ahwaz march1Written by Ahwazna website

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

At a time when the Ahwazi Arab people continue their decade’s long struggle to regain their homeland’s independence from Persian occupation, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a demonstration in front of the UN headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna on 20 February, 2015.

The demonstration, expressed the support and solidarity of the Ahwazi Arab community, Arab and non-Persian groups in Europe with the Ahwazi people rebelling against the lingering inhuman policies of Iran’s occupation in Al-Ahwaz.

The Arab Struggle Movement in a letter submitted to the United Nations called on for the urgent intervention to immediately to stop the Iranian regime’s arbitrary arrests and executions of Ahwazis. The Movement also appealed to United Nations Environment and Health organizations to visit Al-Ahwaz to uncover and document the Iran regime’s occupation practices that have polluted and destroyed the environment leading to the large-scale spread of dangerous diseases in all parts of Al-Ahwaz.

The delegation of the Arab Struggle Movement met with a number of United Nations officials in Vienna after the demonstration. The delegation stressed the need for United Nations intervention and implementation of safeguards as provided for in international treaties and conventions to protect oppressed peoples under military occupation, in particular, the Arab people of Ahwaz.

While the demonstration showed solidarity with the decades-long suffering of the people of Ahwaz, Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement stated that the suffering becoming worse by the day due to Iranian occupation and violations of human rights in Ahwaz.

Such policies are inconsistent with and in violation of international law and covenants, hence the urgent appeal to the United Nations to intervene to prevent the State of Iran’s colonization and human rights violations against Ahwazi people living under occupation.

Ahmad Mola added, “the crimes of the Iranian occupation are approaching a very dangerous turning point in Al-Ahwaz and we hope that the United Nations perform its humanitarian and its legal duty to upholding the right of the Ahwazi Arab people in their freedom and independence from the Iran’s occupation and the backing and support of the struggle of our people in all its forms”.

“When you read about the Ahwazi people sufferings you will understand the occupying Iran regime’s policies are aimed at completely erasing the people of Ahwaz, their history, culture and future by constructing settlements which target Ahwaz and its population”.

“This is meant to undermine Arab identity in the crucible of Persian culture. The spread of drug addiction and crime in Ahwaz is also largely attributable to the policies of the Iran regime. This enemy of democracy spreads ignorance and backwardness and tries to repress the entire Al-Ahwaz region by supporting drug dealers and yet another attempt to ruin Ahwazi society”, said.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

“The plight of Ahwazi people is very long term, and their right to independence and safety has worsened during successive Iranian regimes that denied the fundamental right of having access to education in mother language and punishing everyone for acquiring Arabic books attempting to make Ahwazis to be lost generation without identity and history melting in Persian culture . However, despite all this, the Persian state’ racist policies failed due to the strong national will of our people in rejecting occupation adhering to their Arab identity and culture.

Iran’s Sharia law and legal system make it one of the worst, repressive, totalitarian regimes in the world. It is hard to find a system which is more politically manipulative, and its theocratic rule misleads its people and the world.

It is opportunistic, self-serving and sectarian, discriminating particularly by region and socially excluding many. Its aim is for the country to be entirely dominated by glorifying Safavid history and culture, whilst destroying other neighboring history and culture.

The Iran regime’s expansionist policy, for example in the case of UAE islands and neighboring regions such as occupied Al-Ahwaz, is done aggressively and ruthlessly with no regard for international relations or upholding human rights”, said Ahmad Mola.

The demonstration came as mentioned in the earlier statement released by the movement of its media “Ahwazna” to support the people of Ahwazis’s struggling against the State of Iran’s occupation policies and to condemn the Iranian occupier criminal policies committed against the land and the people, including drying rivers, which cause environmental pollution in Ahwaz, where the region called “the capital of global pollution.”

The protesters carried Arabic and English signs demanding the Iran regime stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people, and that the world condemn the land confiscation policies taking place in Ahwaz.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community showing solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people, in addition to a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people also suffer under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state, made an unforgettable presence at the demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in both Arabic and English, condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the Persian occupation.

They strongly denounced and condemned Iran’s changing the course of the Karoon River, and diverting its water away from the Ahwazis to central Persian regions.

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, who had called for this demonstration, stated that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remained invisible to the world at large.

The ultimate aim of the demonstration was to bring the suffering of the Ahwazi people to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the arbitrary arrests and executions of the Ahwazi Arab people, and to recognize and uphold the political prisoner status of the political and human rights activists.

For years, Iran has been oppressing the Ahwazi Arab people through intimidation, mass arrests, torture, and mass execution of Ahwazi civilians.

The exploitation of the wealth and natural resources of Ahwaz, In particular, the natural gas and oil are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Persian state’s policies have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the sea of oil and gas, and mineral resources that have been exploited and stolen since 1925.

Press and media censorship continues to be a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists speaking out against the non-stop abuses being committed against the Ahwazi people. This censorship allows the Iranian regime to discriminate perpetually against the Ahwazi Arab people.

Ahmad Mola, addressing the Arab and regional countries reminded that the Iranian state is rapidly controlling and destabilizing the whole region. The Ahwazi Arab parties, with the right military training and arms, would be ready to inflict strong blows to the Iran regime, but support and shelter from Arab and regional countries were imperative.

 

11007578_1417896418510798_1765605101_nWRITTEN BY Ahwazna website

Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have exercised numerous policies to influence and pressure peoples whose homelands are under the grip of domination and occupation. Occupation policies include construction of settlements and relocation of settlers to change demographics to favor their colonial aspirations.  This is one of many ways used gradually to control the indigenous population living under colonial occupation.

History is full of examples illustrating the process of colonialism and occupation, but none more clearly than the example of the brutal Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine. Through the establishment of extensive illegal settlements and introduction of hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers the occupation has usurped the historical homeland of the Palestinian people.

Since the outset of Iran’s military occupation of Emirate of Al-Ahwaz, the occupying central governments have one after another, exposed the Ahwazi people to heinous crimes of violence, brutality, and everyday indignities.  Through the colonial acquisition of lands throughout Al-Ahwaz, the goal was to cleanse the area of the indigenous Ahwazis.

The looting and plundering of Ahwazi lands were carried out through forcible displacement of Ahwazi citizens and the appropriation of their land by force of arms as well as using money to entice the most impoverished Ahwazis to sell their land.  The facade of legitimacy and legality masked the occupier’s dishonest practices, and the plundered Ahwazi lands were handed over to Persian settlers.

After years of confiscating and appropriating vast amounts of territory, the Iranian colonizers and segregationist governments have built hundreds settlements, bringing in tens of thousands of Persian settlers into areas where the number of settlers was scarce or where there were fears of changing demographics in Persian settlers ‘favor, which would harm the future of the   Al- Ahwaz in the case of right to self-determination.

The Ahwaz Arab people continue to resist the settlers by whatever means available to them, but the resistance has not been exhaustive.  For the most part, it only involved those who suffered at the hands of the settlers.   There is substantial documented evidence recorded by the Ahwazi human rights activists, showing the involvement of many Persian settlers in committing the most barbaric and inhuman crimes against the Ahwazi Arab citizens.

It is important to remind that the majority of settlers are also equipped with weapons and unlimited support by the Persian occupation authorities. Unfortunately there is a level of complacency of in segments of the Ahwazi people, partly due to ignorance, or fear of government repressive responses and, in some cases, a lack of interest in what is happening. However, these problems and areas of what may be perceived as weakness have never deterred Ahwazi citizens to resist the occupiers.

The building of settlements for housing non-Arab settlers did not suffice the Persian occupation authorities this means that in addition to the importation of Persian settlers to Al-Ahwaz, Persian occupying forces have extended their underhanded criminal activities by building thousands of housing units in Arab areas and populating them with Persian settlers which serves the purposes of Persian occupation in several ways.

They have brazenly gone too far in conducting their crimes over which enhancing their occupation malicious projects through the construction of thousands of housing units in the hearts of  Arab areas and bringing settlers  recruiting them  for a number of things.

Firstly: The Persian settlers act as the eyes and ears of the occupation forces and provide the Persian occupation with anti-activists agents placed among the Arab population, who are able to immediately inform Persian intelligence and security forces of any intended anti-occupation activities. This provides Persian forces with preemptive capabilities to subdue and eliminate any resistance in the fastest manner possible.

Secondly: The Persian settler’s physical proximity to Arab Ahwazis, aims to destroy Arab culture by excluding it from everyday activities and through corrupting and replacing Arab culture with the Persian state-supported culture.

In work, education, intermarriage, every aspect of socio-economic activities imposed on the Arab Ahwazi culture puts it in a weak, threatened position.  It is generally excluded and frowned down upon while Persian is endorsed and supported by the state.  Conflicts arising from forcing Persian culture upon Ahwazi Arabs continues to have adverse and detrimental affects upon all aspects of Ahwazi life.

Thirdly: Persian settlements aim to monopolize trade in Persian settler hands through buying up all shops and outlets.  This has resulted in grave economic changes which will be very difficult to reverse in the future.  Through Persian news agencies and Persian government official communiques inform of proposed new settlements and housing units being completed and delivered to Persian settlers.  In addition, one hears of the large numbers of companies, government agencies, banks and cooperatives supportive of Persian settlement activities.

It is clear that Persian occupation and settlement of Ahwaz, coupled with the criminal destruction of Arab society and culture in Ahwaz, is high on the agenda of the Iranian state and is ongoing with strong impetus.

Many researchers and observers hold that resisting Persian settlement activities should be among the foremost of priorities for the indigenous Ahwazi population.  Unless the Ahwazis resist Persian colonial settlement at this time, it will be impossible to reverse the dangerous and ongoing demographic changes in the area.

Therefore, taking all of the above  into consideration, all Ahwazi citizens, without exception,  are obliged to engage in resisting all forms of Persian settlement undertaken by Persian authorities without differentiation between any particular form of settlement, or Persian Military personnel, agriculturalists or pastoralists, or government employees settled in Arab Ahwaz.  All are collaborators in the crime of occupation and theft of Ahwazi Arab land, indigenous resources and job opportunities.

The resistance against occupation and settlers needs no debate, neither is it subject to debate; rather it is a national duty dictated by religion law and conscience.

Among the most important manners to resist settlement and settlers are:

  1. Boycotting settlers socially and severing all contact with them.
  2. Economically boycotting settlers and their businesses.
  3. Military confrontations with settlers.

At this decisive stage it has become imperative for all members of the National Ahwazi Resistance to join ranks in order to deliver the most powerful blow possible to Persian occupation, which includes Persian settlers, who have ever since their arrival, acted and conspired against the Arab Ahwazi people.

Any wavering at this stage in resisting Persian settlers will end all future hopes for the Arab citizens of Al-Ahwaz.  History shows that attempts towards the establishment of peaceful co-existence and good neighborly conduct have proven fruitless in deterring Persian settlers from aiding and collaborating with the Persian occupation of Ahwaz, the theft of our land and national resources, and the destruction of the culture of Arab Ahwaz.

pes 3WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo.
We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.

However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though his regime has a terrible record regarding Palestinians, (as did that of his father).  They will argue that support of Assad is a progressive (liberal) leftist value. Whether it’s called “selective humanitarianism” “double standards” or “hypocrisy”, it is a dangerous and insidious disease and should be cured. Here is a little test to discover if perhaps YOU are afflicted with this mental illness.

pes 2Do you perhaps suffer from PES without being aware of it? Fear no more! We’re happy to provide you a self-diagnosis test with simple YES / NO replies so that you can discover your own hypocritical stance, and hopefully, be on the path to the cure.

