Friday, 6 May 2016

Aleppo in a time of monsters

Aleppo in a time of monsters

 Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

'There are no conflicts in the Middle East that date back millennia. The conflict in Syria is just over five years old. Nothing about it is fixed. In its scope and its intensity, in its balance of forces and its cast of characters, the conflict has been constantly evolving. The only element that has remained static, however, is the international response.  

 In speaking of the horrors unfolding in Syria, it is hard to avoid a certain sense of déjà vu. Everything that can be said about Aleppo has already been said about Homs, Houla, Daraya and Douma. But with each new horror comes a growing sense that, for all the obtrusive violence, for all our pleas, we are plunging into the deep, smothered by apathy, abandoned by hope.

 Syria today is a free-fire zone with no check on criminality. The red line that Barack Obama set was blithely crossed. In having his bluff called, the constitutionally weak president was himself stung. Reluctant to initiate action in Syria, he has become fearful of setting new limits - lest they are crossed, further exposing his cowardice.

 Barack Obama has betrayed the people of Syria twice over. First by drawing a line on chemical weapons, at a time when most Syrians were being killed by conventional means; and then by failing to enforce it, giving Assad an unconditional license to kill by any means, including chemical weapons.

 Barack Obama is on his way out. He has nothing to gain politically from confronting Assad. And morally - well, he is "proud of this moment", a time when he has abandoned Syrians to Assad's inexhaustible appetite for killing. Nearly three times as many people were killed in the two years after Obama's embarrassing climb-down than had died in the two years before - victims of "ancient hatreds", no doubt.

 The US, however, is no mere bystander. As in Bosnia, it has actively blocked the transfer of much needed anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebels, allowing the regime and Russia to bomb with impunity. And by accepting Russia's "war on terror" rationale, the US has made itself complicit in Russia's crimes. The US legitimised Russia and the regime's ferocious aerial assault, while its military spokesman alleged that "it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities." The Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's local franchise, has a small presence in the city; it certainly doesn't "hold Aleppo".

 In 2005, with much fanfare, the UN had introduced the doctrine of the "right to protect" (R2P), codifying "never again" into a norm of international conduct. Its timely application in Syria might have saved thousands of lives. But even as the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon was acknowledging the "shame" of its failure in Rwanda and Srebrenica, the UN was providing cover to the regime's starvation sieges across Syria, censoring its documents, and obfuscating responsibility with the anodyne language of "both sides". But as the Italian writer and holocaust survivor Primo Levi noted, "to confuse [perpetrators] with their victims is a moral disease or an aesthetic affectation or a sinister sign of complicity; above all, it is a precious service rendered (intentionally or not) to the negators of truth".

 Where once "no justice, no peace" was considered a truism, demands for justice are now deemed a threat to "stability". Peace without justice is the nostalgia hankered after by the negators of truth. Preserving truth is therefore the first step towards confronting fascism.

 It is by now clear that no power will intervene to aid the Syrian people. But regional powers, unlike the US, will not be shielded from the consequences of a regime victory. In the form of the "refugee crisis", Europe is already feeling the repercussions. It is time for regional powers to step up and provide vetted rebel groups with portable misile launchers to target regime aircraft. Only by revoking the regime's aerial capacity can it be coaxed into negotiating in good faith. R2P and "never again" were examples of false hope. The new moral order that was then struggling to come forth is now dead. But that is no reason to let the monsters reign. 

 People have a right to defend themselves; let's give them the means.'

International Bodies threatening to cease donations to medical institutions if they mention that Assad regime has bombed them


 'One employee at a major medical institute working in Aleppo has revealed that a discussion took place on Thursday [sic 27/04/2016] in one of the institutes complaining from the pressure donors are imposing on them to be “neutral” and not give any statements that would accuse the Assad regime of launching attacks against those medical facilities. Mutasem Alsyoufi stated on his Facebook: “the same donors had no problem if the accusation subjected JN [al-Nusra Front], ISIS, or even the moderate armed groups because they are “not state actors”.

 Alsyoufi also mentioned that a number of workers at those Medical Organisations were martyred in the Assad regime’s air force attacks over Aleppo, adding that “apparently, the real international community is the one unveiled in the Panama leaks not the UN or the Universal declaration of human rights”.

 The Assad and Russian invasion forces had earlier targeted more than one Medical Center, the latest of which was the UOSSM Center providing healthcare in the Marjah area of Aleppo, that had it completely destroyed and rendered inoperable.'

Aleppo Is Burning

 'Last Friday, in an attempt to show solidarity with Aleppo, massive numbers of people changed their Facebook profile pictures to a red box. Now, a week later, we have seen protests in Argentina, Poland, Belgium, the United States, Turkey, Germany, Lebanon, Italy, Sweden, France, Canada, Jordan, Norway, Greece, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Indonesia, Egypt, and Palestinian Occupied Territories.

This campaign is beautiful, but it is not enough. Every day, people’s houses, schools, mosques and markets get bombed. Civil defense members try and save them. Then civil defense members get bombed. Hospital staff members try and save them. Then hospitals get bombed. So people leave for refugee camps. Their camps get bombed. 

 Negotiating refugee borders and fighting ISIS is not what Syria needs to end the war. What Syria needs right now — what Syrians need — is a ceasefire that ensures Assad stops killing his own people. The bombing has to stop so Syrians can rebuild hospitals, buy groceries, go to schools. The bombing has to stop so people in Aleppo do not live as though every second is their last. 

