Friday, 15 July 2016

We dream of justice

 'After the air strike there were minutes of near-silence, pierced by the screams of a search-and-rescue worker who had raced to the unfolding destruction. People, including toddlers, were trapped under mounds of rubble. White foam gushed over the first responder who lay sprawled on the ground after being caught by the second air strike, which had ripped through his fire engine as it arrived.

The infernal scenes from Idlib seemed far away amid the celebration and hope three weeks ago in London’s Trafalgar Square, where thousands stood teary-eyed, waiting for a man who had travelled thousands of kilometres to do one thing - place a white helmet in memory of a fellow humanitarian.

 “Jo Cox gave us hope as our people fled their homes from the barrel bombs raining from the sky, spreading shrapnel and fear,” said Raed Saleh, who has been working on the ground in Syria and was visiting London at the invitation of the family of the murdered member of Parliament. Cox, who was slain last month, had chaired the Friends of Syria all-parliamentary group and campaigned vigorously for the British government to support aid drops into Syria and accept more refugees from the country.

While Saleh may come across as your average Syrian, he is no ordinary person. Saleh is a White Helmet. Saleh was an electronics trader before the revolution began in 2011. At first he, like many others, joined the peaceful protests that swept across Syria. But when the revolution turned violent, his hometown of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib was overrun by the Syrian army, forcing many to flee and become refugees inside their own country and beyond.

 In 2013, Saleh recalled, Syrian government forces and their allies began targeting civilians in rebel-held areas.
 “We had to respond,” Saleh told Middle East Eye during his visit to London. "Our countrymen were dying and we had no choice but to help."
 Returning to Idlib, Saleh took a band of volunteers to attend a course in search-and-rescue operations. During the first few years of war, many search-and-rescue groups formed by Syrian civilians operated across Syria under different names. However, in October 2014 the various groups agreed to a single statement of principles and code of conduct, uniting to form the Syrian Civil Defence Force, with NGOs and fans later dubbing them the White Helmets.

"We honour the verse from the Quran that says: 'If you save a life, it’s like saving the whole of humanity.' ”

“We have lost 120 White Helmets who risked their lives to save Syrian civilians," said Saleh, who now heads the organisation. Three were killed by Daesh [the Islamic State group]15 by the Russians and the rest were killed by the regime [of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]."
 Saleh’s comments came amid a recent escalation in violence in the rebel-held cities of Aleppo and Idlib, which saw nine White Helmets killed in 10 days, after their fire engines were struck by government and Russian planes. Many of the casualties, he said, resulted from the "double tap" tactic, which means blasting the same location twice, with a 15-minute interval to allow emergency services to reach the attack site.

 Saleh said the situation in Syria has become more complicated as the years have gone by. He said the international community has been partially responsible for the devastation because it has focused on the symptoms of the conflict and ignored the root cause, which is the continuation of Assad's rule. 
 "The international community has failed us and we know that the longer it takes, the more difficult it will be to solve the issue," Saleh said. 
 Looking ahead, Saleh said while it is difficult to envision a future for Syria, he dreams of a day when the killing stops.
 “I dream of us living again in our hometowns where we were raised," he said. “I dream of going back and rebuilding it. We dream of justice." '

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Syrians must take charge or lose their revolution

The Syrians must take charge or lose their revolution

 Burhan Ghalioun:

"The Syrian people are living today in a state of all-consuming frustration. Having overcome their fears, they had, over recent years, experienced the ecstasy of revolution, and the hope of liberating themselves from a brutal inhumane regime. But today, they feel that any possibility of salvation is gone. The goals and wagers for which they made sacrifices are at risk of being lost, amid increasing danger to their country and plans to partition and fracture its ailing shell.

 This frustration is reflected in their attitudes towards friends and allies who are increasingly criticised and questioned over what they have offered or can offer. But it is also being translated into growing attacks on all factions of the Syrian opposition and rebels, almost to the point of self-negation and doubt. It calls into question whether they are indeed one unified people, capable of collective work, state building, and resurrection from the disaster that has struck their country.

