Saturday, 7 November 2015

Why is Russia bombing my town?

 Raed Fares

 'While Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that he is bombing Islamic State “terrorists” in Kafranbel, this cannot be true, or there is no way I would be able to move about freely. Kafranbel is known for its moderation and civil activism; I know that these are Putin’s real targets.

 If civil activism in Kafranbel declines, though, I will blame Russia. One reason for our thriving civil society is that we are being defended by Free Syrian Army fighters who grew up in the town and are firmly committed to democracy. These fighters, who have received U.S. assistance, serve as a check on any extremist groups that try to cause trouble. Russia is bombing the pro-democracy fighters of Kafranbel most heavily, almost as if it wants the extremists to grow stronger. For this reason, Russia has emerged as an enemy of civil society here. Local activists have taken the rare steps of burning a Russian flag and protesting alongside local Free Syrian Army fighters to highlight this point.

 It’s hypocritical for Putin to bomb Kafranbel in the name of “fighting extremism.” Kafranbel residents have gone to great lengths to empower women; monitors note the decline of women’s rights in Russia since Putin took power. Residents of Kafranbel have worked hard to create an inclusive and tolerant atmosphere; Putin’s state priests have declared a “holy war” in Syria after less than a month of combat. I’ve been under bombardment in Syria for four and a half years without declaring a “holy war.” Why does Putin find it so hard to restrain himself?
 Americans should not be so passive in the face of Putin’s farcical anti-Islamic State campaign. Kafranbel’s thriving civil society is in many ways modeled after that of the United States, and in some cases has even received U.S. funding. Putin long ago made clear that he is no fan of civil society in general, so when he assaults the free people of Kafranbel (or Ukraine), Americans should take notice. I hope that the American people will come to the defense of Kafranbel and all Syrians who are fighting for democracy, because their country’s current behavior, as a bystander to atrocities against free people, cannot possibly be a true reflection of what the United States stands for.'

