Tuesday, 30 June 2015

As a patriotic Syrian, I never imagined I would do this

'In an incredibly candid and powerful address Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, speaks truth to power at the UN Security Council Arria Briefing on the 26th of June.

"The international community has lost its credibility for Syrians in the absence of any political will to end the killing in Syria, and the UN Security Council has been transformed from the Security to the Insecurity Council in the eyes of the downtrodden because it has failed to uphold its own resolutions.

The Syrian people who are being killed every day, Ladies and Gentlemen, hold you responsible and demand that all measures available to end the killing, particularly with indiscriminate weapons, be taken immediately.

As a patriotic Syrian, I never imagined I would one day ask for a foreign intervention in my country, by land or air. But the lives of innocent women and children that we see dying in our hands every day compel us to ask for any intervention possible to stop the barbaric killing machine led by Bashar al-Assad, including preventing Syrian aircraft from flying, and especially preventing helicopters from hovering above us and dropping these bombs." '

The Associated Press take, via the Guardian*, on this is somewhat different. 

"The Security Council has been bitterly divided over Syria between Russia, a close ally of president Bashar Assad’s government, and western nations who have have campaigned for a transitional government leading to democratic elections."

Not an abandonment of Syria by the West, but a campaign for régime change. In miniature we see the difference between the media narrative and the experience of Syrians over the last four years, and how the delusion of many leftists that they are doing Syrians a favour by blaming their condition on Western meddling isn't some challenge to the prevailing ideology, but what the press and the politicians would like us to believe.


Response to EI article (Electronic Intifada)


"Thus whilst Syria should not distract from Palestine as this is what Israel wants and would allow its ethnic cleansing to go ahead unimpeded, neither should our attention be diverted to such an extent from the fact that there has been no regime that has come close to representing Israel’s than Assad’s. He comes second to Israel in the number of Palestinians he has killed. He has tortured more Palestinians to death than Israel could ever hope to do (http://beyondcompromise.com/2014/09/19/faces-of-our-dead-photos-of-the-palestinians-tortured-to-death-by-syrian-regime/). He has employed exactly the same tactics of starvation of civilian areas under the excuse of them being ‘held hostage by terrorists'; indeed his opponents have had to dig tunnels to try and circumvent those sieges (and those tunnels been labelled ‘terrorist’ tunnels). He has carpet-bombed civilian areas to the ground for four years unimpeded. It has stopped people returning to its homes (such as the famous uprising Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs). For the past four years we have watched Syrian women and men scream in cameras ‘where are the Arabs? Where are the Muslims’ with rubble behind them in exactly the same way that they do in Gaza. If Zionism did not mean ‘Jewish nationalism’ Assad’s state would be the archetypal example of its Arab form.
The fact remains that Hezbollah is now knees-deep in Palestinian blood, and I would like it if such outlets like EI are brave enough to call it and Iran on its betrayal of the Palestinian people, and call on it to put their actions where their mouths are, how can they be pro-Palestinian when they refuse to take off sieges of Palestinians, which according to someone who has recently visited Yarmouk and previously Gaza, has been multiple times worse than Gaza? Through doing this campaign and put pressure on it to stop the regime starving and torturing the Palestinians under its mercy (to say nothing about the Syrians)."