  1. Did you protest or complain about the unfairness of the USA elections for any reason but believe that Assad won a landslide victory in free and fair elections?
  2. Do you think that Assad is fighting terrorism?
  3. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Assad?
  4. Do you believe that the war in Syria is all about foreign aggressiondue to their national and pan-Arab stances” and is not a people’s uprising? In fact, you think the whole Arab Spring has got to be “exposed” as an imperialist, western plot.
  5. Do you think that the Intifada in Palestine is legitimate and that the uprising in Syria is manufactured (while of course saying so having been paid guest to Assad’s presidential palace)?
  6. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Hezbollah even when they target and kill Palestinian refugees and ignore the growing tensions between Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hezbollah?
  7. Do you condemn religiously-inspired militias such as ISIS and Al Nusra when they commit murder and use violence against civilians but have not condemned Hezbollah when it commits murder and uses violence against civilians?
  8. Do you think that it was a good idea for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) to shoot on the Palestinians who mourned those killed on Naksa Day 2011?
  9. Have you called Gaza “the world’s largest open-air prison” but don’t agree with the UNHCR claim that Syria’s war “is more brutal and destructive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has turned into the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”?
  10. Have you endorsed or thought a No Fly Zone was a good idea for Gaza but reject it as Imperialist meddling or a bid to save Al Qaeda if it’s done in Syria?
  11. Do you condemn the Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons (since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been tortured to death) but have not condemned the 200 Palestinians tortured to death in Syrian prisons since 2011? You naturally probably don’t know about the at least 2100 Syrians who were tortured to death inside these prisons.
  12. Do the at least 10,000 bodies of prisoners in Syrian regime prisons that were ordered to be catalogued by the regime mean nothing to you since you don’t have details on what the reasons for their deaths could be?
  13. Do you call for release of political prisoners from Israeli jails but do not call for the release of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails?
  14. Have you actually asked for money to bring Gazan children to make a protest for the NFZ but think that asking for a NFZ in Syria is a bid to help Al Qaeda?
  15. Do you think Al Qaeda and ISIS are Mossad / CIA inventions?
  16. Do you protest against the death penalty in the USA: Executions in 2014, 35, but don’t do the same for Iran: executions in 2014, Between 721 and 801 at least.
  17. Do you think it is wrong for the US to provide Israel with armaments because it engages in war crimes but at the same time, think it is justified for Russia to provide the Syrian regime with armaments and military experts because “it’s war against NATO”?
  18. Do you condemn Israel’s “extra judicial killing” but claim that Assad must do everything he needs to maintain power because blocking his actions in any way, even by condemning them “… could end up ousting Assad. It would mean replacing him with pro-Western stooge governance. It would eliminate another Israeli rival. It would isolate Iran. It would be disastrous for ordinary Syrians.”
  19. Have you ever praised Assad’s government because it is secular, or “fighting the enemy of the West”: because after all, you only see the alternatives being Assad or the “Islamic Fundamentalists”?
  20. Did you support Haniyeh and Meshaal until they started waving the Syrian revolution flag?
  21. Do you erroneously refer to the Syrian revolution flag as the “French Mandate Flag” ignoring that even the Assad regime celebrated it as the Independence flag each “Evacuation (Independence) Day on 17 April to celebrate the resistance against the French colonialists?
  22. Do you know the names of at least one Palestinian dissident/political writer but don’t know any Syrian ones?
  23. Do you call the opposition to Assad “Western-backed rebels” either from a Pro-Israel or Pro-Iran standpoint?
  24. Did you protest for Palestinian detainees and even know their names but not do the same for Palestinian detainees in Syrian’s prisons?
  25. Do you know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by Israel but don’t know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by the Assad regime?
  26. You have protested against the racist and discriminatory Apartheid Wall and checkpoints in Israel/Palestine but you have nothing much to say about Syrian military checkpoints and sniper-lined checkpoints?
  27. Did you get angry when a US newspaper used a photo of Iraqi deaths, claiming they were Syrian, but when Palestinian supporters use Syrian ones, it’s “illustrating the suffering in Gaza”?
  28. You have protested against Israeli use of phosphorus bombs but you have nothing much to say about the unconventional weapons use by Assad against both opposition fighters and civilians such as barrel bombs and chemical weapons?
  29. Are you critical of the US for intervening in affairs of other countries but think it’s normal for Iran and Russia to be sending troops into Syria to help the regime?
  30. You would never consider Palestine compromising with Israel but you believe that the opposition must compromise with the regime in Syria.
  31. Do you condemn the Saudi monarchy and refer to them as Wahhabis, Salafis, etc., but refuse to recognise that Iran is a theocracy?
  32. Do you think that Assad is simply doing everything he can to protect the minorities in his country?
  33. Do you call the Israeli occupation of Palestine ethnic cleansing but do not speak out against the regime-driven massacres in Syria that are ethnically based?
  34. Do you refer to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran as the “Axis of Resistance” even when they don’t react to Israeli attacks on them?
  35. Do you think the following two statements are both true?
    a. Dissent in the United States is patriotic.
    b. Protesting in Syria is an assault on the State and needs to be quelled.
  36. Do you think the following two statements are true?
    a. Pepper spraying protesters in the USA is a violation of human rights.
    b. The Syrian regime has to use whatever force it deems necessary against protesters, because they protesters have violent intentions.
  37. Do you think that Israel must be brought to the ICC for crimes against humanity but think that the Syrian regime should not?
  38. Do you condemn the USA vetoes on the UN Security Council in favour of Israel but praise the Russian and Chinese ones in favour of Assad both to stop sanctions and to prohibit ICC investigation including three Chinese vetoes on Syria alone out of eight total vetoes in their history?
  39. Do you think the following statements are both true?
    a.Calling a U.S. citizen anti-American or un-American for being critical of the US government is ridiculous, knee-jerk, unintelligent and actually incorrect.
    b.People who are critical of Assad are closet or overt imperialists and want US control over the region.
  40. You do not believe that Russia is an imperialist state while you are certain that Syria is an anti-imperialist state defending itself against imperialist onslaught.
  41. Do you think that Erdogan is seeking to dominate politics in the region in an attempt to restore what was once the Ottoman Empire or even think the US is trying to establish an Islamic State but support Iranian domination and the Shi’a Crescent?
  42. Have you signed petitions against companies such as Soda Stream and Coca-cola but not against weapons provider, the Russian monopoly Rosoboronexport or even the western companies providing the Syrian and Iranian regimes with surveillance equipment that they use against dissidents and opposition?
  43. Do you call innocent victims killed by American drones or victims of war crimes but consider the Syrians and Palestinians killed by Syrian bombs and chemical weapons collateral damage?
  44. Do you reject the USA/UK “War on Terror” but believe that Assad has a right to use whatever means possible to kill whoever he considers as a terrorist in Syria and that Syria is a sovereign nation fighting Al Qaeda?
  45. Have you mentioned the Blockade on Gaza in conversations and know it is illegal and a crime against humanity but don’t feel the same about the Blockade on Yarmouk?
  46. Do you respond to criticism of Assad by pointing out USA human rights violations?
  47. You know the name of USA civilians killed by cops or vigilantes, but you don’t know the name of a single Syrian victim of torture in the Assad prisons.
  48. You have protested for the closure of Gitmo, but you don’t raise your voice or even one eyebrow over the Syrian Torture Archipelago in which “The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture [in the 27 detention facilities run by Syrian Intelligence] that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.” Moreover, you don’t want to notice that Syria’s government has been cooperating with the CIA extensively in renditions and the torture programme.
  49. You think that Israel should not have nuclear capacity but that Iran should have nuclear capacity. Extra points if you support Non-Proliferation. Super extra points if you participated in any No Nukes events in the West or signed any such petitions, super extra and mega extra points if you are against nuclear power.
  50. You believe that the Palestinian struggle is about human rights but the Syrian protests were sectarian and religious-oriented, driven by people who wanted to overthrow and overtake power illegitimately if not in fact manufactured by the West?
  51. Do you believe it’s normal for the Syrian constitution to be amended every time that it serves the Assad family but the US Constitution is sacred and especially no amendments should be made to limit gun possession whether you detest the US government or think it should basically call all the shots around the world?
  52. Do you think that Jews protesting the Israel government are noble people who are fighting for human rights and justice while any Syrian protesting the Assad regime are in cahoots with the Israeli government.
  53. Do you believe that, “We must not in any way call for the removal of President Assad unless he commits acts of terror against us. Assad’s government has committed no such act, thus rendering it criminal for foreign governments to undermine the Syrian regime. You either stand for national sovereignty, or against it. The choice is yours.” While at the same time have supported efforts from the liberals or conservatives to have Obama impeached?
  54. Do you believe that foreign countries helping the Palestinians militarily to win against Israel is legitimate but helping Syrians win against Assad is meddling and think that “any further intervention in Syria would be for U.S. interests, like weakening an ally of Iran, and would encourage Assad’s allies to step up their armament shipments. The carnage would continue, and perhaps increase.”?
  55. Do you reject claims that the involvement of Iran and Russia in favour of Assad is meddling?
  56. Do you think that the entire Syrian war is for the purpose of the US weakening Syria so that it can pursue its own interests in the region but ignore the fact that Russia has enormous interests in Syria that are far more evident?
  57. Have you ever found yourself denying Assad had chemical weapons but also applauding the Syrian regime’s decision to hand them over to Russia as a strong gesture towards peace?

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

Between 1 and 5? You are headed towards selective humanitarianism, or even are afflicted with Western Privilege Syndrome!

Between 6 and 10? You are dangerously using double standards and believe that human rights aren’t something universal, but allow your ideological or dogmatic prejudices to influence your ethical judgement!

Over 10? You are a dyed in the wool Hypocrite! Maybe you should avoid “current events” altogether, you have no understanding of what human rights and justice mean, you should wash your mouth out before you ever speak about human rights for Palestinians or anyone.

dried wetland  Written by Rahim Hamid 

Thousands of Ahwazi people have gathered once again on 14th, 15th and 16th of February in front of Ahwaz Governorate office in Ahwaz’s capital demanding swift actions to cope with the dust storm that is currently crippling the lives of the Ahwazi people.

Ahwazi protesters, donning face masks, angrily shouted critical slogans against the lack of appropriate actions than those expected to be taken by local authorities to alleviate the suffering of the Ahwazi people as a result of the persistence of the dust storms.

The Iranian occupation security forces, by taking tight precautionary measures, scattered and arrested key protesters in yesterday’s demonstration.

The occupying security forces, in efforts to quell the public anger of Ahwazi Arab protesters, have tactically and brutally beaten up and handcuffed a group of Arab protesters who played important roles in organizing the peaceful protest.

The aggressive operations of police security forces in dealing with the protest resulted in the arrest of dozens of key activists and organizers who were kicked and punched savagely and taken to an unknown place by the occupying forces. The security forces the put up massive barricades to prevent protesters from advancing to other locations.

The mass arrests were carried out immediately, just thirty minutes from the start of the protest while protesters raised banners and began chanting slogans condemning the criminal policies of the occupation government. The occupying authorities, to clamp down on the protests, deployed significant anti-riot squad forces to battle the Ahwazi Arab activists who called people to take part in this protest through social Media.

Since early February, the Ahwazi people’s lives have been gravely disrupted due to the lingering intensive dust storms causing breathing disorders. Asthmatic attacks have become very problematic and prevalent among the people.

The protesters, by holding up numerous placards, placed the entire responsibility of the environmental disaster in Al-Ahwaz on the occupying Iranian central government’s policies in constructing excessive dams on Ahwazi Rivers diverting the course of the water of the rivers to the central plateau of Iran.

According to reports and studies led by Ahwazi medical research centers, Al-Ahwaz has become one of the most dangerous regions in terms of air and water pollution. As the annual review of the medical centers indicates, annually more than 22,000 Ahwazi citizens were admitted to hospitals and clinics due to diseases linked to inhaling polluted air or drinking contaminated water.

Through the protest which included adults and children, people  expressed their outrage  at the negligence and the aggressive policies of occupying Persian authorities as they raised banners that read “we have right to breathe clean air”, “you have stolen Oil, Gas, and water and left the dust for us”.

The World Health Organization since 2011 has repeatedly rated Al-Ahwaz as the world’s most polluted region. Not surprisingly, cancer and respiratory illnesses are on the rise among desperate poor Ahwazi Arab people. Annually, nearly 2000 people in the Al-Ahwaz area are diagnosed with cancer. A number is likely to increase by 90% by 2020, according to cancer research in Ahwazi medical centers. The WHO says Ahwaz has the highest measured level of airborne particles small enough to cause serious health problems for humans.

Despite the severe degradation of Ahwaz’s climate, the Iranian government has done nothing to effectively counter the spreading desertification that is encroaching on the most Ahwazi fertile agricultural lands, transforming them into arid and barren lands as a consequence of lack of water where the water of Ahwazi Rivers due to the diversion into Persian regions.

Several of participants in the rally expressed their resentment of what they described as shameful disregard and deliberate neglect by the Occupation state of Iran toward the lives of Ahwazi citizens as the occupying authorities only visit Ahwaz without providing any tangible solutions to combat the environmental and health disasters that are ravaging the lives of millions of Ahwazi citizens.

Ahwazi officials continuously stated that the level of dust particles in the Ahwazi atmosphere has seen no signs of improvement and exceeds the acceptable level by 66 times.

