Grande-foto-articoloWRITTEN BY Margherita Leggio, translated by Mary Rizzo

TRAPANI, ITALY (21 May 2014) – – “In Syria there are many young people who want to leave the country, but they are stopped and imprisoned. I appeal to the international community so that it can intervene somehow to help them.” This is the appeal of a father, who at the end of a difficult and troubled journey, managed to bring his family to safety: five children who are still adolescents and his wife.

This is the story of a physician of 54, the man who for security reasons intends to remain anonymous, and whom we will call Jibril, an invented name, for the sake of convenience. The practitioner was able to escape from the hell of civil war that since 2011 that has bloodied Syria. He practiced his profession in a hospital in Homs, but over a year ago, after witnessing the horrors of the continuous fratricidal battles that took away even friends and family, he gathered together his family and left. In 2014, it has become impossible to hope to lead a normal life. We met Jibril at the Sprar centre “La Locanda” of Castelvetrano, run by the cooperative “Insieme”, where he arrived on 11 May after the landing in a single arrival in Trapani of 423 migrants. Jibril spoke in English to us of his pain, the suffering of an entire people and of many other migrants fleeing war and hunger.

“Even with us – he explains – it’s the mafia calling the shots. Girls are abducted from their homes and taken away. During the war, I decided to no longer go to work in the hospital. It had become too risky. For three months I exercised my profession at home, where I took care of many injured people for free. Then the situation became untenable. So, with my wife and my children we decided: it’s either life or death and we fled from Syria. We reached Egypt by car in two days and from there, after two more days, Libya.”

In the latter country, which is also politically in disarray, Jibril remained for a year before being able to face the “journey of hope” through the waves of the Channel of Sicily. He was among the lucky few. He did not, in fact, undergo the drama of imprisonment in a concentration camp. He found a place to live in the home of friends, but he lived the heavy atmosphere of the gruelling wait.” It’s the mafia – he adds – that organise these trips and there are also Syrians organising them. The people, after having paid the sum demanded, are rounded up in a place where they have no contact with anyone and from there they are directed towards the boarding place. Then, at some point, we were told, “this is your boat to go to Italy” and my family and I, paying $1,200 for each member, climbed aboard with hundreds of other people. It was a 12 meter long vessel on which we were crammed in around 300. We were tired and desperate and we had presented plainly before us our choice: to live or die. Now we are here, alive and sound.”

Also for Jibril Italy is only a country of transit. His goal is to go somewhere else, like many other Syrian families, who in the aftermath of their arrival at the “Locanda ” have collected in a plastic bag in their few belongings and have left. They reached the railway station of Castelvetrano and from there headed to other destinations.

“My family and I – concludes Jibril – we want to go to Sweden, where we have a relative, and where I hope to go back to work in my profession as a doctor. One day, however, if the situation ever changes, I hope to be able to go back home to Syria.”

ORIGINAL http://www.chiesacattolica.it/pls/cci_new_v3/v3_s2ew_consultazione.mostra_pagina?id_pagina=57252

Every day, hundreds of Syrian Asylum seekers pass through Milan's Central station, but they consider it only a stop on the way to freedom.

Every day, hundreds of Syrian Asylum seekers who have endured months of travel and risked their lives to arrive in Italy pass through Milan’s Central station, but they consider it only a stop on the way to freedom.

The experts say: “This is a new phenomenon, new Syrian arrivals are highly-educated people”

WRITTEN BY NICCOLÒ ZANCAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

MILAN – The ticket to Vienna costs € 430 plus agency expenses, three adults and two kids. Going to buy them is a grandfather called Shady Zyadan, rolling out from his pants pocket a wad as thick as a finger. And while walking towards the ticket window, he touches his mouth because of the pain or perhaps because he feels shame: “In Libya, they ripped out all my gold teeth. They did the same to my wife, those dogs. It was terrible.

Continuous torture. We were held captive for twenty days in a house. There were more than 300 of us. On May 7, they came with a machine gun. They pointed it at me: “You board now or we’ll kill you here.'”

It is not easy to embark, for the Zyadan family. It is not easy to do even move ten meters if truth must be told. Because the two grandchildren are paraplegics of 14 and 16 years of age. They’ve never walked from birth, they do not speak and they stare with eyes that seem to be lost. Sometimes they just seem angry. Others, however, they make sharp sounds with their mouths, which sound a bit like laughter. They were visited at the centre of Via Aldini run by ARCA. They ate pasta with tomato sauce, drank a Sprite. And now, with their mother, are waiting on the grand staircase of the Central Station. In the last Italian stop along the voyage of Syrian refugees fleeing the war.

“We left Homs eight months ago – explains Mr. Zyadan – in Syria we have nothing, we have no one left. In my opinion, soon Bashar Al-Assad will be seeking political asylum … “. He smiles while dialing a phone number on a brand new smartphone. They want to go to Vienna because they have an uncle there. He was the person who sent them the money. And now they have to get moving, the train leaves at 9:30 pm. Here’s the scene: two operators of civil protection of the Municipality of Milan, Alessandro and Mauro, hoist the boys on their shoulders. The grandparents thank them while putting their hand to their hearts, at the same time, the mother holds a green duffel bag in one hand and a bag with some cans in the other. They are going to carry out the mission they had set from the beginning of the journey: do not stop in Italy, do not identify themselves here. Continue the voyage to the North.

It is the same for everyone. On the monumental staircase, awaiting other trains there are: four families with small children, two pregnant young women with their partners, a doctor, a craftsman, a merchant, a professor. A man with $ 2,000 to be changed urgently. “It’s an entirely new migration,” says Valentina Polizzi of Save the Children. “Something we’ve never seen.” She, along with the mediators Majdi Karbai and Sara Sayed, spends her days and nights here, to lend comfort. “Coming are people that know English, educated, upper-middle social classes. The very first thing they ask is where they can wash themselves. They are all quite well-informed. They are always grateful, respectful. I have never seen the slightest episode of violence. “

These are true stories that become legendary. Nine thousand dollars belonging to a refugee lost at sea during disembarking in August. The magnificent gold jewelry brought to the pawnbroker for cash by another. The Syrian family who paid € 2000 euro to go to Germany, but was abandoned on a motorway at Como. Those who never got out of Milan:  “The man driving said there was a flat tire, made us get out and then took off like a bat out of hell.” Those who have been recklessly put on a train to Switzerland. “Even in Egypt now we are treated badly – said a refugee – prices for us Syrians have quadrupled.” They land in Italy and end up in the network of other traffickers. You see them here, at the Central Station. Vultures, waiting. Those who promise a sure accompaniment. The ones that give you a false document. Those who will buy you a ticket to Ventimiglia (border crossing, translator’s note) and ask you to pay them a € 50 commission.

Meanwhile, almost every day, more Syrian refugees continue to arrive. “These families have strength and trust in the future that is completely unknown to us,” says Valentina Polizzi. There is Khalid, with his leg broken at the ankle, “My boat collided against another boat, just off the port of Alexandria. I prayed. The sea was calm, it has been good.” Yesterday they put the pins in his leg. And then there is Hamal, a 5 year old girl that no one can get out of their hearts. The mediator Majdi Karbai tells me: “I overheard her speaking with her father. Hamal said: “Now that we are in Italy, if I don’t get to eat, I’ll report you. I’m not saying we need to eat every single day, but at least every other day.” They too lived in Homs. They went to buy bread and all of a sudden an explosive barrel rained down on them from the sky. Hamal watched as her house was destroyed. Her mother was buried in the rubble. They travelled for seven months. And now, she is laughing, eating a cheese sandwich, sitting on the floor in the train station of Milan. This night she too will leave. She got this far, who in the world can stop Hamal now?

ORIGINAL: http://www.lastampa.it/2014/05/22/italia/cronache/nella-stazione-di-milano-profughi-della-classe-media-in-attesa-dellultimo-treno-wpojmxl73Gz6Boewim23GK/pagina.html?wtrk=cpc.social.Facebook&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

A Jafra volonteer looks at piles of debris during a cleaning campaign

WRITTEN BY Claudia Avolio

In Yarmouk people are busy cleaning the streets of trash and rubble, Starting from the constant work of the Jafra Foundation in the camp, a dialogue evolves between the protagonists: the trash and a camp scraper.

In Arabic, one of the words describing garbage is zubala and it comes from a verb – zabbala – that means to manure, to fertilise. Cleaning the streets of Yarmouk of garbage and rubble activated in my mind an image of what this Arabic root brings with it: zibl, the manure itself. As if those streets received from the gesture of being unburdened a new substance. Something will allow them to grow better in this return to how they were before, even under this siege. And this happens, for me, in the embrace that the scrapers (which made me think of The Crying of the Excavator by Pier Paolo Pasolini, written in 1956) make in their efforts to attend to garbage and rubble to take them away.

That poem by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini entitled “The crying of the excavator” (1956) in the incipit of which these verses seem to give no way out: “Only to love, only to know / counts – not having loved, / not having known. It’s anguishing / to live a consummated  / love. The soul stops growing”. This image for me comes now in contact with an opposing, regenerative force, which lies in the way Jafra Foundation constantly renews its efforts in the streets of Yarmouk so that “the soul that stops growing” as mentioned in the poem starts to grow again once it is free from the garbage.

To the youth of Jafra and to the new metaphorical fertiliser its efforts are giving to the streets of Yarmouk goes this short dialogue that hopes to be just a soft countermelody to their amazing work and love for the camp.

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

volunteers removing rubble and garbage from the devastated camp

“Jafra Foundation has been working in the cleaning of Yarmouk Camp since the municipality stopped functioning at the beginning of 2013. Since that time, the Jafra cleaning team works to clean Yarmouk Camp from the garbage and the rubble that was accumulating in the camp to protect the civilians from all kinds of sickness that they were vulnerable to because of the accumulating garbage in the streets.

Jafra will continue working in Yarmouk Camp to help the people there, as we belong to all the vulnerable people in all the streets.

WHENEVER DEATH SURROUNDS US

WE CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE LIFE

Jafra shall continue to the end.”

(from the video of Jafra Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Vpy2M3jBo )

“You can dig up anything, time: hopes

passions. But not these pure

forms of life…”

(from “The cry of the excavator” (1956) – by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini)

the scraper: We must leave now.

the garbage: I am ready.

the scraper: You will not forget.

the garbage: Never. Their gestures have made a cast of this concrete

the scraper: Even after the concrete collapsed.

the garbage: It knows all the names of those who hit it.

the scraper: And the faces of who will take care of its children. Of the walls that will be built.

the garbage: I met the streets. I heard it all. All of it.

the scraper: I must take you away. For their sake.

the garbage: Because you are the soul transforming weight into space. Your arm that raises me is the last accusation. I am your raised hand, asking for permission to speak. For those who lost this right.

the scraper: Taking you away from here is my freedom finding again its way home.

the garbage: From the corners of these sidewalks I desired to be a tree and I couldn’t. With heavy branches made of black bags I stretched to the sky, with the wind. Looking for a passage, saying: “I am here”.

the scraper: Now that you leave, life will try to come closer to the soil.

the garbage: That same life is asking to be heard. And hasn’t got any fear.

the scraper: Only those who chase life must be scared of it.

the garbage: Because life is still here. You give birth to it pushing me faraway.

the scraper: While you are leaving, a trace remains that feeds the seeds. Paths grow up after your departure.

the garbage: Wings of light dust. The fine dust becomes light again and doesn’t make people sick anymore.

the scraper: With the breath of the streets came back to the surface after a long time holding its breath.

the garbage: I was calling you and saw you appear with your youth.

the scraper: Through their efforts, through the contagion of ideas, I realized I wouldn’t stay still. That every street was waiting for me and my youth to be there.

the garbage: They breed these streets with you. In the struggle of the arms that defeat carelessness.

the scraper: The sun will come and sit here, in the place you used to occupy.

the garbage: While you’re taking me away, the space starts to offer an opportunity.

the scraper: In this embrace of ours the street regenerates.

the garbage: The street walked by your youth, the street they will not abandon.

the scraper: Whatever happens, they’ll take care of it.

Click on “Like” on its Facebook page and support Jafra Foundation https://www.facebook.com/Jafra.Foundation?fref=ts

Italy's major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it's not what they claim...

Italy’s major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it’s not what they claim…

BY THE EDITORS OF SIRIALIBANO, translated and integrated with hyperlink exerpt translations by Mary Rizzo

They were not Christians, they were Muslims. They were not killed by means of crucifixion, but their already lifeless bodies were exhibited in that barbarian manner.  The crime is ghastly, no matter what religious denomination the victims belong to.  And yet it “news” of “Christians crucified in Syria” went viral in the western media, in particular in the major Italian news media.

The two major Italian newspapers Il Corriere della Sera (above) and La Repubblica (below) dedicated a great amount of space to it, bring attention to the “news” on the first page accompanied by photographs of “a man crucified in Maalula”, the small Christian small town near Damascus.

To push the directors and the heads writers towards a similar editorial choice has no doubt been the statement of Pope Francis in the official Vatican site:   “I cried when i saw the news“.

The Holy Father said, “I cried when I saw on the mass media the news of Christians being crucified in a certain non-Christian nation. Even today,” he stressed, “there are people who, in the name of God, kill and persecute. And even today we see that like the apostles they are happy to have been considered to have been worthy to undergo suffering for the name of Jesus. This is the third icon of today. The joy of the testimony.”

As you know, the assertions of the Pope are always newsworthy. And a crucified Christian in a Country infested from by al Qaida is too tasty a morsel to not take full advantage of.

The fake news did not appear only for on the pro-Assad websites, the usual Islamophobic ones or the reactionary and “anti-imperialist” (but only in one direction) sites “of the left”, but in Italy’s most important mainstream newspapers. And then it  to numerous other media outlets on radio, television and online.

Those who believe in conspiracies would even be led to think that it is a pro-Assad campaign in time to legitimise his election farce on 3 June.   It’s not quite like that.  So the question remains, “Why?”.  Is it only a matter of ignorance in good faith, then? Is it only bad journalism, incapable of verifying the information and the sources?

The facts: among the seven people killed in Raqqa there were no Christians, were all Muslims and in fact two of the crucified persons seemed to be supporters or fighters belonging to other rebel factions, the accusation against them was to have thrown some explosive devices and to have tried to kill some leaders of the al Qaeda group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

To Raqqa, a town on the Euphrates controlled by ISIS, there is underway by the general population a resistance that is trying to oppose the imposition of what the al Qaedists call Islamic law. ISIS itself, accused by various sources to be highly infiltrated by foreign secret services as well as those of the regime of Damascus, has been active since the beginning of the year in daily clashes with the other rebel groups reunited under different names (Syrian Free Army, Islamic Front, Jabhat al Nusra, etc…), defined as takfiri and therefore, wicked.

Italy's second largest newspaper highlights the "crucifixions" and again, the tears of the Pope.

Italy’s second largest newspaper highlights the “crucifixions” and again, the tears of the Pope.

None of this matters. Any “news” that can present president Bashar al Assad to us as if he is the saviour of the nation (“it’s either him or al Qaida) is good enough and is going to be considered as authentic. In this sense, a Catholic site defined the killers of Raqqa as “anti-Assad militants”, attributing others as being engaged in disinformation: “In vain you will find in the Italian newspapers articles on the terrible event: some line or two buried in some article, nothing more. It is that in this war the needs of propaganda hinder the accounting of the crimes of the anti-Assad rebels, while emphasised, if not actually invented, are those of Assad…”

The same site citing another source goes as far as to even give a name to tone of the deceased: the Christian Antoine Hanna, a name that one sees over and over in this story.

But on the Jihadist forums of ISIS and in various tweets by ISIS fighters, it is possible to read the reply of these people to the tears of the Pope for the crucified Christians:  “Dear Pope Francis, the people of Raqqa were not crucified because they are Christians but for the application of the Koranic verse 5:33″. The sura in question recites: Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land…”. This was done according to the strict application – according to ISIS – of the sharia, the Islamic law.

If the application of the sharia by ISIS e dell’ Isis was truly consistent with the literal Koranic text, the “infidels” must not be punished as such since in verse 2:62 it is in fact is written: “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” Already in the month of March, ISIS had killed and then bound a man to a wooden cross, with the accusation of having robbed and then killed another Muslim.

But let’s go back to “Antoine Hanna”. The news is that “a person was killed and then bound to a cross in the village of Meskene”, in the countryside of Aleppo. Strange: various Christian sources of Aleppo questioned in these days remember that in the countryside of the northern Syrian metropolis there have never been Christians.

None of this matters. The pro-Assad sites headline:  “A Syrian named Antoine Hanna in the rural zone of the town of Aleppo, was killed before the eyes of his children with the accusation of blasphemy. He refused to renounce his religion and they crucified him.” Or: “Young Christian named Antoine Hanna, crucified by the takfiri terrorists sponsored by the United States and the West, in the Maskana area… accused of anti-religious sentiment.”

This time the news had not yet been picked up by the Catholic sites.  We hope they don’t do it because the presumed Christian killed in Meskene has – coincidentally – the same name and surname of the presumed Christian killed in Raqqa. Evidently, this time the disinformation machine has a hitch.  See the ISIS press release on the crime committed in Meskene.

The photograph of the crucified man in Meskene appeared for the first time in a tweet by Dylan@ProSyriana, apparently a Syrian Christian supporter of President Assad, with the following wording: “one of three killed and crucified in Meskene (Aleppo) after having been accused of being an infidel by the rebels”.

There are no references to the fact that the man was Christian, perhaps what led to confusion in the Italian Assad supporters was the word “infidel”, which however is used by ISIS also towards other Muslim rebels, those they consider takfiri and infidels.

A source present in Meskene just contacted confirmed that the murder happened in the locality of Aneza, but denies that it involved a Christian. He insists that he was a native of Akraba, near Sfera; a refugee of Meskene is said to have recognised him as the person who manned the checkpoints of Khanaser, therefore he was a soldier or a person that worked for the regime. It is said that he was crucified by ISIS to frighten the rebel fighters stationed in the zone of Meskene so as to induce them to leave the area.

