Archive for the ‘Grassroots Activism’ Category

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.

sirin

WRITTEN BY Sirin Bekdash, translated by Mary Rizzo

Refugees #1

“How old are you? You look very young.”

She smiles at me in a way that it seems she has not gotten love for years, “24, 4 of these are my children. My husband has gone to a better world.”

Her eyes are green, they are not deep, but they sparkle. They say that suffering becomes light in the eyes of those who have tried it, I’ve just seen proof of that.

Refugees #2

“Take off your hood so I can fit you with this sweatshirt.”

“But my hair is a mess.”

“Well what does it matter now, it’s not important.”

“Then how should I expect to get married? I’m at the right age for it… I have to look good, I could put on my best clothes, but they fell into the sea already 3 times and the suitcase is soaking wet. I’ve been rescued each time, but the gel gets lost…”

“Don’t worry, girls like tussled hair. Tell me, is there anything else you need?”

“Yes, how many years separate us in age?”

But his was that innocent kind of questioning that is the sweetest thing that exists in the world.

Refugees #3

I learned in a week of life more than I have 3 years. You don’t learn about history by reading what’s in the newspapers, but in the eyes of the people, they have the power of incinerating paper.

Refugees #4

I stroked her fragile legs, I forced a hug, I placed a sweater over her shoulders.

I gave her a chocolate but she did not close her fist and it fell to the ground.

I asked her to choose a toy but with a chilling stare, her mouth dirty or maybe even wounded, in short, crusted, she looked beyond.

“Are you hungry little one?” She did not answer.

“Are you cold?” She did not answer.

“Are you afraid?” She lowered her gaze.

Can I die of fright in her place?

Please God

Refugees #5

This sounds terribly selfish I know, but I need those refugees more than they need me. I depend on them much more than they depend on me.

Refugees #6

There are those who wonder how you fall asleep without love, tonight I ask myself only how fall asleep in a station.

Refugees #7

Certain phrases on the walls touch my soul.

“No human being is illegal”

Refugees #8

An elderly woman with a scarred face. I do not know why, I just know that I look at you and I think that the more valuable a vase is, the more noticeable its scars will be.

Refugees #9

Slender, a back broken from 120 days of travel, 2 children in tow.

It makes me think of bamboo plants, incredibly thin trunks that are able to be tall and resilient, it leaves an impression on me.

Refugees #10

A “shukran” uttered by you has the power of reconciling myself with the world.

Refugees #11

They arrived at their destination, refugees do not put limits on Divine Providence.

Refugees #12

My mother has never had to scold me or spank me, she would tell me something was not to be done and I did not do it.

But these myopic laws…no, you cannot respect them. Mine is not an invitation to disorder but a call to demand those rights that even we one day might need.

Refugees # 13

“I’ve been travelling for two months, may daughter and I. The two of us alone.”

I prayed so that my mother would not die, she is not sick , she’s fine alhamdulillah. Then I cried silently for such a sad prayer.

Refugees #14

“What’s your name habibty?”

“Salam”

Nomen Omen, what the ancients said in Latin; your name is an omen, your destiny.

Refugees #15

I’ll reveal a work that combines mysticism and action: helping others.

Refugees #16

Probably the pages of history books will not give testimony to all the blood that Arabs have offered for free. But no matter, liber scriptus proferetur, in quo totum continetur. “A written book will be brought forth, in which everything shall be contained.”

Refugees  #17

“It’s all because of that Tunisian Bouazizi! Is it not true that it’s only his fault that all this has happened? I just wanted to live in safety and before there was safety.”

I was clamping my hands over my ears until they began to hurt. It’s a lie, an atrocious lie. But with what courage can I say that to those who have lost everything in war?

Refugees  #18

It took only a little to give me euphoria and just as little to make me sad, a goodbye. When you talk of fingerprints I seem to see you running with ankle weights. When you talk of Sweden you seem like a sunflower that stands proud and tries to get close to the sun.

Some of the hundreds of civilian victims of the Sarin Nerve Gas massacre in Ghouta. Gassed in their beds by the Syrian regime.

Some of the hundreds of civilian victims of the Sarin Nerve Gas massacre in Ghouta. Gassed in their beds by the Syrian regime.

WRITTEN BY Amr Salahi
A green light to Assad

Ever since the Syrian regime gassed its own citizens in the Damascus suburbs in a chemical attack on August 21, the issue has rarely been out of the Western news media. However, the debate has been very simplistic. Any observer would be forgiven for thinking that the only crime committed in Syria was this chemical attack, and that the Syrian people had not been subjected to a genocidal war at the hands of a ruthless sectarian dictatorship for two and a half years.

Of course, the original cause of the conflict has been largely forgotten. Outside Syria, not many people remember the peaceful protests calling for freedom and democracy that began the Syrian revolution in March 2011, and how those protests were met by the Assad regime, with unarmed protesters being slaughtered in the streets and children who wrote slogans on walls or took part in the protests tortured, on many occasions to death, in the regime’s jails. It was only after many long months of killing and oppression that defecting soldiers from the regime’s army formed the Free Syrian Army, to defend peaceful protesters as well as ordinary citizens from government attacks.

An observer of the debate would also be forgiven for thinking that the countries of the world are divided on Syria. The received wisdom on the Syrian conflict is that the United States, its allies in NATO and the Gulf States are offering support to the rebels while Russia, China, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah are supporting the regime. Bashar Al-Assad’s regime likes to paint itself as part of an “axis of resistance” against US and Israeli imperialism which includes Iran and Hezbollah and is supported by Russia; this is why it has gained support from the anti-imperialist left in Western countries. A closer look at the support the regime is receiving vis-a-vis the “support” the rebels are receiving from their supposed allies shows that there is in fact little difference between the major powers on the Syrian issue. Russian ships carrying weapons, including aircraft, dock regularly in Latakia and Tartus, ensuring that the regime remains armed to the teeth and able to fight on despite the military setbacks inflicted on it by the rebels. Iran has not only sent weapons to the regime but also troops and advisers. It is believed widely in Syria that these advisers are the real rulers of the country. Hezbollah was instrumental in the regime’s ruthless bombardment and capture of Qusair, and its fighters now line up alongside the regime in Deraa and Aleppo.

On the other hand, the United States and the European countries have given rhetorical support to the Syrian opposition while making sure that the Free Syrian Army remains unable to defeat the government’s forces by imposing a strict arms embargo. For example, last year the Free Syrian Army managed to acquire anti-aircraft weapons but the United States and NATO refused to allow them to be transported to Syria and they remained in storage in Turkey. In June this year, following a regime chemical attack on the town of Saraqeb, the Obama administration announced that it would arm the Syrian rebels. To-date they have not received a single bullet from the United States or from any of its European allies. The FSA’s main source of weapons remains those captured from the regime or those sold to it by corrupt regime officers. It is thought that Gulf countries have supplied weapons but not on a scale that would tip the balance of the conflict. The main factor ensuring that the conflict and genocide continue, and the Assad regime stays in power, is the continuing embargo on weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which lacks the heavy weapons needed to defeat the state’s armed forces.

In order to understand the position of the United States and its European allies, it is helpful to look at the statements of Israeli officials. While the main pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, AIPAC, publicly declared its support for strikes against the Syrian regime following the most recent chemical weapons attack, it is much more evident that Israel would in fact prefer Bashar Al-Assad to remain in power. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged US Secretary of State Kerry to reach a deal with Russia that would avoid a military strike on Syria, expressing fears that a US strike would strengthen the Syrian opposition and allow it to gain control of Assad’s chemical weapons. Netanyahu’s office later issued a denial that any such exchange took place.

In November 2011, relatively early in the Syrian revolution when there was no serious talk of an Islamic extremist presence in Syria, Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official, said that Assad’s removal from power would be “devastating for Israel”; the Zionist state, he added, would then face an “Islamic Empire” encompassing Syria, Jordan and Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood and committed to its destruction. In May 2013, shortly after an Israeli strike on Damascus, Ephraim Halevy, a former director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, went much further in an article in the American journal Foreign Affairs. Calling Assad “Israel’s Man in Damascus” he spelt out the reason why: for the past 40 years Assad has kept Israel’s “border” with Syria quiet and guaranteed its security. What Halevy means is that Assad has allowed Israel to occupy the Golan Heights, undisturbed by any resistance. Another Israeli intelligence official summed up the Israeli position towards the conflict in Syria thus: “Our ‘best-case scenario’ is that they continue to busy themselves fighting each other and don’t turn their attention to us.”

Israel’s attitude to the Syrian conflict allows us to consider the developments that have taken place since the chemical attack in a new light. After President Obama announced that the US would strike Syria, anti-war activists and left-wing “anti-imperialists” were up in arms, as were right-wing pro-Israel Republicans in the United States. There was much comment that the rebels fighting against Assad were sectarian extremists with links to Al-Qaeda, who posed a threat to Syria’s minorities, especially its Christian community, and that they were just as brutal as Assad. Conspiracy theories without any evidence which blamed the rebels for the sarin attack received mainstream coverage and were used to argue that the US and its allies were being dragged into an Iraq-style war.

Sadly for the conspiracy theorists, the evidence that the Syrian regime carried out the attack is incontrovertible. The United Nations report on the attack published on Tuesday, which does not assign blame, nevertheless concludes that it was launched from Mount Qassioun, a major government military base outside Damascus from which attacks against the Damascus suburbs are launched regularly. The report also concluded that the attack was launched using M14 rockets, which only the regime possesses, and that the sarin used was of a quality that could only be produced on an industrial scale using the resources of a government. The Assad regime’s own reaction to the attack points to its responsibility, and to its sectarian character. First, it denied that any such attack took place; then it conceded that the attack happened but blamed the rebels; then a few days later the world was treated to the bizarre spectacle of Syrian government spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban appearing on Sky News to claim that the child victims of the attack were in fact brought to the Ghouta area from Latakia province (an Alawite-majority area 300 miles away) by “terrorists” and then killed. The government did not declare any period of mourning for the 1,429 victims of the attack and, in fact, its supporters were seen celebrating and handing out sweets on the streets of Damascus in its immediate aftermath.

The anti-war activists and their new-found allies the Assad supporters and right-wing Republicans need not have worried. Despite a great deal of emotional language from John Kerry about the use of chemical weapons and the 426 children who died as a result, Obama’s strike threat dwindled away to nothing. From being a “limited” attack to punish Assad, but not tip the balance in favour of the rebels, it became an “unbelievably small” one, as Kerry called it on his visit to London, to a non-existent one, when Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to a deal which would allow Assad to keep his conventional weapons and continue using them to kill his own people, but oblige him to give up his chemical weapons. It is doubtful whether the deal will be backed by a binding Security Council resolution, and it is estimated that it will take until the middle of 2014 to destroy the chemical weapons. This is probably the first time in history that a criminal is to be punished simply by taking away one of his weapons.

The deal struck between Kerry and Lavrov makes almost everyone a winner. The United States can continue posing as a supporter of the Syrian people; Israel is satisfied that “their man in Damascus” is still in place; Russia can continue arming Assad and today appears to have stood up to the United States, when in reality there is little difference between the positions of these two nations on the Syrian issue; and Iran can continue to participate actively in Assad’s sectarian war while pretending that it is standing up to the United States and Israel. The anti-war campaigners are in ignorant bliss because they believe that they have stopped a war on Syria, not knowing or caring that Syrians are still enduring the most horrific war since the genocide in Rwanda. The only losers are the Syrian people.

For two and a half years, they have been pleading with the world to stop Assad’s war against them but to no avail. The chemical attack is only the latest chapter in this genocide. Constant efforts have been made in both the mainstream and alternative media to belittle the suffering in Syria, discredit the casualty figures and assign blame to the opposition for the regime’s crimes but what is happening is genocide by any standard. United Nations figures reveal that 110,000 people have been killed since the Syrian revolution broke out in March 2011. Seven million people have been displaced and the death rate is approximately 5,000 people per month. Only the regime has the capacity to kill and displace people on this scale and it has now received a green light to continue killing its own citizens, as long as it doesn’t use chemical weapons.

The suffering and the genocide of the Syrian people will be detailed in the part 2 of this article.

http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/7448-syria-genocide-by-international-consensus-

Written by NOT George Sabra. [Submitted this to any number of publications, none picked it up. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone after Rania Masri…]

The anti-war movement in the West got what it wanted: the war in Syria grinds on without the involvement of the only force capable of ending the bloody stalemate, the U.S. military.

The anti-war movement in the West accomplished what it set out to do: American F-16s remained grounded while the Assad regime’s MiGs returned to the skies to bomb hospitals for the first time since Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” on August 21.

The anti-war movement in the West succeeded: the big guns aboard America’s battleships parked off the Syrian coast remained silent as the regime’s big guns opened fire once more on defenseless civilian neighborhoods.

The anti-war movement in the West won a great victory: while the war-making regime in Damascus enjoys the unlimited and unconditional financial, military, and diplomatic support of Iran and Russia, the popular uprising still stands alone as the red-headed stepchild of the Arab Spring, without a steady source for the heavy weapons it needs to survive.

These are the bloody real-world consequences of this so-called anti-war movement’s triumph in the West.

This movement that arose on the basis of Sarah Palin-style concern for Syrian lives – “so we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria?” – is nowhere to be found now that the regime’s savage campaign to end their lives has resumed in earnest. This movement that was so worried about the fate of innocent Syrians in the face of American bombs has not uttered a single word, not called a single Congressman, nor organized a single demonstration to demand the Obama administration send Syrians gas masks, something the administration has steadfastly refused to do despite its talk about basic human decency and the sanctity of children’s lives. Thus, the administration and its anti-war critics are united as one in treating Syrian lives as fodder for their political agendas, as a rhetorical device in finely-worded speeches about high-minded principles and universal ethics.

Leading figures of this movement like Rania Masri (who should know better because of her workaround Israel-Palestine) continually draw a false equivalence between the infrequent atrocities committed by a poorly armed, untrained, undisciplined, disorganized rag-tag opposition desperate to save themselves and their families from an oppressive dictatorial regime that uses sarin, tanks, jets, scud missiles, and artillery against them daily. Imagine blaming “both sides” for the carnage of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising and you get an idea of how monstrous this is.

