Friday, 19 February 2016

Russian Airforce Targets Those Who Fight Against Daesh

 "Russian airstrikes have avoided so far locations where Daesh are, and concentrate on rebel-held areas where they hit civilian neighbourhoods indiscriminately. Russia is backing murderous dictator Bashar Assad, and is not slowing down its campaign of bombing civilians until they reach a result favourable to their interests. While Iran deploys every sectarian militia at its disposal to save the murderous tyrant, including Lebanese Hezbollah. Meanwhile, there is complete inaction on part of the world community."

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Iran no friend of Syrians nor defender of Shia

Iran no friend of Syrians nor defender of Shia

 Robin Yassin-Kassab:

 'During the July 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese fled south Lebanon and south Beirut – the Hizballah heartlands where Israeli strikes were fiercest – and sought refuge inside Syria.

 Syrians welcomed them into their homes, schools and mosques. Several thousand were sheltered in Qusayr, a Sunni agricultural town between Homs and the Lebanese border. It made no difference that most of these refugees were Shia Muslims. They were just Muslims, and Arabs, and they were paying the price of a resistance war against Israeli occupation and assault. That’s how they were seen.

 Summer 2013. Throughout May, hundreds of Hizballah fighters led a devastating assault on Qusayr. Because they were local men defending their homes, the Free Syrian Army were able to resist the onslaught for weeks, but were finally defeated. A Shia flag was allegedly hung over the town’s main Sunni mosque, if true, a signal of sectarian conquest.

 Various excuses were offered up: to protect the Lebanese borders, or to protect the shrine of the Prophet’s grandaughter Zainab outside Damascus. None of them explained Hizballah’s participation in battles as far afield as Hama or Aleppo. Why would Nasrallah choose to infuriate Lebanese Sunnis, to make Lebanese Shia targets of sectarian revenge attacks, to deplete and downgrade his anti-Zionist fighting force?

 Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli, who led Hizballah between 1989 and 1991, blamed Iran: “I was secretary general of the party,” he said, “and I know that the decision is Iranian, and the alternative would have been a confrontation with the Iranians. I know that the Lebanese in Hizballah, and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah more than anyone, are not convinced about this war. ... Iran and Hizballah bear responsibility for every Syrian killed, every tree felled, and every house destroyed.”

 This is something that leftists, when they were internationalists, once understood: states are designed to protect the property, position and privilege of the various elites which run them, not to safeguard the interests of ordinary people. This means Iran is not the protector of the Shia, Saudi Arabia is not the protector of the Sunnis, and Israel is not the protector of the Jews. 

 Need it be said that the Assad regime is the deadliest enemy of Alawis?'

How Syrian Activists in Raqqa are Resisting ISIS

 'Incredible footage obtained by Sky News shows how Syrian activists are resisting ISIS in Raqqa, the city that was dubbed ‘the capital of ISIS’. The activists are part of the group ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently‘ (RBSS), a loosely-organized group of activists, described by the New Yorker as “as kind of underground journalistic-activist enterprise”, who have been struggling against both Bashar Al Assad's regime at the start of the revolution and then, when the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held city fell, ISIS.

 We learn of Abdulaziz Al-Hamza, a Syrian activist who is now in exile in Turkey due to his sympathies towards the FSA and co-founder of RBSS. Al-Hamza met another activist, Sarmad Al Jilane, also in exile in Turkey and, along with 15 other people, they set up RBSS in the hope of facilitating the transfer of images and videos taken by anti-ISIS activists still residing in the heart of the terror group's ‘capital’, which controls territory across parts of Syria and Iraq.

 RBSS was honored with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’ 2015International Press Freedom Awards for their journalism. In his acceptance speech, RBSS’ spokesperson said:

 "I speak today on behalf of millions of Syrians who are looking for a free, democratic and united country.

 I am deeply sad for my beautiful country. It is suffering greatly from regime fever and the cancer of terrorism, so greatly that I fear its spirit will melt.

 We are caught between two aggressive and brutal forces. The first is a criminal regime, obsessed with power, claiming to fight against terrorism by killing children.

 The second spreads evil and injustice, and paints our nation black.

 Each of them considers us criminals because we are disclosing their actions to the world. Now the mere mention of the name of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” has become a crime punishable by death." '

Monday, 15 February 2016

A letter from under Russian bombs in Aleppo

Aleppo Syria Bombs Russia Rebels

 "We haven’t seen a good day in years. The shelling never stops, even for an hour or two. Life has changed, all the places you remember are gone: forget them, it is too painful. The bombs dropped by the regime are indiscriminate, destroying everything in their path. Everything is changed, destroyed or deserted, without life.

 Even in our dreams we no longer know what “safety” means. Every time you open your eyes you don’t know if it the last time you will see your kids.

 It is not just fighting on the front lines, it’s not just the continuous bombing. There are snipers hidden in every corner on the way out of the city.

 We are constantly adapting our lives. Schools have had to move underground, and medical centers have to manage with limited supplies. We tried to build new democratic institutions: we elected new leaders. Everything has been a struggle.

