Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Damascus’ stifled voice from the left

The Syrian Revolutionary Youth symbol graffitied on a Damascene wall.

"As the uprising went through its gradual transition towards militarization, the Syrian Revolutionary Youth attempted to sustain the peaceful side of the uprising, maintaining that peaceful activism and armed struggle can go hand in hand. While generally supporting the Free Syrian Army, they frequently held banners criticizing what they considered violations by the armed opposition groups and insisted on defending national unity and rejecting sectarianism. 
The Palestinian flag was lifted alongside the Syrian revolutionary flag; chants in solidarity with Palestine, and Gaza in particular, were chanted alongside slogans in solidarity with besieged and rebellious Syrian towns and cities; the names of Palestinian martyrs were mentioned in protests alongside the names of Syrian martyrs; young women and men protested and sang side-by-side; and calls for bread, gasoline and a dignified life for all were inseparable from their calls for the downfall of the regime, and the achievement of civil liberties and political freedom.
This December 30 marks one year since the arrest of seven of the collective's activists from a Rukneddine home by Syrian security forces. Their arrest remained largely unpublished with the families of the detainees demanding anonymity out of fear for their children’s well-being. Anonymity did not help. All but one of the seven detainees taken during that night raid have been reportedly killed under torture as confirmed by their cellmates."

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The South Will Rise Again

The South Will Rise Again

"Bashar al-Assad is well aware that the relative endurance of rebel rule in Daraa challenges his narrative that the West must choose between his regime and the terrorists. In the coming months, it is likely that the regime will try to retake Daraa to prevent just this sort of a secular, nationalist alternative from emerging. Therefore, any international efforts to “freeze” the conflict in areas such as Aleppo should take into account that the regime may use any freed-up forces and assets in order to turn its firepower southward. Freezes in fighting in the north should not come at the expense of those in the south, where rebel rule is providing one of the few blueprints for how Syria could emerge from this crisis."

ISIS line dancing class

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Monday, 29 December 2014

In response to “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars”

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"The real crime of CISPOS is not advocating “regime change” in Syria but calling attention to the genocidal policies of the Baathist tyranny. It is quite depressing that people on the left can stoop so low as to sweep its crimes under the rug but a lot of this has to do with Islamophobia. As the term phobia implies, there is fear and hatred of the Syrian poor who invoke Islamic rhetoric in a desperate struggle to keep their spirits up in a war that has cost 200,000 lives. If Syria were as populous as the USA, this would equate to 3 million dead, all within four years."


Andrew Scott Berman: "Nothing better describes this descent into dogmatism and betrayal of solidarity than the tragic attitude of many who call themselves “anti-imperialist” towards the people of Syria. For 50 years the Assad family and its cohorts have ruled that nation with a tyranny that rivals the worst in human history. All opposition is crushed with the iron fist of massacre and industrial-level torture.
And while the situation in Syria has indeed been made complex by the intervention of many outside forces with contending interests, the base of the conflict, a popular rebellion against tyranny, remains.
Today, there are some, but not enough, US peace groups that recognize this and stand, in the best tradition of the US peace movements, stand in solidarity with the Syrian people’s quest for a just society. Far too many, totally ignorant of Syria’s proud history, see the conflict only in terms of the role of the US, with meaningless slogans like “No US War on Syria”, while by far the greatest death and destruction in Syria is now caused by the despotic Assad regime, armed to the teeth with Russian and Iranian supplied weapons."
Andy Berman
US Peace Corps, 1967-69
US Army, 1971-73
VFP Chapter 27