The Ahwazi protesters placed the responsibility for the devastating consequences of air pollution that pummel embattled Ahwazi citizens on the Iranian occupying government and blamed the Occupation’s pernicious policies at all levels in Al-Ahwaz.

The protesters, by chanting fiery slogans have slammed the government authorities for being irresponsible, indifferent as nothing can justify the inactions of the authorities. The protesters reiterated to continue their protest until the authorities take the necessary and essential procedures to tackle this adverse problem is crippling the lives of Ahwazis as the dense dust storm has reduced the visibility to less than 150 meters during the day.

The protests continued and escalated in recent days as residents gathered several times in front of the governorate in the Ahwaz capital as an expression of objection and discontentment regarding their neglected fundamental rights.

The residents have shown their anger and intolerance of the continued racial oppression and the systematic discrimination that has been practiced against them for decades at the hands of occupying officials and demanded comprehensive and rapid solutions to address the catastrophe of the dust storms have been sweeping through the entire Ahwazi cities for two weeks.

No report has been released on the number of Ahwazis who were admitted to hospitals or clinics after being affected by the dust storm. However, many reports with pictures by Ahwazi activists have been circulated via social Medias showing the massive numbers of Ahwazi Arab people who have been hospitalized in the medical centers in several Ahwazis cities due to the dust storm.

It is crucial to mention that the United Nations Environmental program (UNEP) said the dust storm in Al-Ahwaz is mainly originating from the dried wetland of Hur-Al-Azim in the west of Ahwaz. UNEP has already warned Iran about the catastrophic consequences of the dryness of the Hur-Al-Azim wetland.  

wetland 2During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) a large part of Al-Azim wetland was destroyed and the remaining part of it was devastated completely with prospecting and drilling of the Azadegan oilfield project, as well as the construction of the Karkheh Dam, which brought about the desertification of the wetland which was regarded as the only economic source of the local Ahwazi people, forcing the majority of them to migrate to surrounding cities.

The area of Al-Azim in Al-Ahwaz measures about 3,500 square kilometers but it has been totally dried out by the Iranian oil companies.

In recent years, dust storms have jeopardized the Ahwazi people’s health as the level of dust particles ultimately had reached 2,335 micrograms per cubic meter in the February of 2015.  The dust storm phenomenon in Al-Ahwaz led to numerous respiratory problems, asthmatic attacks, and even surge in various cancerous and chronic diseases.

The plundering policies of Iranian occupiers led to the dryness Al-Azim and Howeyzeh wetlands, the most extensive wetlands in Middle East.  The destruction of the wetlands has driven massive population of inhabitants to abandon their lands and migrate to cities. All of these factors combined have caused the majority of them to face homelessness and destitution as they are living in ghettos under the worst economic pressures.

Additional information
Ahwaz is occupied Arab land that is located in the South- West and South of Iran. The name of Al-Ahwaz has changed to Khuzestan, Bushehr and Hormozgan in 1935 after invading the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925. The Iranian regimes of Pahlavi and Islamic republic deployed different ways to suppress Ahwazi voices.

dust 3

WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid From the AlAhwazi Organization of Human Rights
Thousands of Ahwazis on the 10th 11th and 12th of February took part in massive organized rallies outside the governor’s building in the Ahwaz capital.

The protests were an attempt to express the deep discontentment of the Ahwazi people with Iran’s occupying policies that intentionally target the environment and the water resources in Al-Ahwaz. The plans for stealing the water of the rivers and dehydrating the wetlands have resulted in severe damage and destruction of Ahwaz’s climate and the emergence of toxic dust storms.

The dust storms have been disturbing the lives of Ahwazi citizens and their persistence is triggering fatal respiratory disorders that more likely will develop into cancerous diseases.

Two weeks ago the dust storm caused thousands of Ahwazi citizens, especially the elderly and children, to enter hospitals and clinics after having suffered from suffocation and shortness of breath due to inhaling air containing a high quantity of dust particles.

dust 4Dust storms have hit Ahwaz for several days, but the local officials proved to be irresponsible. They have taken no action to avert this environmental disaster that threatens human life and the habitat, putting at risk all the persons, animals and plants that live on the land of Al-Ahwaz. The extent of the storms has also been so severe that public and private institutions, such as schools and banks, have been undertaken a policy of temporary closure during the emergency.

The reason for the emergence of these toxic dust storms is the unnatural and extensive drying of the rivers and the marshes, as well as the ongoing construction of dams on the rivers of Ahwaz.

Additionally, there is the policy of diverting of the water of the Karoon and Karkheh Rivers to Iranian territories in order to revive the agriculture sector of the Persian provinces, particularly Isfahan and Semnan, and to supply some other Persian cities with the water; a policy that has been undertaken by the successive Iranian central governments.

According to Ahwazi human rights activists, the joint Iranian-Chinese oil prospecting activities in Ahwazi cities such as Al-Howeyzeh, Albseytin have severely polluted the land, the water of the rivers and the ecology of these regions.

Pollution has been further exasperated by the fact that the prospecting oil plans have been conducted with the use of internationally prohibited and severely detrimental toxic materials.

dust2As a result of this flagrant abuse of the environment of Al-Ahwaz, medical examinations of Ahwazi citizens undertaken after the downpour of acid toxic rain in Ahwaz revealed high incidence of toxic poisonings due to the toxic materials used in oil prospecting.

While the Iranian occupying central government continues plundering the natural resources of Al-Ahwaz, it is still employing demagogic propaganda and publicizing misleading facts where they claim that the sand storms which are plaguing the Ahwazi regions have an external origin and for this they are blaming the neighboring countries.

The Ahwazi Arab inhabitants who are living next to marshes and wetlands such as Hor-Al-Azim (which has been dried up by the Iranian oil companies) have repeatedly released films and videos that clearly show the horrific rise of sand storms from the dried wetlands.

The film below was made at the dried wetland of Hor-Al-Azim. It is compelling evidence corroborating that the source of such destructive sand storms is internal and it is the product of the colonial projects of the Occupation state of Iran.

The dust storms have caused death in other ways. They are so thick and visibility is reduced to only 5 meters, bringing about prohibitive road conditions. A tragic car accident took place on the highway between Ahwaz and Toster City involving a truck and five cars. At least twelve persons were killed in this collision, with dozens of others injured on the highway due to visibility accidents.

In recent days, the Ahwazi Arab people who have had enough of Iranian oppression, have been participating in protests in all the Ahwazi cities. They are denouncing the policy of the Iranian authorities in drying up the Ahwazi wetlands and marshes and they claim that the area of this devastation exceeds more than one and a half million hectares.

dust 5The desertification and dryness of such a vast area has led to the emergence of the deadly sandstorms that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Ahwazi Arab people. The Iranian authorities have not so far released transparent statistics with the number of deaths and people with respiratory disease and renal cancer in Al-Ahwaz. Such dust storms have been adopted as a deadly weapon for massacring the entire Ahwazi Arab people.

Original in Arabic

ahwaz map 1


10961890_1407719049528535_223506516_n (1)

WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

The revolution of 1979 in Iran was visualized like a remedy in the minds and hearts of Ahwazi Arab people who were yearning for freedom and justice after having been oppressed by tyrannous and fascist policies of the Pahlavi regime.

The Ahwazi people, like other ethnic groups, pinned their hopes on the revolution because it was the only recourse for the freedom from racial oppression.

More than every other people in Iran, Ahwazi people were victims of anti-Arab policies of the Pan Persian Pahlavi regime. For this reason, they inspired to join the revolution so as to achieve their national rights and abolish the racial injustice and racism that had been practiced against them for years. However, in the early months of the revolution, all the hopes of ethnic groups including Ahwazi Arab people despaired after the revolution’s objectives turned out to be merely delusive slogans.

The Islamic Republic regime, to reach their illegitimate goals and continue to dominate over non-Persian ethnic people resorted to the worst type of racist tools.

The Mullah regime with much more aggressive policies in comparison with the previous Pahlavi system, has continued to carry out the ethnic cleansing policies through changing the demographic composition of Al-Ahwaz.   In this period, the policy of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz in various forms has been widely implemented.

Some of the methods that are used in line with ethnic cleansing of the Ahwazi Arab people are outlined as follows:

Exile:

Exile is one of the tools that the Islamic Republic regime, like its predecessor the Pahlavi regime, has used it against Ahwazis. This punitive measure is employed especially for those effective Arab intellectuals and influential political figures who have been campaigning to gain some of the social, political, cultural, and economic rights for the Ahwazi people.

10966681_1407719212861852_796136942_nThe regime, by applying exile, is seeking different goals such as disconnection of Ahwazi intellectuals with their society as a step for depriving the society of benefits of the intellectual’s insights. Besides the displacement of intellectuals, the regime is attempting to submerge the intellectuals and their families in the host community (Persian community) in order to prevent the continuation of their influence on the next generations.

As a matter of fact, in the early days of the revolution, the institutionalized policies, of banishing Ahwazi people to Persian regions, was carried out with greater frequency and intensity.

However, later with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war the exile and displacement of Ahwazis practically took on new and broader forms as this time there was no longer need for Iranian courts’ decisions to carry out the banishment of Ahwazis.

This is because of constant fears of rockets and mortar shells of the war that forced many of Arab people out of Al-Ahwaz. As it is estimated that around 1.5 million Ahwazi civilians have been relocated in provinces of Fars, Isfahan, Khorasan, Tehran and many other places.

War:     

Khomeini said war was a blessing for us. These ominous words today apparently reveal the destructive and the murderous theories that had been set against the Ahwazi people during the war.

The Iranian occupying theorists viewed the war as the best opportunity to implement their horrid goals and make them facts on the ground.

The Ahwazi liberationist movement was a serious obstacle for the Iranian totalitarian regime. Therefore, the large-scale turmoil of the war was an unrepeatable time for the government to liquidate most of the Ahwaz’s political class once and for all so that they could never become a challenge to the regime that see the demands of Ahwazis  incompatible with its centralized  ideology.

Finally, the Iranian death squads operated massive extrajudicial killings of any Ahwazi who was suspected of having cultural or political activism by accusing them of being a fifth column, or engaged in espionage or sabotage activism for Iraqi forces.

By the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, many Ahwazi political forces  called for the establishment of political and cultural institutions, but the governments of the time  did not respond to any of the demands. At that phase, the Ahwazi Arab movement suffered the greatest human losses due to repression by the Islamic Republic regime, as hundreds of Ahwazi cultural, civil and political activists were executed, based on unfounded accusations like treason charges.

Additionally, the cataclysm of the prolonged war operated as a potent weapon in favor of the Iranian regime to displace Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and as the conflict reached its fiercest peak the war-stricken cities such as Abadan, Mohammareh, Albseytin and rural areas in borderline which exposed to extensive havoc and damage were almost deserted and its Arab population moved to the central regions of the Iranian plateau thereafter they were scattered among different cities. As a consequence, the large active part and one of the most efficient pillars of Ahwaz society, particularly in Mohammareh city, has been practically excluded from influencing the movement of the Ahwazi Arab nation.

After the war, the successive governments had undertaken similar policies against the Ahwazi people. They refrained from allocating part of the economic budget to the reconstruction of the devastated infrastructure of the war-ravaged regions, especially in the cities of Abadan and Mohammareh. In this way they were able to foreclose any possibility regarding the return of the Ahwazi people in exile to their homeland. Thus, the Iranian occupying state had pioneered in contemporary history of the Middle East in one of the largest changes of demographic composition, that of uprooting the Ahwazi Arab people.

10966804_1407719286195178_544516746_nAs always, the regime, with overt relocation programs, sought to use the condition of the war-torn areas from where its Arab people had largely evacuated during the conflict as an excuse to prevent and discourage the return of thousands of its original inhabitants.

The regime did not reconstruct these areas, particularly those bordering villages and instead have declared them as prohibited military zones and have cordoned the areas off with barbed wire and patrols leaving it empty to this day.

In fact, the Arab people belonging to these rural areas after fleeing their villages were relocated in shanty town and marginalized areas around Ahwaz city and other urban areas outside Al-Ahwaz.

They waited long years to return to their villages, but their hopes have steadily weakened and became a mirage contrary to what they had previously assumed; that they could come back to their homes soon after the end of the war.

The Arab people have lost not only their villages, but also their agricultural lands. They retain countless mines and unexploded rockets. The Iranian governments did not attempt to restore and de-mine the agricultural lands from the remains of the legacy of the war and in exchange used it as a preventive measure with which to deprive the Arab villagers from cultivating their lands.