 Assad is killing his people. Syrians have been saying this over and over and over again for five years now, and yet Assad is still committing massacres, bombing and torturing and killing. And now, Assad is burning Aleppo. 

 So what do we do? We organize protests. We go out. We yell, chant, demand justice. Because Syrians are being killed for doing the same. Syrians are waiting for the international community to do something, but we have had enough of the inaction. We launched this movement to show the world that someone is watching, to reject the international community’s indifference. And we call on you to join us, wherever you are. Because the world has been deaf for five years. And we need as many voices as possible for it to start listening.'

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The world has failed the test of Syria’s revolution

The world has failed the test of Syria’s revolution

 'For five years, the regime of Bashar Al Assad has been murdering its own people. It has recruited armed militias of the darkest kind to help it exact its punishment on Syrian citizens in successive attacks that have been concentrated in recent weeks around Aleppo.

 The Saudi columnist Hussein Shabakshi wrote in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat: “Nothing was spared. Schools, hospitals, mosques and homes. Streets were strewn with bodies of children, women and elderly people. The bloodbaths everywhere only confirm that this is indeed the most horrific crime against humanity in recent history. Crimes continue under international cover."

 The author referred to intelligence reports revealing that the matter of Mr Al Assad’s position was “resolved" during a meeting between Mr Putin and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Putin allegedly proposed alternatives to Mr Al Assad to lead Syria, but Mr Netanyahu rejected all the proposed names. Mr Netanyahu said he trusted no one but Mr Al Assad to protect the peace and the borders with Israel – a position that Mr Putin saw as a green light to escalate the number of Russian attacks alongside the regime forces. All this had taken place under an unmistakable western diplomatic silence, Shabakshi wrote.

 “When a regime is allowed to perpetrate genocide, undeterred, against an entire city by means of air strikes, bombs and explosive barrels, then everyone is an accomplice. Only a miracle would put a stop to Aleppo’s holocaust today," he added.

 “Aleppo isn’t burning. It is getting burnt," said the online publication Albawaba. “The aim is to displace the people and empty the city in order to change the demography of the country along sectarian lines to entrench Bashar Al Assad’s regime," it said.

 Meanwhile, ISIL continues to expand its presence in northern Aleppo. This means that the Syrian Free Army and civilians outside regime-held areas are facing two wars at the same time: against Russia and against ISIL.

 “The regime seems to be facilitating ISIL’s expansion in an effort to distort the Syrian revolution in the global public opinion," it said.'

Monday, 2 May 2016

As bombs fall, Aleppo asks: 'where are the Americans?'

 'Recovering in Turkey after a deadly air strike on a hospital in Aleppo, all that Abu Abdu Tebyiah could think about was the six children he had been forced to leave behind.

 “They are too young to be on their own,” Mr Tebyiah told the Telegraph. “The government is using barrel bombs on our neighbourhood again, so I stopped them going to school. They are now in great danger.”

 Mr Tebyiah said the only way to bring his children to Turkey, which closed its border to fleeing Syrians earlier this year, was to pay smugglers $500 for each child - money he did not have.

 “The fighting there is very alarming,” a US State Department spokesman said when asked why America did not try to halt the escalating violence in Aleppo. "But the situation is very complex," he added.Thousands of Aleppo's people have fled in the last 72 hours, according to Ismail al-Abdullah, an activist living in the city who said that residents were afraid of what is to come.

 “Many gather between 5 and 6am under the cover of darkness, before they can be spotted by the planes,” he said.

 The regime's air strikes have become a grim routine - always beginning at 7am, pounding the rebel side of the city, where some 200,000 people still live. Zahra al-Mansour and her three children were among those leaving. Carrying only a hastily packed bag of schoolbooks, food and clothes, she did not know exactly where they was going, but she knew they had to get away before the Syrian and Russian bombs started dropping.

 Ms Mansour, a 38-year-old teacher, had stayed in Aleppo out of loyalty to her husband - a rebel fighter who was killed in battle last Christmas - and after his death out of a pride that had stopped her from leaving the only city she has called home.

 “No matter how bad it got, I somehow always had faith we would be ok,” she told the Telegraph. “This time it is different. Every street is marked by war - I realise now Assad will not stop until there is no one left.”

 Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society, believes that America’s inertia shows that President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Assad’s loyal ally, is now calling the shots.

 “Russia has always had a clear idea of what this ceasefire is - a cover for them to consolidate and plan what we are now seeing,” he said.

 “The US seems to have been torn between understanding the ceasefire was a mirage, establishing a Plan B in the event of its failure, and on the other hand really committing to the process and going along with the pretence that the truce is in operation long after it has clearly failed. It just looks like they’ve sided with Russia by allowing them to claim the city is full of terrorists. The Americans have effectively signed off on Russia taking over the city.”

 “The Russians are great friends to Assad,” said the activist, Mr Abdullah. “We can’t say the same for the Americans. When we heard Mr Kerry say Aleppo was run by al-Qaeda we realised we were on our own. There are no terrorists where the government is bombing - it is a lie that everyone is agreeing to accept for the sake of the ceasefire agreement.”

 With only one road out of Aleppo for those who live in the rebel-held east, residents worry that if the regime forces manage to sever that lifeline, then thousands will be besieged.

 Fadi Hakim, a doctor from Aleppo, said: “This offensive will leave thousands encircled, without food and without medicine. The regime has already bombed the hospitals and its doctors so when the casualties mount up there is no one left to treat them.

 “It will be a massacre, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.” '