The story of the Christians persecuted in the Arabic East during wartime has been a constant throughout history by those who seek to maintain the control of the area  – political, economic but also cultural – serving to entrust the keys of power to the ruling regime.  It is not therefore anything new.

The perseverance of the Italian pro-Assad sites on this theme is noteworthy.  On these platforms the fake news spreads, as well as fake photographs that are passed off as the truth. One of the most clamorous ones was a photograph of a group of veiled and chained women next to a bearded man with a sword.

According to what these sites were spreading, it was about women of Aleppo sold as by the Salafiti in the markets. Those who were even more precise described them as Shi’a women sold as slaves after they had been raped.  What a pity that the photograph dates back to 2007 and showed some Shi’a women immortalised in a representation of the (Shi’a) holiday of Ashura in the village of Nabatiyeh in Lebanon.

In September of 2013 the Catholic news agency Fides had been forced to deny that the news concerned the killing of 130 Christians in Aleppo: “The news of a massacre of 130 Christians in Aleppo is entirely false, said to have been carried out by groups of the Syrian opposition, as reported in the past days by the Lebanese mass media and some websites.”

A priest questioned by Fides noted: Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war. They would also want to persuade Christians to arm themselves, making the conflict assume a character that is even more sectarian, taking a dangerous turn, close to the war of Lebanon. Furthermore, they seem to prepare the terrain for a division of the Syrian territory itself on a factious and sectarian basis.  This goes against the history, the culture and the real face of Syrian society, which has always been characterised by pluralism and the variety of its forms, in co-existence.”

In the net of propaganda also was captured the news of “a woman stoned to death by fundamentalists in Raqqa”. Of the victim only the surname is known: al Jasim. However, the photograph a still from the film “The Stoning of Soraya” in which the Iranian actress Mozhan Marno undergoes lapidation.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as "a child from Kassab", whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as “a child from Kassab”, whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen, according to several Yemenites who have commented that it is a well-known picture there.

More recently and the day after the attack of the Armenian village (therefore Christian) of Kassab northeast of Latakia by fundamentalist militiamen, in the web a photograph circulated with the caption, “A Christian child executed by rebels in Kassab”.

The image showed a child just a few months old with a woolen hat surrounded by men that were pointing old guns at him.  It was an old photograph that had nothing to do with Syria, but instead was in Yemen.  On some sites the caption of the photograph was the following: “This child was captured by the terrorists because he is a child of another religion, therefore an infidel child, but above all he is a child of a Syrian Pro government family.”  As if by miracle, this passed from a pro-Assad site to a Catholic news site and it was used as an example of the damage caused by the “Western-supported fundamentalists against Syria and the Syrians.”

For more of a year, Syrian activists who support the revolution but oppose ISIS have been denouncing its violations against the population, in the almost total silence of the media, of the pro-Assad sites and the Catholic sites that are very attentive to news regarding Christians or gruesome news stories, as if the constant bombardment of the regime’s aeroplanes on the civilian population wasn’t brutal enough.

Now the ISIS that is being fought against by the other rebels, becomes the paradigm to represent the revolution, therefore guarantor of the safety of the Christians can only be the regime. But as the priest interviewed by Agenzia Fides, “Such news Fides “Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war.”

ORIGINAL: http://www.sirialibano.com/short-news/quando-morire-i-cristiani.html

20.000 - 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l'intérieur du camp.   #SaveYarmoukCamp  Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

20.000 – 30.000 civils sont toujours pris au piège à l’intérieur du camp.
#SaveYarmoukCamp
Les souffrances continuent sans répit dans le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk.

Wesam est un jeune palestinien qui milite au sein de “JAFRA”, une organisation communautaire qui aide la population de Yarmouk, en Syrie. Il a très gentillement accepté de répondre à nos questions, pour le public italien, mais pas seulement celui destiné à la Péninsule, puisqu’aussi bien Wesam aurait pu s’exprimer en anglais si son interviewer n’avait pas été arabophone. Cet entretien est la traduction anglaise de la version italienne tirée de l’arabe d’origine. (Interview & traduction italienne de Fouad Rouieha, traduction anglaise de Mary Rizzo, traduction française de Eric Lamy). 

Commençons par décrire Yarmouk.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk est situé au sud de Damas. Il s’étend sur plus de sept kilomètres carrés, juste à côté des districts du centre, tel celui de Midan Zahir. Pour faire court, le camp fait partie du tissu urbain de Damas. Avant le début de la révolte, il comptait 700.000 âmes, dont 220.000 palestiniens d’origine, le reste étant des syriens. Le camp de Yarmouk fut établi en 1957 : la majorité des palestiniens qui y vivent sont des fils de réfugiés de 48, principalement originaires du nord de la Palestine auxquels s’ajoutèrent ceux qui vinrent de Jordanie en 67 et 70. Avant la révolution en Syrie, Yarmouk était une zone économique florissante, considérée comme la capitale de la diaspora palestinienne. Il s’y tenait un marché considérable, le commerce y prospérait. Une véritable ferveur pour les questions sociales et politiques y prévalait, sans oublier ce dynamisme culturel qui faisait de Yarmouk le centre culturel de Damas, le lieu où il se passait quelque chose, où des festivals étaient organisés. Un grand nombre d’artistes célèbres sont originaires de Yarmouk. Pareil à d’autres quartiers, mais plus particulièrement animé, les rues étaient peuplées de boutiques et de restaurants que fréquentaient tous les damascènes. Le weekend, ou pendant les congés, les rues étaient si populeuses qu’on avait du mal à y circuler ; c’était un quartier très peuplé mais également réputé pour la sécurité qu’il offrait.

Vous parlez de l’existence d’un activisme politique, mais être militant, en Syrie, était complètement tabou à cause de la surveillance policière et de la répression toujours possible. Était-ce différent pour les palestiniens ?

J’ai mentionné l’activisme politique en rapport avec la Cause Palestinienne, qui n’avait pas de lien avec la situation syrienne. Yarmouk était une des bases pour les factions palestiniennes : le Front Populaire, le Hamas, le Front Populaire-Commandement Général, le Jihad Islamique, le Fatah… l’activité politique autorisée impliquait le camp de Yarmouk et la Palestine, mais rien qui pût se rapporter directement à la Syrie. Les syriens vivant à l’extérieur du camp assistaient à nos discussions, mais tant qu’il n’était question que de Palestine, tant que la politique syrienne n’était pas évoquée, il n’y avait aucun problème.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Parlez-nous de la cohabitation entre syriens et palestiniens-syriens. Peut-on parler d’intégration réussie ou, au contraire, a-t-on assisté à la création d’une sorte de ghetto ?

Entre nous, personne ne faisait de différence. À Yarmouk, nous avons vécu ensemble pendant 50 à 60 ans. Les mariages mixtes sont monnaie courante et nous sommes tous mélangés. Il faut dire que parfois une même famille est partagée entre les deux nations (la Palestine du Nord et la Syrie méridionale n’étant pas séparées à l’époque qui a précédé l’exil palestinien ; des familles et des clans étaient établis de chaque côté de la frontière. Il n’y a pas de différence entre syriens, palestiniens, libanais et jordaniens car des relations d’amitié et de parenté ont toujours existé.

On dit qu’au début de la révolution les palestiniens-syriens du camp ont tenté de se démarquer du conflit.

Non, nous n’avons pas tenté de nous en affranchir : il y a eu un débat considérable pour déterminer si le camp devait s’investir dans la confrontation. Une partie d’entre nous pensait que les militants de Yarmouk qui voulaient se joindre à la révolution devaient s’engager en dehors du camp, sans l’impliquer. Nous savions que si Yarmouk était visé par des représailles, elles seraient extrêmement violentes : c’est malheureusement ce qui est arrivé. Ensuite, l’idée à circulé selon laquelle Yarmouk pourrait être un lieu de repli sûr pour les syriens déplacés, pour les blessés, afin de leur permettre d’accéder aux soins médicaux et au ravitaillement. Au cours des deux premières années, Yarmouk à rempli ce rôle. Quand les affrontements ont éclaté dans les zones de Al Hajar Aswad ou de Tadamon, Yarmouk était un centre de distribution de produits médicaux et d’entraide. Nous accueillions les réfugiés. Avant eux, nous avions déjà recueilli les réfugiés de Homs : il y avait là tant de familles ! Pour eux, nous avons ouverts des refuges, profitant des écoles de l’UNRWA (agence de Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés Palestiniens, n.d.l.t.) et de celles de l’état. C’était des refuges protégés pour ces gens où ils furent accueillis, nourris et logés. Lorsque le Commandement Général à incité certains d’entre nous à prendre les armes contre l’Armée Syrienne Libre, Yarmouk a été directement impliqué dans les combats : l’ASL est entrée dans le camp et il devint, comme les autres districts de Damas, la cible du régime syrien.

On nous a rapporté des abus commis par l’ASL…

Ceux qui sont entrés dans Yarmouk n’étaient pas tous de même obédience : il y avait là des tas de gens différents et, parmi eux, des criminels de droit commun déguisés en révolutionnaires, comme cette “Brigade des Fils du Golan” qui était, en fait, un gang de kidnappeurs et de voyous. Ils ont incendié des maisons et en ont pillé d’autres. Cela a duré 6 mois, puis l’ASL, constituée de palestiniens et de syriens, les à délogés du camp.

 Concernant la révolution syrienne, qu’elle est la position des factions palestiniennes à l’intérieur du camp ?

Elle est contradictoire : d’un côté, les partisans du FPLP-GC, du Fatah Al Intifada qui combattaient aux côtés des loyalistes. Les proches du Hamas ainsi que des groupes indépendants se battaient contre le régime. La division qui existe dans la population syrienne est la même qui affecte la société syro-palestinienne.

une victime de la famine.

Une victime de la famine.

Pouvez-vous chiffrer la population vivant à l’intérieur du camp ?

Nos données diffèrent de celles de l’UNRWA : nous sommes sur une base de 25 à 30.000 personnes, dont 5000 syriens, le reste des résidents étant palestiniens. Ceux qui sont restés n’ont nulle part où aller et il n’y a plus de place dans les refuges. Pauvres d’entre les pauvres, ces palestiniens et ces syriens n’ont pas d’argent pour louer une maison et ils n’ont pu trouver de place dans les dispensaires du camp. Certains d’entre eux ont pu, un temps, s’installer dans les différents jardins publics de Damas, mais ils en sont revenus. Il y a aussi ceux qui n’ont pu fuir de peur que leur fils soit enrôlé de force dans l’armée. Il y a là des gens qui n’ont pas de papiers, pas de carte d’identité et ne peuvent donc pas sortir du camp. Soyons un peu logiques : il y a 30.000 civils à Yarmouk. S’ils avaient vraiment été des combattants, Damas serait tombée en 2 jours ! Parmi les hommes en armes à l’intérieur du camp, on compte environ 1000 palestiniens et 500 syriens : voilà tous les combattants du camp. Ces palestiniens sont natifs de Yarmouk. Ils ont formé des comités de dėfense, pas seulement contre le régime mais pour des raisons de sécurité interne : les institutions ont volė en éclat, l’anarchie est partout. Il fallait protéger les résidents des voleurs, des kidnappeurs. Ces comités de défense remplissent, en fait, une fonction de police. Il leur arrive même de régler des problèmes familiaux.

Aujourd’hui, comment décririez-vous la situation humanitaire ?

Yarmouk vit sous siège partiel depuis décembre 2012. Cela signifie que les civils peuvent entrer et sortir avec ce qu’ils peuvent transporter. Bien sûr, les camions chargés de nourriture sont interdits. Depuis le début du siège, nous n’avons réussi qu’à faire entrer 4 camions, ce qui a entraîné l’arrestation de quelques volontaires et la mort de Khaled Bakrawi. En juin 2013, le siège à été complètement fermé : plus personne ne put entrer ou sortir, plus de nourriture, plus de produits médicaux, plus aucun bien de consommation ne furent autorisés à pénétrer à l’intérieur du camp. Au bout de 4 mois sont apparus des cas extrêmes de malnutrition et les gens ont commencé à mourir. À ce jour, nous avons répertorié 154 cas de décès dûs à la faim, sans parler des cas où la faim n’est qu’un facteur du de la mort. La nourriture continue de manquer ; il y a bien eu des tentatives diplomatiques ces deux derniers mois qui n’ont abouti qu’à la livraison de 12000 paniers-repas qui ne permettent chacun que d’assurer la subsistance d’une famille de 4 personnes pendant 10 jours. Quiconque en a reçu un n’a plus rien aujourd’hui. Plus tard, 5000 paniers contenant de la confiture, des dattes et un peu de pain furent distribués. Cette dernière livraison fut assurée par l’UNRWA, tandis que nous avons réussi à en distribuer entre 4 à 5000.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

La situation médicale et sanitaire : il n’y avait qu’un seul hôpital en activité à Yarmouk, l’Hôpital de Palestine, qui a été fermé par suite du manque de carburant (“mazot”, une sorte de fioul utilisé pour les groupes électrogènes et les stérilisateurs, ndlt). Comme l’électricité a été coupée dans le camp il y a treize mois, l’hôpital ne peut plus compter que sur les générateurs. Il n’y a plus de produits médicaux dans le camp et le seul médecin présent à Yarmouk a été tué il y a 6 mois, comme il sortait de l’hôpital, au cours d’un bombardement. Le personnel médical ne se compose plus que d’infirmières ; leur travail est guidé par l’expérience, mais ils ne sont ni médecins, ni spécialistes. Le mois dernier, nous avons pu exfiltrer 400 cas graves hors du camp. Au cours de l’évacuation, certains ont pourtant été arrêtés par les forces de sécurité du régime. À ce jour, nous avons des cas de malades qui réclament leur évacuation, mais il est absolument impossible aux civils de quitter le camp.

Parlez-nous de la vie quotidienne d’un résident de Yarmouk. J’imagine qu’il est peu probable qu’il puisse y travailler ?

Il n’y a plus de travail à l’intérieur du camp. Les routes sont fermées : pas de déplacement, pas de commerce possible. Le problème majeur est le prix élevé de la nourriture, car la contrebande de denrées est apparue. Il y a un mois et demi, un kilo de riz coûtait environ 12.000 livres syriennes (LS), l’équivalent d’à peu près 70$. Le tarif a baissé légèrement le mois dernier, mais il faut se dire qu’il coûtait 1$ voici trois ans, qu’il coûte 1$ dans les zones qui entourent le camp, soit soixante-dix fois moins ! Un litre de fioul pour groupe électrogène revient à environ 600/700 LS et coûte seulement 100 LS dans Damas. De toutes façons, il n’en reste presque plus à l’intérieur du camp. Certaines ONG – dont notre Fondation JAFRA – ont mis en place des projets agricoles d’auto-suffisance à l’intérieur du camp. Cela n’a pas trop bien marché l’hiver dernier à causes du temps, mais cela va beaucoup mieux. Il y a ceux qui ramassent de l’herbe dans les prés, et nous avons recensé 5 morts dûs aux snipers du régime qui surveillent ces prés. Les autres se contentent d’exister à l’intérieur de Yarmouk, fouillent les maisons abandonnées à la recherche de nourriture, une poignée de riz ou de farine, quelques épices, n’importe quoi qui puisse se manger. Voilà comment vivent ces gens…

Au cours des mois écoulés, lors de tentatives d’introduire des convois d’aide humanitaire, des attaques ont eu lieu : le régime en a rejeté la responsabilité sur les rebelles.

Il ne s’agissait pas d’attaques directes, bien qu’il y ait eu des tirs dont nous n’avons pas pu établir l’origine. Les deux parties s’accusent mutuellement. La milice accuse le Commandement Général, et celui-ci dénonce les islamistes armés. En réalité, des tirs de la milice ont empêché la distribution mais, franchement, je ne pense pas que l’intention était délibérée. Ils souffrent du siège comme les autres et sont logés à la même enseigne. Je crois plutôt qu’au cours d’un engagement avec les forces loyalistes les convois ont été pris entre deux feux.

 Pour finir, avez-vous un message à faire passer à la société italienne ?

Il y a à peu près 30.000 personnes dans le camp de Yarmouk, dont 1200 enfants. Beaucoup sont nés pendant le siège. J’y étais il y a trois mois : ces enfants ne savent plus le goût de la nourriture. L’un d’entre eux rêve de déguster une simple pomme de terre, de manger quelque chose de bon, quelque chose de sucré. Des personnes âgées ont besoin de remèdes pour leur tension artérielle, leurs problèmes cardiaques, leur diabète, tous les traitements simples et basiques dont le manque total cause leur décès. Les blessés sont contraints à l’amputation par faute de simple traitement. Pas de médicament, pas de médecin ! Nous avons besoin de vaccins pour nos enfants. Les problèmes sont immenses : ils n’ont plus la moindre idée de ce qu’est une vie normale et n’imaginent même plus comment est-ce en dehors du camp. Quelle faute ont donc commis ces enfants et ces civils pour souffrir autant ? Ce qui se passe à Yarmouk est contraire à tout principe d’humanité, contraire à toute notion de patrie, contraire à toute idée de panarabisme, toutes choses pour lesquelles le régime syrien se targue d’être en première ligne !

English: http://radiofreesyria1.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/extreme-suffering-in-yarmouk-camp-interview-with-wesam-sabaaneh/

WRITTEN BY NICOLE MAGNOONA GERVITZ

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench. Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench.
Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Black September 1970: Hafez al Assad made the decision to send tanks into Jordan to support the Palestinians against Hashemite King Hussein. The PLO won popular support amongst the Arab masses after the regimes were thoroughly discredited in the 1967 humiliation at the hands of Israel. King Hussein ordered his Jordanian military to attack the PLO forces in Jordan because of their declared policy to overthrow him. Assad refused to send any major Syrian military support because he feared another war with Israel would erupt. He refused to provide air cover to the Syrian tanks and they were forced to withdraw following the bombardment by the Jordanians. This left the Palestinians isolated, abandoned, and several thousand of them were massacred by Hussein’s Jordanian military. Only a few weeks after Black September is when Hafez al Assad led his military coup in Damascus.