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Broadcasting House

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BBC Radio 4

Maureen Lipmann has been an apologist for the Israeli government for many years, see her dig about descending rooftops (as the IDF kills families) in Gaza here. It is the abandonment of Syria by many of those who see themselves as pro-Palestinian and by the liberal media that have made this a propaganda coup for supporters of Israel, because it's true.
"My story is the seven million Syrian refugees, that's going to run, and run, and run, and we're not doing anything about it at all. I think we're taking ninety people, ninety refugees, and we have to somehow look at history, and say, this is exactly what happened in 1938, when they wouldn't take any refugees from Germany, and it resulted in the Holocaust; and just because we're frightened of Assad, another military dictator, it doesn't mean we shouldn't help.
I have seen no pictures, I've seen nothing on 24-hour news. I am well accustomed to seeing every rooftop that descends in Gaza, because that's where all the reporters are, in the same hotel, all chatting away, and swapping photos; but as far as Syria's concerned, they're absolutely petrified to do anything or report on anything."
Angela Rippon: "That was picked up on one of your sister programmes on Radio 4, on PM, when Eddie Mair did that amazing programme where he gave over half the programme to Dr. David Nott, who is a surgeon who has spent the last twenty years going to places of conflict around the world, to help as a surgeon; and he's now spent six weeks of the last two years in Syria, and he was making precisely that point. He did a brilliant interview where he said the terrible injuries he as a surgeon was seeing, in that hospital, but the point that he was making, was that the reason why nobody is taking any interest there any more was that the journalists are not there because it is too dangerous, and therefore it has fallen off the news agenda."

Escaping Assad’s Rape Prisons: A Survivor Tells Her Story

"During one session, the commander tied her legs apart and they beat a male detainee viciously in front of her with his head jammed between her spread legs."

Saturday, 27 December 2014

British doctor's gloom treating victims of Aleppo siege

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Dr. David Nott: "Things started going wrong in about January, February, when the Syrian régime started using barrel bombs. Barrel bombs are this barrel full of TNT, maybe 500kg of TNT, which are dropped from about 6000 feet from a helicopter, and two or three or four of them are dropped at a time. It had 2 million people last year, there are only 350,000 this year, it's because for the last 6-8 months, it's been completely destroyed by barrel bombs...It was child after child who had horrendous wounds, you couldn't really do much for, so the results from surgery were atrocious. The acute pain that families were suffering from their people, their family members dying, and not being able to help them, that was the worst part of it."

Gulf-Iranian Proxy War Spills Onto the Soccer Pitch

James Dorsey Headshot

Proxy war, one of the big lies of the Syrian conflict, designed to make the Syrians struggling from freedom invisible, replaced with bogeymen from the Gulf. Everywhere else can have popular revolts, but Syria only a Saudi-inspired civil war. Maybe the Palestinians cancelled because the Iranians have helped Assad kill thousands of Palestinians since 2011, and is still bombing and besieging the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

Meet the Accidental Warriors of the Free Syrian Army

'We were in Aleppo when the Assad régime dropped a bomb on a busy street.
"Aren't you done with our blood, you pig? Criminal! Criminal!" '
The US is not supporting the rebels the way the Russians and Iranians are supporting the régime, with billions of dollars of weaponry and thousands of men. Precisely the excuse Prseident Obama gave recently for not supporting them in 2012 was that they were farmers and dentists and pharmacists.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Syrians at Zaatari refugee camp: ISIL has killed our dreams

A picture shows clouds over Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in December 2014. [Mohammad Ghazal/Al-Shorfa]

'Young Yusuf Abdullah, 28, was forced to leave his village in Deraa province after ANF [al-Nusra Front] gunmen threatened that he either join them or be killed.
"I am a supporter of the revolution in Syria," he said, "but I am also against extremist terrorist groups that take advantage of youth, threaten them and steal their dreams at gunpoint." '

The Islamic State is failing at being a state

When stuff breaks down, they get desperate. It doesn’t have a whole lot of engineers and staff to run the cities, so things are breaking down.”
 ISIS exists because the world abandoned Syrians fighting against Bashar al-Assad, and so a vacuum grew up in the desperation of the areas outside his control, where his siege and bombing made any sort of government impossible, and so these Four Lions style barbarians, who didn't waste energy fighting Assad nor he them, could destroy the Syrian revolution. If Syrians were given the means to deal with Assad, ISIS would soon be a distant memory. Things are a little more tricky i
n Iraq, where American support for Iranian-backed Shia sectarian hegemony has put many Sunnis on the same side as ISIS, but the central problem is not the limited amount of American bombing that has killed some ISIS and some civilians, but their toleration of the Iranian-backed militias that have committed mass murder , particularly in Syria, and their refusal to give the Free Syrian Army the support it needs to eradicate the greatest source of violence in the region, the Assad régime.