Such measures have caused the Arab villagers prefer to live under the harshest conditions in the margins of the metropolis of Ahwaz and to not return to their ruins.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Dearest daughters, dear Vanessa and Greta,

Welcome home. We are very happy to know you are safe within the loving embrace of your families.  In these five months we have never stopped praying for you.

I want to just write a few lines to thank you for your sacrifice and your commitment, thank you for having made the cause of the long-suffering Syrian people your own and for having taken so fully to heart the suffering of the children, women, youth and the elderly who are dying in Syria. You are a noble example of what volunteering is, the pride and joy of Italy, where every day thousands of persons are dedicated to helping those in need. The Syrian people thank both of you and all the Italians who have never stopped sending their aid and who have welcomed and comforted refugees in transit on Italian soil.

You have been mothers to the little orphans and sisters to the many Syrian women who are paying with their lives without any reason for it. You have waved the flag of Free Syria, honouring the sacrifice of the 270 thousand Syrian victims who have died in the name of dignity and freedom.

As a father, I am so proud of your altruism and your generosity: so young, and yet at the same time, so sensitive to the pain of the millions of helpless civilians who have been undergoing a genocide for almost four years. My dear daughters, five months spent so far away from your loved ones, five difficult months of pain and suffering: you have paid so dearly for your altruistic instinct for which the entire Syrian population, 21 million persons, are indebted to you.

Please don’t apologise, on the contrary: the world of free men and women is on your side and is with you, and is very sorry for all that has happened to you and what you have had to undergo.

Welcome back, and may you receive the blessings that the Lord will grant you for your generosity and sensitivity.

Dr. Dachan Mohamed Nour

Syrian National Council

medico_1219482A word from Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to take part in the mission in Syria with the two recently freed Italian girls. She had met the girls in Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” of the Caritas Ambrosiana.

Written by Stefano Pasta, translated by Samantha Falciatori 

These are days of controversy and speculation about the reasons why Vanessa and Greta went to Syria. We talk about it with Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to go with them on the same mission to Syria. In the same spirit, and always willingly and unpaid, she worked on the Mare Nostrum ships, in Kenya with the Camilliani Fathers (she has been going there for ten years) and other places of suffering in the world. During the months when she is at home, in Milan, she is one of the many citizens who, in different ways, helps the Syrian and Eritrean refugees (at least 70,000) reach Milan in their journey to Northern Europe. It is here, in the Central Station and in the reception centers activated by the Municipality, that she met the two girls.

Where did you meet them?

In Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, which is run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” (Caritas Ambrosiana). It was October 2013. The Municipality had just decided to accept refugees in transit for a few days and, as it is now, it was cooperating with a very heterogeneous group of Milanese, some belonging to associations, but above all, individuals motivated by solidarity for what these families have suffered. Sometimes it would happen that you would see Syrian children with wounds from firearms. Until last June, “Medici volontari italiani” (“Volunteer Italian Medics”), the association to which I belong, was in charge of the first aid intervention of what was a sort of small refugee camp. Greta and Vanessa, who spoke perfect Arabic [translator’s note, according to the interviewee], helped me with the translation, but they were devoted mainly to entertaining the children, and organizing games and activities. These volunteer “activists” also had other tasks: to welcome the refugees who arrived from Southern Italy to the Central Station, to accompany them to the reception centers, and to help them with train tickets. Then when there was no more room in the reception centers, we turned to private homes (I myself have hosted several Syrians). Now at the Station there is a valuable group of volunteers, but the management of the incoming refugees in the centers is now handled by the Municipality.

What struck you about the two girls?

Their effort, shared also by many activists of all ages: almost daily and always withoutgetting a cent, they came and went from their cities to Milan. Sometimes we left the center together and I gave them a ride to the underground stop next to my house. It was an opportunity to share thoughts about the suffering we had seen during the day. It often happened that the patients let us see the photos of their lives in Syria, some which had fought against the Assad regime. It was clear to us who the weak were: on one side there was Assad who destroyed his people, and on the other side, there was a people of survivors who fled in search of a new life.

Then came the proposal of the trip to Syria…

Greta phoned me asking if I wanted to go to Syria for 5-6 days in the rural area of Idlib, that both girls had already visited in a previous mission. They knew that I already had experience in many countries at war. I immediately said yes, confirming I would willingly collaborate with them. At that time, in the Syrian areas controlled by the rebels,  virtually none of the biggest organizations operated anymore. Only small groups, often self-organized, did it, with a few day-long missions during which they delivered medicines and aid in kind.

slide_396732_4873160_freeWhat was the project of Vanessa and Greta about?

I still have the April email in which they sent me the project. It was a well done project, with objectives developed after careful analysis of the needs of the territory. In the roughly twenty villages in the area, medical facilities had been bombed and there were no doctors (they had fled or had been killed). All the medical assistance was handled by only one veterinarian. In the first mission, Greta and Vanessa had identified the deficits, setting two goals for the next missions. First: to activate a first aid course providing the necessary materials. Second: to ensure the sick of chronic diseases (for example diabetes) access to the right therapies. As far as the first is concerned, we are talking about gauzes, disinfectants, pills, therefore, materials that each family had to keep at home; Greta, a Nursing Sciences student, had all the necessary skills.

But then you did not leave with them…

No, I could not join their second mission due to problems that arose at the last moment. I also couldn’t attend the third, the one in July, because I was called to serve on the Navy ships, in the Mare Nostrum Operation. When I learned about their kidnapping, I was already in Kenya. Before both missions, I had helped them choose and collect the medicines to bring to Syria. During the missions, they used to write me via email and Facebook to ask my opinion by sending me photos of the patients they met.

Were they naïve and inexperienced?

No. For Greta and Vanessa their life was a mission, nothing else. There are people who give top priority to the good of others, even at the cost of their own life.

Original: http://m.famigliacristiana.it/articolo/vanessa.htm

la comune 2From La Comune, a “Humanist Socialist” organisation in Italy that has always been side by side with us in the struggle for Syrian Freedom.  WRITTEN BY RENATO SCAROLA, Translated by Mary Rizzo

We are happy that Greta and Vanessa are alive and free. We are disgusted by the comments and by the articles that are vulgar and chauvinist, cynical and with evident instrumental manipulation of the truth that has followed their liberation Greta and Vanessa are being attacked as women and as persons who are in solidarity with a population caught between the vice grip of the Assad dictatorship and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. The former Fascist Gasparri has distinguished himself in this flood of cynical sexist vulgarity.  Moreover, manipulating the truth, it has been insinuated that Greta and Vanessa have had ambiguous contacts with sectors connected to al Qaeda, that is, by those who had kept them imprisoned as hostages for months. From what the young women have declared and from what we know, their commitment and aid is devoted to the Syrian population and is against both the dictatorship of Assad as well as that of al Qaeda and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. Analogously, put under accusation is also Yasser, an exponent of the Syrian Arab Community in Italy (and friend of Greta and Vanessa) of Bologna and of the Committee of Solidarity with the Syrian Karama population, a person who has signed the appeal that La Comune has promoted for a day of national action in solidarity with the Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian populations against the Neo-Nazis of ISIS.

We denounce these cynical and ignoble attacks and we express our solidarity to Greta, Vanessa and Yasser, which for us cannot be renounced as a necessary part of the support alongside the Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi populations in the people’s resistance to the Neo-Nazis of ISIS and dictators like Al Assad.
Original: http://www.lacomuneonline.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=973%3Agreta-e-vanessa-solidarieta&lang=it

greta-ramelli-vanessa-marzullo-1WRITTEN BY ASMAE SIRIA DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

The emotion was immense when, Friday, 16 January, 2015, the Italian news agency Ansa finally released the title:”Palazzo Chigi (Office of the Prime Minister, translator’s note) confirmed, Greta and Vanessa are free.” It’s over, thank God; the nightmare that has lasted five months is over. An interminable time in which, respecting a news blackout and considering the need of discretion, I preferred not to write anything, entrusting my feelings and my thoughts to prayer.

The day the news was released of their kidnapping I was at home, having returned just a few days before from a poignant trip to Syria; Ramadan had just begun. Hearing the names of Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli on the TV and that word, “abducted” was terrible. The beginning of a nightmare for all who love and know them. But now they are back home, in the close and reassuring embrace of their families.

On the news many times was broadcast a video in which Vanessa and I are together: an interview in Bologna in November 2012, on the occasion of the Global March for the Children of Syria’, an initiative of solidarity and denouncement in which many had taken part, from every part of Italy. Syrians, Italians, volunteers, students, journalists, families, charities: a colourful procession bring to Italy the voice of Syrian civilians. Vanessa was one of the organisers of the march, whose local slogan was ‘Follow Your Heart’ and I made the interviews with the participants, while Paolo Crobu oversaw shooting and editing. Initiative ignored by the mainstream media, with interviews that were only broadcast on the YouTube channel; the aim was to raise awareness about what was and is still happening in Syria, where from 2011 to today there are at least 270 thousand deaths, including more than 20 thousand children.

Many had written and phoned to tell me that they had seen the video on TV. It had been there on the net almost unnoticed and, in the light of the abduction, was instead disseminated. I’ve seen it countless times.

Vanessa speaks quietly but with determination, she speaks of the Syrian drama, the dream of freedom for a people with whom she, a young student of Lombardy, has been in contact with and to whom she is attached. Only twenty years old, at his age many of her peers are busy only with their studies and organising their amusement, but she hasn’t thought only of this. Ever since I met her, I’ve noted that she was writing every night of Syria, denouncing kidnappings, rapes, abuses suffered by civilians. She translates the stories and dramatic testimony that is disclosed in the network by young Syrian activists. ‘Clandestine Communicators’, ‘opponents’, ‘rebels’, ie, people who have found the courage to challenge the censorship imposed by the Assad regime, giving voice to the genocide of which the world seems not to have taken notice. Because the dictatorship leads to this: to move like ghosts, to become ‘outlaws’ for disobeying the impositions of the tyrant. In Syria one shuts up and obeys the rules, or else you are finished, and this the world, at least the countries that in the past have suffered such violence, know, or at least should know.

In Syria able to move freely is the regime and their supporters; anyone who is opposed to it is illegal. Anyone who has picked up the flag with the three stars, the historic Syrian flag hoisted after the end of French colonialism in 1946 (and not the red, white and black with the two stars imposed by the regime) is branded for life. Anyone who has taken part in marches, demonstrations, initiatives, is branded. Not only in Syria. Even among Syrians abroad. Everyone knows that having declared themself to be against the regime, the regime that after fifty years of power and four years of bloodshed still holds Syria in its fist, means to have finally signed their forced exile from the homeland. The Syrians who have fled in boats of death, which in the absence of an international humanitarian corridor, are entrusted to human traffickers, they know they will not be able to return home. The same for those who are in the condition of refugees. This is something Vanessa and Greta knew and they did not look the other way. They participated, along with many other young people and volunteer associations in operations of hosting the Syrians in transit at the station in Milan to reach northern Europe.

They have taken Syria to heart. They have embraced the pain of a humanity forgotten. With selflessness and courage. Exposing themselves personally. Risking, without any fear. You can criticise their imprudence, but demonise them, no.

Now they are paying for their courage. On the web the media lynching is nothing short of disgraceful. I have never seen so much fury even against mob bosses or serial rapists. Certain political areas exploit their dramatic story for their campaign. We are witnessing a sexist drift, a blind hatred and theatre of hypocrisy that dance embraced tightly to ignorance. Because most of the people, even in good faith, ignore what is happening in Syria and how we have come to this state of total chaos.

Greta and Vanessa are becoming the scapegoat for many crisis situations. Paying for being young, for being women, for having taken the side of a people struggling against a tyrant, for putting the lives of others before their own. Turning them into what they are not is ignoble.

Has the sacrifice of these two young girls perhaps rekindled the spotlight on the Syrian drama? Is anyone wondering what is going on over there? Today it seems that the problem in Syria is only Isis, circulating many distorted concepts, the truth is systematically raped and the dramatic situation is ignored. The Syrian situation is the most serious humanitarian emergency in the new century. Please read the reports of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, UNICEF, the UN and humanitarian organisations that are monitoring the situation. It is reflected by the numbers of this massacre: 270 thousand deaths, including 20 thousand children, 9 million IDPs, over 3.7 million refugees, 1 million wounded and more than 250 thousand missing. Taking Syria to heart means not being indifferent to all this.

As a Syrian I feel strong embarrassment towards Greta and Vanessa for what they have suffered in Syria. I am equally embarrassed for all the hatred that is flowing against them. Both situations are ignoble.

A dutiful thanks goes to those who worked towards bringing them home safe and sound.