What is worse than this “anti-war” movement’s highly selective faux outrage over the plight of the Syrian people are the bald-faced lies it continually spreads to substantiate its position.

In the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, the anti-war movement fought the Bush administration’s lies with pure, unadulterated truth. Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter declared that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed by the U.N. in the 1990s and pointed out that Iraq was a basket case militarily thanks to a decade of crippling U.N. sanctions. For his trouble, Ritter was shut out of the halls of power as lawmakers in Washington, D.C. authorized President Bush to disarm a disarmed Iraq by invading and forcibly occupying it.

In the run up to the 2013 Syria war that wasn’t, the anti-war movement fought the Obama administration’s truths with pure, unadulterated lies. Antiwar.com founder Justin Raimando saidthe Assad regime’s sarin gas attack in Ghouta on August 21 was a “hoax” and referred to it sarcastically as a massacre – in quotation marks. Retired CIA officer Ray McGovern and his Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) claimed that the Ghouta gassacre was a false-flag attack staged by the opposition in a bogus, unsourced Curveball-style “report” that VIPS plagiarized from Global Research, a conspiracy theory website founded by a man withdirect ties to the Assad dynasty.

“Bush lied, people died” is what the anti-war movement said when the Downing Street memo revealed that the Bush administration fixed the facts and the intelligence around their policy of regime change in Iraq. This time, the movement lied, Syrians died as anti-war activists went into overdrive to spin the facts and intelligence coming out of Syria in 2013 to fit the Iraq template of 2003. U.S. politician Dennis Kucinich even recapitulated in his own way Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous handshake with the Butcher of Baghdad as he was gassing Kurds and Iranians by having friendly sit down with Bashar al-Assad in the middle of his killing fields.

The movement to stop U.S. military action failed in 2003 and succeeded in 2013. In both cases, the result was needless bloodshed and brutality borne by people far from our shores.

Sryrian Children. Worth more than all the "pundits" put together. They should be seen AND heard.

Sryrian Children. Worth more than all the “pundits” put together. They should be seen AND heard.

Written by Mary Rizzo
For well over two and a half years, there has been a war in Syria. Some will call it a Civil War, and yet… these same people who call it a civil war (despite having been repeatedly corrected by fighters on the ground that it is an Intifada, an uprising and a revolution) are now finally taking to the  streets to chant, “No War – Hands off Syria” as if it is currently waiting for a war to start and are simply being targeted by the West for imperial expansionism. A variant on the theme, they shout, “Stop the War” and again, they don’t mean to in any way address the bombing that has destroyed most of Syria, they mean the air strikes that a very few Western leaders are threatening to do to a very limited amount of targets inside Syria. Why on earth would the Western leaders do something like this when for two and a half years they have not done anything more severe than “deplore” the use of barrel bombs and carpet bombing of residential areas? Because they had to in some way establish a point of no return and it randomly fell on the use of Chemical Weapons.

It is beyond all reasonable doubt that the Syrian regime (which had admitted they possessed these weapons and have the only means to have implemented their use on a massive scale this August, exposing 15,000 people, including the elderly, women and children, to lethal nerve gas while in their beds) used Sarin Gas against its own people. Many more details about its acquisition will come out in the future, but at the current moment, over 1,500 have succumbed to it immediately (including hundreds of infants and children) and thousands more who have been exposed have had to deal with its very dangerous effects. So, I would think that any human being would be against the use of this weapon, considering it to be an atrocity that should not be ignored or even in the slightest way defended.

But what has instead happened? After the international news agencies, refusing to support the revolution also due to the fear that the western public has of any change of regime in the Arab world and an allergy to revolutions in general, finally displayed a fragment of the visual evidence of people suffocating to their deaths, their bodies writhing in pain or struck by uncontrollable spasms, the solidarity world started to move. But how did it happen that instead of condemning the atrocity, they are rallying around the Syrian regime and demanding the contradictory “no war” and “stop the war”. It seems that the western solidarity industry (yes, that part where people make a living as “activists”) again has been working overtime to keep its overwhelmingly white, male, western and older pundits on their pedestals. From these pedestals, they lament of the terrible hypocrisy of the very West (where most of them thrive and are “alternative media stars”. (Hint: the Syrian people sure have very little use for them, if they even know who they are).

The Western activists who have not opened their mouths in support of the popular revolution that they have pretended to have supported for the Palestinians but when push comes to shove, even over 1,600 Palestinians murdered by the Assad regime and tens of thousands sent into further exile, have been silent and uncaring, are disgusted by the hypocrisy of their own leaders. This is the argument they use: The West didn’t come in and in any way strike those who were using chemical weapons against the Palestinians, so the West is comprised of freedom hating hypocrites.  And this position begs the question: does this mean that if the US and the West had acted in this way for Palestine, it would not have been intervention, but something else instead? And if it is something else, what would they classify it as? Could it be exactly what the Syrians who are besieged in many parts of Syria and subject to ethnic cleansing and massacres have been begging for?  This seemingly contradictory stance (intervention for Palestine is considered as “good”, intervention for Syria is considered as “evil”) is at the core of what I will call “the Waffle Syndrome”. Waffling on a position and changing it according to a specific point of view fuelled not by a revolutionary vision of liberation and freedom, but by an ideological position of “anti-west” activism and money to be made in a cause that has long ago entered into the discourse thanks to the hard work of many activists (in primis Palestinians and Arabs, with the support of some Westerners who run the gamut from pan-arabists to anarchists, Marxists and anti-imperialists).

If the sudden interest in the death of Syrians (which of course, if you follow the discourse of these pundits, will only start when NATO bombs the living daylights out of Syria, so the “humanitarian” thing to do is to wash “our dirty hands that have always been evil” of it and stay out now… in stark contrast with the calls to support the Intifada and Arabs that were part of the discourse until the Arab Spring actually happened!) is going to do anything for Arab-Western relations, it is going to heighten the distrust not only of the West, which never does what it says it will, or which uses the pain of other people as a means to get involved in international disputes, but it is going to bring the level of hatred for western ACTIVISTS who are showing now, like never before, that they have not got a grasp on even the very basic and core ideals of revolution or struggles to liberate oneself from an oppressor.

sarinWhen push comes to shove, when the most widely condemned atrocities are added to atrocities that started from shooting peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrest and torture of civilian political opposition and even of children, leading up to the absolute destruction of most of Syria where the majority live (leaving the minority who sustain the bombing of their own country by their own leader unscathed because it maintains their privilege- similar to the theory of “if you want an omelette, you have to break a few eggs” of imperialist memory) it is clear that the bulk of the activists stand by the perpetrator of the crimes and against the common people, the refugees and the unarmed. They are following the hasbara (Israeli propaganda that knows it is propaganda and a narrative) tricks used against the Palestinians, accusing them of using their homes and people as human shields for terrorists. It is a new version of hasbara, but applied to the Syrian people: claiming to be with the Syrian people but selectively ignoring any crimes against them except for the few that the Syrian regime and propaganda machine want them to be scandalised by, specifically if they are backed by flags with Islamic or Islamist slogans. The problem is not that Assad is bombing the Syrian country into oblivion and driving one quarter of its population into refugee status. The problem is that there are evil foreign agents who will impose their will on Syria. They are imperialists and Islamists, and in a three-card-shuffle, these two diametrically opposed entities are scratching one another’s back, as if they have the same goal and interests. As far as the Wafflers are concerned, they are the same, and they use the same reactionary rhetoric that the hasbarists use against the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

But what is worse than the lack of interest of the “activists” and their support of the regime “because the alternative is worse FOR THE SYRIANS”, if you follow their rhetoric? It is the hypocrisy they have regarding the very issue of intervention and the role of the international community.

They have not seemed to have ever taken the streets or set the internet on fire with their calls against intervention in Syria before. They seem to ignore that for years there has been foreign intervention in Syria, that Russian weapons and experts, troops from Iran and Hezbollah, have been waging the war already, fuelling it and at times even bringing their own soldiers home in flag draped boxes. Are they unaware that Russian intervention has also used the tool to advance their personal agenda and interests, the tool that every single one of us for years had believed was the “original sin”: the UN Veto of a resolution condemning an act of war or imposing a restriction on intervention. It seems that the arms embargo against the revolutionary Free Syrian Army has been in force while there has been no such restriction in arming the regime. If it is a civil war, it is indeed alimented with great gusto by the Russians by means of the unethical tool of their power to impose their will by means of a veto.  It is this waffling and hypocrisy that will deepen the gulf of “misunderstanding” between the people of the Arab world and the “caring” West, which is represented by impotent leaders or reactionary, counter-revolutionary activists who are expert navel-gazers.

PLEASE don't tell the Syrians things will get bad once they start getting bombed. They might think you are insane.

PLEASE don’t tell the Syrians things will get bad once they start getting bombed. They might think you are insane.

Because, when it comes down to it, the counter-revolutionaries are going to scream bloody murder when a protester in Berkeley gets pepper spray in her eyes by the cops and at the same time defend the ruler in a regime where rule of law and democracy has never been in force, there is some heavy-duty orientalism/superior thinking going on. Evidently, a single protester in the USA is worth more, or the belief that Americans deserve full rule of law and justice but Syrians just must persevere because they have to resist “Western Imperialism” is rife. And why is this idea so common? Because (as usual) the Western activists have a great deal of trouble accepting that maybe they don’t know better than “the other” what’s better for them. They impose their fears on them, their ideology is naturally “revolutionary” but it does nothing in the slightest to back the revolution, and in fact, uses the terminology that the reactionary right/hasbarists have been using against the Palestinians for decades. They say that they would really support the Syrians, but they “know” that the Islamists are worse than Assad. How do they know this? Because they watch Press TV (run by an Islamic Theocratic state that incidentally finances Assad’s regime because it is holding back the majority rule in Syria, which would likely be democratic or in the lack of that, Sunni dominated) and they read who I have been referring to for years as the “fat white male western pundits”.

For years, I have managed and run various sites for Arab freedom causes, and for years, I have placed at the top of those sites articles and commentary written by Arabs. I believe that if you are able to serve a cause, the first task is to listen, then if you can, amplify the voice of the oppressed. But, while the names I published and translated on my site were overwhelmingly Arab, the names getting the big circulation on the web and doing the well-paid speaking tours were non-Arab, many times they were actually Israelis (ostensibly speaking “for” the Palestinians), almost all the time they were male, the educated élite of punditry and most of them were at least a generation older than those who were marching in the streets for their own rights. It was a rare thing to see the actual protagonists saying, “this is what I think, this is what I want, this is what I want from you”.

All of that has changed so much recently. There is a vast range of articles written by Syrians about their situation, by Palestinians about their situation as “double refugees” and by Arabs around the world who want to express solidarity with those of their language/culture and often religious affiliation. More than that, any week of the year, you can see the posters from the marches INSIDE Syria. Yes. After two and a half years, they are still marching in their streets and expressing what they want. They are not props set up by anyone, they are not the pawns of someone else’s interests, they are THOSE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO AND EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH. What are they saying? Are they begging for the world to ignore them and let them sort it out on their own? No. In fact they are saying what they have been saying since the beginning, “if you don’t help us, we will be killed”.

Can the message get any clearer?

Can the message get any clearer?

Are you prepared to understand what kind of help they have been begging for from the start? They have been first of all asking for protection from the bombs. That means that those who are in the streets in the West have ignored for two and a half years that an entire population has been bombed night and day and that hundreds of thousands of them have lost everything they had. How could the “No War” people have missed this? Oh, that’s right, they have been listening only to the well-paid, popular, fat, white, western guys who get money from Press TV or Al Manar to tell them what is happening in Syria. They don’t actually have to LISTEN to Syrians or watch their videos that they load with constancy despite the difficulties, because they WANT us to know and to do something. They have been asking for the lifting of the arms embargo against the Free Syrian Army, which they recognise as their liberation force. The first commander of the FSA said (two years ago) that if the FSA were armed adequately, they would finish the revolution in a matter of weeks with no direct foreign intervention. He also said that if this did not happen, there would be other forces around who would not wait to form militias and enter into Syria, without the same revolutionary goals, and definitely not with an interest in a Syria for all of its people, even those who currently support Assad.

I suppose the most ironic part of the waffling hypocritical “activism” world that woke up now to “stop a war” that they aren’t even sure exists or not, and if it does, what kind of war it is, is that they claim to be anti-Zionist, but when for the first time a true threat to the Zionist state has been uttered by the regime and some of its supporters (Iran and Hezbollah) as the Syrian regime Army Generals warned “in case of attacks on Syria, ‘Israel will burn’ and that if Syria weakens, ‘certain irresponsible groups’ will be formed that would endanger Israel,” they don’t seem to understand the actual regional dynamics – or else they really don’t want anything to threaten Israel, whose own “security” has always trumped Arab rights and Arab lives.

Now, here is the core of the hypocrisy. Evidently, a Syria that accepts the provocations of Israel without responding, that accepts for decades the occupation of Syrian soil and helps to actually displace once again more Palestinians and to engage in a “scorched earth” policy with regard to what is supposed to be a threat to Israel (Syria itself), is considered as “resistant”. It is considered as an idea that is beyond the pale to bring Israel into any kind of conflict, and if there is such a thing, it can only be considered “irresponsible”. Israel has got to be left alone, not even a slap on the wrist, the Syrian regime is the one that sees to their protection, they are their border guardian not only throughout the decades, but more than ever now that Syria might actually lose Assad as its leader.

The expansion of the conflict is not what anyone wants, and in fact, Assad has seen to it to be the exact party not only to maintain the Israeli status quo, but to also keep any kind of anti-west or anti-pluralism elements at arm’s reach. If nothing else, this statement alone shows the fundamental flaw of the reasoning of at least a portion of the “solidarity activists against the war”. Now, not only will they be used to enhance the totalitarian, Arab-hating and Islamophobic forces in the area, but they will be given the legitimacy that they don’t get from their own people. Once again, Imperialism Wins! The Westerners know BETTER! And there is an important lesson to be learned, and repeated by any kind of “oriental despot”: massacre your own people in their sleep and the “solidarity” champions will make a hero of you.

