Saturday, 7 March 2015

Oil middleman between Syria and Isil is new target for EU sanctions

The Oil Stills of Al Mansura near Al Raqqah

 "Syria's regime is not only buying oil from Isil, but helping to operate the terrorist movement's oil and gas facilities."
 There are also reports coming out that Assad and ISIS have co-operated to cut off the water and electricity from rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

 "In public, the two belligerents claim to be sworn enemies. Isil has vowed to topple Mr Assad and transform Syria into an Islamic "Caliphate". But the rise of the jihadist movement has served Mr Assad's interests by allowing him to pose as an essential bulwark against Islamist terrorism.

 Isil fighters captured the oilfields of eastern Syria in 2013. Since then, the regime is believed to have funded the jihadists by purchasing oil from Isil. But those links are understood to extend further than was previously thought. Instead of merely being a customer for Isil's oil, the regime is understood to be running some oil and gas installations jointly with the terrorist movement.

 Mr Haswani's company, HESCO, operates a gas plant in Tabqa, a town in central Syria which was captured by Isil last August. Officials believe this installation is being run jointly by Isil and personnel from the regime. The gas facility continues to supply areas of Syria controlled by Mr Assad. Other oil and gas fields in Isil's hands are thought to be operated by personnel who remain on the payroll of the regime's oil ministry. The oil is then sold to Mr Assad, who distributes it in areas he controls at relatively low prices, helping him to win the loyalty of local people.

 Sometimes, the regime has paid for the oil by supplying Isil-held towns with electricity."
Tawfiq Hassan
Meet The Syrian Sheikh Battling Islamic State Ideology One Mind At A Time" “ISIS has the dream. They have the Islamic state,” says Sheikh Abu Omar Shishani. “The Syrian people were poor to begin with, and the war made them poorer. ISIS is the strongest in terms of money and weapons so people resort to it because they think they have no choice.”
Since the beginning of the war, rebel fighters have been attracted to the strongest and richest groups. In the last six months, funding for moderate groups has slowed significantly, with private Gulf donors spooked by the uptick of anti-terrorist financing laws. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces, meanwhile, have been bolstered by Iranian, Lebanese Hezbollah and Afghan Shia militias.
For rebels, the thought of joining IS or Al Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, a strong, secure and well-funded operation, grows more appealing. “It’s bad for us, the Syrians, that the funding pulls us around,” sighs Iyad. “At the beginning of the revolution, when the funding came from the sheikhs, people grew beards. Then when the funding came from the international community, people started to shave and wear suits.” "

A long trail of blood and tears

Hisham Melhem

"By focusing only on degrading (ISIS) the U.S. will end up shoring up the two Shiite sectarian regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. As long as the U.S. and its western and regional allies are not pursuing a comprehensive transitional strategy in Syria leading to the removal of the Assad regime, the very magnet that attracted (ISIS) in the first place and unless they push their Iraqi allies to seriously rein in the Shiite militias and genuinely include the Sunnis in the political life of Iraq, America’s venture in the Levant and Iraq will end tragically.The Obama Administration’s almost obsession with reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, and its eagerness not to provoke Iranian retaliation against American personnel in Iraq, explain in part Washington’s refusal to remove Assad from power. Americans and the rest of the world were horrified when a Jordanian pilot was immolated by (ISIS) and young Egyptian Copts were beheaded in Libya; and yet the Assad regime is responsible for killing more innocent civilians than (ISIS) could ever do, given that Assad has the industrial capacity to conduct such horrors. His primitive but lethal barrel bombs that his air force rains daily on the civilians of Aleppo, have immolated more Syrians than (ISIS) would like to claim."

ASU student travels to Syria for humanitarian efforts

(Photo courtesy of Zana Alattar)

 'Biochemistry and justice studies junior Zana Alattar travelled to Syria in November 2013 with an organization called Students Organize for Syria at ASU, to provide humanitarian relief to refugees in Syria.

 “On the northern Syrian border with Turkey, there is a huge area of refugees,” she said. “People were trying to stay out of the area in Aleppo with the Assad regime. There were refugee tents with people living on the ground.”

 Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is the site of an ongoing, years-long battle between several rebel groups and Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist militant group. Since the start of the battle in 2012, more than 31,000 civilians and soldiers have died.