Stop the War Coalition lie about being lied about

Omar Sabbour

 'In response to Stop the War statement regarding Parliamentary meeting event on the 4th November 2015.
 Lie No.1: Regarding “Andrew Murray’s support for the Syrian regime”
 During the meeting Andrew Murray called for the support of the Syrian Army and the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIS. This will be on record of the footage that Stop the War Coalition have yet to release of the meeting (unless they choose to edit it).
 It should be noted that it is not the person of Assad himself which has caused the destruction in Syria, it is an entire military-security-intelligence apparatus of a fascist (self-defined nationalist-socialist) state. It is not Assad himself who has been dropping bombs every single day for the past 4 years, raped thousands of women and men, or tortured to death thousands of detainees, it an entire state set of apparatuses. Indeed, the long touted “political solution” supported by the International powers since 2012, whereby despite perceptions of “difference” between the US and Russia there has been a consistent unanimity on the necessary retention of the structures of the Syrian state and only disagreement on the fate of the person of Assad, has been rejected repeatedly by the revolutionary Syrian people. They can keep Assad if they think that they’ll maintain his regime. We only need see what happened in Egypt when a figurehead and some of his cronies were removed, only to be replaced by a worse one propelled by a vindictive ancien régime.
 Andrew Murray’s support of the Syrian state is beyond dispute, as is wide swathes of the Stop the War coalition. They seek to play on “technicalities” of not directly stating “we support Assad”. Indeed President Sisi of Egypt says exactly the same thing when asked about his support for Assad in Syria, claiming “we must support the Syrian state, its not about the person”. The reader familiar with Stop the War coalition’s writings over the duration of the Syrian conflict, and their mocking writings about the Syrian resistance and existence of non-Assad Muslim “moderates”, will recognise this fact – never mind the absence of a (naive) outright “declaration” (which immediately opens up the movement to criticism as well as historical infamy), which is reserved for the Communist Party of Great Britain and the BNP, Stop the War’s leadership and outlets have (with rare exceptions) repeated close-to verbatim the narratives of the Syrian and Iranian governments.
 Their rhetoric of a “sovereign Syria in which Syrians decide their fate”, for example, is taken right off the Russian manuscript. The irony of those proclaiming this maxim being entirely reliant on non-Syrian forces (Iraqi militias, Iranian revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and now Russia’s airforce), whereby an independent regular “Syrian army” is practically no longer existent, entirely reliant on Iranian-sponsored militias, seems to be lost on those proponents.
 Finally, it should be noted Andrew Murray’s (the Chair of Stop the War coalition) declaration of the necessity of supporting the “US-backed” (in fact US-created) Iraqi Army; this is another ironic contradiction for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War coalition to support “Western-backed” forces in the Middle East, and is one from the few that will be seen in this article.
 Lie 2: Regarding “allowing Syrians to speak”
 This is indeed an audacious claim by Stop the War coalition, and reflects the general strategy in this statement of “the best way of defence is offence”. One Syrian was allowed to speak (which is what was already claimed), Muzna – she was interrupted and following that point not a single Syrian, of whom there were many and who were holding their hands up for the full remainder of that meeting’s duration, were given the chance to speak – whilst (with a few exceptions) practically every non-Syrian present were given that opportunity (including known Stop the War organisers, despite them being the organisers), including one man who proceeded on a historical lecture of the “fake” background of the Arab Spring. Ms Abbot’s statement on Daily Politics that “she didn’t know who the Syrians were” warrants no response.
 Lie  3: Regarding “police being called”
 This is perhaps the most blatant and astonishing falsehood by Stop the War coalition. Police present on the premises of parliament were called – in quite an extraordinary example of attempting to play “fast and loose” with the truth Stop the War attempt to distinguish this here by stating that the constabulary wasn’t called. The “constabulary” was not called, police already present in the vicinity of parliament were. Indeed many of the police on parliament premises were armed with machine guns – more than could be said of “the constabulary”; though those who were summoned to the meeting were not armed. Police arrived in numbers and were visible to all at the doors of the meeting by its end, something which any attendee at that meeting can attest to. One of the Arab attendees denied the opportunity to speak by the panel was also talked to by police after the meeting. Prior to that the Syrian and Arab audience members were repeatedly told “you are going to get arrested [if you continue]”. We are actually surprised that Stop the War have gone to the lengths of denying this instead of letting it “die down”. We urge Stop the War coalition to release unedited footage of the meeting which can serve to be the judge as to who is telling the truth and who is not.
 It should be noted Stop the War coalition had a pro-Iraq war MP on platform, Crispin Blunt. The fact that they did this as an issue, regardless of our differences on Syria, shows how shallow their actual emotional connection is to the real life realities of “imperialism”. An SSM supporter present mentioned this to the panel, and (expectedly) received no response.