 

Quello che stiamo vivendo è una rivoluzione, per favore ci dovete capire

Quello che stiamo vivendo è una rivoluzione, per favore ci dovete capire

Scritto da Salwa Amor, tradotto da Mary Rizzo

Giornalista britannico – siriana Salwa Amor dice che il movimento Fermare la guerra – Stop the War ha perso il rispetto dei siriani, non sostenendo la loro rivoluzione.

Dal momento che la rivoluzione in Siria è iniziata due anni e mezzo fa ed è stato salutato da un regime oppressivo con una forza senza precedenti, il mondo sembra essere stato in silenzio sui crimini in corso che si sono verificati. A parte un paio di discussioni qua e là su i canali all-news, sembra a quelli all’interno della Siria che il mondo non si preoccupa di ciò che sta avvenendo nella loro terra e se il loro governo sta commettendo crimini contro l’umanità o no.

Prima della minaccia della guerra in Iraq gli arabi hanno ritenuto che l’Occidente (il popolo non i loro governi ) finalmente cominciavano a capire la loro lotta contro l’oppressione, l’occupazione e la dittatura. La Marcia del Milione che si è svolta per le strade di Londra è stato un punto di riferimento per le persone in Iraq e l’intero mondo arabo, era la prima volta che sono stati in grado di vedere una solidarietà visiva verso le loro continue lotte.

Fast forward al 2011 e un 26enne che lavorava come venditore ambulante in Tunisia si mise, insieme con l’intera regione araba, a fuoco in quella che sarebbe diventata la primavera araba. Egitto ha seguito l’esempio e il movimento contro la guerra hanno applaudite mentre erano testimoni ad un altro paese arabo che rovesciava il proprio dittatore tiranno.

Ispirato da Bouazizi, quello stesso gennaio un uomo in Siria anche desse fuoco a se stesso , sperando che le fiamme che hanno bruciato il suo corpo sarebbe l’ispirazione ai suoi concittadini a ribellarsi contro il loro dittatore. Il nome di quell’uomo era Hasan Ali Akleh. La sua storia non è così conosciuto, in realtà è stato appena documentato. Forse perché il Paese da cui è venuto non fa notizia, ma è stata la scintilla che ha illuminato i cuori di almeno alcuni siriani, siccome le proteste iniziarono lentamente a prendere vita in Al Raqa quello stesso mes , anche se hanno ricevuto poca o nessuna attenzione dei media.

Cospirazione occidentale?

Come le proteste avevano cominciato ad essere più frequenti, Assad ha orgogliosamente proclamato che egli è stato vittima di un complotto imperialista dell’occidente sostenuta da Israele e che avrebbe combattuto, succedesse qualunque cosa. E combattere il ciò che ha fatto, ma a differenza dei leader di Tunisia o d’Egitto, Assad ha usato i suoi armi più micidiali, principalmente realizzati in Russia che gli è stata fornita gratuitamente. Siriani feriti negli ospedali  vi racconterebbe delle bombe TNT che avrebbe letteralmente messo centinaia di buchi nei corpi delle vittime, lasciandoli ad implorare la misericordia della morte.

Eppure il movimento contro la guerra e la sinistra guardavano in silenzio mentre la furia assassina ha continuato per due anni e mezzo, con la paura che l’Occidente avrebbe usato questo per i propri interessi e di invadere un altro paese, in nome della libertà. Da un punto di vista politico che avevano ragione – l’Occidente “diffondere la democrazia e la libertà”, solamente dove i suoi interessi sono forti. Dal punto di vista umano, invece, la sinistra sì è sbagliato di grosso questa volta.

Come persone di coscienza, coloro che lottano per la pace e movimenti per la giustizia hanno una maggiore responsabilità nei confronti di quelli sotto l’oppressione, e temo che il movimento di sinistra e contro la guerra è caduto negli occhi dei siriani in tutto il mondo. E quando dico siriani, non mi riferisco agli alawiti, il 7% che hanno subito il lavaggio del cervello a lealtà verso Assad, perché ci sono alcuni di loro che si sono uniti alle proteste contro la guerra che chiedevano “nessun intervento in Siria”. Hanno il diritto di dire la loro come chiunqu , ma loro non rappressentano la maggioranza dei sirianni, come molti nella sinistra hanno suggerito.

Rivoluzione siriana

Se la sinistra c’era dalla parte dei siriani ordinari in tutto e dichiarato il loro sostegno per la loro rivoluzione come hanno fatto con la Tunisia e l’Egitto non sentirebbe come uno schiaffo in faccia alla rivoluzione, quando oggi si levano in piedi fuori dal parlamento chiedendo nessun intervento in Siria. Non è sufficiente in questa fase alla fine del gioco per chiamare semplicemente per nessun intervento. Ci deve essere il supporto per i rivoluzionari che hanno rischiato la loro vita per 30 mesi nella loro richiesta della libertà.

Se i socialisti/comunisti e sinistrorsi non supportano gli oppressi e gridare per la libertà, allora c’è qualcosa di molto sbagliato. Il movimento ha il diritto di chiedere al loro governo di non intervenire in guerre all’estero, ma per lo meno si dovrebbe tenere cartelli che raccontano siriani che hanno perso le loro case, le famiglie e la dignità che “noi, il popolo della Gran Bretagna siamo con voi”. Holding cartelli che dire “Nessun intervento e non toccare la Siria ” sembra ai siriani che siete dalla parte di Russia e la Russia è ed stava intervenendo fin dall’inizio (con le sue navi da guerra a Tartous dopo la 5° mese della rivolta e la maggior parte delle armi che hanno siriani uccisi erano un regalo di Assad da Putin).

Se la posizione dei movimenti  è “no all’intervenzione”, allora deve includere la Russia e l’Iran altrimenti è davvero unilaterale. Forse la sinistra è indulgente verso i crimini della Russia, perché non sono impegnati in nome dell’imperialismo occidentale, o forse la Russia e anche lo sfondo socialista della famiglia Assad e legami a marxismo e comunismo hanno accecato la sinistra che non riesce a vedere le loro colpe.

In qualche modo quelli che sono contro l’imperialismo occidentale sono diventati cieco da un occhio, vedono chiaramente i crimini dell’Occidente, ma la vista della loro altro occhio è bloccato da una credenza o una speranza che il mondo sarebbe un posto migliore se solo il capitalismo sarebbe rimosso insieme con i suoi ideali imperialistici.

Purtroppo, la storia ci insegna che il male esiste in molte forme e maniere, che non è definita in base al colore, religione o razza, ma risiede in tutti coloro che sono in vita, così come l’altruismo e la bontà. L’Occidente non può prendere la colpa per la Siria, non perché non è degno di biasimo per gran parte della sconvolgimenti in Medio Oriente, ma perché ci sono altri mali del mondo.

Scoraggiante

E ‘veramente scoraggiante vedere un movimento che è stato costruito per sostenere gli oppressi che è così poco solidale della rivoluzione siriana. E’ come se essi hanno completamente trascurato la rivolta. Quasi come non è mai successo, o che tutta la crisi può essere descritto come una cospirazione imperialista occidentale.

Non erano i siriani oppressi e umiliati per 40 anni? Non era la polizia segreta in Siria responsabile per avere istillato paura intollerabile nei cuori dei giovani e meno giovani o la causa di migliaia di morti sotto tortura? Per ridurre la rivoluzione siriana ad un complotto imperialista occidentale è che implica che tutto il male del mondo deriva da Ovest. Assad non era da Ovest, la sua polizia segreta che hanno torturato i bambini fino alla morte erano siriani, nati e cresciuti in Siria, lontano dall’occhio vigile del West.

Questo Sabato fermare la guerra terrà un’altra protesta contro l’intervento occidentale. Come si può discutere con la loro logica, l’Occidente infatti impone le sue idee sul mondo intero. Eppure, la prossima protesta e le sue parole d’ordine incarnano l’essenza della supremazia bianca della mente; imporre le loro credenze e le richieste sulla rivoluzione del popolo siriano. Nessun intervento , Giù le mani dalla Siria non sono slogan che sono venute dalla Siria, nemmeno lontanamente, quindi, si deve presumere che essi sono gli slogan che vengono imposte al popolo siriano.

Perché se si curava di leggere e tradurre solamente alcuni dei cartelli che quelli nelle città assediate all’interno della Siria dimostrano con orgoglio alle luci dei media  di tutto il mondo avrebbero scoperto presto che il più famoso e diffuso di tutti è SOS ! I Siriani stanno implorando aiuto, non possono prendere i bombardamenti, la fame, la mancanza di acqua e di diffusione della malattia, i corpi sotto le macerie o dei bambini che sono sepolti vivi in loro. Quindi, chi sono alla sinistra in Gran Bretagna a dichiarare giù le mani dalla Siria quando invece sono i siriani a chiedere aiuto?

Fermare la guerra è una organizzazione di base il cui lavoro è prezioso in Gran Bretagna e all’estero e la rivoluzione siriana non è diverso, è la lotta di un popolo che la sinistra ha spinto sotto il tappeto per paura dell’imperialismo occidentale. L’ironia è che i siriani stanno combattendo per la stessa cosa per cui battono i Stop the War, ma la tragedia è che la sinistra non metterà la sua paranoia del West in attesa per un tempo sufficiente per sentire le grida che esce delle macerie dalle loro controparti rivoluzionarie siriane.

5PIllarz originale http://www.5pillarz.com/2013/08/29/stop-the-war-must-support-the-syrian-revolution/

No "more" bombs...the ones from Russia and Iran dropped by Assad's army can keep coming though... there are terrorists, you know.

No “more” bombs…the ones from Russia and Iran dropped by Assad’s army can keep coming though… there are terrorists, you know.

RE: Stop the War in Syria

Hello Antiwar Activist,

How are you? It’s been 2 and half years. I’ve missed you. I hope all is well. Thank you for writing back. Yes you’re right, we have to stop this war!

I am glad you are here now. We can use your help. You are against war, right? So you must really care about the Syrian people and want to help save them from the tragedies they have endured for far too long. Let me catch you up to speed so you can join the effort to help end this war.

The media is telling us that the West is about to attack Syria. You seem concerned. Just a heads up, Israel attacked Syria a month ago. The West attacked Mali last year, Libya the year before that, and continues to use drones worldwide every day. I didn’t hear from you then so you probably just didn’t get the memo. The war isn’t just about to start. It’s actually been going on for 2 and half years. 100,000 people are dead. 1 out of every three people is displaced. 1 out of every 3 people needs humanitarian assistance. The medical system has collapsed. And third of the country is in rubble because conventional weapons are being used indiscriminately every day.

So, the West is about to attack. We don’t want foreign military intervention right? Oh but Iranian and Lebanese forces have been there for some time now fighting with The Government’s army, and along with Russia have been arming them with sophisticated weapons. I guess that doesn’t count as foreign because those are not western countries. Israel attacked Syria a few times too but they are not Western so let’s forget about that too.

What’s important now is to stop the West. They’re always looking to start wars. They are the bad guy. So that means Syria must be the good guy. Oh you don’t know much about them. Let me fill you in. There is a dictatorship there. It’s been about 40 years. It comes with all the stuff you expect from good guys, no freedom of expression, no democracy, gross human rights violations, political prisoners, and complete theft of the economy. In fact one guy owns 60% of the entire Syrian economy! Hmm, let me see what else. Oh yeah they were responsible for the killing of an entire city of Hama killing over 20,000 people in 1982 and are a designated a state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. And in case you forgot they attacked, kidnapped, tortured, and killed peaceful protesters for the first 6 months of the conflict while people asked for their basic rights and freedoms. Most recently chemical attacks were used against people while they slept killing over a thousand men, women, and children. In case you were wondering, Syria has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world.

But they are not the bad guys, right? It’s more important to stop the West because they cause collateral damage. Never mind the existing collateral damage caused by The Government that has reduced a third of the country to rubble and killed tens of thousands in the process. No need to protest against the daily indiscriminate missile strikes being used by Syria’s military because the 3 days of missile strikes by the West will be much worse for the people of Syria.

I mean who does the West think its fooling? After their claims about Iraq, who can believe them? There is no proof that a war exists in Syria and that The Government is responsible for anything. Maybe we should check with someone else who we can really trust. Let’s see what AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, UN-OCHA, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS, AND REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS have to say. What? You’re kidding me? There actually IS a war going on and The Government IS responsible for the vast majority of crimes against humanity. You mean they have been using tanks, airplanes, helicopters and snipers indiscriminately against the population? You know, I don’t think I have heard you mention this war. Maybe you believe that war is only bad when other countries get involved, and that it is not a war when the government attacks its own people?

Let us be clear. When you say stop the war, you don’t just mean that West should not attack? You also mean that The Government should stop indiscriminately attacking its own population? I don’t think those countless reliable sources are wrong when they have repeatedly documented that a war has been going on, that The Government is largely responsible, and that this is not acceptable? You are against war, right? Or maybe it’s okay if the war is just inside the country itself? I mean the government’s crimes against humanity are needed because their enemy is foreign jihads who eat human hearts. That’s the real bad guy. Oh didn’t you know? The foreign jihadis have always been there. They have been there for 40 years so that’s why it was okay to have a dictatorship that trampled people’s freedom for decades. They were there during the peaceful protests, that’s why The Government had to attack and kill peaceful protestors for 6 months. And they are everywhere now. No Syrian has ever picked up a gun to defend himself after seeing his wife raped, his children slaughtered, and his home razed. The 100 000 people killed and 6 million people displaced are all foreign jihadis.

Don’t you know that dictatorship, oppression, waging war, and committing crimes against humanity does not cause a local population to resist? This is all just one big conspiracy by the West. Syrians don’t have a problem from 40 years of oppression. The scenes of millions of people across the entire country protesting peacefully for the human rights were all faked. And if they weren’t, well they must have been orchestrated by the West. I mean any human rights activist can tell you how easy it is to mobilize nationwide protests in the millions for 6 months. Even in the face of torture and death, they continued to protest because the West wanted them to. It had nothing to do with any internal desire for their own basic rights. We all know how easy it is to brainwash millions of people to go in the street and protest day after day when you’re facing possible death.

