Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Woman’s Harrowing Account of Torture and Abuse Inside Assad’s Prisons

 "I was studying at the Secretariat Institute when the revolution erupted in parts of Damascus. It started to become clear to me that this corrupt regime was killing innocent people for claiming their freedom and dignity and I decided to join up.

 I was held by the intelligence division for 47 days. I was questioned 19 times and every time they hit me on my face, then with a rifle they hit me on sensitive places on my body; they electrocuted me then put me in cold water then electrocuted me again. I died a thousand times each second. Because of the torture I confessed to things I had nothing to do with, like working with armed groups, and I told them random names that I made up. All this caused me to get in trouble for things I had nothing to do with. I still have marks of the electrocution on my body.

 Praying was forbidden for all religions, Muslims or Christians, but the majority were Muslims. The food was so bad – some days they brought us rice with bugs in it or old, freezing bulgur. We used to wake up every day to the smell of rotten bodies – people who had died from the torture. Nobody could say anything because it was forbidden to knock on the door of your cell unless you had something to add to your confession. Every day we saw no fewer than 12 bodies."
Image result for U.S. President Barack Obama in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya

U.S. President Barack Obama in an
 exclusive interview with Al Arabiya

NADIA BILBASSY-CHARTERS:"Somehow it’s perceived in the region that you’re putting down the Sunni Arabs, that somehow you link them to extremists."

Not immediately following, or it would be obvious -
"The problem we also have is that on the other side inside of Syria, we have extremists who may be opposed to Assad but also deeply opposed to the United States, are deeply opposed to the GCC countries; are interested in establishing a very destructive order and have engaged in the same kinds of brutality and violence that we don't want to see deeply entrenched."

He's probably had his national security advisors tell him that Jabhat al-Nusra are just as bad as Assad or ISIS, so this may be as much down to ignorance and ideological preconceptions as mendacity. He doesn't have any problem with extremism when it comes to Saudi Arabia or the GCC countries. On what could be done to sort Syria out, he must know that it's a lie that the only options were an American invasion or nothing at all.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  "If the United States simply sent in troops into Syria -- our military is very effective, and for a short period of time, we potentially could come down on the side of the opposition against Assad.If you look at the history of the process, essentially what they're arguing is that we should have invaded Syria and overthrown the Syrian regime."
He should be criticised not only for not arming the Syrian opposition, the sort of action that could have seen the advances on the battlefield taking place now occur three years ago, and averted much of the destruction, but also for preventing others from giving them the weaponry they needed to change the balance of forces. But that is the sort of criticism he just ignores. And the diplomatic solution he's looking for isn't one that sees the overthrow of the régime, and the punishment of the war criminals, but one that keeps as much of Assad's state in place, and excludes as many Islamists as they can. If the rebels win, you can be sure he'll remind us that he called for Assad to go all along, but he's going to do as little as he can to help.
"People may criticize us for not having launched missiles against Assad after chemical weapons had been used, but keep in mind why we didn't. We didn't because they got rid of their chemical weapons. 

And that, in fact, was very important. It didn't solve barrel bombs. It didn't solve the incredible hardships that all the Syrian people are going through. But to solve those larger problems, that requires the kind of international work in which we are obviously a very significant part and a very significant partner -- and my Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been tireless in trying to arrive at a diplomatic solution to this problem."

Embedded image permalink

Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh

You fool our nation, I tear your picture

"This same hand that hung your picture fondly and proudly on my office wall, considering you an icon and symbol of the resistance against the Zionist enemy is the same hand that tore your picture today with disgustedly and disdainfully.
Hezbollah entered Syria to rescue the murderer Bashar Al-Assad and eliminate the Syrian people after the army failed to end the war in its favour. Nasrallah is bragging about his achievements in Syria and forgot all he, and his leader, Khamenei, had said in the past about standing by the helpless and vulnerable people in the world. Is the killer Bashar Al-Assad considered helpless and vulnerable while the Syrian people who revolted to demand their freedom and dignity are considered brutal tyrants who are stamping Al-Assad with their boots?
Nasrallah and his party fooled us, but I thank God that we are finally seeing the light and they they are being exposed."

