Thursday, 31 December 2015

Seeking the football champions divided by war

Muhammad al-Farouh

 'There were other executions and disappearances all over the country too. Raed's father, a politician who supported the wrong side when the ruling Baath party split, was taken away by the secret police and never seen again. Raed was then just 10 years old.

 "I was always afraid, afraid of everything, because our regime is very harsh," he says. "To this day I don't know where my father is, whether he's alive or not… It's better not to try to imagine, because it's so awful what happens in our prisons - it's better to think he died a long, long time ago."

 The regime was bombing Marea relentlessly, and the walls of the soccer complex were soon pitted with shrapnel. Raed returned to Russia, and Muhammad al-Farouh, the tall striker everyone had admired for his running and singing abilities, decided it was too dangerous for his family to stay in their home town. Abdul-Rahim, the impetuous one with the wild hair, is now a fighter with the Free Syrian Army.

 Yasser, who created the team, thinks there are some lines that can't be crossed. He always hated the government, even as a boy, and he says he'll never speak again to another player, Abdulrazzak, who now works for Assad's political intelligence service.

 "I could say hello to someone else from the government side, but not someone from my own town, a cousin of mine, who knows exactly what happened - that in the beginning there were peaceful demonstrations, but they started killing us. That I cannot forgive him for."

 Meanwhile Muhammad al-Farouh, the star runner who spent time as a major in the Syrian air force, still plays football every Friday in his refugee camp. He runs the camp nursery school, with 800 kids. But he can't always handle the questions they ask.

 "One child asked me why Bashar is the president of Syria when he bombs Syria, and other presidents don't bomb their countries," Muhammad says.'

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Assad regime jets bomb Douma Syria killing civilians

 It's only in the Syria Direct headline that you get the full truth of what is happening. The Mirror¹, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said "unidentified war planes" hit the town. For NBC², they were "government airstrikes" in the text if not in the headline. For Yahoo! News³, they were "airstrikes on rebel-held areas". The Independent said they were "a barrage blamed by some activists on Russia", though they do call them "pro-Assad airstrikes" in the headline, and quote an activist on the ground, they call them near rather on a school, and give the Syrian state News Agency space to claim with no proof that this was just a response to rebel shelling, as if it would be any justification. And that's how the daily mass murder by Assad and Putin is reduced to a confusing tragedy to which we can see no solution because we never have the cause identified.

¹"Harrowing video of Syrian children calling for their mums after air strike kills 49 people"[]
²"Kids Cry for Mom after Airstrikes in Syria"[]
³"Children Call for Their Mother After Strikes on Douma"[]
⁴"At least two children among 28 civilians killed by pro-Assad air strikes 'near school' in rebel-held area of Damascus

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

This Filmmaker Was Assassinated In Broad Daylight After Receiving Death Threats

  'A foe of both ISIS and the Syrian regime, the independent filmmaker and native of Salamia, a town near the city of Hama, was among the peaceful democracy activists who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against Bashar al-Assad. They are now being subsumed by the ensuing violence and sidelined by a war that has become a regional conflagration with no end in sight.
 “It is terrifying that there are Syrians who have dedicated so much for principle and stood against tyranny and extremism yet (with) no real recognition,” Rami Jarrah, a Syrian journalist and friend of Naji al-Jerf’s based in Aleppo, wrote on his Facebook page. “It is lost in this mess of misinformation that says that there are two sides fighting (Assad and ISIS) with little mention of those that oppose both wrongs. Those like Naji.”
 The killing came as Jerf prepared to depart for Europe to escape mounting death threats that followed the airing of a film he made about ISIS and its campaign of terror against citizen activists in Aleppo. ISIS in Aleppo, chronicling the months when the group ran parts of Syria’s commercial capital and came to be despised by all other groups fighting the Assad regime, was broadcast two weeks ago on the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya satellite news channel.'
 Nader Atassi
 "Those who have tried to expose the crimes of ISIS and the other counter-revolutionaries in Syria are all, without exception, anti-Assad activists who are part and parcel of the Syrian uprising. Anti-ISIS activism by Syrians was simply seen as a natural extension of anti-Assad activism, that is, activism against those who wish to dominate Syrians by force. This is where Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently's roots are, this is the background of all the activists in Syria and the surrounding countries that are organizing against and exposing ISIS. As a result, ISIS is trying to silence anti-Assad activists in Syria and in Turkey. Just this fact should be sufficient to destroy the oft-repeated talking point the 'experts' propel that Syrians have to side with Assad and be 'realistic' because he is the strongest force against ISIS. ISIS is not killing pro-Assad anti-ISIS activists—because there are none. There's only one way forward, and that is by siding with those who work tirelessly against all these forces. They have a world to overcome, but they are the only way forward."