I mean in the end, it’s the people you care about right? That’s why you don’t want the West to attack. Protesting against a limited Western attack will help the people much more protesting against a war that has destroyed the country for 2 and half years, calling for more help in the largest humanitarian operation in the history of the UN, or demanding our governments do something, anything REAL to stop the bloodshed. Protesting against a limited Western attack will help the people by stopping the war all together. That’s what you really care about after all, the people. It has nothing to do with protesting yet another American foreign attack. You are there to protest because you truly care about the people.

Hmmm but where have you been. I haven’t seen you protesting and lobbying your government to increase humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. You do know it’s the largest humanitarian disaster of the century? That there are over 7 million people who need humanitarian assistance? I haven’t seen you asking for more pressure on the Syrian government to stop attacking civilians indiscriminately. You do know not a single UN Security Council on Syria has been passed?

Well you are here now. Nice to have you. I hope I can count on you to help the people of Syria. We need all the help we can get. We need to stop this war. We need to help the people. Let us stand together in solidarity and call for an end to the war in Syria. Let us stand together and demand protection and aid for the people of Syria. That’s why we are here right. It’s not just about stopping a small scale limited Western military intervention. It’s about ENDING THE WAR! It’s about helping the people of Syria. We are activists for a reason, right? Stopping wars is not our end goal, it’s just a means to saving our fellow man from oppression.

I have been here for some time now. I am exhausted. It’s nice to have you next to me. This war will likely not end anytime soon. I hope you will stay for the long haul.

Thank you,
A Human rights Activist

Italian protest (No War = Pro Assad)

Italian protest (No War = Pro Assad)

by Fouad Roueiha, translated by Mary Rizzo
On the pages of Facebook, we find ourselves often reading the analysis on the situation in Syria. The writers want to appear that they have at heart freedom, justice, peace. Here a post that passes itself off as No-War but instead is something different and sinister. In this case the author is the “foreign policy” voice of Rifondazione Comunista, an Italian “armchair and cocktail party left party”. Thank goodness there are people that are able to answer in a correct manner, in this case Fouad Roueiha, an Italian-Syrian.

The Post: FA writes: “Here we go again.  Imperialism has found and presented to the world the casus belli to justify a new aggression. We are dealing with a curious case of self-fulfilling expectations.  Obama has been talking about chemical  weapons for months.  It is likely that the same were used to justify the war against Iraq. The  Syrian civil war is full of horrors, like every civil war. To feed into that there has been the contribution of many, among them, precisely the usa, gb and france, together with their allies of the oil monarchies, that fund and train the rebels, avoiding any kind of  political solution. In Syria there is a proxy war between powers, regional and international, that  are destabilising the entire area, as the recent attacks in Lebanon show.  We are opposed to any aggression by the united states, nato, gb  or france against Syria. Italy better say out of this umpteenth  neo-colonial adventure.”

The Response: Fouad Roueiha You have left us alone, in silence, when inspired by the shout of freedom of our brothers, also our voices filled the streets and our only weapons were hope, dignity and desire for democracy. Our chants for democracy, for unity and for non-violence filled the spaces of our squares that saw history be born, while the ancient pavements of our streets were coloured with our blood. For 6 months no one responded to he provocations, to the fierce repression, to the siege of entire towns deprived of water and electricity in the middle of the summer heat. Then, when the cheeks to turn simply were no more, when our freedom fighters (like yours did) ascended on the mountains risking not only their lives but also those of the their loved ones, then you have condemned us. When we were under overpowering superiority of hostile fire, fed by the men, arms and fuel of Iran, Russia, Lebanon, Iraq and even Europe, you did not lift a finger to hinder this flow of death towards our land, clearly those forces are the Empire of Good. But if crushed by lead, explosives and MiGs of The Good, our freedom fighters have accepted the (anything but disinterested) help of the antagonists of the Empire that pleases you, finally able to give substance to the defamatory accusations that since the first hour you have directed towards us. And don’t show me maps and statistics, analysis and numbers, those work well ” in society”, in your posh meeting places, but not for those who have heard the words and the chants of those who have taken to the streets… now isn’t that odd, in Syria the children do not ask themselves which international power benefits the most from their protests; they come down to the streets for their right to a future, to have the dignity of choosing their own destiny, to demand democracy, slogans that i recall having heard in many other places, even right next to yours in Piazza San Giovanni (traditional meeting place for the Italian left protests and meetings, translator’s note) or under Montecitorio (seat of the Italian Parliament), although Italy seems like a paradise of democracy compared with our land.

Syria protesters in Baba Amr (Pro-freedom = Anti-Assad)

Syria protesters in Baba Amr (Pro-freedom = Anti-Assad)

Calm down “comrades”, the States (that Italy welcomes with open arms, when the nazi-fascists raped the lands) will not come simply because is not their interest therefore without too much effort you will obtain the result wished by “peaceful” Fabio… but the 1500 dead of Ghouta, that must be added to 100,000 lives broken from Assad and companions, are not a casus belli, but a disgrace for humanity and for you particularly, you that love to pose as champions of the oppressed and of the have-nots but you are deaf if the enemy of those oppressed is not that “traditional” one, if what happens does not answer to your narrative of the world.

Dear lazy or know-it-all judges of other people’s history, do us a favour if you can: do not come to cry over our children, do not shed a tear at the funeral of our nation, you are not invited. 

p. s.

A special thanks to all those who (how it always happens in these occasions), in response to what I have written and from on high of their knowledge of my person, of my land, of the realpolitik and of the international geopolitics,  want to define me as a rat, jihadist, throat-cutter, spy on the mossad payroll… your contribution will be really precious.

No-War? Non proprio!

Ecco sulle pagine FB, ci troviamo spesso degli analisi sulla situazione in Siria. Devono sembrare che chi li scrive ha a cuore la libertà, la giustizia, la pace. Ecco un post che si spaccia per No-War ma invece è qualcosa di diverso e di sinistro. Menomale che ci sono persone che riescono a rispondere in modo corretto.

Il Post: FA “Ci risiamo. L’imperialismo ha trovato e presentato al mondo il casus belli per giustificare una nuova aggressione. Si tratta di un curioso caso di aspettative auto realizzatesi. Obama è da mesi che parla di armi chimiche. É probabile che siano le stesse usate per giustificare la guerra all’irak. La guerra civile siriana è piena di orrori, come ogni guerra civile. Ad alimentarla hanno contribuito in molti, fra cui proprio usa, gb e francia, insieme ai loro alleati delle petromonarchie, che finanziano e addestrano i ribelli, evitando qualsiasi soluzione politica. In Siria si sta combattendo una guerra per procura fra potenze, regionali e internazionali, che sta destabilizzando tutta l’area, come dimostrano i recenti attentati in Libano. Noi siamo contrari a qualsiasi aggressione da parte di usa, nato gb o francia contro la Siria. l’Italia stia fuori da questa ennesima avventura neocoloniale.”

La Risposta: Fouad Roueiha Ci avete lasciati soli, nel silenzio, quando ispirati dal grido di libertà dei nostri fratelli anche le nostre voci hanno riempito le strade e le nostre uniche armi erano speranza, dignità e voglia di democrazia. I nostri canti per la democrazia, per l’unità e la non-violenza hanno riempito l’aere delle nostre piazze che hanno visto nascere la storia, mentre i selciati antichi si tingevano del nostro sangue. Per 6 mesi nessuno ha risposto alle provocazioni, alla feroce repressione, all’assedio di intere città private d’acqua ed elettricità in piena estate. Quando poi sono finite le guance da porgere, quando i nostri partigiani (come fecero i vostri) salirono sulle montagne rischiando non solo le loro vite ma anche quelle dei loro cari, allora ci avete condannato. Quando eravamo sotto la soverchiante superiorità del fuoco nemico, alimentato dalle uomini, armi e carburanti di Iran, Russia, Libano, Iraq e persino dell’ Europa voi non avete mosso un dito per impedire il flusso di morte verso la nostra terra, evidentemente quello è l’Impero del Bene. Ma se schiacciati dal piombo, l’esplosivo ed i mig del Bene i nostri partigiani hanno accettato il (tutt’altro che disinteressato) aiuto degli antagonisti dell’Impero che piace a voi, finalmente avete potuto dar sostanza alle infamanti accuse che fin dalla prima ora ci avete rivolto. E non mostratemi cartine e statistiche, analisi e numeri, quelli van bene “in società”, nei vostri salottini, ma non per chi ha sentito le parole e le voci di chi è sceso in piazza… pensate che strano, in Siria i ragazzini non si chiedono quali potenza internazionale tragga vantaggio dal loro manifestare, scendono in piazza per il loro diritto al futuro, per aver la dignità di scegliere il proprio destino, per pretendere la democrazia, slogan che mi sembra di aver sentito da tante altre parti, anche da parte vostra in Piazza San Giovanni o sotto MOntecitorio, nonostante l’Italia appaia come un paradiso di democrazia confrontata con la nostra terra.

Tranquilli “compagni”, gli States (che l’Italia accolse a braccia aperte, quando i nazi-fascisti ne violentavano le terre) non interverranno semplicemente perchè non è loro interesse quindi senza troppi sforzi otterrete il risultato auspicato da tovarish Fabio… ma i 1500 morti di Ghouta, che si aggiungono alle 100.000 vite spezzate da Assad e compagni, non sono un casus belli ma una vergogna per l’umanità e per voi in particolare, voi che amate atteggiarvi a paladini degli oppressi e degli ultimi ma siete sordi se il nemico di quegli oppressi non è quello “tradizionale”, se quel che avviene non risponde alla vostra narrazione del mondo.

Cari ignavi o saputelli giudici dell’altrui storia, fateci un favore però: non venite a piangere i nostri bambini, non versate lascrime al funerale della nostra nazione, non siete invitati.

p.s.

Un ringraziamento particolare a tutti coloro che (come avviene sempre in queste occasioni), a seguito di quanto ho scritto e dall’alto della loro conoscenza della mia persona, della mia terra, della real politic e della geopolitica internazionale vorranno definirmi ratto, jihadista, tagliagole, spia al soldo del mossad…. il vostro contributo sarà davvero prezioso.

A tiny Syrian boy who has known mostly war and suffering in his short life, wants to pay humanitarian volunteers who have brought food to his family.

A tiny Syrian boy who has known mostly war and suffering in his short life, wants to pay humanitarian volunteers who have brought food to his family.

July 9, 2013 – Kafar Naha, Syria WRITTEN BY Asmae Siria Dachan, translated by Mary Rizzo

The moment of the distribution of food parcels in a context of war is always a moment of relief for everyone. Aid that arrives in areas that are continuously bombed and under siege, becomes vital for the civilian population. The families are ready to receive the donations, without ever giving up their own dignity and self-respect. No one has chosen to become displaced, no one has chosen to undergo a genocide. They are all victims and to rescue and assist them is an imperative for all of humanity.

For children it is a time of celebration: they get to see the vans with people who move from house to house and stop to make deliveries. Those young people, with their serene faces and their smiles, inspire confidence. They are the volunteers of two Italian-Syrian humanitarian associations Onsur, Global Campaign to Support the Syrian people and Ossmei, Syrian Organisation for emergency medical services in Italy. Among them is Abdullah Dachan, a student: he delivers a box to a man who is there with his son; the shy little one peeking from behind a wall. He was blonde, like angels in paintings, he must have been no more than three or four.

The tiny boy stretches out his hand that is clutching a coin and says, “Please ammo – (in Arabic-uncle) take this money.”

The volunteer stops in disbelief: how much dignity, how much fairness, how much innocent spontaneity in that little man, who would want to pay for what he has received. Abdullah asks the boy’s father if he can pick him up: he then hugs him, gives him a kiss, holding back the tears … tears of emotion and anger – why, why do these children have to suffer all this – he asks himself. “It is I who have to thank you, little friend. You gave me something beautiful, your smile and your courage,” are the words he would like to say to him.

In addition to the residents who are driven to exhaustion by the bombings, there are thousands of displaced people in that area. They have all lost their homes, their jobs, their freedom. Among them there are a few survivors of the massacre of Banyas. Civilians fleeing the horrors of a genocide that does not give signs of abating, while the world remains unmoved.

From the stories of the sixth mission in Syria Onsur-Ossmei

Original: http://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/zio-ti-prego-prendi-questa-monetina/

A woman showing her devotion in the Pro Assad rally in Rome

A woman showing her devotion in the Pro Assad rally in Rome

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

When one has the opportunity of having two events in Rome on the same day concerning Syria, it provides an chance of seeing not only the focus of our campaigning and the current state of the “narrative” in our relationship to what everyone can agree is a debacle, but it crystallises the strengths and weaknesses that we have as activists.

Even with a war going on, with the crackdown against protests in areas that are still under control of the regime, and with the enormous dangers and risks that protesters in liberated areas face, we can’t seem to truly mobilise the European public to come anywhere close to making a mass  solidarity movement that will have any kind of echo. We have to deal with perhaps a bit of expense or inconvenience, but we pretty much can be assured there is no one that might kill us for going to protests. We have to follow a procedure to get the permits and do some work to mobilise people, but in comparison, we have nothing to hinder us, so our turnouts should reflect our effectiveness in reaching a critical mass in the public opinion. We have of course had some great marches, there have been countless events, conferences, exhibits, but we have not really engaged the general public that is not already highly politicised or directly involved  into any kind of meaningful action. There are a very few people expending a great deal of energy and in essence, singing to the choir. And this is true ON BOTH SIDES.

So we take into consideration Saturday, 15 June. Back in April, a group labelled “European Front for Syria” called for an international march in Rome, the poster reading (in screaming capital letters): DON’T TOUCH  SYRIA! EVERYBODY TO ROME / 15 JUNE RALLY. In the call to the event, they prospect that there will be thousands of lions to sustain their President and Army (and if we trust their promotional videos, their Secular Socialist State) against those they label as Rats. Yes, they actually do make a long list of who the Rats are, and of course they don’t forget who their friends are: beacons of freedom Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Venezuela and Cuba, and naturally, a party that is anything BUT Secular or Socialist, Hezbollah. Who exactly is the European Front? I don’t know, but they “joined Facebook in January of 2013”, evidently after 2 years of war and probably combining parts of various pro Assad groups.