 In a show of cynicism, international powers are taking advantage of this sentiment. They are trying to sell Syrians the notion that is it now too late for them to re-unite as a people and co-exist. The international powers hope to convince Syrians that the only way to reach a minimum level of peace and security is to let foreign nations determine their fate. It has even become almost the norm to circulate maps, documents and draft constitutions for Syria that Syrians have had no role in drafting.

 Syrians have inflicted defeat after defeat upon the Russian-backed regime's army of conscripts, Hizballah's mercenaries and other sectarian militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the marauders of the Islamic State. Assad's treachery and betrayal, and his insistence on burning the entire country simply to remain in power, is matched in its intensity only by the Syrian people's insistence on their right to freedom and dignity and on fighting until the end for their sake.

 It is the Syrians' legendary struggle that has set an example for peoples seeking self-determination, in looking to undo the propaganda campaign and psychological war they have experienced.

 For over five years, the Syrian regime, and all factions and powers opposed to the emergence of a new, free Syria, have been exploiting the events on the ground to exacerbate the complexity of the landscape and prevent the victory of the people's rebellion. No doubt, the international dimension imposed on the revolution based on preventing decisive military victory - and thus allowing the bloodletting and suffering to continue unchecked, while ignoring the conditions for a sustainable political settlement - has put immense pressure on Syrian public opinion. More and more, the supporters of the Syrian revolution are losing hope. Many are even questioning whether it was worthwhile rebelling against the regime, despite its crimes and betrayals.

 Syrians must place their faith in their free will and reject any decision imposed on them from outside, regardless of where it comes from. They must put an end to their wait for a solution that comes from elsewhere, and deny the foreign powers their right to shape it. But Syrians will not be able to do so unless they cast off the spirit of self-doubt, division, and subservience that has been imposed on them for years, if not decades, by usurpers, oppressors, and now by the policies of rival foreign powers. Syrians must awaken and rally around a patriotic leadership that can stand on an equal par with foreign powers, whose bid to bypass the Syrian people and impose a solution has failed.

 This is the essence of the platform of freedom and dignity that drove millions of Syrians into the street, despite barrel bombs, starvation and siege, and for which Syrians have sacrificed blood and treasure."


No automatic alt text available.
 Rami Jarrah:
 'In response to an almost total siege over the city of Aleppo, Rebel forces have launched offensives in numerous areas at the center of the city with the aim of gaining ground from Syrian regime forces in addition to pressure that will impose a decision by the Assad's forces to retreat from forcing a siege over the city.
 There are over 300,000 civilians living in Aleppo in the green areas indicated here alone and any siege, in time would mean literally the worst humanitarian crisis yet.
 Take a good look at this map, the areas above indicated in black are are those controlled by ISIS, and the areas indicated in red are Assad's forces. The same rebel groups (indicated in green) that drove ISIS out of Aleppo and Idlib in a matter of days are now paralyzed from continuing any offensive against ISIS because of the reality that can be seen on this map. Assad's forces are shielding ISIS and Russia's air power are operating as an air force for the terrorist group and as insane as this might sound to the ordinary spectator, is as logical as it is to someone who follows closely.
 Assad is making sure that his "public opponent" ISIS is not defeated until he has managed to destroy the legitimate opposition who want him out as much as they want to get rid of fundamentalist groups like ISIS. Assad will have no more excuses to bombard and terrorize civilians once ISIS is destroyed. This is why Assad fuels ISIS and encourages their continuation and this is what is meant when Syrians Assad supports terrorism.
 Assad's forces are now situated by the only way in and out of Aleppo (the Castillo Rd.) and are firing at anything that tries to cross. this is also indicated on the map.
 This is why these offensives have been launched and will amplify this last message: When these offensives on regime territory take their toll and we begin to hear complaining over why rebel groups are attacking regime areas from human rights groups and what not. If they genuinely don't understand; then we will try to educate, but if there is clear knowledge of this reality then we will assume that they are asking 300,000 people to accept that they don't deserve to live and that we should all now choose from two terrors when there is a clear third option which to us frankly is option number one: those calling for freedom (the guys in green).'