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The District of Jobar

 Ziad Majed

  'There are numerous places, regions, villages, cities and urban neighborhoods that come to mind when we remember the beginnings of the Syrian Revolution and the stages of its transformation into armed struggle that went before the war currently raging. Among these places, the Jobar district, which stretches from the east to northeast of the Syrian capital, has a special status, and this for several reasons.

 Among these reasons, there is the fact that Jobar had been a hotbed of peaceful protest and that this neighborhood had seen on April 22, 2011, a huge demonstration march through, where the inhabitants of many of Damascus suburbs came together with those of many areas of the capital with the goal of walking to the Abbasid Square, which is just 500 meters from Jobar, to organize a sit-in. When they got to the neighborhood of al-Zablatani, regime forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing and wounding dozens in a few minutes, and arrested and tortured several hundred others. Young men exposed their bare chests to the forces of "order" to demonstrate their peaceful intentions but were shot mercilessly in the most significant and unforgettable historic step.

 Among the reasons, too, there is the fact that young people of this district had risen in armed revolt in late 2012, Jobar thereby becoming the most advanced front line against regime forces in the outskirts of the capital Damascus. This earned them the highest concentration of bombings a limited geographical area has ever known, both aerial and ground-to-ground missiles fired by heavy artillery and tanks. The people of Jobar also had to undergo the second use of sarin gas by the regime (in March and April 2013), four months after Homs and four months before Zamalka, Arbin and the outskirts of Mu'dhamiyyet al-Sham (three Ghouta localities of Damascus where 1500 people died August 21, 2013).

 Another features of Jobar we should also mention is the fact that since the end of 2013 and to date, it is subject to incessant attacks by the army of Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah fighters and Iraqi (Shia) militias.

 Despite all this, one can see the defenders of the neighborhood, some holed up in basements and other highly visible, holding their positions, not giving up one inch. When al-Assad, on New Year's Eve 2014, claimed to have visited Jobar and have reviewed his armed forces (after alleging that these forces had broken through), photos circulating the next day showed that he had not exceeded the limits of al-Zablatani, and the person with whom he was seen exchanging a warm handshake was not one of his frontline soldiers, but Muhammad Ahmad Aïssa, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah officer.

 Thus, the biography of this neighborhood summarizes an entire segment of the epic hidden Syrian Revolution. It also summarizes one aspect of its tragic fate. As Syrian journalist and photographer Said Al-Batal wrote in his brilliant article entitled "Syria: quietly close their eyes" (published on the website of the Association Bidâyât in Arabic and in French in L'Express) after visiting this area in October 2014, expressing more accurately and more deeply what life is like in this little corner of the earth forgotten as it is trapped behind a wall of fire, which is an outrage for all of humanity:

 "During my Internet searches, I came across a photo of Jobar, yesterday, under the bombs, taken from another point of Damascus ... And I shuddered.

I shuddered, not because I managed to get out from under the rubble framed in this picture. I shuddered because it reminded me that there was someone on the other side! I had forgotten that there could be someone who sees, hears, that thinks, dreams and photographs the bombs falling on us. Someone who has his thoughts and his faults, someone who is my reflection, the theory that there are others in our reality. My confinement has made me forget the other. I had come to think that we were alone in the world; the only thing that was on the other side of the shore, was death, rocket, bomb or a bullet.
Do you think my photos, I am on the opposite bank, make you feel something when you look at my eyes? Is it possible, that you are so absorbed in your concerns, the tumult of your lives, to also forget our existence?"

 To Jobar neighborhood and its inhabitants, or rather what remains of it, admiration and heartfelt greetings.'