Given that in a free society, such as is the Italian one, the right to assemble is guaranteed by the constitution, and all opinions are constitutionally protected. However, given that in order to achieve this free society, Italy was forced to undergo the a long and painful war to overthrow two decades of Fascism (a totalitarian system with no tolerance of dissent and no guarantee of rights). Therefore, a Constitution was written by the constituent entity that had to build a democracy from the ground up, incorporating segments of provisions that place some limits on rights that would be essentially a threat to democracy. Thus, in Italy, our constitution prohibits the reorganisation of the Fascist party, and the Scelba Law (known as the law against the crime of Apology of Fascism L. 645/1952) was introduced to implement its enforcement. The text of the law punishes “whoever constitutes an association, a movement or a group having the characteristics and setting the objective as the reorganisation of the defunct Fascist party, or whoever publicly exalts the exponents, principles, facts or methods of Fascism, or its anti-democratic objectives.”

moment of the Anti-Assad rally

moment of the Anti-Assad rally

One can and should ask if this provision though present in the Constitution, and subsequent Law place limits on freedom assembly and expression, actually violating constitutional legitimacy, given that freedoms of opinion are guaranteed by the articles of the Constitution and this constriction does not regard any other ideology, since in modern times, no other ideology had been effective in undermining freedoms and pluralism in Italy. But, leaving the rhetorical question to the side, the Italian government, given that it protects our rights of assembly must however guarantee that assembly meets constitutional and legal requirements. Any assembly in a public space, a rally, a march, even the setting up of a stand to sell oranges, requires the obtaining of permits. In the case of a political rally or demonstration it requires the approval not only of the Municipality but of the State Police. Whoever has organised any event in Italy has spent time at Police Headquarters and contacted the Cabinet of the Mayor. The state provides permits and public security (in many cases escort, officers in riot gear and a motorcade). Most marches in Italy have a massive presence of police, and like it or not, they help with the traffic flow for the streets being closed off, they serve as a barrier in case there are elements that threaten the public safety; at times they are discreet and at others, they are omnipresent.

So, with all of that in mind, if a march/rally is called, with the cost and inconvenience it is going to bring to the general public, it is conditional upon being within the law.

In the call for the Pro Assad rally, the associations that supported it were the bulk of the extreme right of Europe, and this could never have surprised anyone that took even the most random of glances at any of their publications, promotional material or the sites where they held their meetings. Some Romans active for the rights of the oppressed people in Syria and Palestine came to the conclusion that the organisers are part of groups that perhaps are not reforming the Fascist party, but certainly are proud of their roots in Fascism and make no secret of it. It is time to face the fact that while not ALL those who support Assad are Fascist sympathisers, ALL Fascist sympathisers support Assad. Would there be a danger of a march turning into a Fascist rally? Indeed, the supporters of Assad sought confrontation during a pro Revolution march in April in Rome, with the police (upon their own initiative) identifying  19 of them and a pile of stones at their feet, documented by independent photographers, were what was left behind as they were asked to leave the premises. With such precedent, the activists in Rome issued a petition which was signed by hundreds of people, Italians and internationals, and presented to the authorities:

“Called for Saturday, June 15 in Rome is a gathering of European nazi-fascist movements that support the criminal regime of Syrian dictator Assad. The Italian organisations involved are the most well-known groups of the extreme right-wing, from Casa Pound to the archipelago of neo-Nazi movements and apologists of Fascism.

The support of the nazi-fascist movements towards the Syrian regime is the consequence of the shared identity of views with a repressive, murderous and corrupt system; one that has been oppressing the people of Syria for decades and has responded with unprecedented ferocity to the demand for freedom and dignity advanced two years ago with demonstrations and peaceful demonstrations. The current military drift is the result of the regime’s brutal repression against a movement that remained peaceful for many long months, despite the assaults, murders, arbitrary arrests, the widespread use of torture.

We believe that the Syrian people has the right to live in peace and freedom to determine their own future and that, to achieve these objectives, they have the right to resist oppression, just as the Palestinian people and all the peoples of the world. For this reason, we stand against the dictatorship of Assad and any imperialist military intervention, including intervention from the States of the region.

We are on the side of the Syrian people, the Palestinian and all the peoples who struggle for dignity and freedom, against the occupation, repression, torture and massacres, this is why we are anti-fascists.

A rally of rogue Nazis from across Europe in support of the dictatorship of the Assad clan is an insult to Rome, the Gold Medal in the Resistance, and an insult all freedom-loving people. Do not let this shame pass in silence, let us build solidarity with the Syrian people.”

In addition to the petition, a counter-rally was organised in a public square just outside the historical centre to express dissent with the issuing of the permits and to give another voice to the Syrian struggle, that which seeks the end of the Assad Regime.  It added as a second theme the rights of Palestinian to self-determination and freedom. It certainly did not have 3 months to be planned, nor could it mobilise “thousands” from all over Europe to come, given the short notice during high season, when finding accommodation or economic transportation to Rome is nigh impossible. It had to adopt a local character, at the most people from the nearby regions could make it, and yet, calls were made through some posters and some messages on Facebook to bring activists and the general public to convene, no matter where their point of departure was.

Pro Assad rally in Rome

Pro Assad rally in Rome

Then…. The unexpected happened: two days before the Pro Assad rally, both the City of Rome and the State of Italy withdrew their permits to allow this event to take place in a public square. Not defeated, the group simply moved the rally into their Clubhouse, which is the space that is occupied by Casa Pound, a well-organised group of the extreme right, certainly not neutral or apolitical terrain! Definitely that would exclude that the message would reach the general public that did not already have an opinion on the matter, and definitely would restrict its scope. Any way one looks at it, it lost its character as a Roman Rally, and the hopeful descent of thousands of lions would just have to be more folklore along the lines of the popular mandate of Assad and the “millions” of lions in the streets of every city of Syria to support his regime.

So, absolutely, efforts made by those dissenting from the public rally were fully successful. Free speech was preserved, but NOT the violation of our spaces with the blessing of the authorities.

Our rally, as scheduled, continued and the speakers would also comment upon the successful efforts, as well as explaining the situation in Syria to the general public.

One can look at both rallies and one can make some observations: the first is, both of them were successful in some ways, and unsuccessful in others. The Pro Assad rally, while not drawing thousands, and most likely not a massive presence of Europeans, in the arc of an entire day it did several hundred, they claim on their page 400, maybe half of them were hidden since they certainly don’t appear in photos or videos, yet, in spite of that, whether 200 or 400, it is not a bad number. The Anti Assad rally, while not aiming at an international presence and in concomitance with some other major events for Syria the same day, drew around 100. There were many organisations that gave their moral support and adhered to the call, though they did not bring their numbers to the square.

The Pro Assad rally was highly professional, and it should not surprise anyone! As a matter of fact, in 2 and a half years of war, it is rare (and perhaps it does not exist at all) that these people have been engaged in any efforts to support anything but the permanence of Assad. While decrying specific horrors and lamenting of massacres and destruction at the hands of the rebels, these groups NEVER organise to bring any kind of humanitarian aid in. You will never see them raise funds for ambulances, clothing, medicine, food, blankets, tents and even water. Any efforts they make are solely and exclusively to support their own propaganda. In fact, their Facebook pages included all kinds of information so that people could donate to the Roman event. That, as you see, is the extent of their work, to win the information war with private donations. And they DO invest!!! They provide themselves with a fancy set, organise entertainment, video presentations, bring in TV troupes, have an infinity of gadgets, most of them bearing the face of Assad, organise press conferences and posters… they get loads of posters and banners out there! Definitely, they have economic leeway for these things. Which is what is the problem with the Anti Assad activism. Most activists are not just doing information work, but they are constantly raising funds for humanitarian relief. They are giving sometimes all the money they have to send a bit of goods here, a bit of money there, spreading it out to many projects, so that all the projects have some level of success and serve the Syrians in the refugee camps and the internally displaced. They are building field hospitals, supplying the Syrians with the basics that their own government does not supply them with.

You can watch some of these Pro Assad people go on and on about how Assad provides all, like a good father. They must certainly believe it, because they only open their wallets to find more ways to repeat those myths. Those against Assad are aware of the reality, and not only do they not “get paid” to go to rallies, as was the case with the sixteen models suing an agency that did not pay them for their participation in a march in a public square where they were to chant slogans praising Assad in Arabic and hold his picture and a Syrian loyalist flag. No, those against Assad open their wallets again to bring themselves to marches and rallies. They open their wallets to get a sound system, the minimum things necessary for a public assembly. Things are often on a shoestring budget, and often, met with resistance by others who are in the movement for the simple reason that, “our money has to go to the people who are suffering, not in marches”.

And, this is why, on a date when there was a fundraiser, most of the Syrian community attended that. This is why, while the political paradigm for Assad is almost the property of the extreme right, for their sharing of a common worldview, it also is shared by some in the extreme left who undersign the paradigm, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”: forgetting that whoever kills his own people is by definition an enemy of the people, whoever engages in arbitrary arrest and torture is an enemy of the people, whoever kills Arabs is an enemy of the Arabs and a danger for the entire Mediterranean.

Those misguided people probably didn’t go to the Pro Assad rally, as most of the pictures showed some families, with kiddies in strollers and grannies kissing the picture of Assad on a paper fan. The self-declared leftists perhaps would have felt more comfortable with the Revolutionary Socialists who were a large part of the Anti  Assad rally than with those dressed up in military fatigues and praising the army. They perhaps don’t even notice that while they are screaming against the “Salafis”, they are praising the theocratic State of Iran, taking the words of a Nun and a Priest with regime links as gold dripping from heaven and raising Nasrallah up as some kind of resistance icon. They probably even think he runs a secular party!

But then again: the Pro Assad folks know how to fight their information war. That is because they do not need to disperse their personal resources in aid. They apparently either do not care about the humanitarian crisis, or since the millions of victims who have lost their homes and possessions are probably persons the regime would be happy to exterminate, they can feel legitimated in claiming to be pro Syria, but ignoring the suffering of the Syrian people. They can’t teach us any lessons about humanitarianism, or even about resistance. But they can teach us how to promote themselves professionally, despite the gigantic downsizing of their event.

CONCLUSION: The Pro Assad people have a different focus, it is on “winning the information war” and to hell with the humanitarian disaster in Syria. The Anti Assad people throw most of their energy into raising funds to provide Syrians with the basics of survival. The Pro Assad people, despite all that work and economic investment that crosses borders to create a massive international event, managed to gather together a very small crowd. The Anti Assad people didn’t have the same mechanisms and certainly haven’t got a political space to fall back on. We have to work harder at convincing people that these events are ALSO important to attend, by Syrians and anyone who is a freedom lover. They present us a chance to stand in solidarity with the Syrians, to discuss among ourselves and with the general public and to in that way build the movement so that the sole beneficiaries of ALL efforts are the Syrian people seeking their rights and freedom.

the two posters of the events:

siria poster 2

don't

refugee camp of the Palestinian Nakba, 1948

refugee camp of the Palestinian Nakba, 1948

Commemoration Day of the Nakba is approaching. It is an important date that we must never ignore. All who know me are aware that my major interest for the past 3 decades has been to raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle and for those people to obtain their rights and justice, and for this reason, I have operated sites and written, translated, edited and shared articles on the issue, hoping to always allow the voices of the oppressed to have a venue to be heard. This Nakba day feels different from the others, though. For the first time, I feel that I am on the opposite side of the fence of many with whom I’ve campaigned for decades. I’m not talking about the Palestinians, who, by and large share the same views I do on the events of the Middle East, but I’m talking about the activism community in the West, the Left and those who consider themselves anti-imperialists.

What is the problem? The problem is that the focus in not at all about the plight of refugees and humans who are subjected to the greatest loss of all, especially in the moments of war or invasion, it is only about repeating a mantra that Israel and the West are the only enemies and anyone who is “VERBAL” about that, (it’s not required to actually DO anything to liberate occupied lands or to bring refugees back home!) has got to be backed and helped out no matter what any other policy is, particularly those internal policies that involve ethnic cleansing, oppression of part of the population, violence, arrest of any opposition, no matter if they are political or just average people on the street, extra-judicial killings and a vast list of crimes against humanity.

We have seen those who have fought for the rights of the Palestinians completely back the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by Assad. All of this not based on his deeds, which include the active participation in the massacres and exile of Palestinians in Syria and prior to that in Lebanon.

refugee camp for Syrians in Turkey, 2013. Photo by Rana Sammani

refugee camp for internally displaced Syrians, 2013. Photo by Rana Sammani

We are seeing them deny the Nakba of the Syrian people because they are more convinced by fiery speeches than by a true liberation position that vows to protect the lives of Palestinians and at the same time mows them down along with the Syrians, because they dared to not take an active role in support of the regime or if they openly support the opposition. That is enough for the Palestinian camps inside Syria to be subjected to sieges worse than those in Gaza, carpet bombing, checkpoints, massacres and starvation, along with the destruction of their homes and exile, refugees once more, but this time with the denial of the proper documents by Syria so that they can register as refugees where they escaped to, a perverse strategy the Syrian regime uses to prevent them from obtaining their rights. The same fate of collective punishment of the Syrians. This alone should alarm ANY human rights activist, and even more so, those who campaign for Palestinian rights.

Shall we compare the numbers of the victims of these two crimes of displacement and forced exile?

During the 1948 Palestine War, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled, and hundreds of Palestinian villages were depopulated and destroyed. (sources agree on this, from Benny Morris to Walid Khalidi)

Palestinian refugees in 1948

These refugees and their descendants number several million people today, divided between Jordan (2 million), Lebanon (427,057), Syria (477,700), the West Bank (788,108) and the Gaza Strip (1.1 million), with at least another quarter of a million internally displaced Palestinians in Israel. The displacement, dispossession and dispersal of the Palestinian people is known to them as an-Nakba, meaning “catastrophe” or “disaster”.

Syria (since the start of the uprising in 2011)

In August 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of registered Syrian refugees had reached over 200,000, exceeding the UNHCR estimate of 185,000 for the entire year. Also according to the United Nations, 6 million people inside Syria needed help and about 4 million Syrians were internally displaced because of the Syrian civil war.