1973: Syria attempted to regain control of the Golan Heights and it was another failure. Hafez al Assad found himself becoming the security guard for Israel’s northern border. Colonel Rafik Halawi, the Druze commander of the infantry brigade that was destroyed by the Israelis in the Golan, was executed under the orders of Hafez before the war even came to an official close. The Syrian regime claimed he was killed in battle with Israel and anyone who was caught saying anything otherwise was threatened with torture and imprisonment.

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

1976: Hafez al Assad supported the Lebanese Christian fascist Phalangists against the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance that had formed in opposition to both Phalangist and Ba’athist tyranny. The Syrian military’s invasion of Lebanon in 1976 was approved by the US. However, the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance wiped the floor with the Syrian occupation forces in June of that year. Two months later Hafez al Assad made an example out of such resistance. The Phalangists, backed by Hafez al Assad, committed a massacre of Palestinian people at the Tal al Zaatar refugee camp. With the blessing of the Arab League the Syrian government decided to ally itself with Israel to prevent the defeat of the Phalangists. They besieged the Palestinian camps of both Karantina and Tel al Zaatar with Syrian weaponry and 2,000 Palestinian people were slaughtered. An open letter from the Palestinian resistance within the camps was released that summer;

“Syrian weapons are being used – most unfortunately – against our camp, while the rulers of Damascus continue to repeat that they are here in Lebanon in order to defend our camp. This is a murderous lie, a lie which pains us more than anyone else… But we wish to inform you that we will fight in defense of this camp with our bare hands if all our ammunition is spent and all our weapons are gone, and that we will tighten our belts so that hunger will not kill us. For we have taken a decision not to surrender and we shall not surrender…”

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

 

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

1980’s: As part of its vicious crackdown against leftist dissidents during the 1980’s Hafez al Assad’s regime arrested hundreds of activists from both the Party for Communist Action and the Syrian Communist Party in an attempt to smother the last remaining voices of dissent after it had crushed the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the Syrian Communists who worked with a group of Palestinian dissidents called the Palestinian Popular Committee in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Damascus governate. The Palestinian Popular Committee was founded in 1983 but was forced to dissolve two years later as a result of Hafez al Assad’s campaign of arrests. 200 members of the Party for Communist Action were arrested by the Syrian security forces in 1986.

The PLO began to splinter in 1983. Colonel Saed Abu Musa was Arafat’s rival and he led a rebellion amongst al Fatah in the Bekaa Valley. Abu Musa had been a professional soldier in the Jordanian army before joining the PLO. The Syrian regime supported him and assisted in supplying him with weapons. Abu Musa and his followers ran Arafat’s men out of Tripoli that summer. When a reporter from Newsweek asked Yasir Arafat for a comment regarding this mutiny he responded with, “Don’t ask me about the puppets and the horses of Troy… Assad wants my pen. He wants the Palestinian decision, and I won’t give it to him.” Most of the Palestinian refugees chose Arafat over a Syrian puppet, but as a result of Hafez’s meddling Arafat’s men were forced out of Tripoli and the Palestinian resistance was disempowered.

In the “War of the Camps” between 1985 and 1988 Hafez al Assad recruited the Shia Lebanese Amal Movement. It was in armed conflict with Hezbollah at the time and it opened fire on the Palestinians and Hezbollah simultaneously.

Lebanon: Tripoli is a Sunni majority city with an Alawite minority that is given financial support by Syrian government. Syrian Alawites are placed in the Lebanese Parliament entirely due to pressure from Damascus. Lebanon’s naturalization laws are also completely subverted. Palestinian refugees who have lived in the impoverished refugee camps since the Nakba of 1948 and its sequel in 1967 cannot attain Lebanese citizenship whatsoever, but Syrian Alawites can at any time.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

2000: While Bashar al Assad was praising the second intifada hundreds of Palestinians were languishing in his jails. Attieyeh Dhiab Attieyeh, a Palestinian in his early 30’s, died in Tadmur prison in early 2000 due to medical neglect. He was already very ill when he was transferred in Tadmur in 1996. Attieyeh was a member of Fatah, the faction led by Yasser Arafat, and had been arrested in 1989 in south Lebanon before being sent to Syria.

2008: There is a similarity between the Hama massacre of 1982 and Cast Lead. In both massacres the minarets of the mosques were destroyed by the invading occupation forces. They claimed that the minarets were being used by Islamist snipers. There’s no evidence of that in either situation, but there is evidence of the distaste for orthodox Islam expressed by both sets of perpetrators.

May 2011: A few Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp managed to break the siege on Deraa and deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Nakba Day 2011: Hundreds of Palestinians from the refugee camps in and around Damascus were bused to the demilitarized zone that separates Syria from the Golan Heights. The safety of the Palestinian civilians was not prioritized. The fence was breached and Israeli occupation forces opened fire and a dozen Palestinian people were killed. There was a repeat of this bloodshed in June on Naksa Day; the anniversary of the outbreak of the June War in 1967. Another dozen Palestinians were shot and killed. This was unprecedented because never before had the Syrian government bused hundreds of Palestinian people to the Golan on either anniversary. Why 2011? To deflect attention from the ongoing slaughter in the streets. One of the main intelligence branches in Syria deals only with Palestine-related issues. It’s impossible for the Syrian government to not have known that a breach of the fence in the Golan would’ve cost Palestinian lives.

images (6)Fall 2011: Ghiyath Matar, a young man with Palestinian origins living in the Daraya suburbs of Damascus, pioneered the tactic of handing out roses and water to the Alawite security forces sent to shoot demonstrators. By early September of 2011 he was dead. His mangled corpse was delivered to his family four days after his arrest. Several US envoys attended his funeral. The spokespeople for the Assad regime said an armed gang was responsible for Ghiyath’s torture and death, and that is half true because, after all, there was an armed gang running the government.

As a result of Bashar al Assad’s genocidal campaign of government repression Yarmouk became a home for one million internally displaced Syrian refugees by the end of 2011. When the Free Syrian Army gained ground in the southern suburbs of Damascus the Syrian military began to shell the camp while, at the same time, arming the pro-regime PFLP-GC. Mortars were fired at the camp by Assad’s forces before the FSA ever stepped foot in it.

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

Summer 2012: Alawite para-militaries who lived in Nisreen street, close to Yarmouk, opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration. They killed ten Palestinians, including a little boy.

Fall 2012: The FSA set up a supply line through Yarmouk, and massive collective punishment at the hands of the regime ensued. Syrian government forces and Alawite militias encircled Yarmouk and by October of 2012 the entrances to the camp were only open two or three days a week. The civilians bore the brunt of the violence; starvation, disease, and random shelling.

December 2012: Syrian regime warplanes bombed a mosque in Yarmouk that was housing internally displaced Syrian refugees. Dozens were killed. The excuse for such an atrocity was that the FSA had hidden some weapons in the basement of the mosque. 

2013: Khaled Bakrawi, a young Palestinian-Syrian community organizer and founding member of the Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development, was arrested by Alawite state security forces in January of 2013 for his leading role in carrying out humanitarian and aid work in Yarmouk. By September the Palestinians of Yarmouk learned that Khaled was killed under torture in a detention center in Damascus.

Khaled Bakrawi  and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi took part in the June march into the Golan. He witnessed the leader of the PFLP, Ahmad Jibril, lead the people into the Israeli-occupied cease-fire zone. Knowing what was going to happen he tried to dissuade his fellow Palestinians from following Ahmad Jibril’s orders, but to no avail. Khaled was forced to watch Alawite state security forces relax and drink tea while Israeli occupation soldiers rained bullets down on his neighbors. Khaled took two bullets in his leg. The young man who was labeled a hero for taking a few Zionist bullets would later fade away into obscurity following his murder at the hands of Bashar al Assad’s security forces.

Palestinians in Yarmouk are also sometimes murdered by other Palestinians. The Russian BM-21 Grad Rocket was used to attack Yarmouk in July of 2013. Two grad missiles were fired onto the Hamdan bakery on July 24th, killing fifteen civilians. It was reported by both Reuters and the Yarmouk Camp Coordination Committee that this attack was carried out by the PFLP. Fifteen Palestinians in Yarmouk died of starvation between September and December of 2013. The number of Palestinian refugees killed since 2011 in Syria has reached 1,597, in addition to 651 others lost or imprisoned, and 74 tortured to death in regime detention centers by the fall of 2013.

The Assad regime’s annihilation of the country is good for Israel: – An Arab despot who crushes his own people always has a special place in the Zionist heart. Israel has always relied on corrupt Arab despots like Bashar al Assad to put down the masses for them,- An anti-Iranian sentiment is being sown in the Arab world as a result of its colonization of Syria. – Hezbollah is too busy murdering Syrians to cause Israel much trouble. – Israel no longer faces any pressure to give up the Golan Heights.

 

You can take your neutrality and hang yourself with it. 

If you are interested in the sources, feel free to message me and I will send you 583736648728255485947476 books, articles, videos, photos, more books, human rights reports, and advocacy organizations.

SEE: http://www.scribd.com/doc/220568814/Understanding-a-Revolutionary-Syria-Rebellions-Uprisings-and-the-Persistence-of-Tyranny

 

 

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

Stopped in the middle of the sea by the Egyptian Coast Guard, aboard a boat that was sinking shortly after the start of its journey to Europe. Locked within the premises of a police station in Alexandria, where the police prevent the arrival of relief supplies of Caritas

WRITTEN by STEFANO PASTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

MILAN- Through WhatsApp, we interviewed Syrian refugees held since 14 April in Al Rashid police station in Alexandria, Egypt. Having failed to reach Europe with a barge, they were handed over to the Egyptian authorities, but now risk transfer to the prison of Al Burj , or – even worse – repatriation to Syria.

What is your situation like today?

Disastrous hygienic conditions are dangerous due to a broken sewer. We are 144 persons living in two rooms measuring only a few meters, one room for women and one for men. We sleep on the ground and we cannot wash. We try to keep calm, but when it happened a few days ago there were moments of tension between us, the police prevented the visits for that day and suspended the coffee and the food brought from outside by Caritas Alexandria. The boys and men are still able to resist in some way, but the women and children are really at the limit; there are two women with heart problems who finished their medicine and they need to get out immediately.

What is the situation of children?

There are 44 children under the age of 12, while the total number of children is 63. There are a few who are trying to play with water bottles and they are the only ones who can get distracted for a moment. At night, however, they find it difficult to sleep. As of yesterday, almost all of them have developed a sort of skin disease that no one can identify. Two children of one and two and a half years, alone with his mother because his father was killed in Syria, were suffering particularly yesterday , they were taken to the hospital five times because they suffer from asthma and staying in this place of detention is equivalent to sleeping in a garbage dump. We are also concerned about another 4 year old girl, suffering from cardiac difficulties, who had begun to complain about the chest pain already in the midst of the sea.

Why did you flee from Syria?

Many of us have fled to avoid conscription in the army of Assad, others are activists against the regime who are risking their lives. Then there are families who have fled their homes because they could not survive in some cities, people are dying of hunger because of the siege of the regular army (regime army), which does not allow the entry of food. There is no bread and milk for the children, while the rice when one can find it, costs almost twenty dollars a kilo. Life like that is simply impossible, that’s why we escaped.

Have you talked with a lawyer or with international authorities?

No, none of us was able to speak with a lawyer or has received a sheet with the written reasons for why we are being detained. We met a lawyer named Ahmad, who initially presented himself as belonging to UNHCR, but then he began to terrorise us by threatening to have us repatriated and he revealed that he works for Egyptian National Security.  This is our greatest fear, because it would be tantamount to a death sentence; also return to Lebanon would be very dangerous, since it has already happened that Hezbollah has handed over some refuges to Assad. After a week from the meeting with Ahmad, presented to us is a UN official, at least this is what he is telling us, along with an interpreter, in which we explained how we ended up in the police station.

How did it happen?

What happened before our arrest was a nightmare. We were ready to face the Mediterranean to reach Europe and we had entrusted ourselves to smugglers, who treated us badly, screaming profanities and threatening to beat us with bars, even children. With small boats, we were taken in groups on a larger boat, where we were parked at sea for seven days waiting for it to fill up to 250 people. When we were ready to leave, the same smugglers noticed that the boat was about to sink. It was the worst time since we left Syria: we could die and nobody would know. Then, after a fight broke out between the smugglers on the boat and the organisers were on the ground, we were able to convince them to bring us back; we passed the Coast Guard, but no one saw us. Once on the beach, we ourselves went to the Egyptian authorities, asking for help, but since that day, April 14, we were all arrested, including children.

Have you heard of other refugees detained in Egypt?

Of course, we have detailed information because they are members of our own families. The wife of a man who is here at Al Rashid is held in another place, then we know where the traveling companions arrested with us are. In the police station in Al Montazah there are 22 people, 55 in Chabrakhit and an unknown number – but with so many children – in Miami.

What are you asking for?

We call for the respect of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits any member country the repatriation (refoulement ) of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened . We ask UNHCR and the European embassies (we initiated contact with the Austrian one) to be able to apply for asylum. We ask the Europeans: would you like your children to have the Mediterranean as their graves? Open a humanitarian corridor, let us save our lives legally.

thank you to Nawal 

The Third Way march, with their Icons in "yes we can" Shepard Fairey style!

The Third Way march, with their Icons in “yes we can” Shepard Fairey style!

WRITTEN BY HISAM ASHKAR, translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak

News of the visits of fascist and far-right groups to Syria, to show solidarity with the regime, have recently started to emerge, especially with the beginning of the revolutionary process in the Arab region. It seems that the Syrian issue ranks highly on the agenda of the European far-right. So, is it axiomatic to say that the majority of the European far-right supports Assad’s regime and stands against the revolution in Syria?

Nearly two decades ago, several parties and far-right groups started to weave relations with the Syrian regime. For example, communications began between some of the French right in France and the Syrian regime, since the nineties. Many visits then followed. Most notable was that of “Frederic Chatillon“, the president of the extreme student group (Groupe Union Défense), who is very close now to “Marine Le Pen”, the current President of the French party «National Front» (Front National). During his visit in 1994, he met the Syrian Defense Minister at the time “Mustafa Tlass”.

In the first decade of this century, especially since 2006, the visits increased. Most of them took place in Lebanon, the usual place to hold meetings between visitors and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party which is an ally of the Syrian regime. Frederic Chatillon with Alain Sorel were some of the most prominent visitors. This relation was not limited to the official visits and political discussions, it extended to business. For example, the company (Riwal) which is owned by Chatillon, founded the company (Riwal-Syria) to develop economic relations between Syrian and French companies in 2009.

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

By the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, the far-right began to support the Syrian regime in various ways. Frederic Chatillon was the first to support Assad. Since the early days of the revolution, Chatillon accused all those who took part in the demonstrations of the opposition of being partners to the Zionist lobby, which wants to destabilize Syria. Chatillon went even further to organise a demonstration in Paris to support Assad in October of the same year. Chatillon’s company «Riwal» still perseveres to support the news website (InfoSyrie) which is campaigning for the Assad regime.

With time, far-right demonstrations supporting the regime were organised in many European cities, from Rome to Warsaw and Geneva. At the same time, several visits to show support were organized, notably the «fact-finding mission» in June 2013. Several European far-right personalities took part in this visit like Nick Griffin “MP in the House of Commons”, Philip Dewinter “deputy in the Flemish parliament in Belgium”. This extent of the support reached the level of going to Syria to fight along side Assad forces in some cases, as the New-Nazi Greek organization «black tulip» (Mavros Krinos) declared. There were also many meetings held by the far-right which aimed to discuss the Syrian situation and how to support Assad’s regime. The most notable was the Boreal Festival which was held in Kanto in Italy on the 12th of September 2013 in the presence of a large number of European fascists. Paradoxically, the Mayor of Kanto, who was hosting that event, began his speech with words by Rosa Luxemburg!

Why does the European far-right back the Syrian regime?

In her thorough article, “Who are Assad’s fascist supporters?” Leila Shrooms attributes this support to:

“Anti-imperialist/anti-globalism sentiment with a strong focus on national states (they believe the Assad regime protects the Syrian state against US imperialism), Islamophobia (they believe the Assad regime fights Islamic extremists), anti-semitism (they believe Assad’s regime acts as resistance to Israel).”

3 way

As for Serge Ayoub, leader of the far-right organization Third way, Troisieme Voie, banned since the summer of 2013, he organized on the 2nd of February 2013 a march in support of the Syrian Assad regime. The reason for his support becomes clear in his answer to the following question, “why are Syrian supporters of the Assad regime participating in this demonstration?” Ayoub replies, “Why are the Syrians with us? Of course, it is our duty to support their cause! Syria is a nation, a homeland, a socialist country with national supremacy. They are fighting for secularism, and they are subject to an attack by imperialist America, globalization and its salafist servants and Qatari and Saudi mercenaries. The purpose is to destroy the state.”

We find in Ayoub’s narrative all the reasons presented by Leila Shrooms, except for Israeli resistance. The far-right does not hide its aversion to Israel, as we have seen in Chatillon. Paradoxically, Ayoub’s supporters who describe themselves as French revolutionary nationalists, and who gained the support of many French and European Fascist organizations, brandished the photographs of five personalities in the demonstration: Bashar Al Assad’s, next to it that of the Russian president Putin, the Belarusian president Lukashenko, the Venezuelan Ex-president Chavez and the national Serb Draga Mihailovič. Many flags were also lifted, among them the Syrian, French, Russian, Venezuelan and Cuban flags.

The grounds for this support presented by all the far-right organizations on the one hand and the organizations who criticize them on the other, stir many questions such as, “Why didn’t this right ally itself with Syria against Israel before the decade of the nineties? Why did this right stand against the Syrian revolution since its beginnings before the rise of the armed extremist Islamic movements? And what is the truth of this anti-imperialist anti-globalization stance of the right?