Foreign jihadis change face of Syrian civil war

Refugees from Kobani watch the Syrian town during fighting between Isis and peshmerga forces.

The way the headline spins it, "jihadis" fighting Assad are the problem, but the truth is that the abandonment of Syrians by the world is the problem, and the majority of the problem with foreigners are those who have gone to support the totalitarians with little local support, Assad and ISIS.
“They provided decisive support in many battles. We were desperate for anyone to help us, but nobody – not the UN, not Nato, not even other Arab states – stepped up to do so. So the foreigners came. Some of them are good, they want to fight Assad and help us, but many have turned bad. They come for the money, for women. They destroyed the revolution.”

In One Corner of Syria, Christmas Spirit Somehow Manages to Survive

Assad kidnaps and kills journalists. Those who go to Damascus to report his side are safe though.
"They have almost come to blows after the Assad contingent tried to seize passing Western journalists and deliver them into the custody of the regime, which retains control of a few security installations in the city center."

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

WHO says Syria opens Aleppo, other troubled areas for medical aid

Good. Not that the Syrian government is facing prosecution for the crime of not letting it through until now. Hopefully this is a sign of Assad's weakness, that his Russian patrons will no longer give him cover for all of his war crimes.
The author of the piece says, "all sides of the conflict have also prevented medicine from crossing front lines," it has been the régime, not the Free Syrian Army, that has systematically denied passage of medicines, as well as bombing hospitals and kidnapping and murdering doctors.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Syria: Escalating Assault on Rebel-Held District

"Government shelling on the area has intensified since the breakdown of talks between the warring parties in early October 2014. Since October 2013, the government has restricted the ability of al-Waer residents to leave the area and has limited, and at times completely blocked, deliveries of humanitarian assistance to the estimated 70,000-100,000 civilians still there. Most recently, on December 16, 2014, an attack left a reported 36 dead including at least 33 civilians.

“While attention has moved on from Homs, tens of thousands of civilians are suffering and others dying in al-Waer,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “The Syrian government should not be allowed to use its unlawful siege tactics at such a high price for the civilian population.”
In addition to shelling attacks, residents also told Human Rights Watch that government or pro-government snipers, including those positioned in the Homs al-Kabeer Hospital area and the al-Gardenia Tower in the Old Homs neighborhood, have also targeted civilians including women and children."

Syrian rebels prepare to defend ruined Aleppo as troops and militias close in

Aleppo rebel fighters

Hezbollah are the most powerful and the Syrian army takes orders from them,” said a local leader on the eastern edge of Aleppo, where regime scouts probe most nights. “The Iraqis were also here, along with the Houthis from Yemen, but they have all gone home [to fight wars]. We can deal with what’s left.”
So not a war determined by regional agendas on all sides, but one in which foreign powers have pitched in to help Bashar al-Assad, and his victims have been abandoned.
“Somebody has to win this war,” said Samer Zeitoun, a local leader. “I hope it’s us and I hope it’s soon.”

Documenting the tragedy of the Syrian revolt

"Freedom", Cutting Away the Void (source: Mirror Image)

"To begin with, they were very influenced by their parents' revolution rhetoric, but they gradually opened up and began talking about their lives and their dreams."

Maybe their parents know that the victory of the revolution is the only way they will have lives and dreams.

On Nir Rosen’s Definitions of ‘Sectarian’ and ‘Secular’

AFP photo. burying victims of the Houla massacre

"Rosen’s report also includes the baffling claim that most rebels did not take up arms to defend themselves, but “out of religious zeal and political extremism”. So, from 2011 on, tens of thousands of ordinary Syrians picked up arms in a context of bloody repression of demonstrations, mass round up and torture, followed by shelling and air bombing of civilians. By 2012, Rosen was writing, on the basis of his own observations, that by cordoning off their neighbourhoods, the rebels had allowed people to demonstrate without being shot at by security forces, which strikingly looks like a defensive move to me. But after two more years of meticulous research (was it in SANA’s archives?), Rosen eventually managed to isolate the one main independent variable behind the militarisation of the uprising: it was “religious zeal and political extremism”. It is that simple: why care about the context when you can make sweeping essentialist assumptions about Sunni extremism?"