Greta and Vanessa are courage and recklessness, selflessness and sacrifice. We have waited anxiously. Today they are here. Welcome Back Home.

 

Original: https://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/greta-e-vanessa-il-coraggio-contro-lindifferenza/

ahwaz 1 19Prepared and presented by: Committee for research and studies in The Arab Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz   

The security and municipal agents in Ahwaz raided a home belonging to an Ahwazi extended family, throwing their furniture out onto the street and trashing their personal belongings. This barbaric act happened on Sunday morning, 18 January.

Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying the residents of the home were screaming in the attempt to protect their property that they had lived in for 26 years, but the regime’s agents did not care and continued to destroy their property.  Two women and an old man who were standing there were brutally beaten and sustained injuries.

The occupying security forces, escorted by bulldozers belonged to the municipality of District 6 in Ahwaz city raided Zafaraniyah neighborhood and wiped out the home of the Ahwazi Arab family.

The Persian Occupation forces, by demolishing the home of the Ahwazi citizen in the Zafaraniyah neighborhood provoked fierce indignation among local people.

Violent clashes broke out in between the Occupation forces and the citizens in response to the wanton aggressive action, which outraged the local people.  The resistance of the local people to foil the security forces from destroying the home was in vain, and the house was razed to the ground. In reprisal, the bulldozer driver, who demolished the home, was shot dead by the local people, eyewitnesses quoted.

ahwaz 2 19The Zafaraniyah neighborhood is one of the most densely populated areas in the Ahwaz capital, and its Arab residents are suffering from marginalization and deliberate negligence policies by Occupation authorities.

It is worth mentioning that the bulldozer driver, who was killed, is an Ahwazi Arab citizen who was used as a human shield to carry out the brutal action.

The institutions and departments of the occupation usually deploy Ahwazi citizens to commit such criminal acts taking advantage of their extreme economic weakness as the majority of Ahwazis suffer poverty because of marginalization and discrimination policies.

The family of the victim bulldozer driver, after hearing the news of their son’s death had attacked the mayor of the District 6.They blamed the municipal department, placing the entire responsibility on the head of the municipality for their son’s death.

In recent months, the Iranian regime has brutally demolished and confiscated many of the Ahwazi Arab homes almost under the pretext of building without a permit, as roughly 70 percent of Ahwazi applications for the building permit are rejected.

According to Ahwazna sources, on Tuesday, 23 September 2014, the Iranian regime security forces who were escorting a bulldozer raided a home in one of the Ahwazi villages the day before and ordered the home residents to collect their things, and get out immediately because their home must be demolished. But the occupying forces met with stiff resistance from a group of Ahwazi Arab women who bravely formed a human chain around the home and refused to evacuate as well as some of them laying down in front of the bulldozer to prevent it from demolishing their home as of one women was crying and screaming saying to the security forces that “you are going to demolish my home over my dead body”, “I have five children, where else have I to go?”.

Watch the video: 

On Monday, October27, 2014, Iranian occupying forces once again brutally invaded Ahwazi Arab houses in the poorest slums in various parts of Ahwaz capital.

According to eyewitnesses, the military operation which was launched in the early morning without any prior warning to the Ahwazi Arab residents left more than 45 Ahwazi houses completely ravaged and destroyed and over 78 others were severely damaged.

The operation which has been reinforced with intensive military vehicles, including 5 bulldozers, has savagely terrified the innocent and defenseless Ahwazi Arab residents including children, women, the elderly and handicapped people by constant  arbitrary shooting in the air as a message for  the Ahwazi civilians to get out of their houses and giving them only 20 minutes to evacuate their property  as their house must be  destroyed as usual under the pretext of so-called illegal construction and lack of legal building permit.

The occupying bulldozers have also demolished the electricity piles, telephone towers, branch roads and streets of the densely residential areas of the Ahwazi civilians.

This military operation by the Iranian occupying regime left 45 homes demolished with 350 homeless and the homes and property of over 78 families (500) were seriously damaged.

The silence of the international community toward violations of humanitarian rights in Al-Ahwaz serves to encourage the Iranian occupying forces to intensify such oppression and violation against the Ahwazi Arab people.

An unbearable condition of life has been imposed on the entire Ahwazi Arab population by the Iranian regime. It is incredible that in an age of human rights, such atrocities can continue to rage for more than 9 decades and that there are people in nations who undermine and underestimate such inhumanity.

Poverty, expulsion, killing, substance addiction, land, home and property confiscation and many countless crimes are perpetrated by the Iran regime. Where are those human rights activists who proclaim advocating human rights and why haven’t they opened their eyes toward the Ahwazi Arabs’ suffering?

In the early hours of Sunday morning 17/11/2014,  the Iranian occupation forces demolished the homes of Ahwazi Arabs in Om-Al Ghezlan district (Koye Farhangian), the angry residents,  in a natural reaction, clashed with the invading forces.

In response to the brutal actions of the occupation forces who invaded the district to destroy the Ahwazi Arab homes, men and women desperately resorted to throwing stones during the clashes with the invading forces.

According to eye witnesses, in the early hours of the day, the Ahwazi Arab stone throwers defended their homes by burning tires in front of the occupying bulldozers and managed to deter the invading operation for short time.

The invading forces, after having faced down the resistance from the Ahwazi homeowners, have decided to deploy more forces which resulted in the arrest of many people  with bulldozing of around 20 homes along with ruining the property of Arab people, giving them no chance to save their possessions.

The Ahwazi Arab residents filmed and photographed the criminal operation of the destruction of their own homes, calling on the world conscience to condemn and to speak out against the atrocious policies of the Iranian occupying forces in the Ahwazi territories.

In recent months, the occupation forces have significantly intensified the home demolition operations and seizure of property in most of the Ahwazi Arab residential districts. The demolition of homes is always been carried out under the pretext of the owner not having a legal permit for construction.

The local people reported that their children are suffering from stress-related night-time bed-wetting and sudden epilepsy due to the trauma and terror they have had received during the home destruction operations.  The security forces were intimidating the Ahwazi Arab women and children by pointing guns at them during the demolition of homes.

Such brutal and unjustified policies are consistently conducted with forced displacement and migration of the Ahwazi Arab people who are extremely punished due to subjection to the outrageous ethnic cleansing policies of the Iranian occupying regime.

In parallel with the demolition of the Ahwazi homes and confiscating of properties, the occupation government is encouraging Persian settlers to reside in Ahwaz, providing them with full facilities, housing units and job opportunities as incentives to settle them there.

van a casa greta a casa

Written by Mary Rizzo

Hundreds of articles, thousands of comments and dozens of conjectures have emerged since the liberation of Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo from their imprisonment in Syria. Reading them, I am continually shocked by the content, mostly because the relationship of the content of these articles with reality is close to nil. And, of course, since those of us who know these women have acted responsibly, following the instructions of our government to keep press silence for their sake, it has given space to the vultures and monsters of orientalist, conspiracy, reactionary yellow journalism, who see in them all the ingredients for their “articles”: beautiful young maidens who are victims of the evils they embraced. Articles are coming out basing their research on the trash articles full of falsehood and insane conjecture, because during those endless 5 and a half months, the trash writers had free reign and their inventions, which will naturally be held up to scrutiny now that it is possible to respond to them, and certainly lawsuits will arise from the defamation they contain.

Five and a half months where those who know, and those who know better, were discouraged from expressing in public our solidarity, prohibited from making marches, creating petitions, even from something so simple as making a supportive page in Facebook. Asking activists to go against their instincts of protesting, getting into the streets and involving the general public in awareness raising activities is asking a lot of them, especially if the thing they are being asked to do is to keep silence regarding persons they know and love very much. But this was done, some of us suspending our feelings of disappointment in how our government works, and simply trusting them and obeying them. Our government pulled through and fulfilled their obligation to bring back our co-citizens who were victims of criminals in a foreign country. We are so grateful to them for their efforts and thrilled at their success.

There are other Italians who are not so happy about it though. One of them, for instance, is a former minister, Luca Zaia who says, (taking the words of some unknown “Tweeter” account statement as legitimate against the word of his own government that states that no ransom was paid and international laws were adhered to) “there has to be a norm for whoever gets themselves in trouble, they have to find their own way to get out of the mess.” He suggests that the goods of the families of Greta and Vanessa should be confiscated for life, to repay the Italian State, in fact.  All of that is pretty rich coming from someone who, when he was minister of Agriculture brought upon the Italian State fines amounting to 2.4 billion Euros for not adhering to EU limits of milk production, “The smooth operators and cheaters in the milk quotas have cost us Italians 4.5 billion Euros. In 2009 then Minister of the Northern League Zaia bailed out the “tax evaders” and denied the Revenue Agency Collection the right to get back the amounts paid by the State on their behalf.”

Then there are those who say they were involved with Jihadis and militias of every kind. Others who say they ought to have stayed in Italy and taken care of our many poor and needy. Still others say they had no preparation to go where they went to do what they claimed they were there to do. Neither of the first two groups have the faintest idea of who Greta and Vanessa are. They don’t know that they have been involved in the humanitarian aspect of what is a war zone. They have absolutely a point of view, given their interest and knowledge of the situation, and it is impossible to remain “neutral in the face of oppression” or pretend that there is not a war going on and know how it started and what areas are suffering the most. They don’t know that they also have volunteered and been trained in Italy and other countries, and that they were not “sent” by anyone. It seems peculiar to these people that young adult women can have a grasp on a very complex situation. Just because those condemning them don’t have a grasp, they assume it should be the same for Vanessa and Greta. The third group of critics has a slight advantage in that while they are wrong about them being totally unprepared, they are right that this kind of volunteer work in a war zone has absolutely no rules and anything can happen, even to the most prepared person, so this is all the more true of two individuals representing a humanitarian group they were the founders of, without a history of safety regulations and a staff to organise every particular up to the smallest detail.

Those who doubt their sincerity, however, or why they should be so involved in Syria, evidently have not had the same exposure to the information that the women have had. Ones who are informed of the situation of the Syrian population, who have learned about the suffering and the slaughter of innocent people, particularly children, simply can’t just shut it off. It becomes a sort of obsession, a constant suffering. There are simply people in the world, empathic and humanitarian people, and Vanessa and Greta are two of them, who when they see the suffering of others, enter into a state of profound com-passion. They feel it fully, they share in the pain and it becomes so deeply felt that they feel that their duty is to help, they cannot NOT help. They believe in the power of love and the human duty to not look away but to do like others have done before them throughout the history of the world, where the people we are given as examples for life go to the den of the leper and embrace him, to make him feel that he is not alone in the world and to try to heal his wounds. They knew that their aid might be a drop in the bucket, but the power of sharing the suffering, taking part and witnessing, that is something that they felt compelled to do, and all the friendly advice of those who love them could not change the path that they set before them, to BE THERE for others. If there are those who doubt this sentiment can exist, I say, they are surrounded by grey people, and when they find themselves alone and in pain, they may not have someone there to stand by them, that kind of thing is not contemplated in their world. But this is the world of Greta and Vanessa, the world of compassion and sharing in the burden.

It is disgusting to read the various comments by people who only criticise them or even smear or defame them. But it is good to realise that they come from a world that is alien to mine and to that of Greta and Vanessa, who are thankfully enjoying the support of many, despite the louder voices of the vile and vulgar ones. In schools across Italy (if I take for an example my own child’s high school) the “hour of religion” – yes, Italian public schools have this, and given that the students prefer to stay together during the day, even those who are not Catholic participate and they are basically classes where ethics and current events are discussed – all of the students applauded the girls, said they were proud of them, admired them, thought they were the best representative of humane ideals, but simply that they were wrong to have underestimated how dangerous it was and to have caused their families the worry. In Italy, unlike America, young people often live at home even after they reach 18, and independence is not complete, though the right to make important decisions is recognised, it is still considered necessary to obtain parental approval for some things, and in this case, the students of my child’s class thought that this was the only thing they did wrong. It seems that 17 year olds have a better understanding than 50 year olds sometimes…..

But there is one subject that remains to be discussed, and that is how it happened. All we know is that despite the media circus, the “jihadi” theory is ridiculous and so is the one that they were working for the FSA. The dynamics are going to come out in time, and rather than the weak little Pollyannas that some may have thought they are, the two Italian women are proving to be stronger than lions. They not only had to undergo the horrors of their imprisonment, but they are fully collaborating with the magistrates who are investigating the kidnapping. They, in the first place, who believe in justice and dignity, are not going to withhold any information that leads to the arrest of those who are responsible for their abduction and detainment against their will. It is possible that those who are responsible don’t live in a war zone, so justice may indeed be served.