To demonstrate the background and logic of the right’s position with regards to what is happening in Syria, we have to go back in time 25 years, to a new historical phase that started with the fall of the Berlin wall.

Redefining the enemy: from the communist threat to the threat of the American model.

In his book “The anatomy of Fascism”, Paxton says that Fascist movements are always in need of an enemy that symbolises the overwhelming crises that’s taking society by storm, and who pushes the mass to unite under the flag of the saviour leader. Towards the end of the cold war, most far-right movements in northern Europe considered The Soviet Union to be that enemy-symbol, to the extent that Jean Marie le Pen, the leader of the far-right French party, The National Front, alleged that he carried the legacies of Winston Churchill, Douglas McArthur and Ronald Regan[1], not just in the political arena, but also in the field of Economy. For until the end of the eighties, the National Front was glorifying and defending liberal Economy.[2]

In this context, the fall of communism did not just cause a crisis in the left, rather it went beyond it to reach the far-right, who lost over night its main enemy and one of the basis of its politics. The reconsideration done by some of the members of the right led to adopting ideas of ideological groups such as GRECE, which started since the sixties developing the theory of cultural difference, which opposes racial mixing because it represents a danger for the identity of nations. Hence the United States became the enemy – the new symbol, for various reasons:

1-      Cultural and political American dominance represents a threat to national identities.

2-      The American model reflects a presence and mix between various races and cultures, regardless of the racism and inequality that are rooted in this model.

Redefining the enemy has forced these right wing forces to reconsider many of their political and economic stances to fit with their new ideological position. It is worth remembering here that far-right and main fascist parties are pragmatic parties which don’t hesitate in redefining their main positions (especially concerning the economy, because they do not rely on a fixed line or position in this field, rather they fluctuate according to the political variables.)[3] In order to achieve their goal: success and power.[4] Hence this Right raised the bar of its animosity towards the USA and the new political order, such as economic neo-liberalism and globalization, and establishing relations with those they consider as enemies of this political order. For example, Jean Marie le Pen is the ally of the Lebanese far-right Phalange party since the mid-seventies, and on his visit to Beirut in 2002, he tried to no avail to meet with Ayatullah Fadlallah, who has close relations with Hezbollah. This redefinition of the enemy is what explains the rapprochement between Hizbollah and the Syrian regime, which started in a shy way in the nineties to become more solid and entrenched in the last ten years.

The new far right: “left wing in its work, right wing in its values”!?…

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio,  Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio, Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

The transformation undergone by the Right because of the redefinition of the enemy on one hand and reprioritization on the other, has led to adopting and overtaking some of the leftist ideas in order to empower this new intellectual orientation. For example, we see that the campaign of Marine le Pen in the French presidential elections of 2012 was based on social and economic issues, to the extent that it almost failed to mention some of the favourite topics of the far-right such as banning migrants. The far-right’s adoption of some of the leftist and Marxist rhetoric is not new; this was clear since the birth of fascism as Mussolini used to address the proletariat and fascists alike with his radical, nationalistic, anti-capitalist speeches. Of course, this was to a great extent a selective and manipulative manoeuvre, because the enemy was foreign capitalism and not the national one, and some of the aims of these speeches were the conciliation between the work force and the nationalistic business owners. [5]

In this context, the reliance of the new right on leftist ideas is nothing but that populist national communism, in other words, a return to the classical Fascist speech like in the twenties, and in one of the most important European capitalist crisis at the time. This return is apparent in the National Front’s adoption of the slogan “No Right and no Left” in a clear reiteration of the saying of the founder of the fascist Spanish Phalange Party (Falange Española de las JONS), Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera), that his movement was neither of the right nor the left.

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others...

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others…

However the current rhetoric and orientation of this Right differs from its 80 year old predecessor in many details. This right does not stop at adopting leftist slogans and headings, it also partially takes from its ideology to add it to its heritage.  We see Marine le Pen in her book “For France to live” (Pour que vive la France)[6], relying on sayings by many thinkers, politicians, writers and others from the Left, from George Aurel, to Bertlot Brecht and even Karl Marx himself, praising the beginnings of this Left that she considers to have later on betrayed its principles, insisting that it is now the National Front that carries these objectives. Some far-right thinkers such as Alain Soral have even gone a step further, rather than repudiating the left and the right, they try to bring them together. Soral, the ex member of the French communist party and then the National Front looks at the union of the ethical right with the economic social left against the unethical left that compliments the economic right. In form, on his online political group Egalite et Reconciliation, Soral puts together the photos of Che Guevara, Gaddafi, Mahmood Ahmadi Najad, Vladimir Putin and the far-right French icon Jeanne d’Arc. Alain Soral attacks the global political system represented by the USA and Israel and talks about social justice, and the exploitation of the social classes. He denounces imperialism and demands a real left.

In context, he does not suggest anything new apart from the reconciliation between workers and business owners, with full emphasis on the conservative principles and values which lead to the salvation of the French nation.

ayoub 3

Soral might seem like an entertainer mixing economy theology and the conspiracy theory, but his page attracts many visitors and followers, especially youth. The ideas people like Soral promote are translated in the streets, such as members from the Third Way brandishing pictures of personalities and flags as mentioned above. That could sometimes be understood as a communication and coalition between the right and some extreme nationalist left movements, such as the Polish fascist organization (Falanga) which is establishing connections with the Mauis and nationalist Bolsheviks.

 

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

This ideological change, even if directed solely at the national internal interest of these parties, carries in its folds the support of this right for the Syrian regime. Theorists such as Soral, consider Bashar Al-Assad to be one of the characters standing in the face of the global system. Moreover, the Syrian regime is the example, even if not ideal, for their slogan, “left wing in terms of work, Right wing in terms of values”. Emphasising that this system is not applicable in Europe rather suitable for “the political idiosyncrasies of the Middle East, where it is important to have a strong leader to control the ethnic sectarian cohesion with a firm hand, and that is usually acceptable by all clans… As was the case in the past [in Europe]”

The limits of the hatred of the far-right for the “Foreigner”

In addition to the excuse of the “pressing foreign danger”, the far-right parties also need and internal enemy that can be a factor in the demise of the mass, and that prevents the achievement of a more comprehensive and stronger society. [7] Among the internal enemies of this Right is the “foreigner”, and in Europe the two main “foreigners” in the eyes of the far-right are the Jews and recently the Muslims. However the anti-Semitism of this Right does not always translate into animosity towards Israel. In the era of the cold war, most of the far-right considered Israel as the fortress of the west in the face of the Soviet Union. However this rapprochement was always hindered by the position of the far-right with regards to the holocaust. With the end of the cold war, and the redefining of the enemy, Israel moved from the impervious fortress in the face of the communist danger to the strongest ally of the new American enemy. This development was accompanied by a change in the perception of some of this right and their rapprochement to some of the European groups, in a step some researchers attribute to the appearance of a new danger for this Right in Europe, namely the Muslims.

This comparison remains somehow simplistic, for Islamophobia can represent an incentive for this rapprochement, however it does not explain the radical change in the perception of the far-right towards the foreigner. A few decade ago, we find that some of the prominent faces of the far-right were either Jewish or of Jewish origins, one of the most eminent examples is the vice-president of the National Front and life partner of Marine Le Pen, Louis Aliot, who has Jewish Algerian roots. Moreover, in the French parliamentary elections of 2012, the national front nominated the Jewish Michel Toris for one of the seats in Paris. Also, Far-right Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Defence League, were always close to the far-right, first to the (Bloc identitaire) then to the National Front. If we go back in time to the early nineteen twenties, we find that Mussolini’s fascist party included many Jews.[8] Hence we see that the far-right antagonizes the “foreigner” who tries to hold on to his idiosyncrasies and characteristics, while accepting the “foreigner” who adopts the values and principles of this Right – or in other words, who fuses nationally, according to the fascist expressions – then this foreigner becomes a part of that right, in that case he can assume leading positions such as Serge Ayoub who is from Lebanese origins. Therefore it will be no surprise to find Muslims among the electoral list of some of the far-right parties in Europe, and that’s in the near future.

This is with regards of the internal foreigner so what about the external one? From the unstable relationship between the Far-right and the Jews and Israel, and despite the recent antagonism with Israel, some of this right such as the National Front is trying to restore what was severed for internal electoral reasons. In this context, Marine Le Pen has declared to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2011 that “The National Front was a constant supporter of the Zionist movement and a constant defender of Israel’s right to exist.”

However, we would be mistaken to think of this speech just as an electoral campaign, it has to be considered carefully and seriously. Defending Israel’s right to exist does not necessarily mean supporting it, the support is for the Zionist movement, i.e. for another far-right nationalist ideology, that decided to create an entity outside the European Nationalistic movements. The far-right parties while denying foreigners the right to be within its national and geographical borders, do not deny it the right to exist within its own geographical borders, as long as it does not clash with its own sphere. This explains the cooperation and communication between the far-right parties internationally.

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

This clarifies the original seeming paradox. There is no contradiction in the support of the Far-right for the Syrian regime, and their animosity towards the Syrian refugees in their countries even if they were pro-regime. Moreover, animosity towards Islam becomes a secondary reason to back Assad. We mustn’t forget that this Right supports, even boasts about fighting side to side with an Islamic party, Hizbollah, as declared by the organization “Black Tulip”. One can also see clearly the pivotal role of the far-right parties that are Assad’s regime’s allies, in forming and strengthening this relationship and what that entails. This explains the regular visits of this European right to Beirut to meet parties such as the Syrian National Social party. The role of this party in particular and its network with the European Far-right deserves deeper consideration, to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Conclusion

This article has attempted to look at the Far-right in general, while in reality this right has various ideologies. This difference takes many forms according to the type and volume of these groups, from the bigger more pragmatic parties to the intellectual circles and the more radical paramilitary groups. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same, even if the difference in form seems radical, this remains particular and not essential. As we have seen in this article, any reading or analysis of the Right’s position has to take into consideration that the ideology that this right portrays is moving and constantly changing. One of the important tools for analysis and rapprochement is the basis that Paxton deduced such as to feel the crushing burden of a crisis that cannot be solved in a traditional way, priority of the group over the individual, considering the mass as victim and fearing for its demise. There is a need for a closer-knitted purer society, etc…

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

As for why does the far-right support the Syrian regime? The main reason is that the ideological crossing between the right and what it represents and what the Syrian regime represents has happened at this historical moment. For this Right, this represents one of the aspects of its advertising campaign with the enemy – the new symbol. This support also represents its difference from the other European political parties and movements, which he accuses of being a toy in the hand of this enemy. Although this Right knows that it is not possible to exploit this support internally, because of the bad reputation and violence of the Syrian regime, the development of events in Syria allows it to exploit European public opinion through sympathizing with the situation of the Christians in the east for example, or through the topic of European Jihadists in Syria. This matter requires further investigation to reveal the extent and ramification of these relations.

Most importantly, one of the main incentives behind these reasons is the inherent opportunism of the Far-right’s ideology that will not hesitate in taking whatever stance or doing whatever it takes to get even a little closer to power.

[1]                      Ariane Chebel d’Appolonia, L’Extrême droite en France. De Maurras à Le Pen, Bruxelles: Editions Complexe et PUF, 1987.

[2]                      Sylvain Crépon, La nouvelle extrême droite: Enquête sur les jeunes militants du front National, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006.

[3]                      Local examples for this: the rapprochement of the National Social Syrian Party in Lebanon to the Marxist propositions in the sixties, after a failed coup on New Year’s Eve 1962.

[4]                      Robert Paxton, the Anatomy of Fascism, New York: Knopf, 2004.

[5]                      Paxton, 2004

[6]                      Marine Le Pen, Pour que vive la Farnce, Paris: Grancher, 2012

[7]                      Paxton, 2004

[8]                      Paxton, 2004

Translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak from Arabic ORIGINAL http://al-manshour.org/node/4904&usg=ALkJrhjqYVOhwg5JmixoJ5kn2QJQJfWlMA 

 

supporters of the "secular" Assad bow down to kiss his mega poster.

supporters of the “secular” Assad bow down to kiss his mega poster.

WRITTEN BY JEAN -PIERRE FILIU, translated by Mary Rizzo

Among the arguments put forward constantly by proponents of the Syrian dictatorship , standing out is the presumed  ” secularism” of the Assad regime. It is striking that “secularism” is associated with the illusory protection of minorities (while the percentage of Christians in the Syrian population has halved since the advent of Hafez Assad in 1970) and the promotion of women’s rights.

Yet these two concepts have nothing to do with secularism, which expresses the neutrality of the State towards all faiths, whether they can be labelled as religious or not. The French Republic had built its secularism during the crisis with the Catholic Church and the events that emerged thereof.

The separation of church and state in 1905, in France came 40 years before the right to vote for women. And the French Revolution had, according to the famous formula of one of its members, recognised establishment of the rights of religious minorities as rights due to citizens, and not to a community.

This has not prevented the Arab dictators to enhance the idea of their “commitment” to the emancipation of women (Ben Ali in Tunisia) or for the protection of minorities (Copts in Egypt by Mubarak). This has brought about a paternalistic strategy of their propaganda towards the population (“without me, poor subjects, there exists only the greatest threat), and their seemingly “progressive” appearance on the international scene (I’m the only bulwark against the forces of darkness, Islamism, or Al Qaeda).

Yet, never has been such a lie been brought to the level that the Assad regime has taken it.

Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the dynasty, took power in 1970 against those who drafted – the year before – the only constitution in the history of Syria that could actually be described as “secular “. Assad the father “regulated” his manoeuver with a masquerade election, in 1971, attributing 99.2% of the votes to its sole candidate.

It amended the Constitution in 1973 to guarantee the explicit belonging of the Head of State to the Muslim religion.

The term “secularism” is absent from the official propaganda, which celebrates its successes with the words “socialist” and “nationalist” of the Assad regime. In 1979, the Syrian Baath Party, officially “Arab” and “socialist”, had allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Iraqi Baath Party. This alliance, sealed by the war launched by Tehran against Baghdad in 1980, remains the same until this day.

20131015-125818Assad father and son support a Ministry of Religious Affairs (known as “Waqf”) and a Mufti of the Republic to establish an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials is the exact opposite of the secular separation of religion and state. In Syria, the Imams are expected every Friday to celebrate the glory of the Head of State and his achievements.

In addition to this ministry integrated with the machine politics of the dictatorship, Assad has co-opted Sunni personalities, responsible for consolidating the presidential legitimacy in the ranks of the majority community in Syria. We should remember that, in the absence of official statistics, the percentage of Sunnis in Syria is estimated at four-fifths (mainly Arabs, with a Kurdish minority) and 12% are Alawites (all ethnically Arabs).

Among these public figures, the most notable were Kaftaro Sheikh Ahmad, who died in 2004, and Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a bombing in 2013. Both were known for their unconditional support to the Assad regime, and their vigorous attacks against the principle of secularism, which was considered as godlessness.

In February 2006, it was in Damascus where there were the most violent protests against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the press of the West: the Syrian secret police organised events that led to the attack of the French Embassy and the destruction of the embassies of Denmark and Norway.

Those who still believe in the “secularism” of Bashar al-Assad could, for example, see this press release by Government Information (SANA) relative to the preaching at the end of Ramadan 2012 (Eid al-Fitr): “The sheikh leading the ceremony praised the struggle of the Head of State at the service of Islam against “conspiracy and terrorism.”

http://sana.sy/fra/51/2012/08/19/437134.htm

But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear …

* Jean -Pierre Filiu is a university lecturer at Sciences Po (Paris).

Arabist and historian, specialist in contemporary Islam.

After a long diplomatic career, he devoted himself to academic research, and has held various positions at prestigious American universities. He is the author of several important books on the Middle East and his essays have been published in a dozen languages ​​.

One of his latest books is dedicated to Syria: “I am writing of Aleppo” (Denoël , 2013).

Original: http://syriemdl.net/2014/04/02/le-mythe-de-la-laicite-des-assad/

siriani2--620x420WRITTEN BY ALESSANDRA COPPOLA, translated by Mary Rizzo

Which European country sustains the greatest number of refugees?

No, it’s not Italy. Despite the news of the refugee landings and the tragedies of Lampedusa, the proclamations of politics and the sacrifices of the local communities, women, men and children who cross our borders are for the most part directed elsewhere. The Syrians, in particular: they land here, in the southern part of Sicily or even along the Calabrian coast, they reach a train station, then they continue their travels towards the north. The answer to the original question, then, is another, miles and miles away: Sweden. Faithful to a long and established tradition of hospitality, Stockholm offers families fleeing the war the possibility of a permanent residence permit. In expectation of that document, there is a guarantee of a roof, meals, assistance, and the prospect of language training and placement programs, although in one of the villages scattered in the snowy landscape of Scandinavia. This was explained to me by a woman traveling with her two daughters in their twenties, passing through Milan: “I ​​would stay in Italy, but here the maximum that you can give us is a piece of paper: that’s not enough to give you a roof over your head and you can’t eat with it. In Sweden, they give us a home and a support to start over again.”

The civilised choice of Stockholm is proving, however, untenable even for an advanced welfare like Sweden’s. And the Scandinavian government, as yesterday stated in the Wall Street Journal, that it no longer is hiding its annoyance regarding the Mediterranean countries that complain about the mass arrival of migrants (receiving millions in EU aid), but at the same time (ignoring the regulations) push refugees to the Northern European countries, shifting the problem elsewhere. The criticism is directed towards Athens, but especially towards Rome.

“There was much talk of economic difficulties – protests the Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billström – but Italy still remains one of the 20 richest countries in the world.”

Without a comprehensive law on asylum and with a reception system founded on emergencies and improvisation. The European regulations definitely deserve to be revised, but Sweden (9.5 million inhabitants) now compares the numbers and asks Brussels to intervene: in 2013 (UNHCR data) has received 50,000 applications for asylum against 25 thousand of Italy (60 million inhabitants). Regarding those applications from Syrians, the disparity is embarrassing: 677 here, 14,362 in Sweden, with the forecast of other 23 thousand in 2014.

syiswritten by Santiago Alba Rico, translated by Manuel Talens, editor’s note at the bottom. 