 “Further into the free, liberated cities are completely self-run,” Alattar said. “The Assad government cut off electricity and water from the liberated cities so (liberated citizens) had to find ways to generate electricity.”

 Rebel soldiers make up organizations such as the People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army. These groups have been continuously fighting to defend Syria and have successfully liberated several cities from the Assad regime.

 Alattar, who has family who live in Syria, said the Syrian people are now facing two enemies: the Islamic State group and the Assad regime.

 “I have aunts and uncles and cousins who are living in bombed areas from the Assad regime,” she said. “The power is apparent.”

 Alattar said she believes bombing the Islamic State group will not solve the problem until the Assad regime is stopped.

 “(Bombing the Islamic State group is a) step in the right direction,” she said. “But bombing ISIS will not solve the issue. The issue rose out of the original problem, which was the Assad regime. (Stopping) ISIS is necessary, but is not entirely successful without eliminating the Assad regime.” '

Abu Mohamad al-Golani, Al Nusra  Front leader

Will Qatar be the new
sponsor of Nusra Front?
"Firstly, there are no “good choices” in Syria today. Qatar has surmised, it seems, that supporting or transforming the Nusra Front, is one of the “least worst” options.
Secondly, the Nusra Front has pledged to concentrate its efforts on removing the Bashar al-Assad government, as opposed to attacking the “far enemy” (ie Western states). On this point, the Nusra Front is aligned tightly with Qatar, which also is implacably against the government and fundamentally believes that the situation in Syria will only improve if he is removed.
This idea is also reflected in the Nusra Front’s composition, which is far more Syrian-dominated than the foreign jihadist-magnet that is IS.
This is why Qatar is hoping to bring the Nusra Front in from the cold. If the state can get the group to eschew its al-Qaeda affiliation and adhere to a broadly moderate Islamist platform, Qatar can officially commence, with Western blessing, the supply of one of the most effective fighting forces in Syria."

A reported barrel bomb attack by Syrian government forces in Aleppo this week.

Sanctions target backers of Islamic State and Assad regime
If they really wanted to stop the violence, the British government and the EU would give Syrians the weaponry they need to defend themselves from Assad, and then there could be meaningful negotiations about the ending of his rule. Still, better than nothing, and a million miles better than those who claim it is the sanctions on the régime and the support for the opposition that destabilises Syria.
“We have also agreed to target individuals supplying oil to the regime, including George Haswani, a middleman buying oil from [Islamic State] on behalf of the regime. This listing gives yet another indication that Assad’s ‘war’ on Isis is a sham and that he supports them financially.
These sanctions show that EU is united in its condemnation of Assad’s brutal policies. We will continue applying pressure to the regime until it reassesses its position, ends the violence and engages in meaningful negotiations with the moderate opposition.”

Friday, 6 March 2015

ISIS: Managers of Savagery

 The sectarian brutality of ISIS has allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to disingenuously play the victim: the arsonist masquerading as a firefighter.


 "Patrick Cockburn’s The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution is a high-altitude polemic that blames the IS’s rise on U.S. and Saudi support for the anti-Assad rebellion. It has little or nothing to say about IS ideology or composition. Acting more as an advocate than an observer, Cockburn argues for rapprochement with the Assad regime.

 But to make his case, Cockburn dispenses with proportion and distinction. Though in successive reports the U.N., Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have indicted the Assad regime as by far the leading perpetrator of violence in the conflict, Cockburn’s account is devoted almost entirely to opposition atrocities. (He reports exclusively from regime-held areas.) Regime repression does receive cursory mention, but Nazi analogies are reserved for the opposition.

 Cockburn makes no mention of the divergent interests and active rivalries between IS and Syria’s nationalist opposition. For him, to assist the opposition is to assist the IS.

 To support this claim, he quotes “an intelligence officer from a Middle Eastern country neighboring Syria” who told him “ISIS members ‘say they are always pleased when sophisticated weapons are sent to anti-Assad groups of any kind because they can always get the arms off them by threats of force or cash payments.’” (Cockburn quotes many anonymous intelligence officials in the book but on no other occasion does he grant the country anonymity. Might it be because the “country neighboring Syria” is Iraq, a key Assad ally?)