 Other statements made at the meeting by prominent leaders of Stop the War coalition should also be noted, such as by Lindsey German: “some people here [the Syrians] might not see ISIS as a big problem, but it is”, an implication more reminiscent of traditional right-wing and Zionist arguments used in debate with Muslims, as well as snide remarks by another prominent Stop the War figure stating: “this is the democracy they want” in the direction of emotional Syrians “interrupting” the panel. Again we note the convergence of wide swathes of the “far-left” with the far-right in their support for Assad (the latter alliance is natural, seeing that Assad’s regime is an archetypal fascist-structured regime), whereby shared opposition to the “mainstream” establishment and a closet admiration of how far a departure such “fortress states” are from their own disliked systems informs their overlap on Syria.
 The repeated smear used by Stop the War that Syria Solidarity “supported the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan” is a blatant falsehood – there is not a single SSM member that supports the aggression and invasion of Iraq – which is more than could be said for the panel that “Stop the War” hosted last Wednesday – nor the decade of sanctions that killed a million Iraqis (according to the UN) before that, and our members continue to argue that the invasion should not be forgotten simply because it is in the past. It is ironically Stop the War who find themselves actively support the axis which gained power out of the invasion of Iraq, that of Russia-Iran–Sisi-Maliki-Assad. It is the anti-Maliki, anti-Sisi, anti-Assad axis that we support, three rulers Iran either supported or is in the process of normalising relations with (Iran sent an envoy to Sisi’s inauguration and is currently in talks). It is the Syrian people who hosted the refugees of Iraq and it is the Iraqi people in those areas who suffered the most from the invasion, in Fallujah, Ramadi, Tirkrit and Anbar, who stand in solidarity with the Syrian people against their tyrant. They need no lectures from people who live thousands of miles away and enjoy the benefits of the “imperialist” state.
 Our issue with Stop the War coalition is not that it is “against intervention”, as they would prefer to pretend. It is about them consistently no-platforming Syrian voices for the past 4 years, consistently peddling the Syrian regime’s narratives, consistently making sarcastic “snide” references about the hundreds of thousands of the Syrian people who remain engaged in the revolution (both its military and civil aspects) being extremist, or the millions more of their supporters being extremist sympathisers (something Assad himself once declared, when he stated ‘millions of Syrians are providing sanctuary for “terrorism”’, inadvertently acknowledging the scale of popular opposition to him), consistently peddling neoconservative-like War on Terror narratives (used by every repressive post-colonial regime in the region), and now blatantly coming out in support of the Syrian military and state. We should note our great surprise and disappointment of Ms Caroline Lucas doing the same in that meeting with regards to the latter.
 Since 2011 and the very short-lived retrenchment of “War on Terror” language post-Iraq groups such as “Stop the War” have accounted for some of the biggest parts of the resurrection of this narrative, all to support Iran’s counter-revolutions. Let us also make clear, that we like most Syrians once defended Iran and its allied parties, Iran threw away the goodwill of the non-sectarian Muslim peoples by embarking on a path of counter-revolutionary “stability”, which they now use to tout as the “only island of stability in the Middle East” (substitute for “only democracy in the Middle East”) and which has achieved them global recognition.
 Stop the War’s (main) leadership’s understandings of the conflict are to such an extent far off from what is happening on the ground, that in a perverse twist of “fate” Stop the War’s leadership has spun a web of simplistic (click-baiting) contradictions so wide that it now often finds itself ignoring instances of Western intervention (yet alone Russian ones), its supposed raison d’être:
  1. Refusing to cover the US bombing of Syrian revolutionary forceswhich killed up to 150 rebels, before the onslaught of Russia’s interventionThis was due to the inconveniences that such a contradiction posed to the narrative they have been promoting for the past 4 years.
  2. Supporting the US-backed Iraqi Army whilst engaging in a quasi- reporting blackout of its historical collapse in 2014, which was almost unanimously the reason for the rise of ISIS. However, the links of the US-backed Iraqi Army with the “resistant” Iranian regime posed an uncomfortable narrative – blaming Syrian revolutionary forces, who were amongst the firstto fight ISIS, long before the “secular” (Western-rhetoric, clean-shaven) regime, who viewed them as “apostates worse than infidels”Instead, despite the indisputable fact that US “support” (which in fact has been restricted Arab support provided through US-aligned Turkey and Jordan) for the Syrian revolutionaries cannot be compared to that given over a decade to the US-constructed modern Iraqi Army. The monumental collapse of a decade long US-trained Iraqi Army which provided the main justification for the US occupation of Iraq until 2011 should have been one of the most effective criticising points against the US policy in Iraq – instead, this was largely brushed under the carpet due to Iran’s allegiance with the Iraqi Army.