By the early months of 2013 the UNCHR announced that the number of refugees had topped 1 million, and by March 2013 had risen to 1,204,707 people. A spokeswoman for UNHCR, Sybilla Wilkes, also reported that the rate of flight from Syria was increasing. “In March an average of 10,000 people crossing per day. In February it was 8,000. In January it was 5,000. The numbers keep going up and up.” It has been estimated that by the summer, the number of refugees will be 4.25 MILLION, only some of them registered with the agency because they have found refuge with families living abroad or are internally displaced, which does not record them at all.

700,000 is a lot of people displaced. It is a crime against humanity.

4.25 million is an astronomical number that barely is able to be imagined. The crimes against these people are also crimes against humanity.

If supporters of Human Rights for Palestinians ignore the displacement of Arabs, it is because they are in bad faith, ill-informed, or they do not have human rights as their core agenda. They hate the West (which most of them live in quite comfortably) much much more than they love the people who are subjected to oppression, and seek that they are not denied safety and rights. Justice and dignity are not what they care about, it is something else, and the sacrifice of the Syrian people and the Palestinians inside Syria has exposed all of this.

But, to be completely fair, it is not the concern of the Syrians themselves what the activists out here think. Many of them tell me they do not care about what the activists think and they no longer are interested in their support. They have shown their suffering to the world, they do not need the approval of anyone out of Syria. Even the hypocrisy does not faze them. They basically ignore what those people think, as it has no bearing on their lives. A just cause is a just cause, and the causes of Palestinian and Syrian people are just causes, and they do not get diminished by the neglect or double standards of activists. It is the luxury of activists like me, out here, safe and comfortable, to despise the hypocrisy and hope that this vile thing would change over time, as more and more people regain their reason and reject the empty rhetoric that for decades fooled a lot of us, and still does fool some. The Syrians have the conviction that victory will come to the righteous, that God will not allow them to lose, and that it is only a matter of time, but justice will come. This is why they are so much better than I will ever be, they do not waste energy on the useless emotions, they know the battle is where they live, fought on their soil, and they strive towards their goal.

pal ymPALESTINIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT
In general, the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, and particularly Yarmouk camp, formed as the capital of the diaspora, are among the largest groups of Palestinian refugees and have been the starting point for many resistance operations, fueling the Palestinian revolution in its various stages and sacrificing many lives for Palestine. The last demonstration of resistance to their just cause was shown with their bodies alone during the commemorations of al Nakba and al Naksa at the border of the occupied Golan heights between Syria and Palestine, with eagerness for their stolen land, carrying with them the keys of return to their homes from before the brutal Zionist occupation, which they were forced to flee. Undeterred by the threats of the enemy, fire was opened and the bullets brought down many young martyrs.

Under the tense and disastrous circumstances in Syria, the camps have shared a large portion of what is happening as a result and it has led to the displacement and dispersion of many Palestinian families as well as their fleeing to different places within Syria, to neighboring countries, and European countries, effectively repeating the tragedy of Nakba once again to the very details, and in even worse conditions than before in light of a worsening Arab climate preoccupied with their own internal affairs. Further, the PLO has ignored any responsibility it has toward our Palestinian people present in the camps, without even minor levels of communication with the stakeholders of this situation to even mildly alleviate this tragedy.

For months, the Palestinian people have suffered numerous partial sieges and blockades imposed to prevent the entrance of aid and relief, from food and medicine for the camps to preventing the wounded and injured from seeking medical treatment outside the camps, having lost medical supplied at hospitals within the camps. In these past days, a full siege has been imposed on Yarmouk camp, which positions potential for a human catastrophe and which is threatening the lives of our families and brothers and sisters trapped inside the camp.

We, in the Palestinian Youth Movement, reject and condemn the policy of collective punishment against our steadfast families, brothers and sisters in the camps and we call on all concerned international actors, and UNRWA in particular, to exercise its role and fulfill its duty of providing relief to the Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, we call upon the PLO in request for the declaration of a state of emergency and for the PLO to intensify its efforts and pressure to lift this blockade, for the claim of legitimacy and representation is not just a slogan to chant as they please, but rather it is a responsibility to its people.

As the 65th commemoration of the Nakba approaches, we recognize that the tragedy of al Nakba is carried on as part of our daily lives, and rests on the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in the camps in unparalleled ways. However, our brothers and sisters in the camps remain steadfast as always and will remain the foundation of the Palestinian experience, and the meaning and basis of representation is lost if it does not represent the nucleus of its people, especially in the worst and most difficult of conditions.

Until Return and Liberation

www.pal-youth.org
in Arabic
http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/1383031/6f86706c4a/ARCHIVE

Not looking and not seen doesn't mean that one also refrains from making judgment

Not looking and not seeing doesn’t mean that one also refrains from making judgment

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO AND MALAK CHABKOUN

But don’t you see that the whole trouble lies here? In words, words. Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.”

― Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters In Search of an Author

Humans can be very strange creatures. Strange because we seek “the latest news” but are in practice seeking nothing more than the emotional-intellectual comfort that comes with the confirmation of our beliefs. We all “know” things, the news just confirms to us that our convictions are actually “right” or even that they are “the truth”. We humans seem to be avid consumers of a sort of passion play where the characters represented fit their roles and repeat them endlessly. We are drawn to the sources we know are going to give us answers that fit our worldview, our way of thinking, and we generally aren’t questioning their content, much less their framing of it.

This desire to fulfil this need is particularly true when we are faced with events that we have little knowledge about – events that are so far from us physically and mentally that we run to our comfort zone to explain to us how we should feel about said events. The problem is compounded as we turn to these sources again and again, sources which tell us that they are keeping us informed, lulling us into the idea that we know and are aware, when in fact we do not know and we are not aware. This creates the problem of cognitive dissonance, which is the illusion of believing that we know something when in fact we do not have the knowledge or information to process events unfamiliar to us.

So, how do we think? We often tend to think categorically. It is the way that verbal communication is taught at a primary level, so it lasts a lifetime. We all know how much time and effort can be saved once you divide the world into convenient categories of good/bad, black/white, us/them, etc. Therefore, the news source or information that one seeks already fits neatly into this paradigm, and in addition, it is one that more often than not is culturally familiar. This is not to say that there is no truth to some binary thinking. Unadulterated extremes indeed do exist, and at times we are even aware of what they are because the parameters to judge them are clear, but to attribute a value judgment to something, one has to know its true nature. One has to go beneath the surface. Subjectivity can’t be avoided because of our human nature, but it would help if we knew more facts than we think we do!

msm

Because they lie. But does that mean the “alternative” media tells the truth? No.

When thinking out of the box is just thinking in a different box

Many people will not watch TV because they are diffident about what the corporate media is telling them. It’s in fact correct and reasonable to mistrust something that tells you to buy what you don’t need with money you haven’t got and makes you feel miserable for that feeling of consumerist desire that TV implants along with its programming. Some who don’t watch TV because they are convinced it is “the idiot box” that creates conformity around falsehood at any rate have to obtain their information from someplace, and quite a few of them reject the Mainstream Media (MSM) because they attribute to it the same faults as TV, ie, that it peddles lies and that they want to “think independently” and “think out of the box”. This is why they tend to avoid newspapers or Internet sites that are connected with any corporate ownership, and most of the time that leads them to “alternative” news. Alternative news has its own pundits, its own worldview and its own pecking order of news analysis that runs the gamut from political correctness to conspiracy theory (and everything else in between). But it can be just as equally full of lies, rumour, false ideology as the corporate media. Thinking out of the box in this case isn’t happening, it’s just that the box might not be made on a production line and it looks more creative. And, as far as the alternative media goes on Syria, their box has been pretty badly distorted most of the time.

In an effort to be the alternative source on Syria, many outlets have taken to making predictions and speculations out of context. These predictions and speculations based on current events in no way offer a comprehensive view of the situation, thus leaving us with definitions of the conflict ranging from “civil war” to “Jihad” or “holy war” in Syria. Furthermore, these alternative outlets often ignore the context in which the Syrian revolution is occurring – including both historical context and regional context.  Finally, the gravest error may be that many of them then turn to an extremist explanation on either end of the spectrum, some exaggerating to the point of lying to get the attention of the MSM.

Sites that we came to know and trust for their coverage of the invasion of Iraq have for the most part, and with the stellar exception of Uruknet, been repeating as if by rote the same rhetoric (then, we didn’t call it rhetoric, because it made perfect sense with the objective facts on the ground) they used for making the public reject any intervention in Iraq, but this time they are transferring it to Syria. Virtually ignoring the fact that the situation is entirely different in almost every essential way, they dust out the anti-war slogans. The only problem is, they are not so much anti-war as they against THIS war, more specifically, against any kind of opposition to Assad, and therefore, they are anti-revolution. Reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries: being labelled by those words should chill their spines, but the consumers of these sites instead insist upon remaining virginal in their “defiance” and they repeat blatant lies such as that of there being no revolution in Syria, just a Western-based plan for take-over of Syria.

Suspending belief/suspending the moral compass

They used to say that seeing is believing, that you should always suspend your belief until you had evidence, and the best kind was physical evidence, visual proof. In the case of the Syrian revolution, first “they” (the counter-revolutionaries who read the alternative media a-critically) said, “we need proof” (that there is unhappiness in Syria). So they saw protests. Dozens of protests just like in all the other countries in the region were having and largely for the same reasons. But this was not to be trusted.

Syria, in the collective imagination of the alternative media progressive had always been “a good guy” for the mere virtue that “the West” had it on a rogue list. Now, rogue lists are ridiculous at best, especially if those paying the price are not the leaders of those nations, and if the compiler of the list has invaded nations in a serial way, but paying the price are the people who face restrictions because they are citizens of those nations, so it is criminal at worst. But to turn Syria into an “anti-Imperialist paradise” also would require evidence to demonstrate such a claim… which has not been forthcoming. Yet… there was no believing the videos making their way out, they were just not taken into consideration, no matter that there were hundreds of thousands of them and they certainly could not continue to be labelled as creations of a film studio in Doha as many “anti-Imperialist pundits” were saying, taking the cue from the regime prompts.

But, the fact that there had been even less protests over the decades than places like Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon actually can serve to give an idea of how bad things really were in Syria before the revolution. There was a prohibition of providing evidence of the massacres, torture chambers, arbitrary detention and massive limitations on human rights. The truth and facts about life in Syria under Assad were kept well under wraps. That was because for a Syrian to even speak about all of this, inside Syria meant disappearance, torture or death and outside Syria meant the possibility of never returning home, even for a visit. It was one of those situations of “you wash the dirty laundry in the home” on a monumental scale. It is really not the fault of the consumers of alternative media if they believed the lies, all of us who rejected the “rogue state” way of thinking did that. But we weren’t entirely to blame, we didn’t have that much chance of knowing any differently. We’ve all signed petitions for the release of bloggers, but the actual EXTENT of the silencing of internal dissent was not fully understood. There was no way to understand it. The regime was so repressive that this information could NOT get out “unpunished”.

Then, things changed. It took the courageous actions of children to wake up what had been 40 years of slumber induced by severe repression and humiliation at the hands of the Assad family. People found their courage and voices and started to take to the streets in Syria, bloggers who alluded to things and kept their criticisms to complaints about the lack of liberation of occupied Golan, were taking pictures, filming events, showing visual evidence of what they had with great difficulty gotten out there “before”. Then, it wasn’t just bloggers anymore. Anyone who happened to have a cell phone was filming what was happening in every part of Syria, in a constantly growing way, and evidence of the oppression, the repression and the revolution were available free of charge and without any kind of filter, be it the MSM or the Alternative media.

But what happened? The videos were STILL not good enough, the evidence was still not convincing enough to override a fiery speech by Assad that said he was the last resistant figure to the threat of the West and Israel. And he found defenders in high places who would label him as the last great Arab leader, rhetoric not that different from the hagiography in Syrian media, as unearthed by Azmi Bishara which literally states:

“Love sprung out from Assad’s heart to water the earth of the deserving periphery of the country, reaching those who, one hopes, can still understand the language of love. He anointed his words with the tears of the bereaved orphans and widows, bowing before their sacrifices and paying homage to their selflessness. His love flowed into the mosques, where the devout were treated to a mix of the heart and the mind. …”

“Yet it was not love alone, but he his wrath erupted, burning away his enemies who do not understand the language of love … The President of Syria has made explicitly clear that the intention is no longer to chase terrorist groups from one area only for them to regroup in another. Rather, the aim now is to destroy these groups. Full stop.”

The Syrian version of The Dear Leader, one must presume.

A supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carrying his image, with words written on her face that reads in Arabic ''Bashar I love you'', takes part in a rally to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Baath Party, at al-Sabaa Bahrat square in Damascus April 7, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

A supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carrying his image, with words written on her face that reads in Arabic ”Bashar I love you”, takes part in a rally to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Baath Party, at al-Sabaa Bahrat square in Damascus April 7, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

Yet, the true problem is not only that they see and they refuse to believe, but they have come up with reasons for why Assad has to be “backed”.  They insist that the revolution is fake, (as if they know a real one!) and that it’s simply masses (millions!) who are blindly saying the slogans that their “prompters” in (take your pick) Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the NATO, the United States, (as if they are interchangeable and have the same agendas!) have prepared for them. They forget the adage that is a truism for activism regarding Palestine/Iraq/Afghanistan:  if one is armed with a just cause, there is no need to lie, or even to exaggerate. The facts of things alone, the evidence of misery, of oppression, of suffering and struggle are sufficient and require no justification, just a moral compass that is still working.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter

The problem that was pointed out at the beginning of this essay is that language and culture are the crux of understanding the problem and getting to the bottom of the truth, and then acting in a consistent and morally viable way. The average person reading this will have English as his or her first language, will live in a Western country and will be familiar with the rhetoric of the dominant culture. That means that the person reading this will already know that calling one a terrorist is condemning his cause and considering its perpetrator anathema. We are all fully aware that some political parties are systematically labelled and blacklisted by the USA and Israel as “terrorist organisations”, despite the fact that they have even been victorious in elections in Palestine that were deemed legitimate by the overseeing bodies of the UN. We have rejected those labels because our “moral compass” understood that they were created in a climate of oppression, were aimed at liberating occupied lands and they restrict their operations to military ones. We activists consider them as freedom fighters and there is no need to defend them or their purposes, though we are still entitled to critically appraise their actions as serving the ends of the cause or falling into political party dormancy.