 Yet this bias is the least of the problems in Cockburn's reporting—he also embellishes. On page 76 of his book, he writes about Adra: “I witnessed JAN forces storm a housing complex by advancing through a drainage pipe which came out behind government lines, where they proceeded to kill Alawites and Christians.” This would be the first independent verification of a story that had briefly surfaced before disappearing in a swirl of contradictory claims. The Russian broadcaster RT had even used fake pictures in its report on the incident.

 Yet Cockburn was nowhere near Adra. This is confirmed by an unimpeachable source: Patrick Cockburn. He first reported on the incident in his January 28, 2014 column for The Independent. But instead of being personally present, the story about rebels advancing through a drainage pipe is attributed to “a Syrian soldier, who gave his name as Abu Ali.” Cockburn appears to have pulled a Brian Williams."

The Syrian Regime Is Responsible for the Crisis in Yarmouk & No One Is Talking About It

 "I am now haunted by images of its ravaged buildings, children feeding themselves on grass and stray cats, and scrawny bodies starved to death. Since July 2013, an estimated 200 people have died, and many others have been left without food or medication, leading to escalating incidents of starvation. This is in addition to the approximately 300 Palestinians killed under torture in the regime’s prisons, and the 900 who have died from shelling in the camp. There has been no drinkable water in Yarmouk for over one year and a half.

It is no surprise that, since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the little media coverage Yarmouk has received in mainstream outlets, including from the BBC and theGuardian, has centered primarily on the unfolding humanitarian crisis. By focusing on this aspect of the story, however, mainstream reporting on Yarmouk has failed to highlight the Syrian regime’s role in facilitating the crisis in the camp.

Indeed, this a-historical representation of the humanitarian crisis in Yarmouk has worked significantly to the advantage of the Syrian regime. Along with a number of foreign pro-Syrian regime outlets, mainly from Iran and Russia, the Assad government has blamed the humanitarian crisis in Yarmouk entirely on a few radical opposition groups inside the camp. The regime’s allied foreign media outlets have claimed that Syrian-Palestinians have always backed the regime. To support this narrative, these outlets have selectively relied on a handful of pro-regime Palestinian factions in Syria. Together, both pro-regime and mainstream media outlets have ignored the experiences of Palestinians who do not support the regime (though for different reasons), effectively concealing the truth behind the suffering under which Yarmouk’s population lives today."

What's at stake in
the battle for Aleppo?

"Rebels say IS militants aren’t taking on Assad’s forces, despite being in a strong position to menace their supply lines into the city. “When they first showed up, they claimed that they would lead the revolution to victory against the criminal regime, but then they turned on us in order to establish their so-called caliphate,” says Free Syrian Army fighter Hassan al-Halebi, who is fighting IS near the village of Telalin. 
He says rebel forces have been “split into two camps: one dedicated to fighting the regime and the other dedicated to fighting IS. We’ve lost many fighters.” He adds, “IS has killed the revolution in every area that comes under their control.” "

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Regime airstrikes kill 30, including seven students

 'A missile fired by a regime jet allegedly targeted a school in Armanaz village in Idlib that left three teachers and seven students dead, the Syrian Revolution General Commission said in a statement.any students were also wounded in the attack and the school’s building also sustained heavy damage. Also, a regime helicopter targeted opposition-controlled Kadi Askar area in Aleppo that left at least 20 civilians dead and scores others injured, the commission said. Syrian National Coalition President Khaled Khoja and French President Francois Hollande met Thursday and agreed that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime from power is the key to countering terrorism in Syria and the only way for any international peace initiative to succeed."Khoja told reporters that it is "quiet hard" to accept the plan suggested by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura as "the Syrian regime keeps breaching all the international peace initiatives.'

View image on Twitter

Former Royal Marine from Yorkshire becomes first Briton to die fighting Isil"He quotes the German revolutionary, Sophie Scholl, on the importance of individual sacrifice, writing: “such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” "

How Yarmouk refugee camp became the worst place in Syria

Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, Damascus, queueing for food.

 Jonathan Steele's story includes a fair amount of unanswered disinformation about the Syrian opposition and their supporters: the SNC want Obama to bomb Damascus, the West oppose a truce in Yarmouk because they support the opposition's interim government, the Free Syrian Army is backed by western governments. But it should still be easy to see how appalling the endorsement of starvation as a war tactic by a PFLP-GC supporter of Assad is.

