Saturday, 26 December 2015

What It’s Like to Have Russian Jets Bomb the Crap Out of Your Town

ALEPPO, SYRIA - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content) People save a disabled man from the wreckage after the war crafts belonging to the Russian Army carried out airstrikes on opposition-controlled Firdevs neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria on December 15, 2015. (Photo by Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Michael Weiss

 'Aleppo’s children are now being educated in apartments on the front-lines, because their open air schools have been bombed by Russia. In these makeshift academies, the primary fear is “elephant bombs,” the regime’s “locally made” ground-to-ground missiles (so called because sound like the an elephant’s trunk blow when they’re launched) which can hit 60 or 70 times a day.

 The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to claim responsibility for any civilian casualties and often denies striking in civilian-heavy locations which evidence suggests they have struck. But the claims of Russian collateral damage, Jarrah tells me, are “absolutely true. Russia is killing civilians and waging an information war. I want every single person on this planet to know that, whether they admit it or not.”

 Kenan Rahmani, a Syrian-American activist, spent the better part of November in Idlib, Syria’s northwest province, which is also under constant Russian bombardment. In the town of Maarat al-Noman, he says “they bombed half a kilometer from where I was, killing three children in a school. The residents in Maarat al-Noman had gotten used to the barrel bombs,” he says, referring to metal canisters filled with shrapnel and explosives dropped from Syrian helicopters. “But these were more limited in their scale of destruction. The Russians destroy more buildings and raise the stakes for Syrians to stay alive inside. But it’s the same form of collective punishment. If you want to live in opposition areas, these are the consequences.”

 On Dec. 15, Russian warplanes bombed Mash'had market in an area called Saif al-Dawla, a central marketplace in Aleppo. (ANA Press published footage of the aftermath, viewable here.) “Ten meters to the right and the missile would have landed inside the market, killing 200 or 300 people,” Jarrah says. “The attacks are not that precise. Shoot one person in a protest, and he runs away. Then the next day, more come. Then you have to shoot five people to make the same point. The Russians want to kill a lot of people at once so they don’t have to kill even more later. The marketplace, it’s like the veins of the city. If you open the veins, you bleed the city.”

o far, there has been no conspicuous hemorrhage of civilians from Aleppo because the inhabitants don’t want to leave. Jarrah says that this isn’t because they’re patriots or defiant in the face of a brutal onslaught. It’s because most of them are already internally displaced. Jarrah reckons that, apart from Aleppo’s historic Old City, where longtime residents still remain, in the “modern” districts, only about 20 percent of the current population is native. “The rest are Syria’s poorest. If they leave, they’ll have nowhere else to go.” '

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Assad has again used sarin gas against civilians

 "Five Syrian civilians were suffocated by sarin gas used in barrel bombs dropped by Assad helicopters on the southern part of al-Moadamiyeh city near Damascus. Assad forces have been trying to isolate Dariah from al-Moadamiyeh city for the past 24 hours using every possible means including sarin gas."

Monday, 21 December 2015

Drawing the horror of a Syrian detention centre

Illustration - three figures one with head bowed, one screaming, and one chained and hung by the hands

  Lina Sinjab
 ' "Every day there would be about eight new bodies. After a week I managed to get closer and count the number written on a body's forehead. It was 5,530 - and after a month and a half, the number on another body was 5,870. I got used to it. The first night I saw a dead body and smelled it, I felt so sick and sad I couldn't sleep. But later on we were eating while a dead body was next to us. I remember leaning on a dead body and thinking, 'When are they going to remove it so I can have more space?' "

 Sami was arrested twice in the years after the Syrian uprising in 2011. His crime was coming from a town, a religious group and a family that had revolted against President Bashar al-Assad. "I had long curly hair when I was detained for first time. This modern look was a sign for the government that I belong to the co-ordination committees that organised protests. The security officer dragged me by my hair and told his boss, 'We've got one of the co-ordinators sir,'" Sami told me.

 "I was picked up on my way to work, my head was covered and I was put in a car. I don't know where they took me but they put me in a hall while my hands were tied with wires. They started beating me up madly. Then I reached the detention centre. I was bleeding, bones broken, ears damaged so that I couldn't hear properly. The place was like Dante's inferno. You are constantly tortured and you hear the cries of people being tortured. I was kept in the basement maybe seven storeys down."

 His wife, Fidaa (not her real name) had the difficult job of finding the right person to bribe. It took $3,000 simply to find out where Sami was being held. Then she had to pay money to ensure that Sami would not continue to be tortured. One of the people who promised to help ensure Sami's release disappeared after a week, forcing her to look for another contact who might help.

 Sami has lost 40 members of his family, all killed by the regime. He moved home twice inside Syria looking for a safe place to live with his wife and daughter. His own house and another belonging to his family were burned down by government forces in the Damascus suburb he comes from. Many have argued that this sort of treatment drives poor young Sunnis into the arms of Islamist radicals - though Sami says he personally never encountered any Islamists in Syria. "I didn't see any Islamists or jihadists or radicals in prison. I just saw ordinary Syrians. Needless to say, almost everyone in prison is Sunni. Men from the city with money are treated differently than those coming from poor and rural areas. The more money and connections you have, the less tortured you are."

 The threat to him, he says, came exclusively from the Assad government, and it was the government that drove him eventually to leave the country. He and his wife and daughter are now in Europe, where Sami is recovering from his ordeal. "I try to get over my fears by drawing or playing music," he says. "This is the only way I can survive." '

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Assad-Putin Airstrikes on Idlib Courthouse

 Bilal Abdul Kareem

 "Immediate aftermath of today's Putin-Assad attack on Idlib Courthouse in Syria. If you've never seen the absolute chaos that ensues after an airstrike then this is a clip you may need to see to have a proper perspective. The airstrikes landed at approximately 10am, the busiest time of the day in the courthouse. In total there were 5 targets in the city. The number of wounded and killed are still being counted."

 When bombs drop on the halls of justice, there is no justice in the halls.