Friday, 6 June 2014

"Card for Syrian children" by Diala Brisly (source: Diala Brisly)

Art is a luxury in Syria

"Some musicians, for example, write songs that are influenced by traditional Syrian music, but they mix it with rock – especially Pink Floyd. We love Pink Floyd! They wrote revolution songs."

To Witness Turkish Elections as a Syrian is to Feel Like a Child Looking into a Candy Store

 "Eventually, the blackouts were officially blamed on a cat getting into an electric transformer. Turks on social media had a lot of fun with jokes about the “Kedi Lobisi”, the sinister cat lobby that had tried to derail the elections. The highlight of my week was the very serious statement on the part of the Turkish Union of Electrical Engineers, to the effect that it was impossible for a cat to get into an electric transformer and cause a blackout. Turkey, one can’t help but love it.

 Three months later, there would of course be nothing funny about the charade of an election held in Syria. It was the typical Assad-orchestrated made-for-TV spectacle that Syrians had seen played out time and again for over forty years, and it would neither enhance the regime’s position or solve the country’s conflict. It was a lesson the Assad family had yet again failed to learn.

 But for me personally, watching the Turkish elections would be an education I would never forget, and seeing a democracy in action only made me want it that much more for my own society. Someday, the war in Syria will be over, and Syrians will have the luxury of complaining about the loud election-vans blaring out music and slogans.

 And I’ll be there to remind them of what it was like before we had the vans."

George Butler draws the Syrian refugees in Lebanon

"The family that brought these belongings from Syria arrived in Lebanon from the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. George had drawn one leg on the doll and, before he could draw the second leg the youngest girl asked: “Why does my doll only have one leg?” She then asked the room if the missing leg had been lost during the war. No adults present had any response. Children regularly express confused and troubled notions about the war and parents express deep concern regarding the effects of the prolonged and extreme trauma children are suffering."

Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stand guard in the Kurdish town of al-Qahtaniya of Hassakeh province on 11 May 2014

Syria conflict: Amnesty says ISIS killed seven children in north"The al-Qaeda-linked group is currently battling rival rebels in the north, as well as the Syrian government."
It isn't battling the Syrian government, but is fighting those actually rebelling against Assad, so perhaps the opening line of this report should commence, "Seven children were among 15 civilians killed by jihadist allies of Assad." That might make things clearer.

1930s Portrait Of Man With Gag In Mouth

I run afoul of stringent British libel laws
The Betrayal of the Intellectuals on Syria
Louis Proyect

"Now in its bloody third year of warfare against its own population, the Ba‘athist dictatorship in Syria has reached a level of criminality that demands comparison with Franco’s Spain. How and why some of the West’s most prominent intellectuals continue to make excuses for Bashaar al-Assad demands an answer. Here I hope to provide such an answer, as well as to recommend an alternative intellectual and moral approach."

After Assad’s poll victory, fear grips Syrians who didn’t vote

 'Those who know how much I oppose Assad already know that I didn’t go, and those who don’t know can keep their illusions,” he said.'

 That's the truth of these elections, that most Syrians won't vote, and many of those who do do only because they are scared of torture and murder by a state that does so all the time. Not so Robert Fisk*. He thinks that those who voted are good Arabs who are Western democrats like us, while the bad Arabs are scary in their Islamic clothes. I've seen a lot of people write a lot of ignorant things about Syrians, that those who are fighting Assad are jihadists and proxies for America, but this is one of the most blatantly racist things I've seen in the mainstream media.

 "Is it by chance that the Arab peoples who were influenced by European politics over the past 150 years - the ones who generally wear Western clothes rather than Arab robes and whose forefathers read Voltaire and Rousseau and the great Victorians - imbibed the ideals of representative government? And does this explain why the Gulf Arabs, proud in their 'abayas', largely - but not entirely - show little interest in parliamentary democracy?"

 The Independent did at least print this letter** from the Chief of Staff to the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition,

 "Assad caused the negotiations in Geneva to collapse by refusing to accept political transition as per the Geneva Communiqué road map. Since it seems that he only understands force, the West should help the moderate opposition with arms and training.

 If Assad is not tackled, he will end up ruling over a brutalised and devastated section of Syria, and continue with his war, causing the escalation of a historic-scale humanitarian catastrophe, and also the strengthening of extremists, as moderates are frustrated and weakened."


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Has Iran prevented the Syrian regime's collapse?
"Iran’s giving up on Bashar al-Assad, who gave up all Arab relations for Iran’s sake, is difficult. But what’s even more difficult is for Iran to win its Syrian bet. This is unlikely for the simple reason that the sweeping majority of the Syrian people don’t want Iran. If it had been possible to eliminate the Syrian people, their revolution would not have lasted for over three years and despite all the injustice and backstabbing practiced against them from inside and outside Syria."

Image result for Syria: Remains of a State al-jazeera

Syria: Remains of a State

"Where in the world do you butcher people with a saw?"
"The régime is all lies. Even Israel would not do this to us."
"Nobody is giving any support, not the Arab countries or the West. They support lip service, nothing more."