  3. Supporting the “imperialist-aligned” Kurdish PYD and hosting them on their platforms. In August an invitation by a local Stop the War coalition branch (Birmingham) to a Syrian member of a Syria Solidarity was rescinded at the request of the National Office due to “Syria solidarity’s support of military intervention”. Incidentally there were a range of views within Syria solidarity on the question of intervention, as there is amongst revolutionary Syrian circles, and some members have written against arguing for it – however Syria solidarity’s policy reflects that of refugeesinternally displaced Syriansand Syrian civil society groups, not its members’ individual opinions – because we believe in actual agency of “other” peoples, not their use as pawns in anti-establishment posturing when convenient, which represents simply another form of Western narcissism and orientalism. The same meeting hosted a PYD member.
  4. Opposing the “Western-backed” Sisi regime – a firm allyof “Western-attacked” Bashar al-Assad.
  5. Not mentioning historical relations between the UK and the Assad regime, most importantly that the Sarin gas used in Syria had been imported from the UK.This would undermine the “Assad is hostile to West” narrative and entail “rectification”, and so exposing “imperialist complicity” is temporarily put on hold.
 A significant example of Stop the War’s detachment from the post-2011 Middle East was provided in August, when STWC provided a platform to “revolutionary, Arab Spring” pro-Houthi speakers (the Houthis are allied with Saleh’s counter-revolution in Yemen) in a public meeting in London. After the meeting one of the panel speakers was quoted as stating “Ali Abdullah Saleh is a man and a hundred men”, in response to heckling by an attendee who challenged the Houthi alliance with Saleh and disparaged their claimed “revolutionism”. The fact that this basic knowledge of the Houthis being in alliance with the tyrant Saleh’s forces in Yemen was not known by the organisers is indicative. This in a sense was a real life manifestation of a Press TV article, citing the “revolutionary” Houthi movement in the same breath as “Saleh declares support for Houthis”.
 To be clear, this is not to state that we are for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, but to present a microcosm of Stop the War coalition’s Arab Spring “understanding”. We do not propagandise for the Syrian revolution’s allies, whether Saudi, Qatar or Turkey. The same however cannot be said of Stop the War coalition, who consistently carry out exactly that role for the Iranian state, even during a historic rehabilitative rapprochement with the West (including most recently the opening of the Iranian embassy for the first time in four decades in London).
 Likewise, Stop the War’s ostensible ignorance of the “Western-supported” Sisi’s support for the “Western-attacked” Assad, and the scale of support for Assad in Egyptian media since Sisi’s “election” as president is similiarly indicative. Sisi has not only been diplomatically supporting Assad, as is seen with Putin’s latest plea to include Egypt in Vienna’s “peace” talks, but has also been sending him arms (for more see hereherehere and here). Stop the War’s oblivion to all this indicates that whilst such reports may be of common awareness for those in the region, there is a massive gap in ‘transmission’ to those in the West. This is precisely why we have tried to make the case of the necessity of providing opportunities for regional voices. This does not necessitate that they are correct simply by virtue of their backgrounds, but that if what they say is intellectually deemed to make sense then this means that they may very well know a lot more.
 In expressing support for the counter-revolutionary Saleh-Houthi alliance in Yemen, the Iraqi Army and the Syrian regime, Stop the War coalition proved itself not as a supporter of the Arab Spring, but an English-language propagandist of Iran’s counter-revolutions in the region (which has incidentally established it for the first time in 40 years as a recognised global player and “partner” for stability) – a Press TV translated into a social movement, if you will. Stop the War still continues to issue illusory pamphlets of “Syria is about a covert Western attempt to attack Iran” – even whilst a landmark Iranian relief sanctions deal was achieved with thousands of its troops stationed in Syria (which incidentally would entail tighter sanctions if that was supposedly the case, not their lifting) and even whilst the US is a de-facto ally of Iran in Iraq.
 That these faux pas occur should not be surprising – it is the natural consequence of an elitist, statist, theory-based approach, which in essence is not substantively about foreign politics and foreign events, but (domestic) anti-establishment politics.
 Let us finally note, that Stop the War Coalition’s narrative of a Western plot against the “resistance” state of Assad (a former Henry Kissinger and later War on Terror ally) is the same one cited and repeated by every single Arab ruler who faced the uprisings of the Arab awakening, dynastic-republican and monarchical: from Mubarak (who claimed that“he knew” the US wanted to overthrow him ever since they asked him to have elections in 2005), to Al-Sisi (whose regime and media claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a US proxy organisation), to Ali Abdullah Saleh (a former firm US ally who, when abandoned, cited a “Zionist-American” Spring), to Ahmad Chalabi (the Iraqi politician who was the falsifying architect of the US invasion of Iraq, claimed a “Western conspiracy” in defence of his ally Assad), to Maliki (appointed by the US in its post-invasion transitional government, even before he was elected as Prime Minister) – these all had a few things in common: they were all tyrants, they all supported one another, they were all former “imperialist” allies, they all received support and played off both global powers (US and Russia), and they all claimed the same “foreign plot” when their populations rose up and when their embarrassed sponsors eventually had to abandon them.
 For Stop the War coalition to regurgitate propaganda of the Middle East’s felool elites is a tragedy, for it is these same elites that justified US-aligned foreign policy by their leaders, only for them to hurtfully declare a plot when their US trustees abandoned their leader. Is this what constitutes radical politics?