 We tried to go north to different neighborhoods, but bombs were falling there. We could see the planes flying above us, they sometimes display Syrian flags, sometimes Russian, sometimes we don’t even know. It feels like they are following us everywhere we go.

 The surrounding communities of Anadan, Marah, Tal Refat, Hretan, Bynoon, Azaz are also suffering. These towns and villages started a peaceful revolution. They stood with Aleppo when Syrian government forces attacked civilians in the city. They took in people fleeing the bombs and the shelling.

 But what happened to them? They were bombed, every single day. People do not know who the planes are aiming for and whether they will be next to die. Tens of air strikes per day, for the last 120 days.

 And now it is time to leave. I didn’t ever expect this time would come, but I have to give up. I am leaving for a place I am not sure even exists.

 Aleppo stands in front of a big war machine armed only with small weapons. It is not just a geographical target. Aleppo is karama, it is dignity, it is the revolution against injustice.

 Goodbye Aleppo; my hometown, the place where I spent my childhood, where all my memories are.

 I hope to see you there again one day, my friend."

In Aleppo, one man's story of fear, defiance and survival

The 69-year-old's family fled fighting in Aleppo, but he stayed behind to care for his cars.

 'Karam al Masri is watching his city die. Or more accurately, he is watching the life gradually ebb from it. Masri is a 25-year-old photographer in Aleppo who documents the fatalism, fear and sometimes the defiance of tens of thousands of civilians who remain in rebel-held areas of the city now almost encircled by Syrian government forces and their allies.

 In broken Skype conversations across several days, Masri described how Aleppo's people are trying to continue their lives despite the bombardments. He says they have seen so much horror they are almost oblivious to it. Of course, the airstrikes are bad, he says, but in many ways the intense barrel-bombing of the past three years was worse -- more indiscriminate. As if delivering good news, Masri says only half of the recent airstrikes have killed civilians.
 Stallholders in the markets still offer their produce, though there is less of it and prices for many staples have doubled in a week. Children still go to school, though sometimes in makeshift underground classrooms. And the "White Helmets," the voluntary civil defense workers, race from one jumble of rubble to the next, though often only to retrieve the dead.
 Masri knows what it's like to be the target of the regime and its secret police. Before the uprising began, he was a law student at the University of Aleppo. He was active on Facebook and called for a revolution in Syria like those that had toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. One night in April 2011, there came the dreaded knock at the door. He was detained for a month and says he was beaten and tortured.
 On November 28, 2013, a barrel bomb targeted the Myasar neighborhood. Masri jumped in an ambulance with two friends, but they ran into an unexpected roadblock. Masked ISIS fighters stopped them, tied their hands and blindfolded them. Within hours, Masri and his friends were in a makeshift jail in an industrial area called Sheikh Najjar.
 Masri spent 45 days in an underground cell. His daily ration was half a slice of bread and three olives; some days there was no ration at all. He lost 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) in weight and often felt like he would die from starvation. He was not tortured, he says, but believes that's because his captors intended to kill him. He was, after all, a cameraman; there were few worse sins.
 Masri believes there were some 30 cells in that underground jail, holding men of the Free Syrian Army, activists and other journalists. As ISIS lost ground, the guards took their prisoners from one place to another, but every time they killed a few more of their hostages before herding the remainder onto buses. Masri saw the body of his friend Nour, the ambulance driver he had ridden with on that fateful day in November.
 While he had been in an ISIS dungeon, his family's apartment building had been hit by a barrel bomb. Unknown to Masri, his mother had been killed, along with several others in the building. His father, widowed and with no idea whether his son and only child was still alive, had left Aleppo and gone to Egypt.
 A few months later, Masri was injured in his left leg by a sniper's bullet. He spent three months alone in a small apartment, no mother and no aunt to visit and care for him. The loneliness of that time still haunts him.
 But when he recovered, Karam al Masri went back to roaming through rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, taking his remarkable photographs.
 "I focus on characters who survive the pain and endure and find strength to stay in spite of the horror of war," Masri said.
 "I focus on the suffering of people and children, showing how they deal with this war, how they escape airstrikes and come out of destroyed buildings looking for their relatives."
 "I also like to show stories that demonstrate how beautiful Aleppo is and how it used to be before the war. I dream that one day the war ends and I can take photos of beautiful Aleppo and not only images of destruction and devastation."
 One of the characters he found -- and there is no shortage of them in Aleppo -- is 69-year old Abu Omar, who is a collector of vintage cars. His house was hit by a mortar and his wife and five children left the city. But he chose to stay, wiping the dust of war from his precious collection every day.
 Masri says that today, some people in Aleppo still urge resistance, futile though that might seem. There have even been small demonstrations urging the dozen or so fractious rebel groups to come together and form a "Jaysh Aleppo," or Aleppo Army.
 Masri does not believe the regime and its allies will try to reduce eastern Aleppo to dust in street-to-street fighting. They don't need to; they can just stop food and diesel getting in, he says.
 "There's not enough food stored for more than a month," Masri says. "If they force a siege for one month, people will die."
But he says he can't imagine leaving unless forced to by the Syrian army.
 "I can't leave Aleppo. My family was buried here, I can't go away and leave their graves; it would be a betrayal. My mother could have left and saved herself, but she waited for me. She died waiting for me." '

Russia’s grip on Syria tightens as brittle ceasefire deal leaves US out in the cold

 'Opposition groups have already said they cannot accept the ceasefire if it does not halt Russian airstrikes. “No negotiation can take place while Russia is bombing our people,” said a senior member of one major Islamist opposition group. “It is a certainty that Russia will continue to attack us while claiming to target al-Nusra. They claimed that their campaign in Syria was to fight Isis but, so far, 85% to 90% of their attacks were against the moderate revolutionary groups, with a high percentage of civilian targets.”