Meet The Syrian Doctor Treating Aleppo’s Civilians

 'Khatib is the only doctor serving two hospitals in Aleppo. He says the supplies come from various international aid organizations. He has worked in four different hospitals since the start of the war. Two of them were shelled by the regime. He said a Palestinian doctor visited him two years into the war. “He asked: “Why don’t you give the GPS coordinates of the hospital to the regime so they won’t hit it? We always do that with Israel,”” Khatib recalled with a bitter laugh.

 He says he does not understand why Assad targets hospitals. “Why would the regime be killing the children? Why would the regime be killing the women, the old people? Why would they be hitting with chemical weapons?” He wondered aloud. “He (Assad) has crossed all the lines.”  

Drawings from the edge of death

"As a political refugee in Switzerland, Hani Abbas chose exile to escape Syrian security forces. Many of his fellow cartoonists and journalists had been assassinated, imprisoned or tortured.
Abbas was born in 1977 in Yarmouk, a large Palestinian refugee camp in the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Following the sudden disappearance of his two closest colleagues, who were tortured to death by the security forces of the regime, Abbas took advantage of the countrywide chaos and managed to cross the border into Lebanon with his family."

Friday, 15 May 2015

Image result for Obama — “Assad Gave Up His Chemical Weapons”

Syria Video Feature: Obama —

“Chlorine is not historically a chemical weapon.”
The victims will be thrilled to know that.

The Muppet Show

 Jim Muir has a piece on the BBC website* that illustrate's Desmond Tutu's point, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," and not in a good way.

 Let's start with the first couple of paragraphs.

 "Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed...", "His Lebanese ally Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, agrees..."

 So do we hear for balance from the Syrian National Coalition, the Free Syrian Army, or any other Syrians opposed to Assad and his foreign backers? No, we are told "some of his adversaries and critics" think his régime could collapse, an unnamed diplomat thinks he's on the ropes. So he appears the one with a plausible case, while his critics hide in the shadows.

 "Even some of his core constituents - and many ordinary citizens in Damascus and elsewhere - were deeply unsettled by recent regime losses, especially in the north-western province of Idlib, where the regional capital fell at the end of March to a rebel alliance, followed shortly by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour."

 So ordinary citizens are worried that he might fall, rather than being the people who are fleeing in their millions from his bombing. This isn't really reporting the news, more catching up on what others had reported. Since the capture of Jisr al-Shugour the rebels have moved close to Ariha**. As with the couple of hundred Assad soldiers trapped in the basement of the National Hospital in Jisr al-Shugour, there may be several thousand in Ariha with no way out, their capture or death would be a devastating blow to Assad's credibility. The rebels have also cut the highway to Hama*** in what looks like preparation to take the remaining régime-held areas in Syria second city, Aleppo. Incidentally, where Jabhat al-Nusra seems to have been excluded from the Fatah Halab coalition in Aleppo it seems to be happy with that, the division of labour seems like another sign that all the rebel factions are focusing on fighting Assad to the exclusion of other differences.

 "The absence of further rabbits to pull out of the hat is why some diplomats are cautiously hopeful that the low-key peace consultations launched in Geneva by the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, might just bear fruit."

 The Syrians have given a firm reply to this****:

 "Your positions and statements, especially the one which said Bashar al-Assad is part of the solution in Syria, have shown clear confusion in the way you deal with Syrian affairs. Your statements gave us a clear impression that you do not care about the massacres committed by the regime in Syria – such as the massacre in Douma that took place not far from your seat in Damascus, where you did not show any sign of objection or denouncement, and you also did not show any form of sympathy with the victims. This convinced us that the UN envoy had given up his neutrality, preferring one side over the other.