It is said that in their auditions before the investigators, who have opened the case to investigate and ultimately prosecute those responsible, they were aware of the reason they were abducted the moment they were taken away, because they asked, “Why??” and the response was, “For money”.

Yes, this is where those of us who not only love and admire Vanessa and Greta now have to take a stand. We, like them, believe in justice, human rights and most of us also support the revolution against Assad. We are quite willing to condemn any and every group and individual who not only has violated the rights of humanitarians but who have betrayed the very cause of opposition to Assad if they engage in actions that are against human rights and harm innocent people. If it is true that, as they admit, they were in a place considered as safe, only for it to instead have been a trap artfully set up by those who acted like friends only to betray them, then this is not going to be buried under the rug because it is shameful. Instead, we trust more than ever our authorities to investigate, find the evidence that will prove that they have been set up by guys who boast of their importance inside Syria with the oppostion and their excellent and safe connections, and there is going to be no rest if it turns out that these are individuals who are hiding behind the Syrian revolution flag or acting like they are for the overthrow of Assad or even if they are (as they may claim) greatly respected by the revolutionaries and even influential in Syria. If their tactics are the same, treating innocent people like merchandise, a cheap form of human trafficking, it is all the more shameful because it has brainwashed itself that it’s for “the cause”. It’s not for any cause that Vanessa and Greta and the rest of us stand for. If it is a person or persons involved in the opposition militia, my personal wish for them is that they simply keep on as they are doing, because even if they achieve martyrdom, they are not going to ever achieve Janna (paradise) because they have committed a crime so heinous that there is no way to atone. They will learn what imprisonment is, eternally.

If they have even the thought that the lives of these women have X value and they tricked them or led to them being tricked, then they are no different than what we are against, and they, hopefully soon exposed, should be made to pay their debt with justice until their last day on earth. They are not going to find any “friends” who cover for them or pat them on the back or who justify what they have done. Whoever it is, may they feel that the circle is closing in on them, and the sooner the Syrian people are rid of such traitors, the better. It is also unfortunate that thanks to situations like this, other humanitarian efforts are thwarted, relief to the suffering Syrian population is going to be denied and the end of the Assad regime is going to be set farther ahead. Yes. Thanks to the betrayal of such kinds of persons against all that is good and right, who abuse trust and good faith and the purity of decent people. They betray all of Syria by their actions.

Lastly, we thank Greta and Vanessa from the heart for proving to us that there is indeed humanity, for being the beautiful people they are. We wish for them only the joy, happiness, serenity they deserve so much and we are thrilled that they are reunited with their families who strongly supported them and went through their own suffering, but who are not punitive, because there is nothing to punish heroes for, because it is a blessing to be in the midst of heroes, humanitarians and persons who know the meaning of the phrase, “stay human”. No matter what choices Vanessa and Greta make in life, we stand by them, we trust them and we love them, and hope we are going to be worthy of them.

Written by Mariano Manuel Bartiromo for Osservatorio Italo-Siriano, translated by Mary Rizzo

There was a time when it was normal to feel the fear and worry for those in danger. Welcome to an age when normality is to attack the victims relentlessly, to bind them tightly so that you can hit them and enjoy a perverse pleasure in watching the terror in their eyes. Welcome to the age where selfishness, greed, envy and frustration are now so entrenched that what frightens society is no longer disease or war, but it is love.

vane-greta1 (1)

The “other” who terrorises you for being different from you is branded as crazy and exposed to ridicule and abuse

Dear Vanessa, I have shared this space with you (the blog of the Osservatorio Italo-Siriano) and now I shudder at the thought of writing “about” you.

Your articles, indeed, as you always called them, “stuff I write,” – because you did not want to call yourself a journalist – are here, but none of the journalists – because they instead cling dearly to their title – who have taken advantage of you and Greta so that they could have a scoop in the form of a sideshow and vent their lust for popularity and fame, has taken the trouble to read them.

It would have been enough to read just three lines to understand who you are, your love, your courage, your ideas that have come to become your life, because you have not taken time from your life, because your life is in giving to others. But two girls who leave everything just because they cannot live knowing that in one part of the world there are people dying of hunger and bombs, they simply can’t accept something like that. It is ‘unimaginable in the realm of business and the stock market, of ambition and self-aggrandisement, reality TV and discos.

Those who are not part of the system feel repulsion by the system. Love is not tolerated. We are so used to competing and being suspicious, that when we see selflessness, we simply cannot believe it’s true.

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Italy has become a luminary of the culture of hidden agendas.

“Have the courage to sign a surety to the families of the two idiots to pay the ransom”; “Demented girls. Make them pay!”; “A nice excuse to finance the jihadists”; “Leave them there, those two cretin girls”; “They went to take selfies with the rebels”; “Surely they have some screw loose”, “Samaritans who love the Kalashnikov”; “Leave them there, they went there so they could bring peace and found eternal peace, what the hell have they got to complain about?”; “Leave them where they are, please”; “I wonder whether it is reasonable that all Italians somehow must pay to repatriate these two demented fanatics”; “But enough of these two stupid girls, who are taking us for a ride. Leave them to their fate, that is what they want”; “They are infiltrates to support the terrorists.”

It goes on and on. Comments are scattered here and there all over the web, from the more refined pseudo-political manipulation to the most vulgar outburst from like stadium chants from hoodlums who hide behind nicknames and photo of cartoon characters.

The most squalid Italy, the Italy that from the fullness of their rounded bellies sets up kangaroo courts in the bored refinement  of their “gentlemen’s clubs”, is no  longer able to remember what humanity is: it judges, decides and condemns, then, satisfied, goes back to its alluring pastimes by clicking on another site.

The Syrian uprising began as a spontaneous motion of protest against a dictator, a butcher, a murderer, because the continuous massacres of Assad, sometimes condemned by the too tolerant international community, have made it easy for jihadist infiltration. The “laissez-faire” attitude has stifled the revolution and made Syria a land of chaos that is a perfect stage for terrorism.

You made the cause of an innocent, tortured people, bombed and children herded into mass graves your own. But this terrorises. It makes those who never would have this kind of courage uncomfortable. And they have respect for no one, not even for the families who have been anxiously suffering in worry for months.

No humanitarian corridor has ever been opened, international politics has not offered any mediation between the parties and the violence has continued, in an exponentially increasingly manner, to become the main protagonist in the general indifference.

I CARE

Yes, Vanessa, you’re crazy, a terrorist. Your love is terrifying. Altruism is terror. Sacrifice is terror. Despite not having your courage, we think like you.

We would like to see all dictatorships reversed: the Syrian, the Korean, the Chinese ones, that of Islamic fundamentalism that abuse the Koran and kills, those of African warlords. Even and especially the dictatorship of the market.

And if all this means being lunatics and fanatics, then we are. Insult us as well, because we are all terrorists.

Welcome back home girls!

Original http://blog.you-ng.it/2015/01/16/vanessa-greta-terrore-dellamore/

Written by Ahwazna

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a mass demonstration entitled “we never forget our Ahwazi oppressed people” in front of the embassy of the Iranian occupying regime in the Danish capital on Saturday 10/01/2015.

The demonstration was held to denounce the policies of occupation of Iran and its ongoing crimes against the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Ahwazi demonstrators carried their protest through the streets of Copenhagen, chanting anti-regime slogans as they headed toward their final destination, which was a rally that gathered in front of the Iranian embassy.

The Ahwazi crowds packed the streets outside the Iranian embassy in the largest anti-regime protest to date, shouting “Death to the Iranian occupation regime” as well as  chanting slogans such as “Ahwaz will be freed, and Iranian occupiers will be out of it”.

copen demo 2The protesters also carried Arabic and English signs reading “Stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people”, the world must condemn the land confiscation policies conducted in Ahwaz”.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community residing in Denmark who took part in the demonstration, showing their solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people as well as a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries were participants in the rally.

The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people are under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state made an unforgettable and effective participation in this demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and collaboration and actual solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in Arabic and English condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the sinister Persian occupiers. They strongly denounced and condemned the diverting the course of the Karoon River, where the occupying regime is pumping its water away from the Ahwazis and diverting it to central Persian regions.

The organizers of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz who had called for this demonstration, stated during the Press Conference that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remains invisible to the world at large. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the demonstration is to bring it to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place further pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the executions and arbitrary arrests of the Ahwazi Arab people, the detainees being mainly political and human rights activists.

They asserted in recent years that around 35 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have been executed but these atrocious and senseless crimes have elicited very little reaction from the international community.

For years, Iran has been cracking down on the Ahwazi Arab people by mass arrests, torture and intimidation as well as carrying out the execution of innocent Ahwazi civilians.

The wealth and natural resources, especially natural gas and oil, of Ahwazi lands are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

This racial oppression has led the Ahwazi people to be one of the most destitute and marginalized people in Middle East, with a very high incarceration and execution rate.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, as there is an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the ocean of oil and gas and mineral resources that are being exploited by the Persian occupation state since 1925 and still ongoing.

The censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists to voice out the non-stop abuses committed against the Ahwazi people. This serious obstacle has allowed the regime to discriminate strongly and consistently against the Ahwazi Arab people.

copen demo 1The ethnic oppression includes the prohibition of Arabic, leading to the inability of Ahwazi people to study in their native language, the denial of job opportunities, the confiscation of lands and building Persian settlements for Persian settlers.

At the end of the Press Conference, the organizers of the demonstration appealed to human rights organizations and the Arabic and Western media to speak out against the despicable crimes of the Iranian regime in Al-Ahwaz. And finally, to recognize Ahwaz as an occupied Arabic country.

no more mosquesWRITTEN BY SHADY HAMADI, translated by Mary Rizzo

I am a Muslim and I condemn the massacre at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and I condemn Islamic fanaticism. But for some, and in a particular way I am thinking of certain politicians who carry out electoral campaigns inciting hatred towards immigrants and Islam, the condemnations by the religious leaders of the Islamic world are not going to be enough. Even if every single Muslim in the world speaks out to condemn what happened, this, unfortunately, will still not be enough because all that is being done is pointing the finger at a sole culprit, against the Islamic religion.

Even now, they will tell you that Islam, that is, more than two billion people, has declared war on you, on your values and on your Western belonging.

A certain kind of politics will seek consensus exploiting the massacre of Paris. Our politicians will tell you that “we are already at war against Islam and that we have to defend ourselves,” and the only real defence against the Islamic tide, is to vote for precisely those parties that have made xenophobia their raison d’etre. They will launch campaigns against the construction of places of worship for Muslims, declaring that “the mosques are the breeding ground for new terrorists” and, in so doing, they deny a right … just like those fanatics who they claim they want to fight.

tumblr_n7kzh7oJLR1skw9p7o6_1280You can choose. You can believe those who say that a war with Islam is inevitable. According to them, this religion embodies the violence and brutality that is then transmitted from one believer to another, through the study of the doctrine and prayer. For them, there aren’t good Muslims but there are only terrorists. They paint them all with the same brush, providing the right motivation that serves the terrorists to proselytize among the multitude of the desperate.

Another possibility, more sensible and correct, is to try to reason and understand that for the actions of two terrorists, two billion people and a religion cannot be responsible. We must understand that fanaticism in the Islamic world has many reasons, most of them related to social and historical causes, that affect societies today.

A century where colonialism and dictatorships, foraged from the West, have produced enormous damage to the Arabic social fabric. School systems built around an education formed on totalitarian regimes that have produced widespread ignorance; the lack of economic opportunities; the syndrome of Arabic nihilism, well described by the late Samir Kassir; the total lack of hope for the future and the tragedies that came about as of September 11 were some of the reasons that have produced contemporary religious radicalism. The first victim of this fanaticism is Islam itself. Sunni Muslims are the most persecuted by fundamentalists, as evidenced by the massacres in Syria: a whole population victim of the totalitarianism of Assad and the ISIS barbarians. And it is always Islam, the perception we have of this religion, to suffer the most damage because of the acts of those insane minds.

Today, in fact, Islam has become synonymous with terrorism in the West, so as to be deprived of any spiritual significance. It is marred by those who continue to associate it, without knowing anything about it in the least, as an enemy to fight. Clichés, simplifications and stereotypes about Islam are the collateral damage of a lack of knowledge that is far too widespread.

Now more than ever, we need constructive encounters, ones that are the sign of Mediterranean conviviality and an inter-religious discourse. Only with mutual recognition can we continue in our common history, managing to build a society for all of us. The fight for freedom is the struggle of each one of us, regardless of our faith.