Rebels launch attack in Syria's Aleppo after government cuts road*

 'Early on Monday more than 300 shells fired by rebels hit western, government-held neighborhoods in Aleppo killing five people and wounding dozens more, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. State television said eight people had been killed and that the bombardments had brought down buildings.

 The assault was "a response to the (government) attempts to advance," Zakaria Malahifji of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim group told Reuters.

 He said insurgent fighters had already made gains, and that much of the fighting was taking place in Aleppo's historic Old City. A witness said there were fierce clashes at close range near the ancient citadel.'


The toy smuggler of Aleppo: how one man brings joy to the faces of Syria's children

Rami Adham hands out toys in Atmeh refugee camp in northern Syria.

'For the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended on 6 July, he brought 700 toys to a refugee camp near the northern Syrian town of Atmeh, holding 80,000 people. As he unpacked the toys at al-Rahma School, its 200 pupils formed an orderly queue, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of what Mr Adham had brought.

 “The toys make the students feel like someone cares,” said a teacher at the school, who gave his name as Bassam. His five-year-old son received a Buzz Lightyear doll from Mr Adham. “My son remembers his toy more than anything at school,” added Bassam.

 Today, about 3 million children live in camps inside Syria. The lucky ones attend school; others must work to support their families. In Atmeh, at least, the children are relatively safe. Mr Adham also takes toys to Aleppo, where his aid agency supports several children who have lost one or both parents. In June, he had to walk eight miles into the city because driving was too dangerous. Rebel-held areas of Aleppo have effectively been cut off from the outside world as the Syrian regime, supported by Russia, escalates air and artillery strikes.

 “This was my 27th visit to Aleppo since 2011, and it was the most dangerous,” said Mr Adham. “The danger we faced, the sorrow, it’s indescribable. Six of the orphans we sponsored died when I was there.”

 Having survived barrel bombs and artillery fire for three weeks, Mr Adham returned to Istanbul at the end of June. While waiting for his flight to Helsinki, he was caught up in the suicide attack on Ataturk Airport.

 “I thought I was dreaming that I was still in Syria,” he said. “It took me a while to realise a bomb had gone off not far away.”

 But Mr Adham is already making plans — and collecting toys — for his next trip to Syria. “Right now, Syrian kids are just facing death and insecurity and constant threats,” he said. “Toys are important.” '

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Marie Colvin's family sues Syria over death in Homs

Marie Colvin

 "I'm very sensitive to the suffering of the Syrian people. I know I'm not the only one who's lost a sister and my mom is not the only one who is mourning the loss of a daughter. I'm in a unique position to be able to use the court to be able be bring Marie's killers to justice. I want to give a voice to the Syrian people. I want them to know we haven't forgotten them."
 Assad's apologists, like Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk, and John Pilger and George Galloway, can only tell their lie that Assad is fighting Western backed terrorists, and if we stopped helping them there could be peace, the sort of thing Jeremy Corbyn says, can only get away with it because Assad has systematically murdered journalists. The Syrian ones nobody but Syrians remember. Perhaps this will do a little to redress the balance.
 Meanwhile, the city of Aleppo is threatened with siege, by the rĂ©gime and the Kurdish YPG, with the people fighting hardest to defend it the radical Islamists we are told to be scared of. Actual Islamists, who want to reduce human suffering by removing one of the greatest causes of it in Assad, but also think that entitles them to tell people how to live their lives. Not ISIS, who are only interested in imposing their power over people, and so only attack Assad in little dances back and forth to give him Western support and them recruits. If you don't want the only people Syrians can look to support them when they are the most desperate in the world to be a branch of al-Qaida, then show that you support the Free Syrian people, and demand that something is done to stop Russia, Iran and Assad, and give Syrians the chance to rid themselves of ISIS.