And there’s nothing much I can really do about that.

The cleansing of Zabadani

"To those who analyze the revolution theoretically, head to the battle sites and turn your words into actions." Al-Zabadani, Damascus 06/18/2013 Source: The Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution

 ' “The displacement of the people of Zabadani to Madaya means that they will be confined to a narrow and very densely populated geographic area already populated by a large number of displaced civilians and will be again besieged in an area which is being continuously targeted with barrel bombs by Assad’s warplanes and with heavy artillery bombardment by regime ground forces. The area is also surrounded by regime checkpoints where regime troops are already hunting civilians (men, women and children) from Zabadani, as well as warning them to prepare for a massacre and long-term siege. These threats against the people of Zabadani are the start of the regime’s and its accomplices’ planned ‘demographic change’ which we have warned repeatedly of. This threat to the people is not limited to Sunni Muslims but also includes the town’s Christian and other population, with all the town’s people being driven out in order to ‘cleanse’ the area and prepare for it to be resettled by foreign occupiers.”
eyond immediate military value, forced population transfers give rise to the fear that there’s a plan to divide Syria on sectarian lines, to redraw the borders with Alawites and Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all taking their own sections of the country. Far from being a prelude to peace, such a plan would precipitate an ethnic cleansing on a scale not yet seen in the country. Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious groups do not fit neatly into geographical areas and are spread across all regions. Even in the coastal region, the regime’s Alawite stronghold and presumably a key part of any future Assadist state, the two main cities – Lattakia and Tartous- contain major Sunni populations.
 Zabadani’s people once took to the streets chanting the anti-sectarian revolutionary slogan “The Syrian People are One”.  Now they are being expelled from their homes for the sake of what looks like an Iranian-sectarian partition.'