One of the curious effects of Israeli bombardment on Syria – to which Bashar Al-Assad immediately responded by bombing Aleppo, Deraa and Raqa – is his regime’s legitimization plus the criminalization of “rebels” and, by extension, of left-wingers in solidarity  with the  Syrian people’s struggle against dictatorship. Indeed one section of European anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism considers that such a solidarity means support of Israel and its occupation of Palestine and, therefore, needs “our” more active “ethical and moral rejection” of it as paladins of both the Palestinian cause and global liberation.

The fact that such a multi-semantic shortcut – equivalent to confounding apples and oranges back and forth – is frequent within the anti-imperialist side does not make it less painful and destructive as its dark power multiplies when the man who uses it is a committed and renowned  intellectual (http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9628).
To tell you the truth, I don’t like the casual and bully tone with which Gilad Atzmon, a very good guy, bumps off at once both the complexity of Syria’s situation and the solidarity gesture of, among others, Tariq Ali, Fredric Jameson, Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe. Where does Atzmon speaks from? From a superior commitment? After all, he is “a very good guy who wants to liberate Palestine” and as well as other very good guys like Ali, Jameson, Finkelstein, and Pappe, he devotes part of his time and his effort to defend a just cause. What’s the  difference? All of us are very good people who, in any case, don’t put our life at stake – or at least not directly – but only our intelligence, our speech and perhaps our prestige (the Achilles heel where a spear can wound us). Words are our only weapon, but even if we only compromise our words it involves at least two consequences.
The first one is that if we only “say” we also only “do” what we say: our actions are our verbs. I don’t think we need to remember everything Tariq Ali, Jameson or Pappe have said throughout their lives on the Israeli occupation, nor that such “discursive actions” have never been denied outside the discourse – the contradiction we call hypocrisy or double standards – by any material action: they certainly have not colonized the West Bank nor bombed Gaza while talking about freedom and democracy, and they have not ever shared cocktails with hangmen nor participated – for instance – in a pro-Israeli demonstration. They are as good people as Gilad Atzmon who – like Gilad Atzmon – consist on what they write, and nothing they have written to date contains the slightest hint of support, either direct or indirect, to Israel and the occupation of Palestine.
The second consequence of only committing words is that we have to be extremely careful about what we say. And if Tariq Ali, Jameson and Pappe have had an extreme care in drafting the statement on Syria (http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article28370) the same thing cannot be said of Gilad Atzmon’s criticism. Breaking language legs is not like breaking a brother’s legs, of course, but it is a exceedingly serious breaking of something we have a close relationship with. Atzmon cares little about language. He abuses it. He forces it to say things that disable its capacity to make a difference, that is, its power to signify. He says that Ali, Pappe and Jameson have “ended up in bed with Bibi” because he, Atzmon, has decided that there is some mysterious hypotaxis (i.e. subordinate) relationship between the two terms of this coordination: the signing of a statement in solidarity with the Syrian people and the bombing of Israel on Damascus.
But such a hypotaxis is worse than phony, it’s evil, or even worse than evil: it’s false. No argument totally reversible – one that allows contagious associations ad libitum – is truly an argument. An arbitrariness that shortcuts all possibility of thinking and introduces differences is not a thought. Let’s examine it: if Atzmon says that solidarity with the Syrian people is equivalent to ending up in bed with Netanyahu, the U.S., Qatar, NATO, etc., we could also say that solidarity with the Palestinian people amounts to ending up in bed with Iran, the Islamic Jihad, radical rabbinic sectors, the French National Front and anti-Semitic neo-Nazi groups. Even more absurd: this kind of two-way escalators leads to self-destruction because down the road we would have to accept that being in favor of both Syrians and Palestinians – as is the case of Ali, Jameson and Pappe – means also being for and against jihadists, Nazis, NATO, the U.S., Israel and Palestine, that is, in favor and against all players, friends and enemies, all together in that kind of group-sex bed Syria has become.
Why does Atzmon, an intelligent and committed man, do this to our Mother tongue? Why does he mock those who “want to liberate the Syrian people”? Doesn’t he want to liberate the Palestinian people? Does one people deserve less than the other? Do we have to choose between one of the two? Those of us who are simultaneously committed to affirming principles and complexity don’t think so. Some of us are committed only by word through statements and articles, but in Syria, on the ground, there are thousands of men and women (from Local Coordinators to revolutionary left parties, including many Palestinians) who are risking their lives defending principles (democracy, secularism, sovereignty, socialism) and assuming a complex opposition: certainly to Al-Assad’s criminal dictatorship, but also to Israel, the Gulf powers, the U.S., the Muslim Brotherhood, the Al-Nusra Front.
Atzmon will say that there are not particularly many, and they won’t win, that geostrategy imposes its fierce noose, that now is no time for softness nor naivety, that we have to choose a resounding Jesuit simplicity instead of principles and complexity (forget “humanism” or “progressiveness”). But then, in the name of what, how he dares to speak – and with such a patronizing and dismissive wrapping – of “ethics and morality”? When I think Atzmon’s criminal shortcut faithfully reproduces the Syrian regime’s logic I find particularly painful the invocation of “ethics and morality” with which he dispatches “those very good people”. Ali, Jameson, and Pappe are safe, and Atzmon doesn’t want to kill them. But to those who in Syria think as Ali, Jameson and Pappe such a criminalizing logic – “rebels” are “terrorists” who end up in bed with Israel – is literally reducing them to pieces: bombing raids, torture, indiscriminate massacres. Perhaps Atzmon thinks they deserve it – guilty of ending up in bed with Netanyahu – and that Israelis deserve as well the same (a collective expiation of a massive collective crime), but he should dare, if he has guts, to root that bloody madness in “ethics and morality.”
Consistent reasoning is like homeopathy: at worst it has no effect. However inconsistent reasoning always has material consequences. Atzmon, who has suffered in his own flesh these pollutant hypotaxises should not surrender to the lust of criminalization because it has offspring as he well knows monster descendants roaming at night, vigilantes who purge the ranks of those who are not enough Zionist, not enough anti-Zionist, not enough friends. Equal logic produces equal effects, be it Israel or Syria, and those who suffer the blows are people and their defenders. There is something decidedly “Israeli” in the Syrian government and decidedly “Syrian” in the Israeli government. And nowadays there is something decidedly Palestinian in the Syrian people and decidedly Syrian in the Palestinian people. Couldn’t Atzmon, a very good guy, oppose “Israeliness” in general while showing solidarity with these two massacred peoples, Syrians and Palestinians, instead of “choosing” one – as Israel does – or instead of criminalizing those who defend justice, democracy and dignity for all – as Israel also does?
The worst thing that can be said of Tariq Ali, Jameson, and Pappe is that they have verbally supported the Syrian people; the best that can be said of Atzmon is that he has abandoned it. But it has done something much worse: he has said that the same ones who denounce Israel for its crimes … are supporting Israel’s crimes when they denounce the Syrian regime for their own! Is it possible to say such a thing without reducing language to shreds? Do word-bombs exist? A few days ago, the Spanish Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, issued a statement of perfidious and glorious nonsense: “Abortion has something to do with [armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization] ETA but not too much.” Well, Atzmon’s argument can be paraphrased with the same sarcasm a Facebook user disparaged the minister’s nonsense: “This sentence has something to do with the possession of a brain, but almost nothing.”

It has nothing to do with ethics and morality, for which just one barely decent neuron suffices.

originally published in English on: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=9652

Read “In Bed With Bibi by Gilad Atzmon

Editor’s note: I founded Tlaxcala, where this article was published, together with several activist friends 8 years ago. At the time, there was a very simple idea circulating among us: that we could share “anti-imperialist” writing published all around the world in the hopes of uniting everyone around the idea that “the people not only had the right, but the duty to fight for their rights and combat all forms of oppression and dominance”. Our contribution was not to dictate, but to interpret and merely to offer solidarity and support to the struggles other people were fighting. The world was a little bit simpler 8 years ago. You could talk about Revolution, because there wasn’t a revolution going on that was costing your country blood and sending you and your family into torture chambers and exile at the monumental levels that are now evident to even a lazy observer. The people of the Levant were oppressed by imperialism and the domination of Western Interests, impoverished by imperial-driven wars and greed, but in spite of Israel’s wars against Palestine and Lebanon, the idea of genocide happening in the Levant was not realistic, the idea of an entire population being targeted for extermination so that a leader could stay in power was just not contemplated (and anyway, a decent human would never justify that kind of action in any way, shape or form), and every anti-imperialist knew who the enemy was and offered their best arms to fight them, whether they be intellectual, economic or military.

But things changed. Revolutions from below erupted in the Arab world with a rapidity and force that meant that they could only be crushed by the military boot of those very powers that were being told to step down or face a revolution. Assad, like other tyrants, uses the idea that he is an opposor of Zionism as a protective body shield, but it is a lie that does not stand up to scrutiny, given that not only has he killed over 200,000 Syrians and turned 9 million  of them into homeless refugees, but he’s not spared the lives of over 2000 Palestinians and made sure that their refugee camps bowed to him or were crushed. If the revolution did not catch fire and win the support of freedom lovers around the world, it would transform and be destined into becoming lingering revolts and insurgent struggles defined by battles and changing fronts that carried fragmentation of the territory and population with them.

It always happens that some of the worst counter-revolutionaries are those who had once been part of the revolution, even sitting comfortably in the West…..  Tlaxcala, (which I and another 34 people abandoned after a change of course that did not serve the voice of the people or the revolutionary struggle as was our intention) has become a primary voice for the reactionary and counter-revolutionary “left”. It is rare to find an article that is not an Israeli/European/American voice telling Syrians and Libyans and Egyptians and Palestinians what is good for them and how they should be thinking, and defining their enemy as if they were not capable of doing so themselves! Orientalist Career “activists” take the place of men and women on the ground, revolutionaries not only in front of a computer screen, but in their daily lives.

The complexities of a revolution from below that is not Marxist but which also contains original revolutionary content particular to the regional traditions and culture, has been absolutely LOST on those who even paid it lip service during the Palestinian intifada. The inability to identify with the struggle because of an ingrained idea of superiority that is nearly impossible to break in the West/Left, still stuck in the idea of evil empires and incapable of defining foreign intervention if it is not USAmerican/Nato/UK intervention. The total inability to “read” the revolution has been supported also by a plethora of extremely low quality writing based on faulty assumptions and zero analaysis, of which the Gilad Atzmon piece being critiqued is a prime example.

I stumbled upon this excellent piece by an old friend Santiago, translated by an old friend Manuel and critiquing an old friend Gilad. Thank you Santiago for not abandoning ethics, morals and also… the revolution…  in this astute and intelligent article.

Tamim-Al-Barghoutipar Tamim Barghouti, traduit par Eric Lamy

À trois reprises, les médias furent trompés : “la gravitė de la famine était exagérée”, “les témoins oculaires mentaient” et “les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célėbrité”. Dans ces trois cas précis, les forces assiégeantes mangèrent et burent devant les caméras des reporteurs, juste à côté du camp, pour mieux humilier et insulter ceux qui y vivaient.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk (à Damas) est assiégé depuis des mois, soumis à des bombardements terrestres ou aériens. De nombreux réfugiés sont morts de faim, n’ayant d’autre ressource que de se nourrir de feuilles ou de cactées ; le manque d’eau potable à également entraîné des affections intestinales et des maladies de peau.

Des nouveaux-nés ont péri de même, ainsi que leurs mères, des personnes âgées, des malades et des blessés, à cause du manque de médicaments. Toute personne qui essaie de quitter le camp est abattue, et le camp à été bombardé à de nombreuses reprises.

Même quand le régime syrien a permis l’entrée de l’aide dans le camp (grâce à la pression des médias étrangers), il a aussitôt refermé le siège quand l’attention des médias s’est relâchée.

Les tentatives des soutiens du régime syrien pour nier leur responsabilité vis-à-vis de Yarmouk sont pathétiques : le camp jouxte Damas. L’armée syrienne est seule responsable, légalement et moralement et aussi sur le plan régional, puisqu’elle contrôle entièrement la ville.

Quoique les supporteurs du régime prétendent qu’ils ont le droit pour eux, leurs actions immondes seraient moins ignobles s’ils ne prétendaient pas les accomplir au nom d’une cause prétendue.

Pour ce qui est d’affamer les Palestiniens, le régime syrien en a une longue expérience, peut-être même la plus accomplie que tout autre pays arabe. Trois des quatre pays qui entourent la Palestine ont été impliqués dans la mort de Palestiniens. Septembre, Sabra & Shatila et le blocus de Gaza… Pour autant, un seul pays sur les quatre fit couler le sang Palestinien à trois reprises : Tel Zaatar, la Guerre des Camps de réfugiés, et le camp de Yarmouk aujourd’hui.

À trois reprises, la scène se répète : le régime syrien utilise des milices alliées et leur donne l’ordre d’encercler le camp. Concernant le camp de Tel Al-Zaatar (1976), Damas a utilisé les milices chrétiennes maronites (et notamment les Phalangistes de la plus importante milice chrétienne), sans oublier les “forces Kataeb”, les “gardiens du Cèdre” et le “mouvement Marada”.

Au cours de la Guerre de Camps (1985/1988), le régime syrien à recruté la milice shiite Amal qui était, à l’époque, en conflit armé avec le Hezbollah pour le contrôle de Beyrouth et du Sud-Liban. Le Parti de Dieu ne prit pas part à la Guerre des Camps, mais Amal ouvrit le feu sur les Palestiniens et, simultanément, attaqua le Hezbollah.

Comme aujourd’hui, le régime syrien s’appuie directement sur son armée ainsi que sur des milices Palestiniennes inféodées, comme le Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Palestine – Commandement Général (FPLP – CG) et le groupe Fatah al Intifada.

Dans ces trois différents camps de réfugiés, l’eau et l’électricité furent d’abord coupés : les gens furent privés d’approvisionnement jusqu’à manquer de tout, jusqu’à mourir de faim. Dans ces trois cas, la faim à poussé les gens à manger des feuilles et à réclamer des fatwas pour être autorisés à manger des chats, des chiens et des cadavres d’animaux. Les femmes qui s’aventuraient jusqu’aux puits et autres pompes de forage à l’extérieur du camp étaient abattues par les snipers positionnés autour du camp.

Hussein Ayyad et Maysa Khatib, habitants de Tel Al-Zaatar, ont raconté que les corps des femmes tuées par les snipers tombaient dans les puits ; les gens étaient obligés de puiser l’eau dans laquelle restaient les corps des martyres. Impossible de les en retirer car les snipers continuaient de leur tirer dessus.

Dans ces trois exemples précités, les médias furent mystifiés : l’importance de la famine était exagérée, les témoins oculaires mentaient, et les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célébrité. De la même manière, les forces assiégeantes mangeaient et buvaient devant les caméras, près du camp, afin d’humilier et d’insulter plus encore les habitants du camp.

Une des chaînes de télévision libanaise qui soutient le régime syrien à diffusé un reportage sur le Camp de Yarmouk montrant les soldats loyalistes en train de manger avec un des reporters de la chaîne, niant que les habitants du camp soient affamés et imitant les scènes où du lait maternisé était gâché pendant les sièges de Sabra & Shatila et de Burj El-Barajneh (dans les années 80). Le premier, imposé par le Liban et soutenu par Israël, dura trois mois, de juin à septembre 1982. Le second, mis en place par le Liban et soutenu par la Syrie, à duré 4 ans, de 1985 à 1988.

À chaque occasion, le régime syrien s’est justifié en arguant que les Palestiniens entretenaient des opinions radicales, qu’ils étaient des résistants invétérés. Mais Damas ne s’en prit jamais à Israël, même quand l’état hébreu à bombardé Damas. À chaque fois, l’humiliation des Palestiniens relayée par les médias était un élément essentiel de la guerre livrée contre eux. Non content de démoraliser les gens dans les camps et tous ceux qui les défendaient pendant le siège, il fallait aussi salir l’image de la Palestine, des symboles politiques et culturels Palestiniens. Il fallait aussi semer la confusion dans l’opinion publique syrienne et libanaise, dans leur réaction à de telles actions et, enfin, les convaincre de ne rien tenter pour s’opposer au siège des camps de réfugiés.

Refugee camp in Damascus, SyriaLe 9 janvier 2014, le porte parole de l’UNRWA, Christopher Gunness à déclaré que “la profonde souffrance des civils de Yarmouk s’aggrave. Les rapports confirment que la malnutrition est extrêmement répandue, de même que l’absence de soins médicaux, surtout pour ceux qui ont été blessés à cause du conflit, ainsi que les femmes prêtes à accoucher, avec des conséquences fatales pour certaines d’entre elles.”

Le journal britannique The Guardian relate que le même porte-parole de l’UNRWA déclaré, le 9 février 2014 (un mois après sa première déclaration) que le Dr Ibrahim Mohammed, qui travaille au sein de l’UNRWA, à sauvé un bébé de 14 mois appelé Khaled, souffrant de grave malnutrition. Depuis 2 mois, ce bébé ne vivait presqu’exclusivement d’eau. Noor, sa maman de 29 ans, avoua qu’elle n’avait, pour toute nourriture, que des décoctions d’épices. Quand il n’y en eut plus, ils se mirent à manger de l’herbe, mais celle-ci vint aussi à manquer.

Dans un message attesté du Réseau Euro-Méditerranéen pour les Droits de l’Homme (REMDH), une organisation basée à Genève qui collabore avec l’UNRWA pour apporter de la nourriture au camp, le REMDH rapporte qu’une jeune fille de 15 ans, prénommée Heba et son bébé de 5 mois, à raconté au personnel des Nations Unies qui distribuaient la nourriture qu’ils n’avaient pas mangé depuis trois jours, et qu’elle n’avait pas pu donner le sein à son bébé. Quand les infirmiers donnèrent de l’eau au bébé, il se mit à gonfler, n’ayant rien avalé depuis plusieurs jours. Les infirmiers en furent si inquiets qu’un médecin de la Croix Rouge Internationale dut le prendre en charge.