 “It was a mistake to break the siege. If we had continued by another week, hunger would have forced them to give up.”
Rebel fighters take aim at government forces in Handarat, north of Aleppo (1 March 2015)

 Blast 'hits Aleppo intelligence HQ'

Great news. Syrian air force intelligence isn't an "elite agency" with "a reputation for brutality" as the BBC has it, but the most extreme of torturers* of a state of torturers. Much of Aleppo hasn't been "devastated by two years of fighting", but by Assad's bombing. Assad's forces haven't been making "steady advances" around Aleppo, their latest offensive has been decisively beaten back.** And the BBC ends with suggesting that the UN envoy's proposal for a local ceasefire is the answer to all this bloodshed, without mentioning that it has been rejected by all the rebel groups as a way to prolong Assad's tyranny.*[]

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Image result for syrian american medical society there is no safe place syrian cardiologist
Syrian Medical Voices from the Ground: The Ordeal of Syria’s Healthcare Professionals"In Syria, civilians as well as healthcare personnel, medical facilities, and ambulances are deliberately and routinely targeted as part of the military strategy of the Syrian government. In an attempt to provide ongoing care to the injured, health workers have opened makeshift field hospitals in homes, factories, and farms, often moving from place to place as they suffer damage or destruction. Only two of the facilities where the individuals interviewed for this report worked escaped attack during their tenure, and one of those was hit after the physician interviewed had left. However, as these field hospitals are hidden, even the extensive documentation of attacks on health workers and facilities in Syria inevitably underreport the extent of attacks."

Many Syrians Have Been Displaced Multiple Times

"Ms. Abu Maghara left Aleppo in July after a barrel bomb struck near her building, sending shrapnel and glass tearing through the house and the family cowering for cover. The next day, she, her children and her in-laws got on a minibus and headed back to Al-Bab, her hometown about 25 miles northeast of Aleppo, which has been under Islamic State control for more than a year.
Once she got there, she was unable to leave the house without a male relative escort. Outside she had to abide by a strict dress code on women and her young children risked witnessing the brutal punishments publicly meted out by Islamic State. She said her 12-year-old son didn’t speak or eat for two days after he saw a man being beheaded by the militants in a public square.
If she didn’t leave the house, she told herself, she would be safe. But 10 days after the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Al-Bab was struck 16 times by government planes. More than a month later, the U.S. and its allies in the anti-Islamic State coalition began airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria [and non-Islamic State areas, in fact on anywhere where there are rebels/civilians present].
For months in Al-Bab, Ms. Abu Maghara and her children braced against the regular attacks until Nov. 11. That night, a barrel bomb dropped by regime aircraft struck their home, destroying all but the room they were sleeping in. In the dark of night, neighbors pulled them out of the rubble.
A day later, the family was back on a minibus to Aleppo.
“The people are moving around. They don’t know where to go,” she said. “There is only safety outside of Syria, but living outside of Syria requires money. Everyone else remains in Syria.” "

Is Isis the ultimate evil? They would love you to think so

Isis fighters on the border of Syria and Iraq

 Owen Jones claimed he wasn't denying Assad's responsibility for chemical attacks in 2013. What else are we to make of this passage, other than as exactly that?

 "At times of war, failing to participate with sufficient zealotry in the vilification of the current public enemy number one is treated as apologising for evil, or even as near-treachery. In the summer of 2013, that applied to the Assad regime after it allegedly gassed hundreds of innocent civilians to death."

 The rest of the piece is a strange mish-mash too. He starts of by talking about the barrel bombs in Syria, but then just says that Assad doesn't flaunt his attacks, and goes off on a tangent. Clay Claiborne* has answered the standard claim that, "We knew that jihadis were fighting against Colonel Gaddafi in 2011, and as we bombed Libya, we were their de facto allies. Thanks to western intervention, large chunks of Libya are now under their sway."
 "And let’s drop the pretence that the west did not effectively back jihadis in Syria either." Jones has two pieces of support for this claim. One is that a hostage reports that he was handed over by people who he thinks were FSA back to Jabhat al-Nusra. Even if this is the case, it doesn't mean they were even allies, just that they had a minimal level of co-operation in that locality. The other is a vague account of an intelligence report by someone in the CIA saying that hadn't got a clue what is going on in Syria, with nothing to do with any American or Western support for the Syrian opposition at all. The lesson here is not that Western intervention is always the major evil anywhere in the Middle East, but if you don't support those fighting against a régime armed with billion dollars of weaponry, they will find them from somewhere, and will less interested in Western notions of democracy the more they are abandoned to horror without the means to defend themselves. The war on terror and Owen Jones aren't polar opposites, they are both ways of saying the agency of those concerned should be ignored and their suffering allowed to continue.
Racists attacked mosques following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013