Likewise, it is easy to refer to the party that uses a car bomb in a city as a terrorist, and even to accept the (later almost always debunked) Syrian regime’s claims that it is work of the opposition (when they are being nice they call them rebels, but most of the time they are translated in even the most liberal-radical news sources as “terrorists”, when they don’t call them “rats”.) Yet, it is the armed opposition, the Free Syrian Army and then the constellation of armed forces alone who are called terrorists when they are defending a liberated town, or what remains of it after the shelling and armoured tanks finally roll back out to fill themselves with more lethal shells. Why are the alternative left and anti-imperialists information sources not referring to air strikes over Aleppo and other towns and cities as terrorism? Why do they seem to ignore bodies of women, children and men of all ages with their throats slit and their hands tied when it is clear beyond all doubt that the perpetrators of these acts (crimes) are either the “regular” army or the armed thugs known as “Shabbiha”? Does the blood of these victims cry less vendetta because the hand holding the knife works for the “president”?

Misunderstanding of these words is one of the major errors of the pundits and the media.

Misunderstanding of these words is one of the major errors of the pundits and the media.

Otherness and Understanding

Resistance is not a new concept in the Middle East. The region has had its share of both external and internal leadership imposed on the masses. Syria is no exception. In 1920, the French colonised the country of Syria and remained there until 1946, when Syria regained its full independence. In the first battle for independence in 1925, Sunnis, Druze and Christians coordinated to oppose French rule and mistreatment of segments of the population. While the revolt was eventually put down, it is often remembered with fondness for the ideals it stood for, and it paved the way for the battle for full independence.

In between independence from France and the Assad family rule, there were several coups in Syria. In 1970, a new family came to power – the Assad family. This family was to spend over 40 years controlling the lives of Syrians – their social gatherings, their speech, their religiosity, their mode of dress and their economy. The old lessons of resistance from the days of French rule had been taken to the grave but were suddenly recalled by the Syrian people when the regime arrested and tortured school boys for writing, “The people want the fall of the regime,” on their school’s wall in March 2010. Syrians in the Dar’aa Province mobilised in peaceful protests, often calling for “freedom,” “isqat annithaam” (the fall of the regime), justice, and an end to corruption. Other provinces began to follow suit, mobilising in mass protests when regime forces responded to the peaceful uprising in Dar’aa with bullets, arrests and eventually shells.

Thousands of these demonstrations, all peaceful, are documented by hours and hours of video footage on YouTube. Two years after the uprising, the footage continues to uploaded by activists on a daily basis, with most demonstrations mobilising on Fridays. Of course, because most of the signs and chants are in English, this often makes non-Arabic speakers weary, particularly if they hear the demonstrators chant the words made famous by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army psychologist accused of killing 13 people in an attack on Fort Hood. These two words are Allahu Akbar – literally translated as “God is Most Great.” While Major Hasan is accused of shouting these words during the attack, many non-Arabic speakers do not realise that this phrase is actually very multi-dimensional and, more importantly, a phrase that has been in existence for thousands of years before Major Hasan came into the picture.

In the Syrian demonstrations, when Allahu Akbar is chanted, it can range from signifying that the protestors feel that God is the Most Almighty to serving as a prayer for help from God. The phrase is often very contextual – for example, in the videos where the Assad regime has perpetrated some sort of attack on civilians, the phrase signifies a plea to God – that God is greater than all of the evil happening in Syria. In demonstrations supporting freedom and justice, the phrase will often signify triumph and a vow to persevere, with God’s power, in the struggle for freedom. Yet many, from seasoned journalists to “instant book pundits” have defined this phrase as the battle cry of the “religious war” and thus have painted the entire revolution with the same brush, lacking even the most basic understanding of what is going on or what protestors mean when they use the phrase. Furthermore, they ignore the rest of the innovative words being written, created and chanted by the Syrian people and focus on this one phrase, yet another example of refusing to come to an understanding based on facts and knowledge rather than personal comfort and preconceptions.

Understanding the culture and language of “the other” is always a prerequisite for legibility of their message, in any media/medium. But if you don’t know the language, roll with the emotion and understand where the players are coming from. We are so embedded in our own cultures, that we fail to realise that we are unable to decipher what we think is obvious. An example comes to mind of a classic film. Fellini’s “8 ½” is about a filmmaker going through a terrible creativity block. He moves from scene to scene attempting to overcome it. Fellini is a poet, Marcello Mastroianni is an artist, both of them able to break through the language barrier and communicate this situation and the sentiments involved. In fact, this film is loved by many people who don’t know any Italian. However, it is a product of its culture and language and only an Italian speaker would truly understand the final, moving and amusing scene, where everyone in the film magically appears and partly under direction and partly spontaneously, simply start to go in a massive “ring around the Rosie”, eventually involving the director who up to that moment couldn’t figure out how to get back to his work. It is five or so minutes of circus music and movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHCIg4sQWIE

To an Italian, what everyone is doing is encouraging him to “girare” (go around in a circle), which is the Italian word for “filming”. The metaphor and its poetry and beauty doesn’t need to be explained to an Italian, but it would escape others, who see the beauty but don’t quite understand it because it is outside of their cultural reference. So, what is this example saying? That we can’t know all the cultural cues that come to us by the messages (verbal, visual and so on) during the Syrian revolution unless we are Syrians or have a deep and correct exposure to them, far removed from our OWN filters. We have to be careful, if we can’t be knowledgeable, and in all cases, we have to be SENSITIVE. We can see and on a human level sympathise with the human suffering in Syria right now. Ignoring it or replacing it with the wrong frame or with our own frame is never going to be of service of truth and justice, and isn’t that what we are into activism for in the first place?

089

WRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo
Hundreds of Syrians and supporters of the Syrian cause took to the streets of Rome on 13 April to say “We’ve had enough of the massacre perpetrated by the Assad regime in front of the indifference of the world”. They came in coaches, trains and cars; the young and the old, women, children, entire families who live in various cities of Italy, who in Syria have families and loved ones living in the cities under siege.

Answering the appeal of the organisers were coaches full of people from Verona to Naples: it was a presence that was important for the reasons of the march more so than for the numbers of people. The vision for those in Piazza dell’Esquilino where the march started, was an impressive one: a Syrian flag measuring 60 metres opened the march, followed by an orderly and proud stream of people who, despite the fatigue and stress of over two years of protests and activism to fight the repression their loved ones are subject to, has never betrayed its pacific nature or its ideals.

The threats and the intimidating acts coming from the supporters of the Syrian dictator in Italy that had preceded this march did not dissuade anyone. The cherrybomb that they exploded in a parallel street to the square where the marchers gathered served no purpose. It was just a loud bang that had caused the law enforcement officers to intervene immediately, but it did not shake those present, in deep empathy with their people who every day must deal with showers of real bombs.

Nor did the presence of the militants of the extreme right movement of Casa Pound, above street level and armed with stones and regime flags serve any purpose. In fact, they folded up their flags and broke up their own gathering when the officers neared them for identification. In their presence, the protesters chanted an impassioned “Assassins, assassins, keep your hands off of our children”. The march wound its way through the central streets of the capital, where hundreds of tourists and Romans applauded and were united to show their human solidarity.

Breaking the wall of silence that engulfs Syria, indeed, is one of the priorities of activism outside Syria, and the reason for which this latest protest by the Syrian community in Italy had been called. Among the participating associations were: CNS Italia, Onsur, Ossmei, Associazione 3 febbraio, Assopace SessaAurunca and others.

http://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/i-siriani-ditalia-in-piazza-per-dire-stop-al-massacro-del-loro-popolo/

asm 1asm 3asm 4
asm 2

Recently, a new site has started which is a platform for video debates on various controversial issues. The owner of the site finds persons on Facebook who are active in discussing the matter, and sets up an hour-long debate which then will be uploaded to You Tube so that others can watch it after it is over. One of the topics is Syria. Originally, the title of the room where those debates take place was “Civil War In Syria” and the photo that accompanies it is of Assad and some of his high-ranking officers. Today, the photo still is there, but the title reads “Revolution in Syria”. I suppose this must be a compromise for each of the factions.

I had been invited to debate by the owner of the site, and participated in my first discussion. Then I was invited to participate in another one, but during it, after 45 minutes, the opponent declared he was having some internet problems, was not satisfied with the audio and he did not want what we recorded uploaded but wanted a new debate the next week. We both agreed and it was rescheduled.

We had the debate, which you can watch here, to make all the judgments for yourselves on how it unfolded.

A few days later, Ghassan continued the private message between the site owner and me, addressing me alone and asking for a “re-match”. I wrote that I do not schedule the debates, so he would have to talk to the owner about it. A LONG discussion ensued, and within this conversation, you will see EXACTLY how the Pro-Assad faction twists facts even when it is in front of their eyes, all in a day’s work!

However, I could have kept all of their twisting to myself, sparing them the embarassment, but I was encouraged to disclose by this Facebook post and discussion (CLICK on the picture to enlarge it):

intibah 1

intibah 2

Therefore, for your entertainment and information, see for yourselves the mechanisms of the Pro Assad side, how facts and truth, even with evidence in front of their eyes, get distorted and twisted.

  • Conversation started 17 February
  • Ghassan Kadi

    Hi Guys. Can we reschedule this for same time next week?

  • 21 February
  • Max Ringelheim

    Hey Ghassan and Mary are we still all good for a Vonvo discussion this Sunday at 4PM EST which is 10PM for you Mary and 9PM for you Ghassan….??

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    that would be 11 PM for Lebanon, no?

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    or 9 in Rome and 10 in Lebanon, correct?

  • Max Ringelheim

    4PM EST is 10PM in Rome and Idk if Ghassan is speaking from Lebanon not entirely sure….for you the time is 10pm Sunday night

  • Max Ringelheim

    great so lets see if Ghassan can confirm also and we will be all set….

  • Ghassan Kadi

    Hi all. As I keep saying Max, this time slot suits me just fine. Sunday 4PM EST (US). Will there be other speakers othr than Mary and me?

  • Max Ringelheim

    possibly working on that now.

  • 22 February
  • Max Ringelheim

    Reem Alhariri Connor will be participating in the discussion as well

  • 22 February
  • 25 February
  • Ghassan Kadi

    Max what I would really like is to have a one on one with Mary. After all, Reem had little to say apart from deviating the discussion further.

    Mary, you raised many groundless points and unsubstantiated matters into the discussion, needeless to say that when you realized that you were losing the debate, you have committed a number of grave errors, which again reveal your total lack of knowledge of the history of the area. One good example was your mention to Tal Al-Zaatar massacre, blaming it on Assad, though it happened 3 months before Syrian forces entered Lebanon. If you want to know the truth behind those issues, let’s debate them one on one.

    I may not be available next Sunday, but I should be fine for the one after.

  • 25 February
  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    odd, i Never for one second thought I was losing the debate!

  • 25 February
  • Ghassan Kadi

    I am not here to attack your ego Mary and/or give it the tap on the shoulder. The question is that though you have little to say, the setting of the first failed discussion we had and the time allocations we had in the 2nd discussion, you accused me of not answering your questions. I want to answer your questions, though I normally do not get into details. This is your call Max.

  • 26 February
  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    Ghassan, i don’t think you GET IT! it is not about you or me, no matter how many times you wish to deflect the discourse into a “personal direction”, without EVER revealing where you actually come from, what you do, who you are. For god’s sake, you do not show your face or give your real name, and yet you spend time to provide your assessments of your opponents as if from atop some pulpit!

    it is about you going continually off the topic and rather than debate the current issues that might actually interest people, you want to provide your version of a history lesson with the “Defiant Narrative”. It is clear that this is the sole argument that you have, and in all sincerity, it has been adequately responded to by Reem and myself.

  • Ghassan Kadi

    Mary, on one hand you accuse me of taking a “personal direction” and then you put my identity/location etc… as important issues. I wonder if you see the contradiction.

    The reason I “hide” myself is to avert danger. I have just received the news that a cousin of mine got killed in the Homs region for similar reasons, and I do not intend to take this path, at least not deliberately.

    As I said to you in the interview Mary, I know that you are well-intentioned, by very highly misled, and your work is causing harm to my country and I am prepared to do all that is in my power to change the minds of people like yourself because it is the combined efforts of the pro rebelion who want to bring in NATO no flight zone (and we know what this meant in Lybia). We just want the world to get its hands off Syria, and you would be doing the same if the whole world was conspiring to drag Italy into oblivion.

    If you are prepared to take the “challenge”, then you are welcome, and if you don’t, it would be entirely your decision to be seen as running and hiding. This is not about inflaming your ego and persuading you into a debate, but I just feel that somehow we perhaps “need” to end this debate, albeit in agreeing to disagree, and not by leaving certain issues un-discussed.

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    you have some issues, dear Ghassan, and one of them is your insistence on interpreting the intentions/sentiments of your adversaries simply by projecting your own ideas. When someone “loses” a debate or any sort of challenge, they traditionally are in the position of asking for a rematch. This is clear around the entire world, and while you are convinced that I was fretting because of losing, despite my expressing to you that I did not feel for one moment that either Reem or I were “losing”, quite the opposite in fact! You lost your temper and demanded double time, went emotionally over the edge when “interrupted”, yet insisted that you yourself could continue to interrupt. I do not consider you a debate partner that respects those you are in the conversation with, and find that you have a tendency to gatekeep that inhibits free discourse, which is why I am obligated to point it out to you and to anyone listening.

  • Ghassan Kadi

    I am not asking for a re-match. I am challenging you to finish what we have started. There is a great difference. If you are so confident that you have won the debate, should be looking forward to “smash” me some more, so what are you so worried about ?

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    i am worried about nothing. You seem to fancy yourself as some sort of guru, this I find frankly kind of comical, and the way you dismissed the ONLY syrian on the discussion is evidence enough that you do not LISTEN, but you simply pummel your own narrative. You have asked for a rematch, and I don’t see any ground rules to make certain you keep civil and do not break out shouting or to keep the argument on the topic rather than veering off into tangents.