Monday, 29 June 2015

​The “Israel backs Jabhat al-Nusra” fairy-tale and its deadly consequences

Michael Karadjis

'Thus the “Israel supports Nusra” discourse had simply led to the murder of a member of the FSA. But where does this theory come from? A number of writers in recent months have come up with the proposition that Israel is in some kind of alliance with Nusra in the southern Syrian region bordering the Israeli-stolen Golan Heights. “Why has Israel embraced al-Qaida’s branch in Syria?” asks Rania Khalek in the Electronic Intifada (​https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-has-israel-embraced-al-qaidas-branch-syria/14619). “In the Golan, Israel has cultivated an alliance with Islamist forces it falsely claims to detest: the al-Nusra Front,” claims Richard Silverstein (http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/06/25/israels-dangerous-game-with-syrian-islamists/). “Why is the media ignoring Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda?” asks Asa Winstanely (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/18855-why-is-the-media-ignoring-israels-alliance-with-al-qaeda). 
 Unlike ISIS, Nusra fights mostly against the regime (and against ISIS) alongside other Syrian rebel groups. Therefore, this “Israel supports Nusra” fairy-story is not aimed at claiming that Israel is secretly aiding a sectarian diversion of the revolution, but, on the contrary, the aim is the same old warped conspiracy theory that the mighty Syrian revolution is just a conspiracy orchestrated by a US-Zionist-Gulf-Jihadist-Martian cabal bent on destroying the nice progressive “secular” regime of Assad. Quite deliberately, these writers conflate Nusra with the FSA and other rebels; the fact that the UN reports talk about, for example, handing two boxes to members of an “armed group” for these writers automatically means Nusra. Even when it was found out that the wounded fighter murdered by the Druze lynch-mob was in the FSA and not Nusra, these haters declare him an “Islamist” fighter, in order to be as dishonest as is humanly possible without still calling him “Nusra” – for them, Nusra, Islamists and FSA are all the same thing.
The entire fairy-tale of Israeli support to either Nusra or the FSA in the south is based on nothing. Stupid stories, however, can have deadly results.'

Obama's ISIS policy is backwards

fred hof

"The president and his people are intellectually attuned to the fact that Tehran is the principal outside facilitator of mass murder in Syria. They are intellectually accepting of the proposition that the Assad regime mass murder is a recruiting tool for ISIL. People in the administration are not lacking in intelligence, they can connect the dots on these things.
 If the commander in chief, Barack Obama, says, 'I’ve had enough of this … I want you to do something, give me some options that minimize the slippery slope argument, but give me some options that complicate Assad’s ability to launch helicopters with these horrible barrel bombs, including the resumption of chemical warfare.' ... If the president is willing to do that, I am utterly convinced that thousands of lives can be saved starting very quickly."

Middle East Policy and Combating ISIS

[01:23:26] Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: "We are trying to recruit and identify people who ... can be counted on ... to fight, to have the right mindset and ideology, and not be aligned with groups like ISIL on the one hand, and on the other hand, as you put it, work towards our goals, and our goal being for them to fight ISIL in the first instance."
In other words, they are looking for mercenaries who will agree not to fight Bashar al-Assad. The administration's line is that they are weeding out extremists, but we can glean the truth from Fox News' take* on the story:

'Abdul-Jabbar Abu Thabet, commander of Aleppo Swords Battalion, a moderate faction that is fighting both Assad's forces and IS, said he believes the Americans are more interested in recruiting Syrian army defectors than moderate rebels.
He said he would no longer give Americans the names of training candidates from his group, after having done so once and not receiving a U.S. response.
"The Americans are saying they want to train rebels to fight against Daesh only," he said by telephone from northern Syria, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. "The fighting should be against Daesh, the (Assad) regime and everyone who is against the revolution." '

Syrians forced to survive on handouts during Ramadan

'Nawal Ramadan jokingly quoted one of the most famous Syrian Ramadan series this year, Bab al-Hara, which deals with life in a Damascus neighborhood under the French mandate in the 1930s.
The director and writer should have focused on our own time “and film how the regime hits the city of Aleppo with barrel bombs and how ISIS is executing people like sheep and lashing women.”
“It would’ve been better,” she added bitterly.'

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Assad confidante dies of illness: Syria state media

Radio Free Syria: "As the regime falls apart, Assad's senior officials keep dying of mysterious 'illnesses', mostly caused by bullets to the skull."


Embedded image permalink

"Qatar & Saudi Arabia! it seems you need American Decision to help us."

Breaking the Ramadan fast in Aleppo

Looking for barrel bombs.
Looking for barrel bombs.
Looking for barrel bombs.
I'm hungry.

Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Image result for Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

"They are desensitised by seeing so many pictures of children killed or maimed by Isis suicide bombers or government barrel bombs."
What a hypocrite. Patrick Cockburn ignores the barrel bombs, the sieges, the torture, which Assad daily visits on Syria, to scare us with the dangers of ISIS into backing Assad and his allies as they carry out more bombing, rape and torture,
Thus the US, Britain and their allies are supposedly seeking to combat Isis, but they simultaneously oppose the main enemies of Isis such as Iran, Hezbollah, the Syrian army, Shia militias in Iraq, and the PKK in Turkey in the shape of its Syrian branch, the PYD."It's a lie that America and Britain are opposing what Iran and Assad are doing. Andrew Marr said this morning, "Patrick Cockburn is one of the people I turn to on the Middle East," Stephanie Flanders echoed Cockburn, "We have to stop our Sunni allies funding groups like ISIS. The British political and business establishment takes their lead from Cockburn, he isn't some anti-establishment figure, but one linking the Western élite to their Middle Eastern counterparts. Two more lies, the states mentioned are not funding ISIS, and the groups they support do not commit atrocities like Assad or even ISIS, but reading Cockburn you would never know that, as there are no moderates in his picture of Syria except for Assad, and all the people fighting him are mad Muslims.
Isis and al-Qaeda-type groups that are little different from it, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham in Syria." 

Kafranbel Syrian Revolution

Assad divides Syrians into Alawis and Sunnis, ISIS into Muslims and kuffar, and the PYD into Kurds and Arabs.

Samar Yazbek: ‘Syria has been hung, drawn and quartered’

'Paris is beautiful, but it's not the same thing': Samar Yazbek in exile.

' “I was not frightened for myself. Not at all. Why should I be so? This was my homeland. This is where I had grown up. I spoke the languages, I knew the people. What did frighten me as time went on, and as I made more trips, was the way everything I had once known in Syria was being turned into something else, something I didn’t quite recognise. This had once been a cosy place, a place of traditional loyalties and hospitality. But now the people have been scarred and mutilated. I don’t know whether it will ever go back to what it was. That is what Assad has done.
She is especially angry with young Muslim women who have travelled from the west to join Isis. “Of course I am a feminist,” she says, “and what they are doing is sending the condition of women in Syria back to some terrible place. But also what they are doing is to ‘Orientalise’ Syria – these young girls are Muslims but they are creatures of the west. They know nothing of Syria and its ways. But they love the fantasy of the virile Arab warrior on a horse with a gun. This is a cliche and a fantasy and they come because it’s erotic and exotic – they are bored in the west and they need to rebel. But they do not understand Islam or Syria and that they are making things worse for the women who live here.” '

Syria’s Alawites: The People Behind Assad

High school students in the Alawite village of Al-Suwairi walk past a memorial for locals killed fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, June 2013. The memorial has space left for more names.

' “We are witnesses to the country’s unraveling,” a 56-year-old Alawite public servant told me last summer in Latakia, the western coast’s main city. “Many people I know—especially those who have lost loved ones—are fed up, but few dare speak out because this would contradict the facade of defiance,” he said.'

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and Golan

Sam Charles Hamad"Pro-Assad Druze pulled this fellow out of an ambulance and murdered him as the IDF watched on. He was slandered by Israeli Jews and Israeli Druze, for absolutely no good reason, as being a member of Jabhat an-Nusra, yet his name is Munther Khalil and he was a fighter with the Free Syrian Army. In fact, right-wing Israelis are still slandering him and justifying his murder because some injured Syrian fighter being treated in Israel made sectarian statements in an interview with some Israeli TV channel, which apparently means that murdering any Syrian fighter is perfectly understandable."

Syrian rebels take over regime headquarters in Daraa

Syrian rebels take over regime headquarters in Daraa

The fall of Daraa city in the hands of rebels makes it the third Syrian city that is completely free of Assad forces after Raqqa (held by ISIS) and Idlib (held by Syrian rebels).

The Civil War in Syria Is Invisible—but This Anonymous Film Collective Is Changing That

'Abounaddara—the name translates to “the man with the glasses,” which is to say the man who, through his lenses, can see clearly—has been able to maintain a steady stream of production since April 2011, when the regime of Bashar al-Assad upped their wanton killing of protesters. Since then, Abounaddara has released a new short film on Vimeoevery Friday. And as the Syrian uprising turned into a revolution and then morphed into a gruesome civil war, the film collective—the majority of whose members are women—has managed to capture the social and human dimensions of war with an intimacy that is almost never seen in any conflict, let alone in Syria today.
This is no small feat. Merely getting images from Syria is treacherous. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 journalists were killed in Syria in 2014, making it thedeadliest place for journalists for three years running, and more journalists have been forced into exile since 2010 from Syria than any other country. The result is that we see very little of what’s really happening in Syria, enabling ISIS to promote its high-gloss terror pornography and the Assad regime to hide its crimes from view.'