The invitation lacks any clear foundations or means to reach a solution, especially as it is based on Geneva statement which did not mention the departure of Assad and his regime with all its symbols and pillars, a request upon which all the revolutionary forces agreed as the basis for any supposed solution".

 Jim Muir isn't interested in this, the only objectors to the Geneva process he notes are by "the Saudis and their Gulf partners." That's because he sees Syria not as a revolution by Syrians, but as a proxy war*****. While we're looking at his record, here****** he is from April 2014.

 "Equally, military victory by the fractious and feuding rebel groups is now
a distant dream. Some of their regional backers may still want it, but the
Western powers which pull many of the strings behind the scenes never
did anyway."

 While the regional powers were willing to go along with the Americans in neutering
the revolution, this mutual alibiing could hide the truth that it was Assad who was
relying on foreign backers, and the Western role was as a spolier not an enabler of
the opposition.

 "By using their unique influence and penetration in Damascus to engineer the removal of Mr Assad and a transition to a figure acceptable as an interlocutor to the rebels and their regional backers, for whom the demise of the hated ruler is a must, the Iranians could at least hope to secure the "useful" parts of Syria rather than lose everything."

 As we have seen, the removal of Assad, but keeping his régime in place is not acceptable to anyone in the opposition. How would any of the refugees return, with the torturers still in place? How could there be any stability with the many crimes of the régime unpunished? How could Syrians put up with any Iranian control over their country, after the ethnic cleansing they've engaged in*******? The answer is they couldn't. So the UN process is either a way of betraying Syrians again, or at best a holding operation so the international community can be seen to be doing something.

 "Neither [Tehran or Washigton] wants to see a regime collapse and a sudden rush of more or less extremist Sunni Islamist elements to fill the vacuum."Washington has made it clear that it still worries more about Islamists than Assad.******** It is Assad who has created the sectarian problem, as Michael Young points out this week.*********

 "Assad gave up any pretense of heading an Arab nationalist regime when, in 2011, he took the conflict in Syria in a sectarian direction. He always knew that by ordering his men to fire on unarmed protesters and labeling them Muslim extremists, he would provoke rising sectarian tensions between Alawites and Sunnis."

 "Any ceasefire would leave Syria effectively divided into five zones of influence or control, some overlapping: areas held by government forces; "moderate" rebel forces; the Islamist al-Nusra Front and its allies; the extremist Islamic State; and the Kurds.

 If the removal of President Assad and his circle somehow paved the way for a truce between rebels and a regime under new management, all four of the non-IS forces could be motivated to go after the militants.

 The only major city in Syria controlled by IS is Raqqa, its headquarters. Analysts believe that if the other forces banded together under a joint operations room with US-led coalition air support, it would not take more than a few months to clear the militants out.

 That may seem like extreme fantasy now, but steadily-building pressures are likely to produce scenarios that are hard to predict."

 It's a fantasy that only enables the extremists of the Assad régime to continue their genocide.

 'Most analysts rule out an outright collapse of the Alawite-dominated regime. As one put it: "They have nowhere to collapse to." '

 This again is the Assad narrative that Alawites and Christians will fight to the end to protect him. It ignores the way tens of thousands, including Alawites, have fled rather than be accomplices in genocide. It ignores that a rump state would lose international legitmacy, so the opposition could get the recognition and weaponry they need to finish off the war. It follows the pro-Assad narrative that Jabhat al-Nusra will murder all non-Sunnis if they get the chance., and that all those still in régime areas believe that, despite the fear still engendered by the arrest and torture of anyone who is alleged to be disrupting national sentiment. And what are the remains of Assad forces going to do when they can't retreat any further, just declare that the collapse isn't happening?