 Until then, perhaps STWC should change its role and title, and declare its new role as an “Adopt grievanced discarded puppets” lobbying group/charity.'

Despite Russian strikes, Syrian rebels hold ground

Despite Russian strikes, Syrian rebels hold ground photo

 ' "There is a sort of competition now among the factions to excel in defending the areas so none of them can get accused of being a traitor for losing a strip of land," said Hadi Abdullah, an opposition activist who travels with the rebels to the front lines to report on fighting. "They come to the rescue of each other on their different turf."

 "The regime is collapsing and only the Russians are propping them up," said Ahmed Saoud, a commander in the 13th Division, another American-based FSA faction that has gotten new infusions of TOWS and ammunition. "Even though we are the weakest link in the Syrian conflict, we will win with our weapons." '

 'American-based' should presumably read 'American-backed', but is still a misnomer, it is the regional states that are supplying the weapons, the Americans' role has been to sanction the supply of weapons like manpads, and to groups that it doesn't like, including those that might advance too fast against Assad.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Syria: government using thousands of disappeared people as 'cash cow'

 'The Syrian government is using a policy of subjecting thousands of people to enforced disappearance as both a means to crush opposition and to make large amounts of money  for itself, said Amnesty International in a new report today.

 Amnesty’s 70-page report - Between prison and the grave: Enforced disappearances in Syria - reveals that the Syrian authorities are profiting from widespread and systematic enforced disappearances amounting to crimes against humanity, through an insidious black market in which family members desperate to find out the fate of their disappeared relatives are ruthlessly exploited for cash. 
 As part of this black market, “middlemen” or “brokers” are paid bribes ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds by family members. Such bribes have become “a big part of the economy” according to one Syrian human rights activist. A lawyer from Damascus also told Amnesty that the bribes are “a cash cow for the regime … a source of funding they have come to rely on”. 
 The report gives a tragic insight into the psychological trauma, anguish, despair and physical suffering experienced by family members and friends after an enforced disappearance. Saeed, whose brother Yusef was forcibly disappeared in 2012, said his mother never stops crying now. “Sometimes in the night I wake up and she is awake, looking at his picture and crying,” he said.

 While some states and the UN have condemned enforced disappearances, much more is needed than words of censure. More than a year and a half ago, in February 2014, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2139, which calls for an end to enforced disappearances in Syria, but it has yet to take further steps to ensure it is implemented. “States supporting the government of Syria, including Iran and Russia, which has recently begun military operations in Syria, cannot wash their hands of the mass crimes against humanity and war crimes being committed with their backing. Russia, whose patronage is essential for President Bashar al-Assad’s government, is in a unique position to convince the government to end this cruel and cowardly campaign of disappearances.” '

Civil Society is a Force that Threatens the Enemies of Democracy—Bashar al-Assad and Islamic Factions

 'The regime forces laid siege to the city, indiscriminately attacking Aleppo with warplanes, barrel bombs, and heavy artillery, all while sowing the countryside with land mines. Additionally, Assad directly targeted the provincial council’s headquarters, severely damaging its ability to work in an efficient and effective manner. Thousands of civilians, faced with certain death should they remain in their homes, fled Aleppo in the first waves of what became the mass exodus from Syria’s industrial capital.

 Salim, the pseudonym of a member of Aleppo’s provincial council, speaks mournfully about what could have been, “We (civil society and local governance groups) were able to restore electricity to most neighborhoods and reopen schools. Shoppers once again flocked to streets packed with vendors and salesmen, and the markets were busy. If the international community had only instituted the no-fly zone, Aleppo would be free today, and nearly a million people would not have fled to Europe.”

 In rural Idlib, the infighting that plagued the national bodies in exile carried down to the provincial council, further harming its effectiveness. Similarly, the politicking and fighting between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliated armed groups and moderate Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Suqur al-Sham carried down to the local councils. Though Jaish al-Fateh’s administrative profile continues to expand, and an honest appraisal of its capabilities and impartiality cannot yet be rendered, activists expect the Idlib Province Administration to eventually resemble civil administration at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. Run by Ahrar al-Sham, locals consider Bab al-Hawa to be fairly and effectively managed, especially in light of it being run an armed group.

 The array of popular movements and local councils in which tens of thousands of Syrians are already participating serve as the very essence of any democratic system. The fact that the Assad regime, ISIS, and other Islamist factions have displayed such vitriol for Syrian civil society underscores just why it remains so important.'