Syria: Civilians Pay the Price

'Ideally, those under arms who oppose the Assad regime would not take the poisoned bait of collective punishment and sectarian targeting spread promiscuously by the regime over the past four years. But some have, thereby imposing on their external supporters and suppliers an obligation to secure immediate corrective action. ISIL, of course, is beyond the pale and is not in any event part of the Syrian Revolution. Yet those seeking to draw Nusra away from its murderous al-Qaeda origins might concentrate first on stopping its war crimes.

It is, however, the Assad regime that runs circles around “anti-Government armed groups” in terms of gross criminality. Consider some of the Commission’s more striking passages:

  • “ . . . the Government continues to direct attacks towards locations where civilians are likely to congregate, among them, bus stations, marketplaces, and bakeries.”
  • “In particular, the continuing use of barrel bombs in aerial campaigns against whole areas, rather than specific targets, is in violation of international humanitarian law and, as previously documented, amounts to the war crime of targeting civilians.”
  • “The larger strategy [of the regime] appears to be one of making life unbearable for civilians who remain inside armed-group controlled areas.”
  • “The previously documented pattern of attacks indicating that Government forces have deliberately targeted hospitals, medical units, and ambulances remains an entrenched feature of the conflict.”
  • “Government sieges are imposed in a coordinated manner . . . [I]n particular, Government forces have refused to allow aid deliveries of essential medicines and surgical supplies . . . [G]overnment authorities act in direct breach of binding international humanitarian law obligations to ensure that wounded and sick persons are collected and cared for, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.”
  • “Everyday decisions—whether to go visit a neighbor, to send your child to school, to step out to buy bread—have become, potentially, decisions about life and death. Large numbers of children have been killed in bombardments of their homes, schools, and playgrounds.”

The Obama administration is operationally indifferent to all of this. This is not to say it is at a loss for words when describing the depredations of Bashar al-Assad, a person it stubbornly continues to recognize as the President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Yet its strategy for degrading and destroying ISIL—notwithstanding effective military-humanitarian interventions at Mount Sinjar in Iraq and Kobane in Syria—is operationally silent on protecting Syrian civilians from the regime. This despite its intellectual acceptance that Assad’s program of mass homicide produces recruits for ISIL from around the world and convinces increasing numbers of Syrians that ISIL may be their best bet for protection against regime atrocities.'

The Journey Syrian refugee Hashem Alsouki risks his life crossing the Mediterranean, his sights set on Sweden – and freedom for his family

"He isn’t particularly political. He’s just a 37-year-old civil servant at the regional water board. He runs the computer department, and it’s his job to print the bills every month for the residents of Damascus and the surrounding countryside. He focuses on the water business, and minds his own.
But today, none of that will matter. The regime is going from house to house, rounding up all the men they find. Whether it’s because they’re Sunni, living in a country run by Alawites, an offshoot of the Shia, Hashem can only speculate.
Hashem’s children watch him as he goes to open the door. Outside stand 20 men. Whether they’re from the army, the police, or a pro-regime militia, Hashem doesn’t know. But they’re here for him, and half the people on his street.
Until now the war has largely avoided Haran al-Awamid, a place of around 15,000 a few miles south-east of Damascus. It’s a quiet town with a lot of government employees. But in recent days, tensions have been raised. The regime killed two young men, tied their corpses to a car, and dragged them around town. Not everyone dared to react, but the pair’s friends and family did – they protested and chanted in the street.
And now, as Hashem is shoved into the back of a van, his children watching from their front room, the regime is getting its revenge. It’s a long revenge, too. First Hashem and his neighbours are taken to a secret network of cells, dug deep beneath the nearby Damascus airport. Three days later, they’re moved on – to the headquarters of aviation intelligence in Damascus.
Here, hundreds of men are crammed into single cells, deep underground. Every day, four or five of them are dragged to torture rooms. Single men are electrocuted with shocks to their genitals. Husbands like Hashem are sometimes spared that humiliation, but instead are hung from their wrists. Hashem spends 12 hours like this, the cords cutting into his skin. Others spend even longer and their hands later have to be amputated.
After several weeks, he’s moved to some kind of airport hangar. It’s a vast space, capable of holding a few planes. But there are so many prisoners crammed in here that they have to take it in turns to lie down. With no watches or natural light, they have no way of telling the time.
One day, months later, the prisoners are driven in vans to the centre of Damascus, where they’re tossed out into the street. They have no idea that it’s now late October, or that today is the festival of Eid al-Adha. They emerge blinking into the bright sunlight wondering what kind of Syria awaits them.
For Hashem, the future is immediately bleak. While he was away, two of Hayam’s brothers were shot by the same sniper on the same day. The second was trying to retrieve the corpse of the first."