State terror and West’s wars helped create an Isis fighter
The first part  is right, the second is not.
"In Syria the rise of Isis has been fuelled by the success of the counter-revolution of dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Assad was happy to see Isis forces attack the popular revolt that posed a threat to his power. Isis had been backed by Gulf regimes desperate to see an end to revolution in the region. Now they support the West’s latest intervention by bombing Isis forces they all helped grow."

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tomorrow Never Comes

US will 'protect' Syrian rebels when time comes
'Retired US general John Allen, President Barack Obama's envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group, insisted that once moderate Syrian rebels were vetted, trained and armed, they would not be abandoned on the battlefield.
"It is clearly part of our plan, that not only we will train them, and we will equip them with the latest weapons systems, but we will also protect them when the time comes," Allen said at an event organized by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.
Asked if the Syrian rebels would be asked to fight without air cover or a no-fly zone, Allen said "all of those things are under consideration."
"So it's important that you not believe that we would not support these fighters," he said.'

Prague Daily Monitor

Syrian activist Nawfal describes her career in Prague
"She said when the Syrian military was bombing Rakka, it attacked schools, hospitals and civilian areas. It never tried to hit the buildings and areas dominated by the Daish (the name for IS used in the Arab world), she added. She said she and other activists had gone to the streets to protest against IS, like against Assad's regime. Nawfal said they wanted to make it clear that this was a revolution for their freedom, not for what they [IS militants] wanted. If the international community does not do anything but watch how 100, 200 people a day are killed, nothing seems to suggest that anything will change, Nawfal said. She said the world should help Syrians get rid of Assad's regime."

FSA soldiers live in fear in Arsal
Having suffered the double injustice of both fleeing ISIS and standing accused of colluding with its members, morale is desperately low among FSA ranks in Arsal.“We have reached a situation that is very bad. It couldn’t get worse,” said Mohammad, also an FSA commander residing on the outskirts of Arsal. “The Syrian revolution has been orphaned. After what they [ISIS] did in Mosul and after they were trying to build an Islamic State in my country, I felt that this was really an attack on my dignity. I won’t allow myself to go with them ... I am still convinced that we want a free Syria, a democratic country where the people can decide. I know the Islamic State will not provide me with that. We used to offer the revolution everything we had, but today we have become a burden on the revolution because we don’t have anything to offer anymore except our lives, and that is our last option.”
Syrian rebel fighters
The Hazm movement had been seen as the ‘poster boy’ of the moderate opposition Washington hopes can be trained to oust President Bashar al-Assad

Ian Black or his sub-editor should know better. Washington hoped that they could be trained to fight ISIS, and leave Assad alone as much as possible. It is because they aren't some proxy force that the Americans can simply direct to its own ends that the policy has fallen apart.
abbott in iraq

It pains me to say it, but Abbott has learned nothing about Iraq. He's taken the Islamic State's bait

Monday, 2 March 2015

Why Syria’s Assad Must Go – Now

Murhaf Jouejati:

"Assad has done much to prop up ISIS, first by releasing hard-core jihadis from his prisons under the guise of presidential amnesty to political prisoners (many of them now constitute the leadership of ISIS), then by aggrandizing ISIS financially through government purchase of oil from the fields ISIS controls (the Assad regime currently purchases electricity from ISIS), and now by concentrating most regime fire, in concert with ISIS, against moderate, secular rebels. In return, ISIS largely abstains from battling Assad’s forces.Without a strong moderate Syrian opposition, there is no way to defeat ISIS in Syria or force a real transition in Damascus."