Ces exemples de famine furent accompagnés, dans le passé, par le massacre de quiconque tentait de quitter le camp. Dans le cas de celui de Tel Al-Zaatar, par exemple, après avoir affamé le camp pendant des mois, les Phalangistes, soutenus par le régime syrien [de Hafez al Assad, père de Bashar] annoncèrent qu’ils allaient autoriser les Palestiniens à quitter le camp afin d’être acheminés dans des refuges de la Croix Rouge. Quand les Palestiniens commencèrent à quitter le camp, les miliciens les massacrèrent, comme le raconte Maysa Al Khatib, une des survivantes de la tuerie, dont le témoignage fut, avec celui de Hussain Ayyad, publié dans l’appendice Palestinien du journal libanais Al-Safir du 12 août 2013 et du 15 septembre 2012.

“Tous les hommes de plus de dix ans qui tentaient de quitter le camp, comme de nombreuses jeunes filles, jeunes femmes et femmes âgées furent massacrées. Un des assassins s’approcha d’une jeune femme qui portait son nouveau-né de deux jours. Il empoigna son bébé et le projeta au loin. Celui-ci retomba dans des arbres mais la mère ne put localiser l’endroit où son bébé avait atterri.”

Une jeune femme blessée aux jambes se traînait parmi la foule. Un des meurtriers dit à un autre : “emmène-la donc sous le figuier, pour lui donner un peu de bonheur !” La femme répondit que la mort était mille fois préférable. Il la tua d’un coup de feu en disant : “crève donc !”

“Ghazi, mon cousin, portait ma grand-mère sur ses épaules, pensant que le fait de la porter lui éviterait la mort. Mais ils la tuèrent avant de l’assassiner. Une vieille femme glissa et tomba dans un fossé : comme elle tentait de s’en extraire, un des assassins lui dit : “où vas-tu ? Reste donc là où tu es ! ” Et il lui tira plusieurs balles dans la tête.

Abu Yaseen Freijah, un infirmier de l’UNRWA, vêtu de sa tenue blanche, soutenait sa femme, qui avait reçu une balle à l’épaule. Les meurtriers s’emparèrent d’elle et lièrent ses jambes à deux voitures, qui l’ont écartelée.

Mon cousin Ali, âgé de 17 ans, doux et inoffensif, fut attaché à l’arrière d’une voiture qui démarra en trombe. Abu Akram, un marchand de tissu bien connu, essaya de dissuader les assassins de s’en prendre à son fils en leur offrant tout l’argent qu’il possédait. Ils tuèrent son fils sous ses yeux avant de l’abattre, et de prendre tout son argent.

À ce jour, les coupables du massacre de Tel Al- Zaatar et de la famine organisée imposée pendant la Guerre de Camps n’ont pas été punis. Certains d’entre eux sont même devenus ministres ou responsables de conseils représentatifs, au Liban ou en Syrie. Ces tragédies se répètent dans le Camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk. Bien que le début de la tragédie à Yarmouk soit semblable à celle de Tel Al-Zaatar, nous devons agir pour que tous ces gens-là ne finissent pas de la même manière !

Tamim Al Barghouti est un poète palestinien et un scientifique engagé en politique. Il vient d’une famille lettrée. Son père est le poète palestinien Mourid Barghouti et sa mère, romancière érudite, est Radwa Ashour, d’origine égyptienne. Cet article fut publié en arabe dans le journal Shorouk, le 25 février 2014.

 

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

By Mahmoud Sarhan, translated by Jimmy Phoenix

The memory of Palestinians of the Yarmouk refugee camp – south of Damascus – carries two harsh memories of two catastrophes: the first was the catastrophe of being kicked out of their land in 1948, while the second dates to 16-12-2012, which marks the Syrian opposition barging in the camp and the MIG strike which was executed by the Syrian Air Force over Falluja school and Abdul Kadir Alhusaini Mosque in the middle of the camp. And both were being used as refugee centers for those who fled from other locations, and these MIG strikes killed 170 refugees and caused many casualties as well. Afterwards, many rumors went around talking about a 24-hour warning given to the camp citizens before the regime forces would break in. As a result, thousands of citizens who were horrified by the massacre that just took place packed their bags and headed out of the camp in a scene more like the new Palestinian diaspora which was described as being worse than the first one. And many activists consider the MIG strike of the 17th December 2012 as the actual date of the catastrophe. According to Mohammed Almaqdesi – the official speaker of the Palestinian camps news association – that after the MIG strike, many Facebook pages affiliated to “Jibril” (PFLP – General Command) spread a rumor that the Syrian army commanded the people of Yarmouk camp to evacuate the camp, which is what actually was done, fearing the occurrence of another massacre just like the Mosque and School massacre.

yarmouk 2At that time, Yarmouk camp sheltered thousands of Syrian families who evacuated to it from neighboring provinces, even some came from the cities of Aleppo and Homs. Which caused schools, mosques and houses to overflow with Syrian emigrants, which seemed for a while to be a safer place from the burning hell across the country. Yet, that didn’t suit the Syrian regime, who used genocide and group punishment against civilians after exiling them from their houses and forcing them to leave, seeking refuge from the inferno scorched by the regime’s military as soon as they suspected the presence of the FSA in it. However, Yarmouk camp succeeded for 9 months to stay unbiased despite the repeating attempts to drag it to the war, which was obvious through shelling it with mortars repeatedly and accusing the opposition for bombarding the camp. One of those barrages caused the “Alja’oona” massacre in 2-8-2012, which resulted a death toll of more than 20 martyrs and tens of casualties. Though, the main attempt to drag the camp into the conflict was from the “Jibril group” (or the PFLP – General Command) and its withdrawal from the agreement of the PLO factions, forming armed popular committees supported by the regime, which eventually caused those committees to overpass their duties within the camp and engage in armed clashes with the FSA in the Alhajar AlAswad and Tadamun areas. And not just that, but some groups even overpassed Jibril to receive orders directly from the Syrian Republican Guard (aka Presidential Guard), who eventually made the regime succeed in taking control of the green zone and eliminating the sanctuary the camp represented. This eventually forced the FSA to enter the camp in order to get oust the regime forces.

According to Almaqdesi: the FSA intended upon liberating only Alhajar Alaswad and the neighborhoods interlocking with Yelda Area. But Baian Miz’il broke into the entire camp along with his forces, ignoring the plan. Here, a new name rises up “Baian Miz’il”, one of the leaders of the south region FSA, who were found to be a regime agent, and has been the cause of letting the regime regain control of some of the that area’s neighborhoods. Thus, the regime bears the responsibility of dragging the camp into that bloody conflict so that he could make a few victories. Considering the military side, the regime tightened its grasp totally on all the neighborhoods of the southern region, using only one check point consisting of a few hundred soldiers and mercenaries. Which somehow reduces the burden of spreading soldiers around the camp and costing the regime many forces that would be better deployed to other sensitive regions as it sees fitting. Add to that, the regime also cut the supply lines to the camp and the safe haven that the camp represented as well as the popular revolution’s surrogate, which is represented by thousands of Syrian refugees who fled to the camp. All that is considered to be a part of the regime’s means of punishing revolting areas and its residents wherever they are.

While from the political point of view, the regime used the “kicking the Palestinians out of the camp” strategy to support the alleged propaganda of the “universal conspiracy” against the regime, and using it to press on all Palestinian, Arab, and international bodies as well to come to its aid. The regime succeeded in involving Yarmouk Camp through “Jibril’s faction” and one of his goons, therefore, succeeded – using few a soldiers only, to impose a suffocating siege on all the areas out of his control in the southern area of Damascus for a period of one year, which allows him to stall in executing any initiative presented by the PLO or anyone else. And according to “Mamdouh” – a politician activist, the regime sees no interest in making truces, and any initiative or ceasefire is nothing but a trick which he uses in the context of a psychological warfare which he imposes upon the besieged to ruin their spirit, waiting for things to change and for the facts on the ground to get to his side. And until now, all the initiatives presented by the PLO have failed, while those presented by NGO’s in Yarmouk seem to be suspended between PLO officials’ statements, and Jibril’s people’s belief that it is bound to fail, and none of the distress calls made to help the besieged from an incoming humanitarian crisis caused by letting them stay for 6 months without food or medicine are listened to. Also, the camp’s residents’ attempts to neutralize the camp’s status and force Jibril and the regime to execute the recent initiative, which has brought about the death of four citizens in the “coffins” march, during their march to the regime forces’ check point outside the camp, returning to face the monopoly of the dealers inside. Even the kids went in the “empty vessels” march demanding the siege to be lifted. In the camp’s catastrophe anniversary, the citizens celebrated it by demanding the siege to be broken and neutralized from the entire situation and stop killing them by bombs, bullets and hunger. Yet, we haven’t received any reaction from the besiegers, and after a whole year, all the popular and formal attempts represented by the PLO failed and did not bring about any change regarding the camp’s situation, and the regime succeeded in eliminating the refugees’ green zone and cutting the supply lines by using just a paper to negotiate with. And that comfortable situation enforced the regime to bargain with all sides, considering that the Syrian regime is the puppet master from now on, and it becomes the only one to benefit from Yarmouk’s catastrophe. And according to what Mamdouh said, I guess there one significant difference between who besieges the Gazans and who does the same in Yarmouk, where Palestinians are being besieged by either the occupation or the “defiance” regime.

http://alhayat.com/Details/587914

Syrian Refugees who survived a dangerous sea crossing face a new odyssey once in Europe - inhumane bureaucracy.

Syrian Refugees who survived a dangerous sea crossing face a new odyssey once in Europe – inhumane bureaucracy.

1)      A refugee in Syria is a person who has left Syria. An Internally Displaced person suffers most of the same (and at times greater) risk to their lives, but they are not covered under the 1951 and 1967 protocols as “refugees”. http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html . The convention identifies not only STATUS but also RIGHTS of refugees, including their right to seek refuge and restrictions against them being held against their will inside a country where they fear their lives are endangered.

2)      A refugee does not go through the same “immigration process” that is standard for a person who does not seek this status. This means that the refugee does not avail of protection by his own country (in this case Syria) and thus cannot seek the necessary documents from the Syrian government that are part of the “facilitation of travel” that are required under ordinary immigration protocols. They thus cannot apply for visas for work or study in the nations they seek refuge in, since this would require them to recognise Syria as able to protect them. Therefore, without an entrance visa, it is simply not possible to book a safe flight from Syria to European or North American countries, nor are there airlifts that facilitate the process in any way by the ONLY international organisation that has the obligation to oversee conventions regarding refugees (and see that they are implemented) the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. States that have signed the convention must adhere to the laws and if possible, assume the burden of granting asylum.

3)      Why do all countries simply not grant asylum? Because the complying states are obligated to accord “favourable treatment”, that at the very least is “not less than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances”. This is why in nations such as Italy, where the amount of favourable treatment accorded to aliens who are NOT refugees is minimal and at times repressive (including detainment in “identification camps” for unspecified amounts of time and the aliens are not automatically accorded that their families may join them after they have met specific requirements) Syrian refugees are seeking to request asylum in countries northern European countries that have consolidated programmes for aliens and refugees that guarantee more rights such as housing, work and integration into the local fabric. It stands to be mentioned however, that these countries are not on the Mediterranean and a Syrian can arrive there only upon having first crossed the border of a state that has that geographic continuity, by land or by sea. Given the impossibility of arriving directly to Sweden, Germany, Austria or the UK, given the impossibility of obtaining documents for facilitation of travel, the Syrian refugees have been forced to remain in refugee camps abroad (Jordan, Turkey) or in ad hoc and non-recognised refugee camps in places such as Lebanon. They have mostly sought private housing in Egypt, and a great number have continued towards Libya, where they have been under the belief that they would be able to safely arrive at the gates of Europe by sea and then would obtain asylum status in Sweden.

4)      Article 6 of the charter is consistently violated in many countries of arrival of the asylum seekers.  It is an article that grants them the right to freely move within the territory of their arrival. They find themselves in what can only be described as prison confinement, as they are under the jurisdiction of the national law, which in my country (Italy) is very restrictive of immigration, while at the same time being one of the European countries with the greatest number of arrivals of migrants and asylum seeks who have not legally obtained visas (granted under very strict economic conditions, often with the obligation of declaring economic independence and exhibiting proof of self-sustainment or “sponsorship” by a legal resident or citizen). This situation has made it impossible for them to move freely within Italy for the reason of arriving at a northern border and seeking asylum in a country that accords more favourable treatment.

5)      The member states of the EU have signed something known as the Dublin II Regulation. It sets out the laws regarding granting of asylum. It was created to “prevent” that asylum seekers sought the best deals for themselves, putting excessive burdens on the states with more costly programmes, and this to maintain internal stability in these individual states. However, it has set as the regulation that the Responsible Member State is the state in which the asylum seeker first arrived, which is not Norway, Sweden or Germany, but Italy, Greece or Bulgaria. Since the Shengen Area has tightened its checks (and the minimum checks include checking for falsification and counterfeiting of travel documents and denial of entry upon that circumstance) many Syrian refugees, who had never obtained an authentic passport, and not having been issued a document in the arrival state as many had refused it (which would have required them to remain in holding camps), countries are “sending them back to Italy” under the Dublin II Regulation, and following considerable cost to the Syrians, they find themselves stateless, unprotected and impoverished in a foreign country. Their options are very slim. Many make several attempts to arrive to nations where they believe they will find better circumstances, and quite a few are left at the hands of unscrupulous persons who promise them passage, driving them to German-speaking areas of Italy and abandoning them, after having taken all their money and possessions.

6)      In consideration of what happens upon arrival in Italy, as if it were not bad enough, getting here is an odyssey and risk. Average “passages” with traffickers have been quoted at rates that never are less than $2000 and in some cases, we have heard of passages costing $8000 per person. The second package included “passport and application for asylum in Sweden”. Many have died at sea. No one has had it go the way their hopes and dreams have been. Several persons that have been interviewed have said they wished to continue over and over until they succeeded, others said they would try to go back to the middle east where at least they understood the language and would attempt to rely on the charity of strangers.

7)      We appeal for the regulations to be modified in light of the circumstances, but our appeals seem to fall upon deaf ears. We appeal for our countries to facilitate the asylum seekers and to provide humane living conditions for them so that they do not fall into the traps of those criminals who exploit them. In the meantime, we have to simply realistically inform those fleeing Syria of the situation here. We activists want to welcome them with open arms, with dignity and with generosity until they are able to return home. But, we are also very small voices in the matter, and our efforts in changing the laws so far have not been successful. The humanitarian emergency involves our countries and our human duty is to protect refugees. It is currently a task we are failing at, while the humanity of the volunteers almost always is exemplary.

Meyssan and Friend.....

Meyssan and Friend…..

From ISLAMETRO by LORENZO DECLICH translated by Mary Rizzo 

Thierry Meyssan carefully chooses the place in which he lives.
At the time of the war in Libya he was in Tripoli, in the palaces of Moammar Gaddafi.
After the war he moved to Damascus, where he has been living for two years.
But, as we read on Megachip, he has known Syria for ten years.

And Sunday, 3 November 2013, having a sudden illumination, he comes to say that “Syria has changed.”
It had not changed ten years ago, after the pale “Damascus Spring” was crushed by the young son of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, to the sound of arrests. It has not changed since March 2011, when the people, overcoming fear, began to take to the streets knowing that they would be shot at. It changed today, but the reason for it being today, who knows what that could be.

Maybe because at the presidential palace they say that it’s time to bring closure to the circle of propaganda, now that the event of the chemical weapons has paid off and the world has come to the common conclusion that “a war has been avoided”. Perhaps because there is the need of a dusting off of the image, the idea must be reinforced that after all, “everything’s going in the right direction”.

As the intro of the piece tells us:

The media coverage of the war in Syria extends only to military, humanitarian and diplomatic actions. But all of that leaves aside the profound transformation of the country.

And if this comes from someone who lives in Damascus, presumably in the city’s centre, which is one of the few areas of Syria Bashar has not bombed, you can be sure that it is true.
One hundred and twenty thousand deaths, including eight million displaced persons and refugees do not register for Meyssan as a “transformation.”

Speaking of “humanitarian actions”, therefore, we do not register the profound change of a country. Speaking of bombardment of the population by the army serving Bashar, that proves to be indiscriminate when they affect areas beyond government control but targeted when they hit schools and hospitals in those same areas, we “leave aside” the deepest Syria, the one which has changed.

Speaking of the indolence, inaction and hypocrisy of diplomacy over Syria, we are denouncing that this situation is left to rot in indifference.

And if we want to talk about media coverage, we do not understand why the “mainstream” – and with it Thierry Meyssan – systematically has been ignoring  the voices for three years – some faint and inaccurate – of Syrian activism at home, those voices that Bashar as well as since several months, the qaidists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have been silencing to the sound of arrests, assassinations, torture.

And if we want to go and see “the media outlets” that host the reflections of Thierry Meissan we find that these, after all, are not as “poor”.

As they write on Megachip:

This “weekly news on foreign policy” appears simultaneously in the Arabic version of the newspaper “Al- Watan” (Syria), in the German version of the “Neue Reinische Zeitung” in the Russian language on the “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, in English on “Information Clearing House” in French on “Réseau Voltaire”.

One wonders what journalist – or one who is alleged to be – has the luck of being simultaneously translated into five languages. One has to wonder who engages in such a zealous manner to spread the thought of the embedded for Bashar.

***

Here you are.

Now one supposes that a deconstruction of Meyssan’s article will follow, but I’m already tired.
The propaganda of Bashar has won again, he works right alongside it.
But I will make one last effort, trying to direct you on how to read – unless you find yourself overcome with the urge to vomit, which would mean that you are already aware and it’s simply no use to continue – this gem of deception, creation of false trails and propaganda.