Amnesty accuses Syrian regime of 'disappearing' tens of thousands

A man helps two children at a site hit by what activists say was a barrel bomb in Aleppo

 ' “It was days before we found out,” said Mrs Alabbasi. “Now I do barely sleep at night. We don’t know where they are or how they are, we don’t even know if they are alive.” A dentist by trade, Rania had also been Syria’s national chess champion several times over. When military intelligence officers arrested her, they stole her awards, along with money, jewellery, the family cars, according to her sister. They also took her six children. “What chance is there for a child when adults barely survive those prisons? Her youngest is just two years old,” said Mrs Alabbasi. “We think of them every day.”
 The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a monitoring group, has collected the names of 58,148 who are believed to have been forcibly disappeared since March 2011, the first month of Syria’s revolution, and who remain missing.
 Raneem Ma’touq, a 24-year-old fine arts student from Homs, was forcibly disappeared for two months in 2014. Taken from her house at gunpoint in the night, she spent months inside a 3m cell shared with 10 other women. During one brutal interrogation, she said she became hysterical, singing at the top of her lungs. “I was punished for that,” she said. “The director... hung me almost by the throat and kept hitting me. But others had it worse.”Ms Ma’touq’s ordeal is not over. Her father Khalil, a renowned human rights lawyer who defended hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, is also missing, arrested from his car in Damascus during October 2013.
 Amnesty International said on Monday that it believed the regime’s disappearances had been carried out as part of “an organised attack against the civilian population that has been widespread, as well as systematic, and therefore amount to crimes against humanity".
 Waiting for news of Rania, Mrs Alabbasi said she had given up asking why the family’s ordeal had begun. “In Syria you cannot ask the regime why it does this,” she said. “They do not need an excuse to do what they want.” '

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

‘The world has closed its eyes to what is happening in Syria’

Anwar al-Bunni: “There is no future for Syria if the people responsible for war crimes are not brought to justice.”

 'Anwar al-Bunni was bundled into a car, blindfolded and beaten. He was charged with seeking to overthrow the regime, threatening public order, incitement to sectarian hatred and being in contact with foreign powers.

 He was sentenced to five years, which he was forced to spend not among political prisoners but criminal detainees. Some rules were specially adapted for Bunni: he was forbidden from having any reading material other than official Syrian newspapers. “They put me in with murderers, to push me more and more,” he says.
 In the years since his release from prison, a catastrophic four-year war has torn Syria apart. The world’s response has caused Bunni to revise his view of just how much outsiders care. “The world has closed its eyes to what is happening in Syria,” he says in a phone interview from Germany, where he now lives with his family.
 He criticises western states for indicating they may be willing to see Assad remain in power for the duration of any political transition and dismisses the view that Assad should be strengthened as a bulwark against Islamic State (IS). “Daesh (IS) came from outside Syria. It was Bashar and his party that let them come.”
 Particularly galling, he says, is the impunity with which the Assad regime can act. “There is no future for Syria if the people responsible for war crimes are not brought to justice. The world is wasting time while people are suffering and dying. Nobody has taken a decision to end this tragedy.” '

The Syrians Who Refused to Give Up

Robin Yassin-Kassab

  'Samar Yazbek’s shocking, searing, and beautiful new book, The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria, describes three visits to Idlib province in northern Syria, an area liberated from the Assad dictatorship “on the ground but betrayed by the sky.” Bashar al-Assad’s forces had been driven from the rural border zones. From a distance, however, via warplanes and long-range artillery, they implemented a policy of scorched earth and collective punishment.

 Through self-organized committees and councils, Yazbek is told, “each region now has its own administration, and every village looks after itself.” This—Syrians’ willed self-determination, Syrian creativity amid destruction—is the positive story so often missed in the news cycle, and it represents a hope for the future, faint though it is. The activists know they are working against insurmountable odds, but continue anyway. They document atrocities and reach out to international media, an endeavor that has so far failed to bear tangible fruit. When they can, they laugh—it’s “as though they inhaled laughter like an antidote to death.”

 Her constant companions, protectors, and fixers are men of the Free Syrian Army, “an extremely diverse set of groups, with varying characteristics and attitudes—from the cruel to the compassionate.” They ought to be called “armed people’s resistance brigades,” she opines, given that they are “really just ordinary people such as one might meet in the street.” These locals, trying to defend their communities, are starved for funds, weapons and ammunition. “If we had anti-aircraft guns,” one complains, “Assad would have fallen long ago.”