"I must save my life and not risk my family’s safety!”: Untold Stories of Syrian Women Surviving War (Part 1)

"Karima (40) is not the type of Syrian heroine that the mainstream media would like to interview. She did not participate in the Syrian Uprising. She did not lead a demonstration."
 I don't think this is the case. The media is not looking for revolutionaries, it is looking for people who will blame the rebels as much as Assad, to reflect the same sort of balance it imagines it can impose on the conflict. That Assad's has been a war against civilians, not just or even mainly a war against those actively resisting, has been an unfamiliar theme in most press and TV, when they talk about the rest of Syria at all and not only about ISIS.

 "On March 12, 2012, Karima’s life would change forever. Around noon she heard that a mission from the Syrian Army is searching the houses in her neighborhood for armed men. She prayed that they would not take her boys and husband because they were not involved in any military activities. Around 2.00 p.m. the mission entered their apartment asking them to surrender their weapons. Her husband declared that they had no weapons. The officer ordered his fellows to take her husband out. Another officer took her eldest son Mahmmod (18) and he forced him to prostrate himself to Bashar al-Assad photograph in front of his mother and siblings. Then, they commanded Karima and her smaller children (a girl and two boys) to stay inside while they took the father and the son Mahmmod with them. In few minutes, Karima and her children heard gunshots. Karima held herself together because she was worry about the safety of her younger children.
 Her husband’s dead body was left next to their flat door, and her son was left dying on the stairs after they shot him in the head. Karima remembered how his flesh and blood had dispersed and adhered to the walls around him. Her daughter Lama (15) tried to give Mahmmod water before he died because he was muttering “water,” but he could not drink it. Karima told me this with a big sigh that even her son last wishes did not come true: “My daughter came back inside, her hands were covered with Mahmmod’s blood. I kissed her hands and I smelled my son scent.” When the army mission finished investigating the building, they came again to Karima’s apartment. She locked the door. They unlocked it by shooting it.
 It was winter and dark, and Karima, who has no experience in public spaces, felt scared and decided to stay the night at one of her neighbor’s houses. When they entered her neighbor’s house, they saw another dead body of a stranger. Karima learned that the regime forces killed all men in her neighborhood, and they randomly threw all the dead bodies into neighbor’s houses. They do so to ensure that the rest of the families are terrorized and humiliated and other anti-regime regions would look at this example of consequences for rebelling against the regime. Once again Lama covered the dead body with a sheet, so the small children would stop looking at the body exploded by bullets. Karima continued her story:
 At 6:30 in the morning we left the neighbor’s houses, the regime forces were shooting toward our feet and screaming at us to go back. I gestured with my hand that it is impossible to go back. We kept running through the shooting, and sometimes we hid in some buildings, but there were dead bodies in every building. When we passed our neighborhood, we met armed rebels. I expressed my disappointment with the rebels because they did not confront and fight the regime troops. But the rebel leader told me to thank my god because no one touched my daughter or me and we had escaped with our honor. He said in the nearby neighborhood most women were raped."