If we abandon ourselves to the entrepreneurs of fear and ignorance, all will be lost.

Original: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-prima-vittima-fanatismo-lislam/1322511/

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Al-Ahwaz1WRITTEN BY AHWAZNA, Prepared and presented by: Committee for research and studies in The Arab Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz

Ahwaz is an occupied Arab country located in the southwestern region of the Republic of Iraq and also in the southwestern region of Persia. It is bounded on the north by the Kurdistan Mountains the eastern border of the Lorestan Mountains which are known as the mountains of Zagros. These mountains in the north and the east create a natural border that separates the Ahwaz Arab lands from Persia. To the south, Ahwaz lies along the northern coast of the Arabian Gulf.

In terms of climate, the areas of occupied Ahwaz are quite similar to the plains of Mesopotamia as well as being entirely different in all respects with the climate of Persia.

Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad in 1918-1920, also asserted when he visited Ahwaz or Arabistan, “Ahwaz (Arabistan) is quite different from Iran. Ahwaz is surrounded by mountain chains forming a wall completely surrounding Al-Ahwaz and constituting a geographic division. The interval between Ahwaz and Persia and the difference between Ahwaz and Persia resembles the differences between Germany and Spain. In addition, this difference is not only confined to the geographical landmarks of Ahwaz, but includes culture, language, customs and traditions, history and population, fertility of the land and agricultural crops”.

The actual total area of this occupied Arab land is 375 thousand square kilometers, but the subsequent Iranian occupying governments have proceeded to usurp vast areas of this Arab land and have annexed adjacent Ahwaz areas to the Persian regions, all for the reason of legitimizing the diminishment of the area of Ahwaz. This organized plundering, shrinking the area through a land-grab and pernicious policies had been sought since 1936 up to the present day where Persian governments, under the pretext of conducting modern administrative regulations have truncated the following parts of Ahwazi lands:

  • Cutting off 11 thousand square kilometers of southern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Fars Province.
  • Cutting off 10 thousand square kilometers of eastern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Esfahan Province.
  • Cutting off 4400 square kilometers of northern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Lorestan Province.
  • Other regions such as Elam, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas also have been cut from Ahwaz and exposed to Persianization policies by displacing its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and settling Persians there. In Bushehr and Bandar Abbas large numbers of Ahwazi Arab inhabitants have been forced into Arabian Gulf countries after experiencing oppression, poverty, the appropriation of their property and possessions, particularly through forcible confiscation of their lands.

Consequently, the map of Al-Ahwaz has dramatically been shrunk from its original size to 159,600 thousand square kilometers according to current Iranian statistics.

Despite the lack of accurate statistics on the precise amount of the Ahwaz population, the number of residents of this occupied Arabic country is estimated to be eight million people. According to the most recent census issued by the Persian government in 1962, the population of this country that remained after the annexation of large regions from it was approximately 3.5 million Arabs. In addition to the 100,000, settlers who came from the Persian cities to this country after Reza Shah Pahlavi invaded Ahwaz.

According to other statistics recognized by the Persian occupation which was carried out after administrative divisions led into truncation, large parts of this usurped Arabic country the Ahwaz or Khuzestan area, as Persian rule calls it, is 64,236 square kilometers and the census of Arab people is 374,6772 residents.  So, if we retrieve the population of the separated areas and add it to the aforesaid number, then the number of Arab inhabitants of Ahwaz will reach nearly eight million people.

Since 1925 and right after the fall of its last Arab ruler through the military occupation of Reza Shah, Ahwaz has been the target of racist policies of successive governments of Persian regimes.

The most vile, dangerous and destructive policy inflicted on Ahwaz is the plague of Persianization that is changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz with the goal of eliminating the Arabic identity and destroying all its major pillars of nation building.

ahwazThis policy in the long-term has drawn a vicious vision for the Persian occupation that is the requisite of dragging the Ahwazi Arab nation to a stage in which calling it a nation will no longer be possible. They have spared no effort to make this vision a reality on the ground. The practices and policies undertaken by Persian occupation can be divided into two eras.

The overt racist philosophy of Farsism began in the form of the pan-Iranist party during the Reza Shah Regime. But our intended concept is the inherent popularized idea of Farsism that has penetrated deeply into the mind and the characters of the Persian people, even those who are seemingly combating racism.  However, they are more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to anti-Arab sentiment or fighting against Arabs.

The contemptuous attitude toward other non-Persian, people particularly toward the Ahwazi nation, constitutes the backbone of Farsism as an ideology. In fact, the policy of racial discrimination is being applied at the beginning of the founding of the state – the nation.

The Ahwazi Arab people have been the first victims of this policy. Because the radicalism of Farsism, which seeks to maintain and stabilize its illegal roots in the land that was occupied it by force, has committed mass murder and genocide of Ahwazi Arab people in different ways. Before the occupation, Ahwaz had a homogeneous Arab population with various clans and tribes.  After the conquest of Ahwaz and consequent overthrow of Arabic rule, Reza Shah by applying the recommendations of Farsism theorists such as Foroughi, Mirza Malcom, Akhound Zadeh and Taghi Zadeh, practiced the policy of forced migration and displacement of populations against the Arab people. In his first criminal acts, we can refer to the mass exile of Arab sheikhs outside Ahwaz.

Then, he ordered the banishment of a large number of Ahwazi Arab tribes to the Khorassan region, forcing them to walk barefoot long distances day and night without water and food, having to cross grueling mountain routes as so many women, children and elderly people were killed due to extreme fatigue, thirst and starvation.

For years, Reza Shah had widely practiced the policy of reverse migration of Ahwazi people to the central Persian regions and in contrast promoted the settlement of Persian people in Ahwazi regions.

AHWAZ MAPThe nomadic Lur and Bakhtiyari tribes, as their original homelands is beyond Zagros Mountains and because of their proximity to the northern regions of Ahwaz, had frequently travelled  with their herds to Ahwazi areas to find pasture lands to feed their flocks of sheep and goats. This situation helped Reza Shah to resettle them quickly in Ahwazi areas especially in Qenitra (Dezful) and Susa (Shush).  The Bakhtiyari tribes were only living in mountain regions and foothills of the Zagros in Izeh and Masjed Soleyman and in winter and summer they were commuting between their original homeland and the Ahwazi areas (Izeh and Masjed Soleyman. This meant that they left Ahwaz in the summer and returned to Ahwazi areas in the winter. These areas had the greatest potential for changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz. However, the industrialization of the cities of Abadan and Ahwaz had created the basis for the massive migration into the cities.

The Pahlavi regime repeatedly sent groups of Persian laborers into cities and through the granting of privileges, established a Persian middle class in the heart of Ahwazi cities, thereby enabling and reinforcing its occupation policies. Since 1925 the systematic migration of Persians has been carried out through the settlement of the “Lor and Bakhtiyari” tribes in Izeh, Masjed Solyman and Qenitra (Dezful), agricultural projects in Toster to Muhammarah, and industrial and oil projects in Ahwaz and Abadan.

Once Persian immigrants started to descend on Ahwazi cities, it did not take long for the total political domination of the Persian state over Ahwaz. Further development of the Abadan oil refinery in 1938 led it to become one of the largest refineries in the Middle East, providing thousands of job opportunities and paving the way for the arrival of many immigrants.

Iran_Oil_Arab_Population_MapApproximately 25 years after Reza Khan entered the region, the population of Abadan increased to 227,000, more than ten times that of 1956. The arrival of Persian settlers was to such an extent that there was not sufficient housing to lodge them. It followed that the English-Iranian Oil Company had to construct exclusive residential buildings for their workers and employees, and these buildings are known as “Bangleha”. According to government statistics, 62 percent of these immigrants are from the Isfahan and Yazd provinces, 24 percent are from the Fars province and 8 percent from the Kermanshah province.

These government settlement programs resulted in an influx of large numbers of Persian settlers to the cities of Abadan and Mahshor. The occupation authorities ever since have sought to build new industrial hubs in other major cities in an effort to further spread the scale and scope of Persian settlement of the cities of Al-Ahwaz.

Through the establishment of governmental centers, industrial factories in and around the Ahwaz capital, in addition to promoting and strengthening the military’s role in establishing large military bases, improving roads and routes leading to Ahwaz city, they created another new industrial hub in the region that brought tens of thousands of Persian immigrants to the city.

The consequence of this policy led to the population of Ahwaz city in 1977 to reach half a million people, surpassing Abadan and other cities.

The outbreak of the Iran revolution in 1979 and after the Iran-Iraq war, the migration of Iranians to Ahwazi regions had relented for a while. But after those ethnic statistics were excluded from the official statistics of Iran, it was the beginning of a lack of transparency in statistics related to immigrants coming to Ahwaz.

As every year, the hideous assimilation phenomenon (Persianizing land and human settlement) plagues Ahwaz, mainly the northern and the eastern bordering regions. This monstrous occupying Persian state aims at devouring the entirety of Arabic characteristics of Ahwaz.

Changing the demographic structure in favor of non-Arab immigrants, changing the Arabic names to Farsi ones, the ban on teaching the Arabic language and breaking up Ahwazi territories by annexing parts of Ahwaz and inserting them into Persian regions adjacent to Ahwaz are all part of the agenda, seeking the corroboration of the occupation authorities in targeting all the pillars of the national Arabic identity of the Ahwazi people.

In addition to forced migration and deporting Arab people to Persian regions and reverse migration of non-Arab people into Ahwaz, the Persian state has adopted other evil methods against the Ahwazi people.

The confiscation and plundering of agricultural lands by Persian feudal owners followed new approval of agrarian reforms.  Under the new and unfair law, the non-indigenous feudal entities had seized the chance to illegally become the owners of the lands that had previously been usurped from Arab farmers. In this regard, the death of Majid Khan, the great feudal owner, had been a perfect opportunity for the Persian central government to take control of 25,000 hectares of the lands that were virtually usurped.  Later, the occupation government has established the “Karoon Sugar Cane Development project” on these confiscated lands in the Toster (Shushtar) region.  As a matter of fact, the agrarian reforms made by the government were not so different  when compared to the feudal ones with respect to giving the possession of lands by its main Arab owners and once again it was a lose–lose situation for Ahwazi Arab farmers. Although some feudal lands were granted to Arab farmers, the majority of lands that were under the possession of feudal ownership, once again were confiscated by the central government and  Arab farmers were deprived of their lands forever. Additionally, those nomadic Lor tribes that forcibly settled on Ahwazi lands according to the agrarian reform Law become the owners of lands that formerly had belonged to the Arab people.

In Mahshor, Temimiyeh (Hendijan), Khalafeyeh, Ramez and Omideyeh the Pahlavi government claimed that the lands belonged to a Persian person named “Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi” and after his death the government declared the confiscation of all these lands.

The Pahlavi government’s argument that apparently based is on speculation and lacks any credible evidence was announced as follows:

It seems that before the ownership of lands by Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi, these lands were under the authority of Sheikh Khazaal (the ruler of Ahwaz) but when Sheikh Khazaal married Batul Ma’âfi, the daughter of Hosseinqoli, he endowed the lands to Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi.  After the fall of Sheikh Khazaal and occupation of Ahwaz, Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi gave half of these lands to the government endowment organization and kept the rest in his ownership until the end of the Pahlavi regime. Later the Islamic Republic seized the part of lands owned by him. Now the Ahwazi Arab people, the original inhabitants of these lands, remained tenants residing on the lands that mainly belong to them and every time the landlord (government) wishes it can expel them from these lands.

Most statistics and evidence show that the government has put more focus on changing the demographic structure of Al-Ahwaz. Because they know well that a divided and heterogeneous nation is no longer able to stand against colonialism for this reason, the government has ever since been targeting the Ahwazi Arab nation from the inside.

It is a silent killer policy aimed at exterminating the entire Ahwaz population, and it has been pursued in the form of changing the demographic structure of Ahwaz.  This inhuman act is conducted without adequate news reflection or attention. In silence, its annihilating consequences are disintegrating the Ahwazi nation from the inside.

In addition to the above methods, the government has deployed modern methods for changing the demographic structure, such as constructing Persian settlements to make a rapid and widespread change in the fabric of the population in favor of Persian settlers.  New Yazd and New Isfahan settlements built in Khafajah city are only examples of these grave crimes that not only have not stopped under the current Islamic Republic regime, but have continued with greater frequency and intensity.

Of course, these are just a few cases of the Pahlavi regime’s crimes in the demographic structure of the Arab nation of Al-Ahwaz. In the second part of this article, we will shed more light on the current policies of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz under the Islamic Republic regime.