 “The people that the Americans had been trying to sponsor are now targets of an enemy that bombs without mercy or discretion, and the Americans don’t have a problem with that?” said one Free Syrian Army member in Aleppo, who declined to be named. “They never deserved our trust.”

 “No matter what [Isis] does, no matter how bad they are, they are not as bad as the regime. They [the government] are the first enemy. They are why Syria is ruined, and they are why I am in this camp,” said 20-year-old Khalil Efrati, who had left his Raqqa home around three weeks earlier. “Yes, Isis are merciless and they do horrific things, but the regime does worse.” '

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Ex-Syria official tells of collusion between Assad, Russia, Daesh

Ex-Syria official tells of collusion between Assad, Russia, Daesh

 ' "A month before the city fell to Daesh, we had received information that Daesh was planning to attack Tadmur and the adjacent city of Sukhna. We conveyed the information to Assad himself," said Mohamed Qassim, who formerly served as attorney-general in Syria’s central city of Tadmur"But instead of laying out a plan to defend the city, Assad ordered military forces to vacate Tadmur in hopes of tempting Daesh to fill the vacuum," he said.

 According to Qassim, Assad had wanted to give the impression that Daesh had captured Tadmur, from which the group hoped to advance on the central city of Homs to kill Alawites and Christians. "[Assad was confident] that the destruction of ancient monuments in the city would anger world public opinion and thus demonize the revolution," he said.
 When he was serving as the city’s attorney-general, Qassim said, he had discovered scores of bodies of political detainees in regime-run prisons. "These people’s crime was to oppose the criminal Assad regime," he said. Qassim added that political detainees had been subject to horrific forms of torture. "Many were beaten, burnt, tortured or crucified to death," he said.
 "There were atrocities and crimes committed by Russia and the Assad regime that the world never knew about," he said. He asserted that most of the city’s monuments, for example, had been destroyed by Russian airstrikes or barrel bombs dropped by regime aircraft. "Russian bombardments and regime [attacks] don’t target Daesh; rather, they are killing civilians, rendering thousands of the city’s residents homeless," he said.
 Qassim went on to note that Russia -- which began striking opposition forces in Syria last September -- never attempted to retake Tadmur from Daesh. "It’s destroying the city and killing its people and is ultimately working to obliterate Tadmur," he said.
 Qassim said dozens of Russian military experts had arrived in Tadmur when he was still serving as the city’s attorney-general. "These experts visited oil and gas fields to carry out maintenance and repair operations under the protection of Daesh militants," he said.
 Qassim went on to disclose that regime forces were selling weapons to Daesh militants, asserting that a Syrian officer -- named Mohamed Gaber -- had been responsible for selling weapons to the militant group. "He [Gaber] smuggled weapons at night to Daesh militants and was paid by middlemen," he said. Providing a glimpse as to how the weapons were procured by Daesh, Qassim said Gaber used to order extra weapons at one of the army checkpoints under his control. "[Shortly afterward] Daesh militants would attack the checkpoint, from which Gaber would order his troops to withdraw -- leaving the weapons to the militants," he said. "After the militants withdrew from the checkpoint, Gaber and his forces would return to find it emptied of weapons," Qassim said.
 Asked about the illicit trafficking of ancient artifacts in Syria, Qassim said the practice had been widespread even before the outbreak of the revolution. "This has been happening for more than ten years," he said, going on to name Sabra al-Khazen, head of military intelligence in Tadmur, as one of the country’s best-known antiquities smugglers. "He [al-Khazen] amassed thousands of ancient artifacts and sold them to buyers abroad. He shared his profits with Assad and other members of the intelligence apparatus," Qassim said.
 Qassim fled Syria in late 2015 to neighboring Turkey. "I was a witness to the peacefulness of the Syrian revolution; I saw how peaceful protesters were killed by [regime forces] in Homs," he said. The former attorney-general went on to assert that Syria had since become "one big prison". "There is panic and fear everywhere," he said. According to Qassim, the Assad regime had been on the verge of collapse before Russia had intervened in the conflict. "The Russian aggression provided the regime with moral support," he said. "This support, however, remains very fragile." Qassim stressed that all Syrians -- Sunnis and Alawites alike -- despised Assad and his regime. "All are confident that he will either escape or be killed," he said. "Everyone knows Assad is doomed to defeat." '