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Left solidarity: Supporting grassroots movements in Syria

31/5/14 protest in solidarity with Douma4 held in Douma Photo via: Douma Local Council


 "Our failure to engage in social struggles as we find them leaves them open to being monopolized by reactionary forces. Practical solidarity with the Syrian revolution has come mainly from political Islamists and this of course raises broader issues as to what the left can learn from political Islamists as to the meaning and nature of solidarity, why the left complains about the dominance of Islamists when it has left the stage wide open to them and why the left continues to believe that fighting a tyrannical regime is somehow the exclusive domain of secular leftists. The left will have no voice if it does not engage to actively support comrades in the struggle instead of limiting its activities to criticizing those who do."

syria rebels terror risk

David Cameron: Syria terror threat 'more dangerous' than Afghanistan"We should be backing the legitimate democratic opposition not with weapons but with support, advice to try to help them get both sides to the negotiating table."
Forcing Syrians to accept Assad's continuation is what creates the despair of terrorism. I heard the hollow phrase, "Western-backed opposition", from Jeremy Bowen on the BBC again this morning.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Syria’s ‘western-backed’ rebels?
Not in weapons
It has been said many times that those who identify themselves as anti-imperialists have nothing to say about the billions of dollars of weaponry the Assad régime has received from its backer Russia, with which it has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians, by contrast with the US airstrikes, which were never going to happen, and were a convenient way to salve Western liberal consciences with the idea that they were saving Syrians from war.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Dangerous Method: Syria, Sy Hersh, and the Art of Mass-crime Revisionism

 Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

 "Before looking at Hersh’s evidence for these claims, his editors should have asked the obvious questions: If Assad’s opponents are in possession of sarin and ballistic missiles, why have they never used them for battlefield advantage? If the opposition were determined to trigger Western intervention by any means, including fratricide, wouldn’t the likely agent be the West-friendly Free Syrian Army (FSA) rather than the intransigent Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that is itself in Western crosshairs? (The United States has designated it a foreign terrorist organization.) If the United States were determined to intervene, as Hersh insists it was, would it confine itself to a doubtful chemical pretext when there were so many indubitable humanitarian ones to avail? If the regime was innocent, why did it deny UN investigators access to the site for four days and subject the area to unrelenting artillery fire?[i] Why would Turkey, a country that has no chemical weapons program, risk its membership in NATO — and, potentially, future membership of the EU — by manufacturing sarin, and do so specifically for a clumsy false flag operation?

 For the London Review of Books, it appears, the Syrians are proxies in an ideological battle. Far easier to entertain a conspiracy theory, however far-fetched, than to accept that Obama and the intelligence community might be right about the Syrian people’s tormentor. The magazine has now published four articles laying Assad’s crimes on his victims. Yet it hasn’t allowed a single Syrian to write about the conflict. It might, for example, have considered speaking to the first responders; it could, for instance, have allowed the survivors to tell their stories. But this might cause cognitive dissonance. Accepting that Assad might be responsible for his own crimes means questioning, or at least qualifying, the axiom that the United States is the exclusive font of all evil.
 By now even the most dogmatic among Hersh’s publishers must have realized that they were hoaxed. Their ideological proclivities and eagerness for clicks made the deception easier. They got played — they relayed what is in effect pro-fascist propaganda. If they have any concern for their credibility, they would reveal the name of their source — or be forever associated with a monstrous hoax."
Syrian refugees

Syria's refugee exodus

"The first waves of refugees began leaving Syria amid a government crackdown on
street protests. Anti-government demonstrations began in March in the southern city
of Deraa following the arrest and torture of a group of teenagers who painted
 revolutionary slogans on a wall. By July, hundreds of thousands were taking to the
 streets. Government forces responded with large-scale military operations...
The beginning of 2013 saw growing numbers of people flee. Deraa, Homs, Aleppo
 and Damascus saw most leave. Government forces, boosted by fighters from the
 Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militias, recaptured key
 areas and reports emerged that chemical weapons had been used."
Muadh Zain

Father's plea for six-year-old
British boy trapped in Syria
Like millions of Syrians, he is held hostage by the Assad régime.
"He has not spoken to his son for four months, but was told he was living out in the open under olive trees, after their neighbour's home was struck by a bomb.
He said Muadh was "absolutely traumatised", had stopped speaking and clings to his mother's side, too frightened to leave her.
He also believed his son had developed a squint in his right eye, which required urgent medical treatment.
Daraa is a 15 minute drive away from the border with Jordan, but it is closed."

Image: Syrians who live in Lebanon carry portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad and their national flags as they drive towards to the Syrian embassy to vote in the presidential election in Yarze, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

Syria's Election May Be a Sham, But Assad Survival Still SurprisingThis sort of " I'm not pro-Assad, but...", is very like, " I'm not a racist, but...". The rebels who wre starved out of Homs have relocated to fight on other fronts. I could go through Bill Neely's talking points, seeing a pro-Assad bias in all of them.
"The rebels who vowed to fight until he fell are retreating and his opponents are in disarray across the country.
The West will have to live with a leader who is popular with significant sections of the Syrian people, not only his own Alawite sect, but Christians and many Sunni Muslims who now fear the rise of al-Qaeda linked militias and see Assad’s iron fist as, ironically, the only way of preserving a more tolerant Syria."