Saturday, 29 June 2019

Demonstration in Aleppo’s Akhtarin to revive Syrian revolution

 'Dozens of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday (June 28) in Akhtarin town in Aleppo northern countryside, chanting anti-Russia and Assad militia slogans and confirming that the resistance is their choice against the continuous offensive launched on Idlib and Hama by the Assad militias.

 Demonstrators from the villages and towns around Akhtarin joined the demonstration in Akhtarin.

 Similar anti-régime demonstrations took place in Khan al-Asal city in Aleppo countryside where the demonstrators said they aimed to show solidarity with their fellow Syrians in Idlib and Hama.

 Idlib is the largest part of Syria controlled by opposition with a population swollen by Syrians who were displaced by the Assad regime and its allies’ advances in other parts of the country.

 Assad-Russian warplanes and Assad militiamen have killed more than 500 civilians, including children and women. The Russian and Assad attacks also injured more than 1500 civilians in Hama and Idlib countryside since April 26.'

'Killed in their class seats': Children bear brunt of Syrian government bombing of Idlib

 'Four-year-old Khaled al-Bakour was trying to hide in his bedroom with two of his brothers to avoid attacks by Syrian warplanes when the walls of the concrete house fell down and buried him under the rubble.

 His screaming brothers looked on, too young to do anything, surrounded by what was left of the house in Maarat al-Numan, south of Idlib city.

 "He's here, help us for God's sake," the brothers cried as White Helmets, members of the civil defence team that operates in rebel-held areas of Syria, arrived at the scene and desperately tried to remove broken pieces of stone to find him.

 Having been rescued from the building, Khaled was taken to a nearby hospital following the attack.

 Khaled's father said: "My son has two fractures and a loss of the skin and muscles of his left hand.

 "He lost one of his fingers, and the doctors told me he might lose another finger. Yesterday he underwent surgery. There is also a loss of skin and muscle and a sharp fracture of his right foot."

 Khaled is just the latest child to fall victim to an escalation in attacks on Idlib province by Syrian and Russian forces since late April, where on average two children are killed and a school is targeted everyday, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) activist group.

 The SNHR says that between 26 April and 27 June 2019, at least 518 civilians were killed in Idlib, including 128 children and 97 women, and at least 1,612 civilians injured.

 The organisation said that the Russian-Syrian alliance had also targeted 77 schools.

 "We emphasise that targeting schools with guided missiles is a systematic process by the Damascus forces and their allies," Fadel Abdul Ghany, the chairman of SNHR, said.

 "Schools are protected by international law, and deliberate targeting is a war crime."

 Syrian and Russian warplanes constantly fly over the area, with inhabitants not knowing where the next attack will be launched or which school might be hit.

 "Children were killed in their seats, and others were targeted in kindergartens, systematically to instil chaos and panic and force people to return to the authority of Damascus, or live without services and facilities,” Abdul Ghany said.

 "Damascus aims to stop the educational process, push children to join the ranks of the fighters, and build an uneducated generation dominated by ignorance."

 After Damascus took control of the governorates of Daraa, Homs and rural Damascus, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced to Idlib province, where the population now numbers about three million people.

 In late 2018, an agreement in Sochi between the Turkish and Russian presidents forestalled an expected attack on Idlib by Syrian pro-government forces.

 However, since late April, Syrian and Russian forces have repeatedly attacked the southern parts of Idlib province and adjacent parts of Hama and Latakia.

 The area under attack is mostly under the control of former al-Qaeda affiliate Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Syrian state media outlets say that the escalation is intended to target "terrorist groups" present in the region.

 In a less than two-month period in Idlib, in addition to the 77 schools, SNHR said that the attacks by the Syrian and Russian forces had targeted 33 medical facilities, 46 houses of worship and three camps.

 Brigadier Ahmed Rahal, an analyst and military expert who defected from the Syrian government, said: “Ninety percent of the military operations and the attacks led by Damascus and Moscow are against civilians [in a bid to] pressure the fighters. The systematic targeting of infrastructure aims to cause the greatest possible destruction, break the morale of civilians and cut off all [their] services. These military operations are aimed to shock, to create a desperate public that puts pressure on the rebels to stop fighting, like what happened in Daraa, which is now controlled by Damascus."

 Earlier this month, in a briefing to the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Idlib, Rodney Hunter, political coordinator for the US Mission to the UN, denounced Syrian and Russian activities in the province.

 “We need to see a full and immediate de-escalation of violence by all sides and, in particular, the Assad regime forces and the Russian Federation in and around Idlib province," said Hunter.

 "The regime’s military escalation is unacceptable and it poses a reckless and irresponsible threat to the security and stability of this region.”

 In addition to the deaths and casualties to children caused by the upsurge in violence, many, like Khaled, have lost their homes and seen their education curtailed.