The article uses categories of thought that are considered to be those of the “left discourse”.

It speaks to those persons who, as is highlighted in the titles to the paragraphs, are concerned about things like freedom.

Hence the division into themes:
The war according to the armed opposition
Freedom of expression
Freedom of thought
Political freedom
Reactions of class

Thierry, in them, holds the bar solidly on one thing alone: to not accredit in any way the only Syrian opposition that would show how ridiculous his reasoning is.
This opposition is represented by the Syrian Local Coordination Committees, which are the backbone of the revolution against Bashar, and the galaxy of nonviolent activism (which I have mentioned before).
These two entities are the only ones to be able to speak with authority and ownership of the topics with which Meyssan headlines his paragraphs.
So it is obvious that he attempts to delete them.

As well as, since March 2011, trying to make Bashar, firing on the crowd.

And just as with initiatives that lure the unsuspecting, awkwardly composed of small groups of mindless “pacifists” in various parts of the world, including the effort afloat for some time by the nun of Bashar, Agnes Marie de la Croix.

The only way that Meyssan can achieve the goal, from the rhetorical point of view, is to seize control of the words and concepts of the real opposition, in order to build a parallel reality on them in which the opposition no longer exists and the “good people” are the friends of Bashar identified as an ideal “people” of the “poor” who seek ” freedom” and “democracy” and fights against “obscurantism”.

Let’s see how it goes.

Meyssan says more or less, “everyone is talking about civil war when in fact there has been an external aggression.”
The truth, however, is that he speaks of “civil war” when we should be speaking of the destruction of a country and a people by a mafia clan, acting like a dog that refuses to give up the bone (remember the writing on the wall? “Only Assad, or we will burn the country”).

Then he tells us that Bashar has emanated laws on freedom of expression so that today – given that “Syria has changed” – everyone is talking about politics. But he does not tell us that there are tens of thousands of political prisoners in jail. That there are mass graves near these prisons. That there are secret torture centres scattered across the country.*

Then he tells us that today, given that Syria has changed, there are those who fight for “freedom of thought”, for religious freedom, etc. taking up arms and fighting against the obscurantist terrorists, formed and trained by the West, who are in the opposition.

But among these people who are fighting he does not include those who truly have been part of the struggle, revolting against Bashar, often paying with their lives, and now becoming a victim of those extremists – which among other things do not identify with the revolution of March 2011, they have another agenda – one that Bashar has done everything to foment.

These people who are the true part of the struggle for freedom are activists and representatives of those Local Coordination Committees mentioned above.

Persons whom Meyssan simply wants to wipe from the face of the earth.

What a guy!

An easy-going guy who then tells us that there are so many parties that we cannot even count them. That people used to watch al-Jazeera and now they watch government channels or channels of the Shi’a network. That the snipers who fired on the crowd they were terrorists, they were not the army of Bashar. That the internal Syrian intelligence services, the Mukhabarat, if the first part good and part bad  have now become absolutely good and fight with us, with all of us east to west north to south, for freedom.

Other pleasant lies follow, up to the “Class reactions”, which comprises the final gem.

Meyssan, without ever obviously mentioning the mafia that is in power, is able to say that the rich have all left and what remains are the people, a people that combats against the evil of the West, incarnated by the terrorists. A people who will win against all odds. The amount of lies can be summed up entirely in this penultimate sentence:

This war has bloodied Syria, of which half of the cities and infrastructure have been destroyed to satisfy the appetites and fantasies of the Western and Gulf powers.

While the tragic truth is that the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad has destroyed Syria and massacred the Syrian people for the sole purpose of not leaving his power and privilege. And that there is no solution to the conflict if he and his gang of criminals do not go away and die far from Syria.

——

* I can already imagine the pro-Assad that says, “if they are secret how do you know that they exists?” My answer is “fuck you, you idiot.”

——

P.S. My congratulations go to Megachip but especially friends of the network of “Globalist “, with which I have worked in the past. This stuff, dear readers, is quite creepy and there is no policy of clicking “like” that can justify the publication, not even via syndication. Make an analysis for yourselves, find the answers. Or let the world go on as it is, between a bit of light porno that passes for network TV and a Meyssan, at the core, there really is no difference between them.

http://islametro.altervista.org/la-voce-damasco/

This is a transcript of a presentation given by Palestinian anarchist Budour Hassan on 17 November 2013 at a Teach in on Syria in New York organized by the MENA Solidarity Newtork US . There is a link to the video of the presentation below.

*******

In April of 2011 a famous megastar Egyptian blogger told Syrian revolutionaries that they needed to raise Palestinian flags during the demonstrations on Friday just to prove that they support the Palestinian resistance and to deny the narrative by the regime that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

Now I asked myself then, do Syrians have to do that? Do Syrians have to raise the Palestinian flag just to prove that they support Palestine? Do Syrians have to show their nationalist credentials so the world supports their cause? And the answer was clear to me then: No, Syrians do not have to do that. Now a Syrian friend told me at the start of the uprising that we avoided raising Palestinian flags and talking about Palestine not because we don’t support the Palestinian cause, but because this cause was exploited by the regime to a degree that turned it into just a political tool, and we love Palestine so much that we don’t agree to turn the cause into a political tool, and this is why we avoided using it. And I think that Syrians do not have to do this, Syrians do not have to wave a Palestinian flag to prove that they support us. Because Palestine is not a flag. Definitely Palestine is much more than that.

Palestine is the refugees in Yarmouk camp who supported the revolution from the first day, who aided displaced Syrians and who participated in protests, documented the uprising, and helped as much as they could. The revolution is also the Palestinian refugees in al Raml refugee camp in Latakia who took a hard beating by the regime and had to deal with a heavy crackdown starting from July 2011. And the revolution lives not in the palaces of the regime, nor in the speeches of a resistance leader who thinks that just because he leads a resistance movement this gives him the right to speak in the name of Palestinians, and to kill innocent people in Syria not just in the name of resistance but also in the name of Palestine. So this is why I think that Syrians do not have to prove anything to anyone.

Secondly, even though if we suppose that the Syrian regime does in fact support the Palestinian resistance, does it mean that this allows the Syrian regime to control Syria, to prevent people from expressing their opinions, to kill and torture hundreds of thousands of Syrians just because they dare say no to more than 40 years of oppression, to more than 40 years of injustice? Of course not. Even if Bashar al Assad was the only person capable of liberating Palestine I would not support him, and I’m sure that many Palestinians would not do so either. Because our liberation cannot be established on the enslavement of another people, particularly when this enslavement is an enslavement of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

And in fact the truth is that the Syrian regime has never truly supported Palestine; for the Syrian regime, Palestine has always been a fig leaf and always been a political tool. And it started from the 1970s when the Syrian regime helped other militias in Lebanon to crack down on the refugees in Tel al-Zaatar. The siege and massacre in Tel al-Zaatar cannot be forgotten. And the massacres that the regime helped the Amal party in Lebanon commit in the 1980s also against refugees in Lebanon and against the PLO cannot be forgotten either. And the siege the regime is imposing in Yarmouk refugee camp, preventing people from getting medical aid or baby milk, preventing people from going in and out of the refugee camp, cannot be tolerated and cannot be just ignored, as many are doing unfortunately just because they think that this regime is for resistance, and that this regime is for the human rights of Palestinians.

Now the thing is that me as a Palestinian, I don’t need to say this for many people just to convince them about the justice of the Syrian cause. Because in my opinion it is very clear that this revolution was a revolution for freedom and dignity. But unfortunately for many of us here in Palestine, because there is a polarization among Palestinians, as is the case in many other Arab countries, about the Syrian regime, we had to say it over and over again and to try to convince our comrades — or our former comrades – that they need to stop supporting the Syrian regime, that all we hear about the Syrian regime’s support of resistance is nothing but propaganda.

Now unfortunately it didn’t really help. People mostly stick to their opinions regarding the regime. If we want to talk about what the reaction of Palestinians toward the Syrian revolution is, it varies. Unfortunately the left, mostly the mainstream left, supports the Assad regime. And here lies the irony, because one of the most supportive parties of the regime is called the Israeli Communist Party, and it supports the regime because, it says, “Well, this regime is against imperialism.” But at the same time these people had absolutely no problem in participating in protests alongside Zionists in Tel Aviv, liberal Zionists for instance. So how can you say that you support the Syrian regime because it is against imperialism and on the other hand participate in protests with Zionists?

And also there are others who say that we supported the Syrian Revolution when it was nonviolent, but then after it got violent we couldn’t support it anymore, and it was hijacked. So yes, the Syrian Revolution was indeed hijacked, and we know that there are many Salafis, many jihadists and many other groups, and many pro-America and pro-imperialist groups that tried to hijack the Syrian Revolution. But that does not by any means tarnish the Syrian Revolution, and it also doesn’t mean that just because a revolutionary movement was hijacked that we should stand on the sidelines and stop supporting it.

Of course there are still so many revolutionaries working on the ground, many of them are nonviolent, and there are even many nonsectarian armed brigades that we cannot ignore. If the revolution was hijacked we don’t just go and start blaming the people for it being hijacked. We actually do everything to side with the people in order to get the revolution back on the right track. And this is what many leftists couldn’t understand.

Now on the other side of the spectrum you have the right wingers and the Islamists who support the Syrian Revolution but not truly because they believe in the right of freedom and dignity, but because they think that it is a Sunni uprising against an Alawite regime. Now this is why it was for me very hard to participate in protests organized by Islamists in support of the Revolution, because for me, although of course there are religious movements inside the Revolution, it still a Revolution for freedom, equality, social justice and dignity. And this is why I cannot agree with the line of the Islamists here in Palestine who support the Revolution just because they see it as Sunni versus Alawite.

Now there is a small section among the Palestinian left that supports the Syrian Revolution that doesn’t lecture Syrians about what they have to do, and how they failed. And we managed to organize a few protests, in Haifa for instance, in Jeruslaem, and in other places in Palestine. Although they were small protests I think it meant a lot for us to show the Syrian people that yes there are people in Palestine who stand with you, and there are people who don’t buy into the regime propaganda.

I mean it says a lot that in Syria right now there is an intelligence branch, one of the most notorious intelligence branches in Syria, it’s called “Palestine.” That means that there are people being tortured, including Palestinans, by the way, that are being tortured in the name of Palestine, in the name of our country, in the name of our cause, because we believe it is a cause for freedom.

Now to those Palestinians and to those people who believe that the Syrian regime is truly supportive of Palestine, and who do not support the Revolution, who stand on the side and say “no, we don’t want to support the Revolution, or who remain neutral: I say you have a Palestine and I have my own.

Your Palestine is an intelligence branch in Damascus that kills and tortures people, while my Palestine is Khaled Bakrawi, the martyr from the Yarmouk refugee camp, who was arrested and tortured to death. Your Palestine is a speech by Bashar al-Assad, while my Palestine is the chants of Syrian freedom fighters in Hama. Your Palestine is just empty rhetoric, while my Palestine is people in Bustan al-Qasr raising the picture of Samer Assawi, the hunger-striking prisoner.

My Palestine is people from the north to the south chanting in solidarity with Gaza during the recent war on Gaza last year and saying “Oh Gaza, we are with you ‘til death.” They did it when they were bombarded by the Assad regime and they were shelled. My Palestine is that of the Syrian Revolutionary Youth in Damascus who raised a pamphlet in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Nakab and said “Prawer shall not pass!”

So Syrian revolutionaries, even when they face the most terrible cases of torture, of persecution, and of crackdown, they still remember their sisters and brothers in Palestine, they still chant in solidarity with them and do not forget about the prisoners.

So I think it is very important to remember that, and to remember the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian prisoners who still languish in regime jails, for example Ali Shihabi, the communist Palestinian who has been detained in Syrian regime jails for almost a year, and Maher al-Jajeh also, another youth activist from Yarmouk refugee camp, who has been detained by the Syrian regime for more than a year and no one knows what is going on with his case now.

Also we will not forget the martyr Anas Amara, who was murdered simply because he was trying to get aid into Yarmouk refugee camp and trying to break the siege. And my Palestine is that also of Jihad Asad Muhammad, the Syrian journalist who even prior to the Syrian Revolution was always writing in solidarity with Palestine, and who like many others did not believe that this Palestine is Bashar al-Assad’s Palestine, but this is a cause that interests all Arabs.

So I just ask one last thing: I ask people who think that Bashar al-Assad supports Palestine or still believe his propaganda, just go over history a little bit, read more about what he and his father did to Palestine and to the Palestinian camps. And even if you are not convinced, don’t let this fact, don’t let political gains affect your support of the Syrian revolution. Because it is obviously not about geopolitics. We do not know whether if the revolution wins in Syria how will that affect the Palestinian cause. It might indeed damage us, I do not know. But I do not care on the other hand. Because my support of the Syrian Revolution is unconditional.

And I do believe that even though it is getting more and more complicated, and despite all the terrible groups that are trying to hijack the Syrian Revolution, especially the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, which we obviously oppose like so many Syrians, the same Syrians who started protest against the regime and are also protesting against the Islamic State, so I have faith in these people. I have faith in a woman like Souad Nofal, I have faith in those who are so resilient and steadfast in Damascus and in Daraa, birthplace of the Revolution, and in Aleppo and in Salamieh, the fantastic city that has been protesting since the first days of the uprising.

So I have faith in these people, that even though things are getting more and more complicated, that they can manage to keep the uprising going, and even if this means bad things for my cause I really do not care. What I care about is the freedom and dignity of my Syrian sisters and brothers, and to reject that my name or my country or my cause be used or coopted by the Syrian regime to kill and persecute my sisters and brothers in Syria.

agnes (1) (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.

Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to “withdraw” from the conference and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric’s participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.

Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam’s inclusion in an anti-war event to be a “red line” for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to—rather than a neutral observer of—the war in Syria.

Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad’s 21 August 2013 sarin-gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”

According to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes “has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime”.

Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. The also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”

Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are non-existent.  No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.

Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine.

Signatories:

  1. Prof. Gilbert Achcar, SOAS
  2. Assaad al-Achi, Local Coordination Committees in Syria
  3. Rime Allaf, Syrian writer
  4. Omar al-Assil, Syrian Non-Violence Movement
  5. Hussam Ayloush, Chairman, Syrian American Council
  6. Noor Barotchi, Bradford Syria Solidarity
  7. Mark Boothroyd, International Socialist Network
  8. Kat Burdon-Manley, International Socialist Network
  9. Clara Connolly, Human Rights lawyer
  10. Paul Conroy, photojournalist
  11. Donnacha DeLong, National Union of Journalists
  12. Hannah Elsisi, Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist
    Raed Fares, Head of Kafranabel Media Centre
  13. Naomi Foyle, writer and co-ordinator of British Writers in Support of Palestine
  14. Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist
  15. Christine Gilmore,  Leeds Friends of Syria
  16. Golan Haji, poet and translator
  17. Marcus Halaby, staff writer, Workers Power
  18. Sam Charles Hamad, activist
  19. Nebal Istanbouly, Office Manager of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
  20. Tehmina Kazi, human rights activist
  21. Ghalia Kabbani, Syrian journalist and writer
  22. Khaled Khalifa, Syrian writer
  23. Malik Little, blogger
  24. Amer Scott Masri, Scotland4Syria
  25. Margaret McAdam, Unite Casa Branch NW567 (pc)
  26. Yassir Munif, sociologist and activist
  27. Tom Mycock, Unite shop steward (pc)
  28. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
  29. Tim Nelson, Unison Shop Steward (pc)
  30. Louis Proyect, Counterpunch contributor
  31. Martin Ralph, VP Liverpool TUC (pc)
  32. Ruth Riegler, co-founder of Radio Free Syria, Syrian International Media Alliance
  33. Mary Rizzo, activist, translator and blogger
  34. Christopher Roche and Dima Albadra, Bath Solidarity
  35. Walid Saffour, Representative of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
  36. Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
  37. David St Vincent, contributing writer and editor, National Geographic Books
  38. Reem Salahi, civil rights lawyer
  39. Salim Salamah, Palestinian blogger
  40. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer
  41. Richard Seymour, author
  42. Bina Shah, author and contributor to the International New York Times
  43. Leila Shrooms, founding member of Tahrir-ICN
  44. Luke Staunton, International Socialist Network
  45. KD Tait, National Secretary, Workers Power
  46. Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
  47. Paris Thompson, International Socialist Network
  48. Hassan Walid, Anas el-Khani and Abdulwahab Sayyed Omar, British Solidarity for Syria
  49. Robin Yassin-Kassab, author and co-editor of Critical Muslim
  50. Qusai Zakariya, activist from Moadamiyeh, Syria
  51. Nisreen al-Zaraee and Wisam al-Hamoui. Freedom Days
  52. Tasneem al-Zeer, activist
  53. Razan Zeitouneh, human rights lawyer

    originally published on: http://pulsemedia.org/2013/11/20/open-letter-to-the-stop-the-war-coalition/

1460303_10151719963817016_1488318310_nWRITTEN BY MOHJA KAHF

We are going through hell and our friends inside Syria are being torn limb from limb. You come in after three years of it and tell us what our uprising is and isn’t and what it should be and shouldn’t. We all started out together in it, hopeful, finding each other, Syrians, talking to each other again after years of monstrous silence twisted by so many layers of fear, generations of fear handed down by the trauma of families with absent members in prison. Young people began hearing their own voices for the first time, shouting “freedom.” “It was the first time I ever heard my own voice,” young women, young men, street protesters, have told me over and over. Working-class urban neighborhoods and farming- and middle-class rural villagers across the country came out for clearly stated goals of human rights and democratic freedoms and no more being ruled by police state, and it had nothing to do with Islamists but that was before you bothered to notice. Some 920 different locales were protesting nonviolently on a weekly basis by summer 2011, with at least 4 million of Syria’s 23 million people having protested at the height of 2011. Even this first reality, you won’t acknowledge.