Word From Syria: Don't Drift Towards Assad to Tackle Isis

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Well said Alyn Smith, a Scottish Nationalist Party MEP: "The overwhelming call on the ground, Jarah tells me, is for Europe to help the rebels. We must send a message of hope to the Syrian people: that we will not let them down. Rami Jarah, an independent Syrian journalist who reported from Aleppo during coalition strikes against ISIS, tells me that no Syrian, living under continuous bombardment for the last three years, can understand why any Western democracy would even consider collaborating with a war criminal like Assad. Public opinion is already baffled, if not disgusted and angry, that the United States and its allies have decided to bomb ISIS in Syria without laying a finger on Assad's warplanes. Civilians living in Aleppo now feel like they are being bombed by the regime during the day, and by the coalition by night. The way they see it, nobody cares about them - not even Europe."

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Assad Regime’s Political “Achilles’ Heel”

Sayigh is a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, where his work focuses on the Syrian crisis, the political role of Arab armies, security sector transformation in Arab transitions, the reinvention of authoritarianism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process.

"If, as remains most likely, the U.S. and its coalition partners disappoint Assad’s hopes, the regime will come under increasing strain internally. Having lost the crucial advantage of its previous, relative superiority over the armed rebellion, the regime will need to generate even greater domestic and external resources, but these are already at the limit and cannot be increased without a high political price. Domestically, it will struggle to retain its already loose control over the semi-autonomous military and economic actors whose rise it encouraged as a means of devolving the burden of defence and revenue generation in loyalist areas. And if the regime appears unable or unwilling to protect vulnerable population centers or to mitigate the financial strains of loyalist communities, its home front may start to crumble.
The regime clearly believes that loyalist constituencies have no choice but to continue fighting, but its margin for maneuver is narrowing. It realizes that credible reforms would set it on the path to dismantling itself, but by insisting on an exclusively military approach, it takes itself closer to the point where it has no political or social cushion domestically."

Future Israeli Strikes in Syria: Shifting Dynamics?

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"(1) An attack by Israel against the assets of Assad/Hizbollah (2) prompts an attack in response by the Assad regime against the rebel groups (FSA and IF) and the population; (3) consequently, the opposition is weakened and ISIS is strengthened, (4) which undermines the efforts of the US in the war against the Islamic State, (5) and as a result, the US will demand that Israel now refrain from attacks in Syria."
Yes. Israel and Russia aren't about to come to blows over Syria, as the geopolitical analysts were claiming last year. Assad responds to Israeli strikes by killing civilians, and nobody seems to think that a cause to take action against Assad. The mass of the Syrian population see America as failing to help rather than being the main enemy, but when the US tolerate Assad, people are pushed towards the extreme jihadis, partly because of the US' support for Israel.
I don't think the US is so concerned to stop Israeli attacks in Syria. The US is playing a double game anyway, providing minimal support to the opposition, while assuring Iran that it won't challenge its influence in the region, reflecting incompatible objectives (as well as splits within the US administration) of involving the US as little as possible, letting Russia and Iran suffer their own Vietnam and stopping the humanitarian disaster in Syria. When they won't stop the Israelis bombing Gaza, I don't think they are going to expend too much capital here.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Chroniques du délitement. 12 / Bachar al-Assad s’inspire de méthodes jadis fatales à l’empire ottoman