 While I'm at it compare Robert Fisk at the Independent a month ago,***********

Sunday 12 April 2015 Ten years later, and we still don’t know who assassinated Lebanon's leader

 with now,***********

 Rafiq Hariri tribunal: Was the former Lebanon PM's assassination the work of Syria's President Assad? A special tribunal at The Hague has heard dramatic new evidence apparently linking the Syrian regime with the 2005 killing of Lebanon's former leader – and it concurs chillingly with what Robert Fisk was told at the time.
Wednesday 13 May 2015

 The Independent must be edited by goldfish. Finally former Lebanese government minister has been sentenced for planning to carry out sectarian bombings in Lebanon for Assad.************ It is Assad who has destabilised the region, not some combination of Western powers, and whoever the conspiracy theorists want to implicate this week. Samaha got 4 1/2 years, with time served he'll be out in December.

* "Is Syria's war edging towards an outcome?" []

******** "However, the official told VOA that the US was wary of any no-fly zone because it meant involvement with rebel factions and thus — because of battlefield cooperation — the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra: “Jabhat al-Nusra is a designated terrorist organization, we are prevented by U.S. law from working with the group.”

He also cited the supposed dangers of others in the Jaish al-Fatah rebel operations room, which was launched for the successful rebel offensive in northwest Syria and is now being implemented in other parts of Syria: “Other militias [Jaish al-Fatah] in the Army of Conquest like Ahrar-Sham may not be designated terrorist organizations and we may consider them more gray, but it is a gray which is pretty close to black.” "[]
syrian notebooks

An Account Syncopated by Death: Littell’s Syrian Notebooks

Robin Yassin-Kassab

'Reporting from Syria has been cursed by journalists who embed with the regime’s army or fall prey to regime-planted conspiracy theories. Littell mentions an article penned by Georges Malbrunot for Le Figaro blaming the Free Army for journalist Gilles Jacquier’s death “on the basis of an anonymous source in Paris citing an anonymous source in Homs.” Similar blame-the-victims hoaxes were retailed by Assad’s useful idiots after the Houleh and Ghouta massacres.
Littell’s account is unembedded, and his narrative – pared down to the physical, psychological and political details – is never gullible. He records an informational chaos in which contradictory versions swirl, and remarks, for example, on revolutionaries feeding al-Jazeera a false report of captured Iranian officers – they turned out to be engineers working at a power plant. The civilian Media Office, then still clinging to the revolution’s non-violent image, persistently obstructs Littell’s investigations. The armed resistance is more helpful, though it too betrays anger that foreign coverage doesn’t translate into solidarity. “The period when we showed things is over,” complains one officer. “If your peoples haven’t understood for eleven months, there’s no point.”
Littell travels not by permission of the regime’s security grid, but via the “counter-grid” which circumvents it, a network including revolutionary Christians, an Alawi resistance fighter, and a woman who, having lost three sons to Assad, has vowed to cook for the fighters daily. He drinks syrupy whisky with a man who “believes in Karl Marx the way others believe in Jesus or Muhammad,” and affectionately finds the Free Army to be “novice guerillas; novices in PR, above all.” '

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Doctors in Hellish Aleppo Ask the World for More Help

"Following the release of an Amnesty International report accusing Bashar al-Assad’s government of war crimes in Aleppo, the city’s few remaining doctors are appealing for more assistance to treat hundreds of wounded people.
The northern city has witnessed some of the most gruesome deaths and the worst destruction of the conflict. The government has systemically attacked the city’s civilian areas, notably with barrel bombs – filled with explosives and shrapnel and designed to kill and maim as many people as possible – leading Amnesty earlier this month to accuse the Assad government of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the commercial capital.
Notably, the government has repeatedly targeted field hospitals in its aerial campaigns, not only in Aleppo, but in other cities such as Raqqa. Overall, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented the destruction of 200 hospitals across the country by the government since July 2013."

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


"Ahmed, 8, is blind. He lives in a plastic tent with his family and dreams of getting an operation so, one day, he can see. ‘There’s a rubber tire outside our house that I like to play with. But sometimes it rolls away and I can’t find it,’ he said."
Bashar al-Assad

Smuggled Syrian documents enough to
 indict Bashar al-Assad, say investigators
"The prosecution cases against the Syrian leaders focus on their role in the suppression of the protests that triggered the conflict in 2011. Tens of thousands of 
suspected dissidents were detained, and many of them were tortured and killed in the Syrian prison system."
Many thousands more are still being tortured and killed.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Mayhem in Middle East as Blair plays the Invisible Man

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Once more Eamonn McCann brings us pro-Assad propaganda, unchecked for any veracity.