Stunning arrogant brutality is how this police state met this uprising. Insane brutality and duplicity. House-to-house raids, tank and machine gun fire, ground troops, snipers, home burnings, the capture and torture of children, the siege of Daraa—all this before the uprising began to arm. The pressure for self-defense was intense. Come live in it for a day. I don’t think you’ve ever been stopped cold by the tears and the anguish in the individual self-defense argument from a real Syrian human being demanding, “if a regime militia is raiding my home, about to kill my children, how dare you tell me not to lift arms to try to save them.” I am stopped cold by it, every day. 

My only answer is: “look, I’m really sorry, but look at the facts; after the revolution lifted arms, your children are dead and so is the whole neighborhood. Arms are not working; self-defense is not defending; it is making you a more legible target for the lethal regime. It defended that home for two hours or two weeks, but in the end the entire neighborhood was flattened by the regime, because the regime is hugely more armed. Nor will outside military intervention save you. You can only win if you band together in slow, organized, nonviolent resistance.”

I say this and I staunchly advocate nonviolence over the din of shelling, but my voice breaks saying it to someone whose children are cowering tonight because the home is shaking because the town is being shelled and his parents are already dead. Some far-sighted Syrians got that having the (secular) FSA only drew heavier regime fire. Most Syrians did not get it—gasp, they live in a pro-violence culture like most of the world—and felt the only answer to the inequity in arms only means all their problems would be solved by heavier arms for the (secular) FSA which they see as defending them. I know they’re only harming themselves in believing this romance of armed liberation, but I know it from their pain, and I can only tell them with my voice shaking because I am at a privileged distance from them, and because I haven’t been able to help them in any other way stronger than they see the (secular) FSA helping them, and then the armed Islamists—who did not come in until 2012, able to wedge in because of the regime devastation wreaked on nonviolent uprising Syrians whose screams went unheard by you, able to ride in on the false promise of armed liberation and humanitarian aid not provided by others.

And you hear their cry for arms, and you brand them intransigent militants, and demand why they won’t go to Geneva. I demand that too, but I do it from inside a Syrian anguish, at far higher damage to myself than it costs you. You then turn around and cast aspersions on me and Syrians with similar stands, not even allowing us our embattled path, because of our “associations;” we wake up damned if we do advocate nonviolence, and damned if we don’t.

Our “associations?” We are Syrians. We all started out together. Hopeful. Three years ago, we did not know how things would unfold. We began working together and creating histories and relationships. And now that different paths have been trod in this revolution, you come in and tell us we are not allowed to be associates, to be related to other Syrian people in this revolution who’ve taken other paths? There are people on the pro-FSA side who I think have done no end of damage to this revolution, but for whom I’d give my life as much as for people in civilian resistance. Yeah, those are my associations.

You breeze in and say, in effect, “how dare these Syrians fall for the romance of armed liberation. They offend my anti-imperialist stance as a progressive American. Every leftist revolution has fallen for that romance and every other revolution too, but how despicable and primitive of these Syrians to fall for it.” You demand we apologize for “associating” with each other. You demand we devote our energies to proving we are nonviolent and meet your standards, like a man demanding a feminist prove she is not a man-hater and has never associated with militant separatist feminists. This, while we get derision from fellow Syrians every day for insisting that this brutal regime can be stopped by nonviolence, hisses from starving freezing impoverished people facing its gun barrels in their faces every day, before whose trauma we tremble. Insulated from realities on Syrian ground, you point to one of us and say, in effect, “How dare any of you Syrian activists abroad be tempted, even for a moment, to see an iota of use in bombing assad’s military airports that are bombing your people?” In the din of this shriek of pain that we hear unceasingly, to the edge of our insanity, from Syrians in Syria, how dare we as Syrian peace activists abroad ever register the temptation to sympathize with the primal desire that someone, anyone just come and bomb the fuck out of this monster killing people we know daily. How dare I have a friend like that.

Instead of offering one bit of solidarity, you come in to tell us who we are and who we should be and are suspicious of us if we are not packaged into discrete separate compartments for you. We’re not up to your standards. We are Syrians and yes, we associate with each other, nonviolent proponents and Coalition and FSA-proponents and hard-drinking Syrian atheists and Muslim Brotherhood and gay Syrians and Nusra sympathizers, all fighting the regime together in our different ways; and some of us even have nephews in assad’s army just as much as nephews in assad’s prisons and in the FSA, and regime loyalist aunts, and military officer dads about whom we are terrified they could be killed and horrified they could be torturing someone. Yes, simultaneously. Because that is what it is to be Syrian today. Yes we are all cousins, all in-laws, all related, all family, and we all will have to live with each other for years to come in this Syria boat that is a life and a home and a country for Syrians even if it is an equation on a piece of paper for you, and we in this Revolution hate and love each other and fight with each other all while struggling against a brutal regime for a future Syria that has some ounce of justice, some human dignity and freedom in it, and for us there is green and good in Syrians worth struggling for still, and who on earth are you to drain one drop of our precious few remaining energies.

Syria: Getting out of the abyss that Assad has created, before it is too late

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio

Father Paolo Dall’Oglio

Interview with Father Paolo Dall’Oglio by Antonella Vicini, 9 January 2013 from Reset – Dialogues on Civilizations (translated by Mary Rizzo)

A discourse that in fact reaffirms the status quo and sixty thousand deaths that since 15 March 2011 (to January 2013, tr. note) have plunged Syria into a bloodbath: Bashar al-Assad and the Organisation of the United Nations have indicated the salient points of the current situation in the country. The former, speaking from the House of Culture in Damascus in front of his supporters, proposed a three-stage plan that substantially eliminates the revolutionary forces, labelled as “Western puppets” and the latter, in recent days, has published a series of disturbing numbers. From July to now, in correspondence with the increase of the military offensive, the dead are calculated at about 5 thousand per month, mostly civilians (approximately 76 percent). But this is only partial data: right from the title of the report the word is in fact of Preliminary Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in Syria. “This figure is far higher than we expected. And it’s really shocking,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Also higher than the 45 thousand victims counted so far by groups linked to the opposition.

Torture, attacks on protected sites, the use of banned weapons and in general the human rights violations are delineating – as can be read also in the last report dated 2012 of the Independent International Commission of Investigation on Syria led by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro – a conflict with an increasingly sectarian character that is now extended also to those minorities initially “inclined to be neutral and non-hostile” and that reveal the presence of foreign fighters “with their own agenda.” A conflict that brought “immeasurable destruction and human suffering to the civilian population” and that cannot foresee “any military victory.”

“The only way to achieve an immediate cessation of violence is a negotiated political solution that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.” Thus was the conclusion of the updating of the Syrian situation relative to September and December, 2012, probably simplifying the complexity of the current situation on the ground.

The person who knows the Syrian context, in its areas of light and shadow, is no doubt someone like Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who has lived in the country for over thirty years. Founder of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, in the desert north of Damascus, Father Paolo has always been engaged in interfaith dialogue with the Islamic world and until last June, before being forced to leave by the regime, has spoken about the tragedy that he has witnessed daily in first person accounts.

The new UN report has just been released where a denouncement is made of 60 thousand deaths since the beginning of the conflict.

I cannot make an assessment of the number of deaths on a technical basis because it’s not my task to do that, and I note that often revolutionary movements tend to drive up the numbers for propaganda purposes. But the UN, bringing together different reasonably credible sources has arrived at an even greater number (15 thousand more compared to the 45 thousand already reported, ed. note). This does not surprise me, but I am afraid that once the dust has settled, when you can make a more accurate count, the numbers will be even higher. You cannot perpetrate months and months of aerial bombardments on civilian populations imagining to get balances of victims that look like surgical operations, which are also more than questionable on moral grounds. In Syria there is no action to hit the Resistance leaders but to kill the Syrians, en masse. The moral code of the Assad regime is one is with Assad or there will be destruction of the country.

How do you explain the substantial absence and delay of the international community on Syria?

Once defined by the regime, and by its friends, the “Islamist threat” in Syria, the international community has self-legitimised its maintaining a position of stalling and waiting: there will be no democracy in Syria, then there is no reason to take steps to activate for democracy of the Syrians. We are faced with a paradox, this position of wait-and-see has created the conditions for the expansion of radical Islamism.

The revolution, as a whole, has condemned the first actions of these groups as conspiracy actions conducted by the Syrian state. I never succumbed to this temptation, but remote-controlled manipulation is nothing new in the Syrian panorama, and there have been regime manipulations of extremist cells. Without simplifying, I say that the activity of Islamic extremism was part of the regime’s postulate since the very beginning, where they claimed the revolution was terrorism paid for by foreigners, then when this area branched, complex and effective, it has been able to take the initiative and the head of the revolution in military terms, these groups have provoked in the international community a self-justification to refrain from action. There was an incredible miscalculation and these same groups have exploded in the hands of the regime.

In the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, it is said that, given the situation on the ground, a military solution to the conflict is now impossible, and that it is instead desirable to begin negotiations. But at this moment a negotiated solution seems impractical.

The regime wants negotiations to the extent that it needs more time to continue the systematic destruction of Syria and thus enter into the third phase and try to take the country back in its own hands. I was expecting that the regime in Damascus would work to divide the country on the line of the Orontes, once acknowledged the fact of not being able to maintain control over everything. Faced with a general revolution the only thing possible would be a Syrian Kosovo, hedging their bets on Alawite solidarity and other minorities living in that area, such as, in fact, the Christians; this is a solution accepted by Iran (Shiite, ed. note) as a lesser evil. This has not happened so far and in revolutionary circles it is said that it cannot happen because the rebels have so deeply penetrated even in that area that the regime would no longer be able to have such a division.

Why had it not chosen the way of secession as long as it was possible?

I can give you two reasons. One is psychological. Bashar al-Assad has always said I am a man of Damascus and not of the Alawite mountains. His cultural and mental space is all of Syria. In this sense, paradoxically, Assad would be a “non-sectarian”. He uses his sect for his power, but a power that if it is not of the whole of Syria, it does not interest him. We see this as a disconnect between his own idea of ​​himself and reality.

The other hypothesis assumes that the regime is a complex matter, divided between Ba’ath ideology, which is obviously not for secession, and the logic of the Alawite family. These two souls have been separated in time but not enough to contemplate the geographical dislocation of the country.

You have spoken of the need to begin to govern at least the liberated zones.

I have written in Arabic just two days ago, on Facebook, asking the head of the coalition to immediately set up in the liberated territories the sole government of transition. It is an operation that should be done immediately because it would eliminate the impression that the Syrian revolution is now entirely in the hands of Muslim extremists who are subversive and clandestine and they can begin to restore the country to the Syrians. On the ground there are practical problems such as lack of water, electricity, labour, wages.

Do you believe it is still too early to talk about the future of the minorities?

It is not early, in fact you have to talk about it now, but it is very difficult to see the future because of the omission of international relief. There is hope that the revolution as a whole may have a capacity of self-discipline that allows them to form that unity of the country in the reconciliation desired by everyone in the democratic revolution in Syria. Only some extremist military groups seem to threaten the destiny of minorities, even if they have never attacked Christians as such.

In recent days, however, there was a complaint by Mother Agnes Mariam (Carmelite and superior of the Deir Mar Yocoub monastery of Qara, known to be very critical of the rebels, ed. note) in this regard.

Mother Agnes knows how to dose the words and she is only, I repeat and I emphasise, the (able) clerical expression of the deceitful manipulation action of the Syrian regime. Mother Agnes is a self-proclaimed leader of a movement that does not exist on the ground, Musalaha (Reconciliation, ed note), and it is a real problem because for her interpretation of the facts is always selective and one-sided: that the revolution is terrorism!

How do you see a possible Syria after Assad and after nearly two years of war?

I believe that the profound nature of democratic Syria will be a laboratory of civil evolution and policy making of the Islamist Arab area of great interest. Syria has a cultural dignity of Islam that is different from that of the Gulf.

This is my vow, my hope and also the space of my commitment. At the end of January I will participate in the commission of the Syrian revolution that deals with preventing the massacres in the moment of victory and I hope, in February, to be able to re-enter the country. Syria cannot win the revolution leaving a hundred thousand Alawites deaths in its wake. We must find a way, even ideological and theological, to say that there will be no revenge against the Alawites and that all criminals will be judged with fairness.

See http://www.resetdoc.org

Nun on Irish visit accused of peddling ‘regime lies’ about crisis in Syria

17/08/12

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent (The Irish Times)

AN ITALIAN Jesuit expelled from Syria in June due to his outspoken criticism of government violence has accused a controversial nun who visited Ireland last week of peddling “regime lies” about the crisis there.

Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, who lived in Syria for 30 years and has been heavily involved in interfaith work in the country, described Mother Agnes Mariam as “an instrument” of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “She has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona,” he told The Irish Times yesterday. “She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime.”

During her four-day visit to Ireland last week, Mother Agnes Mariam, who is superior at the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery in Syria, gave media interviews in which she claimed Christians in Syria were facing “extinction” and that rebels battling Assad were predominantly foreigners linked with al-Qaeda.

Fr Dall’Oglio, who has spent time with opposition activists in several restive parts of Syria, said these claims were “ridiculous” and constituted regime propaganda.

“I have been there, I know the people, including the youth, who are working for the revolution, and I know that what she is saying is insane. It corresponds with the regime version of the facts,” he said.

Mother Agnes Mariam, who visited Dublin and Belfast, had separate meetings with representatives of the Irish Bishops Conference justice and peace committee, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

One of her interlocutors here was taken aback when the nun claimed during their meeting that the Houla massacre, in which more than 100 civilians, more than half of them children, were killed, was an elaborate hoax concocted by rebels. This week a UN commission of inquiry concluded that Syrian government forces and the pro-Assad militia known as shabiha were responsible for the massacre.

In March, Mother Agnes Mariam was accused of running a “misinformation campaign” by a US-based Syrian opposition group called Syrian Christians for Democracy.

It said she maintains “close ties” to the Assad family and alleged she had fed selected visiting journalists “distorted facts and fake testimonies for the sole purpose of tarnishing the opposition’s image”.

The group referred to the role of a number of Christians in the Syrian uprising.

“Mother Agnes and those helping her are harming the Syrian people by disseminating negative pro-Assad propaganda and tearing at Syria’s social and religious fabrics,” it said. “The Christians in Syria, as well as the rest of the population, are in need of undivided support, backing, and funding. They do not need divisive rumours and the propagation of inaccurate information.”

Mother Agnes Mariam’s trip to Ireland was organised by Alan Lonergan, who acts as churches liaison officer with Sadaka, an Irish pro-Palestinian advocacy group, though he arranged the visit in a personal capacity.

“The impression people have of what is happening in Syria is very black and white,” he said. “We need to examine more of the grey area.”

Filed Under: Assad’s Regimedistorted factsItalian JesuitMother Agnes MariamPropaganda,Syria

http://syrianfreedom.org/nun-on-irish-visit-accused-of-peddling-regime-lies-about-crisis-in-syria

http://www.irishtimes.com/premium/loginpage?destination=http://www.irishtimes.com/news/nun-on-irish-visit-accused-of-peddling-regime-lies-about-crisis-in-syria-1.538877

thanks to Treasa

suora    This is a letter that can be sent to every venue that is hosting Mother Agnes-Mariam De La Croix as a speaker. It can be personalized and altered as required. As activists and responsible human beings, we cannot stand by while an apologist for genocide is given a platform in spaces that claim to promote peace, justice, and human rights:

Dear Sir/Madam,

In reference to the visit of Mother Agnes-Mariam De La Croix, the Superior of the Monastery of Deir Mar Yacoub, (and any other persons participating at DATE/ADDRESS), we would like to draw your attention to the following:
Large scale massacres against civilian populations have been committed by government military forces and pro-regime militias in Syria. Those invited to speak about this immense tragedy should be examined carefully as to their position in support of the forces behind the massacres. It is unethical to give a platform to persons who support these massacres or facilitate them by spreading information that has been proven again and again to be misleading, false, and in many cases pure propaganda of the regime perpetrating the crimes. It would be completely unconscionable for a religious or spiritual organization to put their facilities at the disposal of such persons.

We fully respect the principle of debate and freedom of expression, but in this case the person you have invited expresses blind support for a dictator who has massacred and is still massacring his own population, including over 11,000 children. The only reason for this violence is the regime’s intention to crush any and all people who stand up for their human rights and who they deem to be a threat to their tyrannical rule. The regime has killed countless numbers of people for trying to exercise their right to free expression. It is clearly evident that the uprising in Syria started peacefully, and was not militarized. Nor was it based on religious intolerance or sectarianism. It began with non-violent protests demanding reforms and basic freedoms that they had been denied for far too long. These protests were met with extreme violence and repression, and in order to justify that, a machine of propaganda was put in place, disseminating lies, passing off hoaxes as fact, and claiming that minorities in Syria were under threat of harm from religious extremists. The speaker you have invited is one of the key players in this propaganda machine, many of her claims have been debunked by experts and witnesses, while the voices of those murdered by the regime have been silenced once and for all.

The peaceful nature of the protests that your guest attempts to depict as a violent insurgency against Syria’s minorities has been recognised by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations. The crimes against humanity committed by Assad have also been recognised by these entities, as well as by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. People in Syria only took up arms against the regime when the killing had reached such a scale that they were forced to defend themselves and their families militarily.

We are astonished that you have made your venue available to supporters of a murderous dictatorship. What is happening in Syria is in the public domain and cannot be ignored. Support for this project may amount to complicity in crimes against humanity. This is not just a legal issue but also a moral one.

It is extremely ironic that the photo used by the organisation promoting the event depicts damage in Syria caused by airstrikes. It is common knowledge that ONLY the regime possesses air power and the capacity to bomb cities and residential areas in this way. The use of the image in this way is further evidence of the bad faith of the organisers of this event. 

We request that you cancel this event immediately and we would like to suggest that you organise a new event that will present what is happening in Syria in a truthful and objective way. We thank you for your solidarity with the people of Syria.