 It’s an extra mark of Yazbek’s courage that she chose to travel in this difficult territory even though she’s an Alawite, a member of the Shia-offshoot sect to which Assad and most of his security chiefs belong. “The Alawites can’t stay in Syria,” she is told by a militia leader, one of the hundreds of extremists released from regime prisons in 2011 even as non-violent democrats were being rounded up en masse. Between regime violence and Islamist reaction, the space for dissident Syrians like her is shrinking. But it’s in part awareness of this tragedy that makes her hosts so eager to accomodate her. “They didn’t want to believe what was happening was a sectarian war,” she writes, “and their proof was my presence.” '

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

This former ISIS hostage has an unexpected message: don't be afraid of the ISIS

This former ISIS hostage has an unexpected message: don

 'To our understanding, the main battle for Syria and Iraq has taken place between the forces of Assad's regime and the ISIS. One aspiring to establish a Caliphate, the other trying to hold on to his throne at all costs. Yet, Henin proceeds to establish the many ways in with the ISIS and Assad's regime are complicit with one another. Take for example, the number of times the Islamic State has actually fought the Syrian army over the course of the bloody war:
  • The ISIS fought the Syrian army when they seized the Menagh air base.
  • They also fought the army when they captured Division 17 in Raqqa (now capital of the declared Caliphate). Here they also captured a neighbouring airport.
  • The IS has also taken part in small-scale battles near Alleppo, Lattakia and Al-Qamishi.
This is the comprehensive list. And for a war that's claimed 200,000 lives and displaced half the country, the number of battles remains suspiciously small.
 In fact, as of 2014, ISIS was earning $3 Million every day in the form of oil revenues. And a large portion of this oil is, to this day, sold to Assad. This complicity may be surprising. But it is not necessarily illogical. Because Assad stands to gain from the existence of the ISIS. It legitimizes his position as leader of the Syrian people. The "Assad or chaos" slogan is one he manipulates and brandishes with much success. The ISIS is the bogeyman. And by focusing on the malaise that is the ISIS, we are playing right into Assad's hands.
 The Syrian people, as well as the Iraqis, would never accept the leadership of the Islamic State. It is an organization fraught with infighting and deceit. It cannot provide a viable Government in either country. It simply does not have the structural efficiency to. Additionally, the fear of the ISIS seems more potent than it is because of their ingenious PR campaign. We find ourselves shaken by their videos. We replay them time and again on television, further feeding into the deliberately cultivated fear. We are concerned that a future fighter of the ISIS may be among us. And in all this, we fail to recognize the sporadic, disorganized violence for what it is.
 The real threat remains Assad. In his absence, the Sunni majority will not feel compelled to align with the fanatic jihadis. The moderates will rise again. The conflicts will begin to resolve themselves. But the first step is to dethrone the ISIS from the status of "super-terrorists". It's what they want. And they are not a credible threat to the world.'

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Horrific Videos Show Carnage Caused by Syrian Regime Attack Near Damascus

Image result for Horrific Videos Show Carnage Caused by Syrian Regime Attack Near Damascus

 'At least 70 people were killed and 550 injured after airstrikes and shelling hit a marketplace on the outskirts of Syria's capital Damascus, according to the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders, which quoted medics on the scene as saying the wounds from the attack were "worse than anything they have seen before."
 The attack occurred on Friday in the city of Douma, east of Damascus, and was reportedly carried out by Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Graphic footage from the aftermath of the bombing showed rescuers attempting to pull the dead and severely wounded from piles of debris and rubble.
 "This was an extremely violent bombing," said the director of an MSF-supported hospital in the area. "The wounds were worse than anything we've seen before, and there were large numbers of dead. We had to do many amputations… We did our best to cope, but the number of critically wounded was far beyond what we could handle with our limited means."
MSF noted that bombing of civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and markets has increased in the areas around Damascus in recent weeks. In Douma, medical workers struggled to treat the influx of casualties from the latest airstrike because the nearest makeshift hospital had been bombed the previous day.
 Nearly 40 percent of people treated in MSF-supported facilities in East Ghouta, an agricultural area in the Damascus countryside, have been women and children under 15 years old, the group said. "This massive bombing on a crowded market and the repeated destruction of the few available medical facilities breaches everything that the rules of war stand for," said Brice de le Vingne, director of Syria Operations for MSF.'