' "We're the gang of girls. [Assad] would kill us, but he can't find us," Waleed says. The "gang of girls" she refers to are her colleagues at Enab Baladi; a little more than half the staff are women. Many of them are now refugees, in Turkey and Lebanon, and the rest are in hiding in Syria—reporting over sporadic Internet connections, giving new and urgent meaning to the phrase working remotely.
 Of the 24 founding staff members, three top editors have been killed in separate attacks. Eight reporters have been detained and tortured, and 12 have fled the country.
 Waleed and her girlfriends joined the crowds of hundreds of thousands forming across Syria, singing the anthem of the revolution, the title of which translates as "Come On, Bashar, Leave." They used Twitter and Facebook to coordinate more rallies, calling for democratic re- forms and expecting that the government—which over the past 40 years had built up one of the world's worst human rights records, crushing dissent, torturing prisoners, detaining and spying on critics, fostering endemic corruption, and creating widespread poverty—would fall or make concessions under pressure from the international community.
  But their calculations were wrong, and backing from the United States was weak. The Assad regime immediately cast the protesters as dangerous Islamists and foreign terrorists. Within weeks of the first demonstrations, government tanks rolled into city centers, opening fire on the people. Journalists and artists were detained or killed. The man rumored to have written "Come On, Bashar, Leave" was found dead in a river, his vocal cords ripped out. Assad controlled the airwaves, which spouted only propaganda.
  One morning in late August, she was having breakfast at her family's apartment in Darayya when the house shook. She rushed to the balcony to see her neighbors pouring into the alley. Minutes later, in almost the same location, there was another explosion. Waleed had grown accustomed to the occasional sound of rockets or mortars landing, as the rebels were hiding close by, on farms in the outskirts of the city. This was different. The shelling intensified, and the next morning the Waleed family fled to a relative's apartment, but as they arrived, a mortar hit the building, sending them all sprawling. The city was under attack. They ran for their cars, driving to the home of a family friend outside of town.
For the next three days, one of the worst massacres of the Syrian war took place inside Darayya. According to reporting from Enab Baladi, which still had staffers there, the regime's soldiers sealed off all roads entering and exiting the city shortly before mortars landed.
Then, according to first-person accounts reported by Enab Baladi, soldiers went door to door, lining up men in mosques and shooting them execution style and burning homes and schools. In one particularly gruesome example, neighbors told Waleed that they'd found an entire family dead in their basement, where they had presumably been hiding. During the rampage, Waleed stayed out in the country, along with 100 others sleeping side by side in a crowded house. With no electricity or Internet access, she had no idea of the whereabouts of her team. This was the only time Enab Baladi missed an edition.'

This is the massacre Robert Fisk lied about in the Independent, after riding into town with the very troops who had carried it out.*

Friday, 26 June 2015

We Need to Stop Giving Da’esh the Attention it Craves

Drowing people

Ben Davies"Suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam, as is the killing of innocent people. These monsters know this, but they use this appalling brutality because they know it will get our attention; our attention will gain them more fanatical supporters and more notoriety, enabling them to expand. There’s a reason that they’re commonly known as khwaarij. In so many words, ignorant extremists.
Our indulgence of their gruesome publicity stunts is literally killing people, each murder more horrific than the next. We need to stop painstakingly documenting their atrocities on live TV, and instead go after them by going after the one who brought their strength into being through secret oil deals, and directly aiding them on the battlefield. Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
Bombing Da’esh and ignoring Assad (as per Obama’s pro-Iran strategy) is only giving him the space he needs to bomb liberated areas with  greater impunity and intensity. Both must be silenced to end this bloodshed. The dictator who claims he’s the solution to the extremists, and the extremists who claim they have a monopoly on Islam. In reality, all they do is harm and defame it."