Aleppo Residents Burn Furniture to Protect Children from Freezing in Winter

"Please don’t remind me of how I feel burning my furniture, which I struggled to buy as a result of my own sweat and hard work. When I spoke with my wife about burning our bedroom set, she cried and told me to do whatever I felt was best, since the safety of the children is more important than anything. We started burning it and we slept on the ground. After one week the whole room was empty. Now I’m burning the living room furniture like I mentioned earlier. After a while it will also be gone and I will have to find other things to burn.Most people left their homes because of the heavy shelling. The Hanano residences are considered one of the most-shelled areas in Aleppo, and they are still being shelled by the regime’s air force, and that’s because they close to the front line. There are only a few hundred families left, yet there used to be over 40,000 families.This war left has no one unharmed. Everybody has lost. We hoped the world would pay attention to us and see the massacres we’ve been suffering for four years. We asked for freedom and dignity. We deserve them and we will fight for them in spite of all the martial complications, and all the armed groups, such as those enemies of the Syrian people, Daesh [ISIS]. We are the owners of the land and we will triumph.I think it must be a military solution and not political at all, because he who kills people in prisons and starves them and burns them alive cannot be faced with humanity, and surely not with a political solution The answer must be the union of the rebels under one flag, and by aiming our guns at the government. Everything else is a waste of time.Before the revolution I was considering improving my business to give my children a better future, and everything was going well, but the non-stop war forced me to leave my job and work as a taxi driver. I feel sad when I see the children, and not just my children. They don’t play and they don’t go to schools. It hurts me when one of my kids asks me to buy him a toy and I don’t have the money to buy it. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced. It’s weird, this feeling I get when a helicopter is flying above our house and my family is panicking, and we try to comfort ourselves by praying to God to keep it away from us."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AFP)

The Russo-Iranian struggle for Syria
 "Iran is trying to put forward a formula for Syria like the formula Syria put forward for Lebanon. It is trying to use the war on terror, the Arab-international campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS), and the nuclear talks to propose the following deal: the security of Israel and the Gulf in exchange for control of decision making in the Levant and Iraq. In other words, Iran would be allowed to direct political matters in a way that serves the interests of the West and the Gulf.This proposal does not worry the Obama administration; in fact, Washington is ready to negotiate. US support for the “moderate opposition” is part of its negotiation efforts—Washington is “wearing down” Tehran and bringing it to the debating table. However, Iran’s proposal does worry Vladimir Putin. Since the beginning of the crisis, Russia has been protecting the regime in the United Nations Security Council by using its right to veto with support from China. It has also been giving financial support to Syrian state institutions. Moscow sees its influence historically in the traditional institutions, especially the army and the security forces. Tehran sees its influence in non-governmental institutions. Russia believes in a “top-down” solution through its interpretation of the 2012 Geneva Communique and the idea of a transitional governing body. Iran believes in a “bottom-up” solution through UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s plan because it gives a larger role to local leaders and militias.As well as establishing the NDF, Iran has sought to increase the amount of Syrian real estate it purchases, enlarge Shiite shrines in Damascus and Homs, and facilitate the emergence of a new class of businessmen, who have benefitted from the commissions produced by the evasion of US and European sanctions, especially in the oil and energy sector, and provision of foodstuffs. In addition to this new class of businessmen, “warlords” have set their sights on the reconstruction plans for demolished areas of the capital. They hope to combine recent financial gains with demographic changes that have taken place in the “poverty belt” formed around Damascus after the middle of the 20th century—an area which has played a prominent role over the past four years, both in the peaceful and militarized phases of the uprising."

Forgotten in Hell

Assad jailers rape virgins, kill pregnant women: former female detainee
Lama Shammas
"They burned women's bodies with hot poles, while hanging them on “the Ghost” from hands for hours was a regular practice," Om Ahmed said.
The former detainee mentioned that she was subject to tough torture, as security members wanted information about the rebels and their details and places. "They used to drop cold water on my head and body, then hit me, I was hanged from my hand many times on “the Ghost” and tried to humiliate me. However the torture I received was not comparable to what other women had had".

Main U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Disbanding, Joining Islamists
Still U.S. backed in the headline when the point is that U.S. backing is lacking.
"A 50-man intelligence unit formed by Hazm to assist in on-the-ground damage assessment of U.S. airstrikes on ISIS and to provide information on al Nusra was disbanded because of the funding reductions, a senior opposition source told The Daily Beast.The cuts in Hazm’s funding coincided with Obama administration aides claiming they were ramping up their efforts to launch a train-and-equip program—promised since September—for rebel militias, part of a U.S. effort to form a proxy force to battle the so-called Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS.Hazm was frequently touted by Obama aides as one of the militias they could rely on—a brigade that could partner on train-and-equip.But like other moderate militias, the program didn’t sit well with Hazm fighters, who were infuriated with Washington at what they saw as a downgrading of their efforts to topple President Assad."