"Over the past months, the civilian and military Syrian officials have skimped in no way to force their young compatriots to join the ranks of the army or a paramilitary organizations created to assist the regular forces. Unfortunately for them, the young Syrians refuse to hear, and also unwilling to participate in the murder of their fellow citizens, or to know the fate of hundreds of soldiers left on their own and killed in abominable conditions by ISIS, they are more than reluctant to answer calls in uniform.
Having lost the confidence of a number of his followers, up to and including in the ranks of the Alawite community, it uses methods more expeditious. Waking up in the collective memory of painful memories, the abduction of young Syrians and sending them to the front without sufficient preparation, confirm the opinion of many that Bashar al-Assad, like his father and his regime are no different from forces that once occupied and enslaved their country.
The methods currently used by the government to coerce young Syrians to join the ranks of the army are compared by them to Safar Barlik, a recruitment method used in the early 20th century by the Ottoman Empire when threatened with collapse. In a desperate attempt to push back the enemy, the Sublime Porte had sent gendarmes in the countries in which still exercised authority, to remove the young men she needed. But this way of doing had proved disastrous, young and enlisted with neither the will to fight or military training that would have enabled them to withstand the enemy troops.
Numerous Syrians now hope that the same causes will cause the same effects ..."
There's also some more stuff on the same site, a five-parter on the effect of the war on women, a suggestion of régime responsibility for the theft and destruction of the country's archaeological heritage, and currently headed by a questioning of the reliability of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, all in French.

Syrian Children Forage Through Trash to Survive

PHOTO: Young Syrian boys collect plastic and metal items in a garbage dump in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 17, 2013.

My father was a taxi driver, and his car was our source of living, and he was once beaten by the police before us because they accused him of joining the Free Army, and they then found out that he was innocent of this charge. My father became too afraid to leave home, he feared that if he did, he might be accused again or get taken at army checkpoints. I must work so we can eat.”

You used to get reports like this from Central America in the 80s. Left-wingers would explain that this is what drives the people to revolution. But the American ambassador would announce that things were perfectly safe and clean in the centre of town where he lived, and all the problems were down to the Russian-backed terrorists in the countryside. The names change, but the song remains the same.
I suspect that Raef's father has not just been beaten and tortured, and is terrified of leaving the house. The longer Assad is able to cling to power, the crazier a country Syria will become.

‘The Syrian opposition must end perpetual rivalries’ - Ghalyoun

"Bashar Al Assad is finished. He survives only as an instrument of pressure used by the Iranians and Russians in their confrontations/negotiations with Western powers. He has no future and will not be able to build on anything. Anyone who destroys his country and is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of his citizens simply to stay in power a few more years cannot but continue along the same lines. Until such time when he is dragged in front of the International Criminal Court, where he will be tried for crimes against humanity."
Interesting comments on the Free Syrian Army and the Gulf Co-operation Council, and more on Iran and Hezbollah, too.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

How socialists of Lenin’s time responded to colonialism

Schoolchildren, Dutch East Indies, photo by Hendrick Van Kol

One might think that this heritage would mean today, supporting the Syrian people in their struggle against Assad, and his Russian and Iranian patrons.
"Lenin called for support to revolutionary movements for national liberation, even if they were not socialist in character. But many of Lenin’s allies did not support struggles for national self-determination; for example, Karl Radek and Leon Trotsky dismissed the 1916 Irish uprising against British rule.
Resurgent social struggles in such dependent countries usually aim first at restoring a measure of democratic control of the national government. There are elements of national liberation in such a process, in which ideas from the anti-colonial struggles of old can have relevance in a new context."

Karl reMarks: The 1,500 year old schism fuelling the clash between Russia and the West

If you don't get the point, it's that those who talk about Syria as a manifestation of an ancient Sunni-Shia divide in Islam are similarly missing any understanding of the conflict.
"To most outsiders these disagreements about calendars and theological debates appear outdated and irrelevant. They prefer to talk instead of geopolitical and economic factors, obscuring the role of the ancient East-West schism in the process. But the reality is that Ukraine, and probably other countries too, will become the stage for a proxy war between those rival power, with Russia on the one side representing Orthodox Christianity and the US on the other leading the Western Christian alliance. Can we stop this descent into madness? Let’s pray."

Friday, 19 December 2014

Syrian refugee children find their voice through theatre in Jordan

' "We have been arrested, destroyed and our childhood has been destroyed."

Some scenes in the play depicted what happens at Syrian government checkpoints and other scenes showed Syrian girls who have become responsible for their families after the death of both parents.
Ten-year-old Salam Hussein said, "I am here to raise my voice to the world and tell them what has happened to us in Syria and the suffering we are living." '