Thursday, 25 June 2015

British Men Who Fought Bashar al-Assad’s Regime Are Hiding From Their Government

'Shaam and Ibrahim fought with militias linked to Ahrar al Sham, which loosely translates as the “Islamic Movement of the Free Men”. The group is considered one of the largest official opposition forces fighting in Syria. Although it aims to implement an “Islamic government” in Syria, its members have largely considered getting rid of Assad their main priority.
In late 2012, Shaam joined an aid convoy in the Syrian town of Atmeh, where he helped deliver essentials to Syrian families displaced by the war. After seeing the aftermath of an attack by regime forces, he felt compelled to take up arms.
 “I had witnessed an attack in a city about 20 miles away from Atmeh – we were eating on a porch of a local house at around midday on the second day I arrived,” he says. “Some barrel bombs went off nearby, and I remember seeing two little girls, dressed almost identically with blue ribbons in their hair, starting to cry, and an old man who could no longer stand up after his knees had gone cold with fear.”
 Similar motivations led Ibrahim to travel to Syria. He recalls being “horrified by the attacks carried out by the regime” when he saw images of dead civilians and crying children broadcast on the news, and claims that it was his duty to go there to help, because “if you had the means to go and help the oppressed, then you should”.
 “You have all these groups talking about why young people are becoming radicalised and joining groups like ISIS, and there’s no one who can really tell them why what they’re doing is wrong. The groups who are currently talking about deradicalisation have no credibility – you need someone with on the ground experience of the conflict, and people who also believe in the idea of proper jihad … so that you can tell young people what they’re doing isn’t Islamically authentic.” '

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

British woman held by al-Nusra Front freed in Syria

Members of the al-Nusra Front during an offensive to take control of the Syrian city of Ariha from Assad’s forces in May.

'The 31-year-old from from east London was detained in territory controlled by the al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria. She was freed after negotiations with al-Nusra, who agreed to let her go because of her history of mental illness, those involved with the negotiations said.
 Tasnime Akunjee said the woman’s release was unlikely to offer hope to the families of Britons who have fled to Isis-controlled Syria: “Nusra are easier to deal with than Isis.” '

David Butter - Picking up the Pieces

 Image result for chatham house picking up the pieces

"The question arises as to whether a dramatic worsening in the economic situation might be the catalyst for the regime’s military collapse or for an externally imposed political settlement against Assad’s wishes; or whether further military setbacks might be the trigger for the government’s economic collapse."

US-led Coalition Source Predicts Assad Will Lose Damascus Before Years’ End

US-led Coalition Source Predicts Assad Will Lose Damascus Before Years’ End

Hard to say how accurate this is.
 "The source, who declined to be identified, said that the international coalition has accurate information about the status of Assad's forces and the terrorists, adding that no extremist groups will be allowed to seize the Syrian capital."

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Syrian teen's tale of torture and death in an Islamic State town

'When the Islamic State took control of her hometown of Minbaj in northern Syria she was just 17. Before then, she had organized and participated in scores of protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After the IS takeover Ms. Alif, a devout Muslim, was horrified by the group's approach to the faith, its draconian dictates, and its rules prohibiting girls from studying. Alif and a group of friends decided to take action, which was when her nightmare of beatings, stress positions and other forms of torture began.
“We formed this small team to fight IS,” recalls Alif, who works in a cramped, overheated tissue factory in southern Turkey. "We wanted to send the message that we are against them, that we don’t want them in our town. That they are disfiguring Islam.” Mostly they spray-painted anti-IS slogans around town. Alif is still haunted by the image of a 15-year-old boy crucified on a tree and left to rot for days.
On a crisp morning in May 2014 Alif unfolded the tricolor flag of the Syrian revolution in front of the Islamic State court as her friends documented the act and kept an eye out for IS militants. She tried to mask her identity — donning a black niqab, wearing high heels and speaking in a raspy voice. It all lasted a few seconds.'

‘Barbarism’ with chlorine gas goes unchecked in Syria

'When the first attacks occurred in March, Mr. Kerry issued an angry statement declaring that “the international community cannot turn a blind eye to such barbarism.” But the Security Council, paralyzed by Russian obstructionism, has taken no action. And Mr. Kerry and his spokesman made it clear that the Obama administration has no plans to do anything other than remonstrate with Vladi­mir Putin’s powerless foreign minister.
It is well within the power of the United States to put a stop to the horrific attacks. It could impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria, where Idlib province lies, or simply shoot down the slow-moving Syrian helicopters carrying out the attacks. As former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testified to the House committee, a failure to act won’t affect only Syria: “The international consensus against CW use forged after the horrors of World War I is being eroded with each new chemical attack,” he said. “This is a risk to our own soldiers’ safety and our broader national security.”
No matter: “I don’t have any specific measures here that I can lay out for you” to stop the chlorine attacks, said State Department spokesman John Kirby. Tell that to the families of the children whose lungs are being burned away.'