Syria's Bashar al-Assad

ASSAD OR IS? NO NEED TO CHOOSE“Bashar al-Assad has been murdering his people for years. He is not part of the solution for Syria. We don’t need to choose between a bloody dictator and a ruthless terrorist army. The two should be fought.”

ASU student: I went into Syria months after Kayla Mueller

PNI asu zana syria humanitarian visit

 "You cross that fence and you're in a completely disheveled country," Alattar said. "You have refugee tents as far as your eye can see, people who fled their cities and homes. In the distance you can hear the bombing and what's going on in the cities. It's not exactly comforting but you know the work you need to do needs to be done by someone." The moment they passed through that gate, an imaginary clock started ticking. They had to be out of the country by 4 p.m., Alattar said, because that's when the bombing usually starts. "That was a big thing that was nerve-racking to me like, OK, the bombing starts at 4 so you need to get me out, but what about everyone else who stays on the other side of the border? The bombing is going to continue," Alattar said. They sped toward the sister hospital, where Alattar "saw things that you literally could see in horror movies." This Syria was "night-and-day different" from the one she had visited three years ago. The hospital, in an abandoned school, was the last near the border before Turkey. It was the only place people getting injured from bombings in nearby cities could go; Alattar said wounded resisters can't go to government hospitals because they'll be killed. Doctors, dentists and engineers who chose to stay in Syria were working at the hospital for free.A young Romanian had driven into Syria with them to visit the hospital, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired man who had delivered three truckloads of water, cleaning supplies and food into Syria the other day."When we got into hospital everybody was like 'Hide this guy! Hide this guy! Don't let him in'" Bitar said. "Everybody was scared for his life because of ISIS. Everyone knows if you are American-looking or Western-looking you are in danger."

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The use and abuse of Syrian Christians

Image via

"US President Barack Obama reportedly told a delegation of Eastern Christian patriarchs that the Syrian government “protected Christians in Syria.” Whether he was being sarcastic, or he genuinely believed this to be true, it was a slap in the face for Syrian Christians.
 Most of them believed that the Assad regime and the state’s army would defend them, since they were a minority group that did not create problems for the government. 
But in fact, the regime has been using them to prove to the West that their government is a better option than the opposition. Attacking, kidnapping and killing Christians in Syria has always made headlines in Western media.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report last year, which revealed that ISIS was systematically killing, torturing, raping, beheading, crucifying, and burying alive children and families from the Yazidi sect and Christian communities.   
This was terrible news for the Western world, but great news for the Iranian-Syrian alliance. News like this proves their propagandizing that the Syrian rebels, as a whole, are barbaric jihadists who want to eliminate all groups except Sunnis. Where the Nusra Front failed, ISIS succeeded. 
The West is terrified, and that is what both groups wanted from the beginning. The abuse of Christians is a great marketing strategy for both the Islamic State and the Syrian-Iranian alliance. The Islamic State proves to fanatics worldwide that massacring Christians is possible, and they also entice other affiliated groups to do the same. The Syrian-Iranian alliance can also grin, because this way, they prove to the West that they’re the “better choice.” 
After all, the massacre of 10 children in Ratyan didn’t make such big waves."

Alaa Basatneh.  Photo by Megan Boguszko.

‘Chicago girl’ leads Syrian Revolution from Des Plaines to Damascus

“If you go to that country, it’s painfully obvious that there is a deliberate strategy on behalf of the regime to pick off moderate opposition and sort of let ISIS do its thing. It’s totally relevant that ISIS has killed more members of the opposition than of the regime. They are truly despised within the country, as is the Assad regime. It’s tremendously obvious that this was a part of the strategy from the get-go. A lot of the people in ISIS are people that Assad released from prison at the very beginning of the uprising.There’s this misconception that America is providing some weapons to the rebels, but it’s a lot more of situations like machine guns being put together with bicycle parts, things like that. The equipment that people have is not really state of the art in the opposition, whereas the regime has equipment and jets from Hezbollah, from Iran. It’s like a rag-tag, disorganized rebel force up against a state-of-the-art army.”