 According to UNICEF: “This latest escalation follows months of rising violence in the area which has reportedly left at least 125,000 children displaced since the start of the year.

 "Nearly 30 hospitals have come under attack. Approximately 43,000 children are now out of school and final exams in parts of Idlib have been postponed, affecting the education of 400,000 students.”

 Sitting among olive trees in a camp north of Idlib, looking through her mother's mobile phone, is seven-year-old Fatima.

 She and her family were displaced from the south of the province by the recent escalation in violence.

 "I cannot complete my studies. My school and the rest of the schools are under attack," she said.'

Friday, 28 June 2019

Régime prison ordeal leads Syrian woman to help others

Regime prison ordeal leads Syrian woman to help others

 'Despite years passing since her release, a woman who was jailed by the Syrian régime keeps the memory of her ordeal alive in order to help other women like her who struggle after escaping prison.

 Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sundus Fulfule said she was pregnant when she entered Adra prison in Damascus on May 16, 2011, which is when her life turned upside down.

 Before that, Fulfule was living in Latakia, where she was teaching Islamic law to grade 10 and 11 students as a theology graduate. She also graduated from nursing school.

 After 11 months of incarceration, she had to provide for her daughters in a new environment and became involved in humanitarian aid work.

 "Obviously, in the Syrian revolution, the weakest ones are women and children, so I have chosen to work in this direction. Every day, I would make new experiences, train women and give them psychological support," she said.

 She said the most vulnerable ones are women who were released from prison.

 "Women who survive prison need all kinds of support, such as economic and psychological as well as shelter."

 She said she works with many women who were victims of rape, noting that no one takes care of them properly.

 "There are too many cases to count, and they continue to rise," she said, calling for immediate action for women who continue to be exposed to sexual violence and incarceration.

 According to the Conscience Movement, an international nongovernmental organization, more than 13,500 women have been jailed since the Syrian civil war began in early 2011, while more than 7,000 women remain in detention, where they are subjected to torture, rape and sexual violence.

 The movement is an alliance of individuals, rights groups and organizations aiming to secure urgent action for the release of women and children in the prisons of the Syrian régime.

 The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) announced Wednesday that more than 14,070 civilians have died of torture by forces of the Bashar al-Assad régime since the beginning of the civil war, including 173 children and 45 women.

 When the revolution started in Syria’s southwestern Daraa province, Fulfule said that women in Latakia were inspired by this and began taking to the streets to hold peaceful protests.

 "With our manners and morals, without disobeying our state, we started protests. We only demanded change and improvement and called for ease of detention procedures. In the beginning, these protests were not carried out for the fall of the Assad régime," she said.

 She said the demonstrations would call for the rights of arrested people, justice and the increase of salaries.

 Recalling the day she was arrested, the 40-year-old said she was attending a peaceful protest staged by women.

 "All of a sudden, the entrances and exits of the area we were in were closed, and men started to join the protest and together with them also intelligence security forces," she said, which is when they detained her.

 "Once the investigation started, we understood that everything was prepared already, including the accusations against us," Fulfule said, noting she was accused of terrorism.

 "When I was arrested, my first daughter was eight months old and I was pregnant [with a second child]," she said.

 After spending four months in prison, her family was falsely informed by régime soldiers that she had died.

 "My birth contractions started and they took me to a military hospital," she said.

 Fulfule used this opportunity to ask a nurse to call her family.

 "Thankfully she helped, and I called and told them I’m alive."

 After giving birth in the hospital, she was transferred back to prison.

 She witnessed every kind of abuse against other inmates, from human rights violations to sexual abuse.

 "When they wanted to torture someone, they would take them to the [prison] corridor. The sounds of torture and smell of burnt skin were everywhere," she said.

 "Frankly, I didn't witness rape [of other inmates] with my own eyes, but I saw the results of it -- pregnancy," she said.

 "Most of them gave birth in prison and got out, hiding their babies from everyone.”

 When she reached out to her family, they spent a large amount of money to bribe the prosecutor at the time.

 "After 11 months, I could walk out [from prison]."

 "Nothing I've experienced during the time in prison was as difficult as my child not recognizing me," she said, adding her daughter was nearly two years old when she saw her again.

 Speaking about the struggles she faced as a woman released from prison and the neglect from her husband, Fulfule told of her migration to northern parts of Syria.

 "One of the things which affected me the most was my husband not accepting me. 'You deserved it. Who told you to attend protests?' he said. I took my children [and left].”

 When she was released, she could no longer return home and had no choice but to escape the region as the intelligence security forces were still searching for her.

 Noting that the Syrian conflict had entered its ninth year, she expressed her main concern: the future of her children.

 "My only fear now is the future of my children," she said.

 "I don’t want my children to be in this situation. I want them to live a beautiful life in a safe environment." '

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