'In Syria in September 2013 the residents of a Christian village, Maaloula, which had been overrun by al-Qaida-aligned Islamic extremists, appealed for and were given arms by nearby units of Bashir Assad's army. They had been horrified by credible threats from the invaders to destroy two of the most ancient Christian sites in the world.'
There was no credible threat to destroy Christian sites in Maaloula.
"Imad, said there had been 32 churches in Maaloula and claimed that "all of them have been destroyed" - although it was clear from the vantage point near the monastery that in fact churches were still standing, albeit with signs of damage and some burning.'
It was all part of the Assad régime's diverting attention from its campaign of mass murder against Sunni Muslims in Syria.
The government recently facilitated reports on the presence of ruthless Islamist fighters in Maaloula, a town of Christians, whom the regime depicts as under threat from the rebels. Meanwhile, thousands of Syrian civilians mass in camps in the north, unseen on Western television screens, as they flee from salvoes of regime rockets.'
Eamonn's next paragraph contains multiple untruths.
'At the time, under pressure from Israel, Saudi Arabia and elements in the US Congress, the Obama administration was contemplating a bombing campaign against Assad in retaliation for a chemical weapons assault on a suburb of Damascus which had killed dozens (at least) of civilians and which was widely attributed to Assad.'
It's just a lie about Israel. Like Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, there is just no evidence for it whatsoever. At the time the story was put about that hundreds of AIPAC [the main pro-Israel lobbying organisation in Washington] staffers were being sent to Capitol Hill to argue for US airstrikes, it simply didn't happen. Israel has maintained a policy of neutrality in the Syrian conflict, as worried about a jihadi takeover of Syria as Eamonn McCann appears to be. There was a story that a UN report showed co-operation between Israel and Jabhat al-Nusra (or in the more lunatic version, ISIS). I've read that report. The Israelis handed over two boxes, probably of medical supplies from the context, to people not even positively identified as Nusra. And the Israelis treat Free Syrian Army casualties, not those of Nusra, and certainly not those of ISIS who fight against the Free Syrian Army rather than Assad, in their hospitals, because the Assad régime has bombed every hospital in rebel-held areas of Syria.[]
The Obama administration didn't contemplate a bombing campaign, but a few token airstrikes to get off the hook of having announced red lines over Assad's war crimes, and doing nothing to enforce them. It went to Congress for the same reason Cameron went to Parliament, to get someone else to say no to military action. As I wrote at the time:
"If the Left claims that thousands will die in carpet bombing, that depleted uranium will be scattered across Syria, that American soldiers will be dying to help al-Qaida, and none of these things turn out to be true, it will discredit the Left, and because the Left does not control the media, that impression will stay for a long time, and when the US does want to intervene, the pendulum will have swung back to it being easy again for the US to do what it wants. And if the situation in Syria takes another step towards Hell, then there is a greater likelihood that American, French or British power will be brought to bear on Syria, rather than the empowerment of those rebels that we just don’t know about from what we’ve read in the press." []
The hoax that the US was going to attack Syria was designed to divert attention the means that could have empowered Syrians, giving them anti-aircraft missiles, which would have stopped the barrel bomb attacks, stopped the refugees fleeing from the bombing, and left Assad without a strategy to maintain terror in Syria.
And then there's the chemical weapons denial. There is no evidence that the rebels used or possessed any chemical weapons, and it is ludicrous to suggest that the rebels would have gassed themselves to provoke US intervention, a suggestion reminiscent of Israeli claims that Arabs don't care about human life. Especially as the proposed agent, Jabhat al-Nusra, is completely opposed to US intervention in Syria. I believe they had no presence in the areas of Damascus attacked, and would certainly have been noticed by the forces of the Free Syrian Army and the Army of Islam who were. And against the idea that Assad had no reason to use chemical weapons, he has since carried out daily attacks with chlorine bombs, and despite the deal to remove his chemical weapons stockpile (which the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on record as approving), traces of VX and sarin are still being found at Assad's facilities.[] It is one thing to ignore Assad's genocide against Syrians, this really is in the realm of Holocaust denial, though without the gap of seventy years it is even less plausible and more offensive. And 1500 civilians were murdered, many of them children sleeping on the ground floor because their parents feared for them if the upper floors were bombed, not dozens.
The rest of the nonsense in this piece may be more easily picked apart by those expert on the particular subjects. The Saudi war are not acting as a US proxy in its war against the Houthis, the US want a ceasefire to go along with their nuclear deal with Iran, which is one reason the Saudi king is refusing to attend a summit with President Obama and sending his crown prince instead. This language of proxies has been a mainstay of pro-Assad propaganda about Syria, the reality is that the rebel forces are overwhelmingly Syrian, and have received minimal support from the outside world, while Assad would not have survived this long without a billion dollars of weaponry each month, and since 2013, tens of thousands of Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi sectarian mercenaries.