 

GAZA MS 1WRITTEN BY FIDA SHURRAB, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOHAMMED HASSAN SHURRAB

Wars are always classified within historical eras with a start and end dates. However, do wars really have an end? Do wars end when bombings and strikes stop? Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, have witnessed three wars within six years, each war ended leaving a mass of destruction at all levels, and none of them has really ended. When the people in the Gaza Strip speak of the memories they have of the wars, all of a sudden, memories turn to be very alive scenes, as if the wars have taken a place in their hearts and souls.

Do we, in Gaza, overcome the trauma? Psychologists have to expand their theories in the post traumatic disorder interventions when it comes to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Living and surviving three wars is not an easy life story. Damages have occurred in our life system. In what way in the whole world can people get used to the sounds of bombs, because people in Gaza did? This needs to be brought to the attention of the whole world, the people in Gaza Strip lost their lives during the past three wars, they are alive but without souls, their humanity has been easily raped by the silence of the international world watching genocide taking place.

GAZA MS 2We gained nothing from wars! An old woman once said, as a survivor of three wars: “In the 2008 war, I lost my eyes, and in the 2014 war, I lost my home. Loss is all I’ve gained”. In wars, we harvest loss and pain. A child, 4 years old, keeps repeating: “Every time I go to sleep, I hear loud explosions, and I cover my face with a blanket to hide from the rockets. I am afraid of sleeping”. The war visits the people every night in their dreams. People, during the war, run under heavy shelling looking for a safe place, leaving their houses, people were displaced in the schools and the streets. Many of them lost their children when they were running. A young man, from Al Shejeaya, was holding his son in his hands while running looking for a shelter, when shrapnel hit his child, cutting him into pieces. This man has nothing to speak about except the moment of his biggest loss, he says: “Why live?! I lost my pregnant wife, and I could not protect my child, he died in my hands. All of my life was snatched away in a matter of seconds”.

We need to live without remembering the scenes of the massacres, we want to stop expecting wars at every second, is that a too much for a human being?

Having a tour of the massively destroyed neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip is not easy. The rubbles of thousands of houses are not only a pile of stones, those rubbles are huge amounts of stories, memories, dreams and hopes which all have been brutally scattered.

Meeting a mother who has lost a child in the war is like meeting a mountain dipped with anguish. All she can talk about is her child whom she lost, she does not speak of his/her death but rather of his/her life, hobbies, things they hated and things they loved, as if she denies the fact that she lost him/her forever; and telling her the truth is like committing a crime. Forgetting is impossible, but death has become a habit. Losing the souls of the beloved ones can take the lives of the survivors with them in the graves, this leads us to the fact that we are also buried in life.

GAZA MS3The war has done a hellish job in the Gaza Strip, the war did not end, people are still suffering its severe consequences, the only different thing is that the explosions have stopped; otherwise, the stories of pain and loss continue to be our antagonists in the Gaza Strip.

We Shall Not Forgive nor Forget!!!!

According to the UN reports:

  • 2,127 Palestinian citizens were killed during the 51 days of war. The number of deaths included 544 children and 302 women.
  • The number of wounded is 10,744, including 3,258 children and 2,089 women. About 3,000 wounded are expected to have lifelong disabilities.
  • About the Israeli attacks, the Israeli occupation carried out 60,664 attacks, including 8,210 airstrikes, 36,718 tank and artillery shells and 15,736 naval strikes.
  • The number of houses targeted by the occupation is 16,002, including 2,358 completely destroyed and 13,644 partially destroyed.

WRITTEN BY MASSIMO RUSSO, translated by Mary Rizzo
What do the tears of Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman at the summit for the Peace of Rome tell us: if we don’t like the present, it is only up to us to change it

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates
The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

“I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Iranian people for what the government of my country has done first in Syria, supporting a dictator – Bashar al-Assad – who kills his own citizens, and now to the Yemen of my sister Tawakkul, because it is helping the counter-revolution to stifle change. ”

Sometimes international meetings on peace are resolved in formal occasions to repeat formulas that are a  little ‘age-worn’. At the 14th World Summit of the Nobel Peace prize, which is being held these days in Rome, things were different. The abstract concept of peace and diplomacy became transformed into a hug, and into the tears of two women, the Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman, divided by nationality and religion, united by belonging to the species of those who did not give up.

And if you wonder what this has to do with Wired, the answer is: because both these women are innovative. No, they are more than that, they are hackers.

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian, won the Nobel in 2003 for her fight for human rights. Magistrate, she was relieved of her duties and lives actually in exile in London. Tawakkul was the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel in 2011 for her peaceful campaign for equality, freedom and against corruption, which led to the overthrow of the regime in Yemen. A few moments before receiving the embrace of Shirin, Tawakkul had cried out passionately, asking the international community to condemn Iran for its intervention in support of the dictators of Syria and Yemen and against the Arab Spring, in order to establish itself as a regional power and obtain more favourable terms in the negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

Tawakkul in her speech emphasises a concept dear to all disruptive innovators: do not ask permission.

“No one will give you your rights if you are not willing to take them for yourselves, to take to the front lines and fight for them. And the only ones able to declare your defeat are yourselves. If you lose hope, you are already finished, everything depends on you. ”

Ebadi adds: “Democracy is alive, and it must be looked over every day, even when you’ve achieved it.”

Then there’s the idea of hacking. Because only the creative tampering of reality, even when all logic is contrary, it can lead to change in seemingly hopeless situations. All revolutionaries, rebels who are really changing the world, start by listening to themselves, to their own convictions. So they act, and change their own roads, their own community, their own country. Without any excuses.

What does this embrace between two extraordinary women in a sleepy Roman Saturday morning have to say to us? Again, the answer is a lot. To all of us. The first words that Shirin Ebadi addressed to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, and Italians were: “Do not accept the money of dictators. Many have brought their wealth to Italian banks. “But the real point is that people like these, with their vital example, speak to our attitude of detached cynicism, western pessimism of bored depression. The fate, the future is in our hands. From the crisis to corruption, to work, which is not created by decree. Nobody will change our destiny in our place. And the hunt for the culprit, to those who have it taken away, is simple. Just get up and look straight the first mirror.

original: http://www.wired.it/attualita/politica/2014/12/13/labbraccio-nobel-senso-dellinnovazione-nostra-pigrizia/

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as "the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East"

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as “the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East”

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO: Many people have never heard of the word Sectarianism until the past few years. A simplistic definition would be a conflict between religions or ethnic groups. The antidote to this is considered to be secularism, which is intended as a supposed neutrality of the state towards all religions. Secularism additionally connotes ideas of protection of minorities in a society.

One of the greatest myths of the Syrian war is that it is a sectarian war and that the presence of Assad in the Presidency is the reason for which Syria maintains its secularism. In fact, in a paternalistic way, Bashar Assad, as did his father Hafez has skilfully used propaganda towards the population in order to create domestically the idea that only the regime and the Ba’ath party can serve as a stabilising factor of national unity and internationally to paint himself as a “progressive” who is the last bulwark against the forces of darkness, extremism and religious fundamentalism.

When Assad’s father took power in 1970 in a coup which overthrew the government that only the year before had drafted what can be considered as the only true secular constitution Syria ever had, he made sure his coup was “legitimised” by an election where he was the sole candidate and in 1973 amended the constitution so that it guaranteed explicitly that the Head of State must be of Muslim faith. He even established the “Waqf”, which is a Ministry of Religion and appointed a Mufti of the Republic that establishes an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials and granting them such authority in governance can hardly be defined as “secular” if we take that concept to mean separation of Church and State. It is clear that Bashar al-Assad KNOWS that outside the Levant secularism is a value that gives a kind of “reassurance” to other nations and it hints at a behaviour that is inclusive. It is not important for Syria to BE secular in Assad’s eyes, but it is important that it is PERCEIVED as such in the West, and this is why he promoted himself as the defensor of such a state.

Thus, if there was no secularism for Assad to defend, the only way to promote such an idea of the “irreplaceable quality of Assad” that would be strongly supported by progressives and those who believe in the separation of Church and State or even those who abhor the idea of a religiously-based State anywhere but in Tibet and/or Israel and/or Iran would be for Assad to create “sectarian strife” himself.

The Syrian heart of darkness did not begin as a conflict between religions, and as a matter of fact, placing the conflict in a simplistic Sunni vs Shi’a equation, while currently popular, is actually a self-fulfilling prophesy and a strategic option used by the Assad regime to the hilt.

The reality of Syria is that it is essentially a clash between an authoritarian, ruthless leadership and the masses (mainly comprised of the majority Sunni population that had been excluded from the most important positions of power and subjected to constant obedience) that was simply tired of kneeling down before the president and those associated with his power. It must be stated that the majority of the positions of control and ownership of wealth in the country belonged to the religious group of Assad, the Alawites, carrying on the tradition of the father of surrounding himself with loyalists particularly in the military, however his associated élite also includes members of various religious groups, though the dominant trait of all of these personalities is not their sectarian belonging but rather their unconditional support to the Assad regime.

A bit of "Baathist Realism" painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

A bit of “Baathist Realism” painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

Depicting the war in Syria as a continuation of the Sunni-Shi’a schism (which dates back to the dawn of Islam) rather than a struggle of the disenfranchised for their rights is a gross misrepresentation of facts and a distortion that serves to manipulate public opinion internally and abroad as to the “necessity of Assad.” Discounting the true causes and the true nature of the struggle serves only to remove or reduce the revolutionary spirit that started out as legitimate demands for reforms and rights that had long been denied and are considered by all in the world who believe in human rights as fundamental and legitimate rights.

It is even an established truth that influential segments of Alawite and Christian intelligentsia have always been on the side of the masses during the uprising and even after the regime “reacted” by severe prosecution for the courage of being openly so closely tied to what had been quickly painted by the regime and its apologists as a “Sunni rebellion” that would endanger the minorities. Given that defence of minorities is a secular conquest, somehow it is difficult to understand how the regime’s torturing, murdering and imprisoning minorities that rebelled against the regime could be construed as defence of the minority. This reality could only be true in the criminal interpretation of the concept that predominates the Assad narrative.

Yet, it cannot be denied that exploding onto the scene to enhance the sectarian strife and add great numbers of combatants was none other than the theocratic Republic of Iran, which itself persecutes the ethnic and religious minority of the Ahwazis (Arab Sunnis). Could the reason for this be some kind of Shi’a solidarity? No doubt, it is simpler to use a religious “calling” to convince the population that a cause is worthy, as people are historically far more apt to sacrifice their sons in war for a sacred or religious purpose than to an economic one, but the persons who make the decisions in Teheran probably share a stronger  opposition to Iraq than they do a unified vision of extension of the Shi’a influence. Additionally, both of them (at least on paper) share a common animosity for both the United States and Israel. One could say that they might be using their own status as anathema to reinforce their own individual positions with a bit of leverage.

Hezbollah’s intense involvement as well seems to be economically based, as financially they exist by will of Iran and Syria and it could either be payback time, while Hezbollah is also giving the Assad regime the lifeblood and soldiers that it needs to keep on surviving. While it might also be true that some in Hezbollah fight against the opposition to Assad because the opposition is comprised for the majority of Sunnis (which should not serve to define it as a Sunni army, given that 74% of the population are Sunnis any more than the USA army could be defined as a Christian army even though 76% of the USA population are Christians) others in this militia could possibly believe they are fighting for a resistance cause against the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia in a sort of proxy war. That many “secularists” who support Assad seem to turn a deaf ear when Nasrallah makes speeches against “Takfiri” (a Muslim who accuses another Muslim of apostasy) is another indication that there is very little genuine concern for secularism no matter what some of these defenders of Hezbollah in the west might claim. They also might get a slight case of the hives when they find  out that just this week Assad has made a decree that puts in the school curriculum “Shi’a education”.

Yet, the greatest risk for Syria, as long as the myth of sectarianism remains part of the dominant discourse is going to be run by the minority populations. It is not at all unlikely that the Assad regime will be defeated. The outcome could be that the country is torn apart by collective blame of the Alawites who would bear the brunt for the abuses of the regime, despite the fact that part of the regime is Sunni. It will be nearly impossible to construct and rebuild a secular-pluralistic Syria that existed in some dimension historically and is yearning to free itself from oppressive rule based on favouritism and interests. Creating a truly just Syria for all Syrians means to recognise the myth of sectarianism as one of the war strategies of Assad for the sole purpose of maintaining his personal power and the wealth of those close to the regime.