Monday, 11 May 2015

In Syrian civil war, AP journalists gain rare glimpse as Hezbollah fights for mountain range


It's not rare for Western journalists to be embedded with Assad's forces, like Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk of the Independent, or Jeremy Bowen of the BBC, and report their view that this is a civil war against  terrorists, rather than a revolution against tyranny. It is those Assad and Hezbollah have been bombing mercilessly who have trouble getting their story told in the world's media, because Assad murders and tortures journalists, as do the barbarians from ISIS he has encouraged to take over the liberated areas.
"Some 3,000 militants are in the Qalamoun region, almost equally split between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, a Hezbollah commander recently said in Beirut."
Those from Nusra, and all the other rebel groups that Assad and his tame journalists pretend don't exist, have been fighting ISIS in the Qalamoun. Hezbollah has no intention of fighting ISIS there.

' "The situation is better than perfect," one smiling Hezbollah fighter said, speaking along with others anonymously as part of the conditions Hezbollah set to allow AP journalists to make the trip.'
So they don't tell us that Hezbollah have already lost 7 commanders and another 40 troops in this operation before it has barely begun.
'Christian politician Karim Pakradouni told Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station Sunday that "the battle should be carried out no matter how much it costs because it will end terrorism in Lebanon." '
Hezbollah ally told Hezbollah's TV station.
"Only Hezbollah is responsible for the repercussions of its involvement in the war at the service of" Assad, said Hariri, who lives in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia and France.
There is a Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the moment investigating the murder of Hariri's father, Rafic Hariri, by Assad in 2005, so his exile might be seen as a little more than self-imposed.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Life in Syria for Christians: teaching
 tolerance and harmony among the faithful

"My colleague, Salam Al-Haddad, jumped in. He’s a Sunni Damascus native who has been volunteering at Zaatari since fleeing Syria two years ago. He asked the kids if they knew the story of the Caliph Omar. They shook their heads.
He told them how the Caliph Omar, the second caliph of Islam, made his way to Jerusalem to sign a peace treaty that said, “… the inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be quite free to follow their religion. They shall not be put to any trouble.”
So, Salam asked them, if the Caliph Omar wanted to protect Christians and their places of worship, shouldn’t we want to do the same?
The kids stared back at Salam and me, a Muslim and a Christian standing there side by side. I waited as our message sunk in. They seemed to be absorbing the idea that Syria could in fact belong to both Muslims and Christians.
“Now who wants to rebuild both a Mosque and a church in our arts activity to rebuild Syria?” I asked. They jumped from their seats and gathered in small circles around the art supplies I had laid out for them on the floor as they shouted “Me! Me!” I looked at them pass around markers, glue sticks and cardboard while planning the design of their “new town.” "