  • Ghassan Kadi

    Your psychoanalysis of me Mary does not intimidate me. You are simply worried to continue and you are too scared to go one on one. Plain and simple. And BTW, I am Syrian too. As Lebanese, I am a Syrian whether colonialists define me this way or not.

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    I am not psychoanalysing you, nor am I intimidating you. You seem to have great difficulty reading or listening to what others write or state without projecting something on top of that, as well as “describing” their mental state or their emotions. This is something that you could work on if you wish to continue to debate others as an equal!

  • Ghassan Kadi

    Mary please let us cut this out. It is psychoanalysis of some sorts. Let us not split hairs please. The bottom line is what matters. Do you want to finish this discussion on one-on-one basis? Yes or no.

  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    Given that you have dragged Max into this, NOT without reason – on the contrary, in an effort to exert some pressure on me and given that Max has said no word at all (rightfully, he is just the “organiser/moderator”), throwing the ball in my court isn’t working, as I’m not a kid and I don’t see things as personal challenges, where I have to be proven the ‘winner’ of anything. Whether we agree on what is happening in Syria or not, the fact that remains and we both agree on is that people are being killed (regardless whose side they’re on) and when the factor ‘human life’ enters, I don’t play games by accepting or declining challenges. My points of view are clear, whoever likes them, fine, whoever doesn’t like them, that’s again fine.
    I feel confident about myself and I feel confident that I’m on the right side of history and I’d be more than happy to express my views, whenever I’m invited to do so, either on a public forum like vonvo or in other venues.
    If the organisers/moderators of Vonvo wish to arrange for a discussion about Syria and if THEY want to invite me, I’d be more than glad to participate. My participation is NOT subject to who the other participants are, but rather the topic. I have been invited by Vonvo twice and accepted the invitation, however it is not me who has asked for these debates to take place. It was the other way around. Vonvo decides, they organise them, they are the ones who reached me and I accepted.
    Therefore, kindly refrain yourself from writing around on FB that you are challenging me for another debate and I’m playing “tough” because you know very well that this is not the case and remember my Dear Ghassan, that I never speak without proof and I remind you of the famous quote “verba volant, scripta manent”.
    For the last time, please stop sending me PMs asking me for another debate. It is not up to me. I have proven that I have no problem whatsoever to participate with anyone in discussions, therefore my actions speak louder than words. If Vonvo decides to have another debate and if they want me to be one of the speakers, I’m more than happy to hear from THEM and if I’m available on the scheduled date/time, then I’ll accept their invitation.
    I however will expose attempts at gatekeeping, will be less tolerant of rudeness and sudden attempts to modify the rules by any of the participants, and any “opponent” should bear in mind that rules do not get created during an encounter, such as double time allotments and the permission of one party to interrupt but the other parties must wait five minutes and at times more, when the discussion has taken different tangents.

  • Ghassan Kadi

    Mary, from previous experienced with you it was always you who used the offensive language against me on FB and not the othe way around. And whe we had a discussion on FB, you decided to end it, not me

    Yes, it is up to Vonvo York agree to organize the meeting, but it is up to you to accept it decline. And if you remember correctly, this whole debate was my idea in the first place any way

    And speaking of changing rules Mary, take this up with Max because he agrees that when 2 are against 1, then the 1 should have enough time and opportunity to respond to both

    It is clear that you are avoiding a one on one debate. I don’t blame you.

  • 26 February
  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    Ghassan, it’s not necessary to continue to persevere with analysis of my motivations and mental state, as you are entirely off the track, and no matter what I would say, you would persist in your own expression of patently erroneous statements!
    Ghassan, I have debated persons for YEARS and chaired panels where there were actually adversaries who were much more “threatening” than you are. I have also debated in other venues and even on vonvo before, so I don’t understand why you insist you are extending some kind of rematch to me, who you erroneously persist in considering as “me avoiding you”. You are not the issue. I debate about Syria, you are totally irrelevant to any participation of mine in a debate about Syria, though you seem to be keen on it with great persistence. Should I feel “honoured”?
    I also do not realise that you are the one who is creating the schedule / programming for vonvo. I had been invited by Max weeks ago, and when he had asked me if i wanted to debate Syria, I accepted. You asked me if i wanted to debate you, and i said, if memory serves, why not. I have no particular issue with you, I “ended” interaction with you when i felt spammed and when you began to attack me, which is something everyone does when they no longer seek interaction with someone on FB, they unfriend them! As I also remember, a close friend of yours was insulting me for “being a Jew”, and your wife spammed my inbox unsolicited. If anything, i have been tolerating your attitude – which clearly showed your limits not only in discourse, but in tolerating that anyone has the opportunity to speak, including the insertion of ad hominem speech, interrupting both Reem and me repeatedly but screaming and telling us to shut up when we asked for you to repeat something or when we in real time said something was untrue when you were stating something entirely invented. As for changing the rules during the debate, I think this demand you made during the debate to have double time to either of your adversaries reveals your own weaknesses while alotting you a privileged position in the debate. Insistence upon obtaining the last word, double intervention, avoidance of the points raised by your adversaries, refusal to take a question from the moderator and derailing of the discourse into tangents that also included discussion of the parties involved does not quite strike me as civil conduct!

    I imagine that in all future debates, Max will have to consider that rules do not get amended while a debate is in course, and since it was clear that there was the panel composition, this should not have happened during the debate. Your being satisfied with your privilege and demanding it be respected outside of the original “pact” resulted in you raising your voice in continuation and demanding others to be cut short.

    So, I honestly do not get your point in responding when it is made clear that your request for a rematch does not depend upon you or me. There are many persons who I am certain are anxious to debate about the topic, and unless the ground rules are fair and you are kept to maintain civil composure, you must have the humility at least to recognise that it is not your decision or my decision to make, so you can even keep your attitude problems under cover and at least appear a bit more of a gentleman!

  • 26 February
  • Ghassan Kadi

    You are simply, though vet elaborately, trying to avoid finishing the discussion because you well know that if you did, your lack of knoewledge will be exposed and you will lose your popularity among your followers who were littering the chat room with silly comments and personal attacks. That’s fine Mary. I won’t twist your arms. You have distanced many friends recently simply because you have no arguments to make. I just would wish that you would stop meddling into my country. You are causing harm and you are not at all helping anything or any one except the friends of Israel. Speaking of whom, you did not respond to my comments regarding FSA fighters getting treated in Israeli hospitals. These are the questions you are trying to avoid confronting. But this is fine Mary. I will not defame you in FB as you. You have already made some recent complaints to FB. I do have the right however to say that you are refusing to finish the debate.

  • Max Ringelheim

    Guys I will try reading through this fully and respond to this a little later. Been a busy busy day today.

  • Ghassan Kadi

    While you are at it Max, please make it clear who has broken the debate protocol and who interrupted who. I interrupted Mary once only and said “I need to interrupt”. She interrupted me on a number of counts. Further, her supporters mobbed the chat room. I believe that the same rules of civil conduct that apply to the debate room should apply to the chat room.

    Mary has accused me (above) of the exact things that she and her groupies have done, but bullies often play victims. There is nothing new in this tactic.

    Honestly, this needs to be tidied up. I know that Vonvo is not CNN, but there are certain basic rules that need to be implemented. Least of which is that the number of people in the debate room should be raised to 5 so you can have yourselv plus 2 from each side.

  • 27 February
  • Mary Hassan Ali Rizzo

    At Ghassan:
    It seems that either your English isn’t good enough or you have reading comprehesion problems, because I can’t explain otherwise what it is that you don’t understand when I say “don’t contact me with regards to another vonvo debate, it’s not up to me, it’s up to them”.

    Anyhow, it looks like you just want to have the last word, regardless if what you say is true or not. So, listen to me and this time try to understand what I’m saying because enough is enough.

    You can claim as much as you like that I’m avoiding/declining/rejecting your proposal/suggestion/challenge for another debate. If you wish, you can also claim that the earth is square and not round. You can also claim that Elvis is still alive. Whatever it is you claim, I advise you to not forget that the evidence proving the contrary is here and I will put it out if you decide to continue acting like a 5 year old in kindergarten. So, here’s the deal. I’ll repeat it for the last time – take it or leave it. It’s up to you.

    As I have made it crystal in this PM that I have no problem whatsoever to engage in another vonvo debate with you (or anyone else for that matter), try your best to understand and realise that I’m not the person in charge for organising these debates. Max is. So, quit barking up the wrong tree. If you don’t know the meaning of that idiom, you can also take it literally!

    With regards to your allegation that I’m going around on FB defaming you or whatever, I refer you to last night’s thread that your wife started in your group, in which she claims that I have reported her on FB about some comment in some thread, which I have no idea whatsoever about. However, what I’m certain though is that this thread contains enough comments that are pure lies, let alone the various derogatory and insulting terms used, like for example the Spanish ‘puta’, i.e whore.

    Who is libeling whom on FB is clear. It’s obvious that you have turned this to a personal issue and that Syria is the last thing you actually want to discuss. Moreover, you have dragged Max & Vonvo into a vendetta (note: a vendetta that takes place only in your mind and imagination) by asking him the most absurd stuff and requesting him to act as a mediator, as if this is his job. And when he declined to do so, simply because he’s only the Vonvo moderator and not your Mother or Father where you can go to and complain that some child stole your chocolate bar, asking him to do things that are none of his business, like taking actions against anyone who writes anything on FB. That is not his business, nor his job and for all I know, he couldn’t care less if a bunch of people on FB wish to engage in petty cat-fights. The guy only wants (and rightfully so) to acquire more speakers & listeners for a project he started, namely Vonvo. It’s not his job to take sides or tell people what to write and what not on FB and when he made that clear to you guys last night, your first reaction was to immediately dismiss Vonvo, start calling for people to leave Vonvo and start accusing them of a bunch of things. Thumbs up! Score!
    For the love of God people, grow up!

    Listen Ghasan, and if you don’t understand what I’m going to say then reread it as many times as you need until you get it. I don’t care how Max will deal with your actions and your group’s posts & comments on FB dissing Vonvo. That is his job to do and he will deal with it accordingly if he wishes and if he thinks it’s necessary, in an effort to protect Vonvo from libel.

    But when it comes to me, rest assured that the next time you will write to me with false allegations and lies or you, together with your friends, write again anywhere that I’m declining your proposal or call me a whore again, I will put out in the public this PM, as well as any other threads which clearly prove that what you claim is false. End of story.

    At Max:
    I’m sorry that you have been involved in this silliness but unfortunately this is the ugly side of activism. I trust your judgement and I trust that you will deal accordingly with whatever defamatory comments have been put and will be put up on FB in the future about Vonvo, simply because you chose not to be part of an argument that doesn’t involve you. As I said yesterday Max, if you wish to organise another debate on Vonvo and invite me as a speaker and given that I’m available, please feel free to contact me. You know where to find me. I apologise for you being put in the middle but I can’t control other people’s actions nor can I prevent anyone from copying you in PMs that don’t concern you. It’s clear though, that you being included in such an exchange of messages was not my decision nor was it ever my wish, as I can realise that you are just a moderator of a public forum. I’ve been trying for 2 days now to make Ghassan understand that, it seems that he’s not capable of understanding it though. I hope that you will soon be left out of the drama that some people instigate and that you won’t have to deal with a defamatory campaign against Vonvo.

  • 27 February
  • Max Ringelheim

    Hey guys so I hear both of your points and respect each of you. I also thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the time that you have devoted to the Vonvo website.

    Ultimately I think you both believe in Vonvo and its mission of fostering discussion and debates around crucial trending current events. Our platform is unfortunately not perfect but enhancements to our Version 2 Vonvo website should be coming in the following weeks.

    In the end when you break this down, very simply in my eyes this just seems like a matter where two people having differing opinions and are struggling to find common ground and agreement. This is MORE than fine! Vonvo cant guarantee people will agree with one another but the point is providing a platform where one can be heard. I have practically no control over what people can do off of the Vonvo website which I think you would both find understandable.

    How would you suggest we resolve this issue? Would you like to have another debate? Would you rather not speak to one another again? Totally up to you

  • 27 February
  • Ghassan Kadi

    Max. Mary follows the strategies and tactis of Israel. Attack, lie, frame others, and then play victim. Her very rude remarks above are very obvious and she is trying to make herself look nice towards you just for the sake of trying to me make me look bad. I do not wish to debate her any more. I would rather debate someone else who is decent and has something of substance to say.

  • Max Ringelheim

    no problem Ghassan thank u for your suggestion and that is more than fine. ALL GOOD. Have a good weekend and just to confirm u said u are not available correct?

    this weekend that is??

  • Tuesday
  • Ghassan Kadi

    Yes. This weekend shoud be fine.

Seen by everyone

WHEN YOU AREWRITTEN BY RUTH RIEGLER

What is it that the world doesn’t ‘get’ with Syria that leads to the continuing reluctance to unequivocally condemn and speak out against Bashar Al Assad’s regime among so many otherwise intelligent people?

The Assad regime is using warplanes, helicopter warships, tanks, Scud missiles, cluster bombs, phosphorous bombs, TNT-filled barrel bombs, rocket launchers and assorted other weapons against civilians. Over 70,000 Syrian people have been officially documented killed to date, more than 5,000 of those are children. The real death toll may be twice that and it is rising by the day. Hundreds of thousands are imprisoned, ”missing,” maimed, crippled, over four million in the country need urgent humanitarian aid, over 2.6 million are displaced, over 700,000 are refugees…the horror statistics go on and on…and the world collectively shrugs, sighs and turns away.

I realise that people have the right to say this isn’t happening. They also have the right to say that the sun doesn’t rise in the east, although repeating the latter patent falsehood at least doesn’t make them tacitly complicit in genocide, as repeating the former one does.

Of course, people have the right to believe what the Assad regime and its supporters tells them – that it is a heroic and embattled state fighting heinous and possibly fanged radical Islamists and jihadists intent on its destruction, who are part of a foreign plot by the CIA to overthrow The Only True Anti-Imperialist State In The Region.

People also have the right to believe what Israel and its supporters tell them – that it is a heroic and embattled state fighting heinous and possibly fanged radical Islamists and jihadists intent on its destruction, who are part of a foreign plot by Iran to overthrow The Only True Democracy In The Region.

Both arguments, for the Assad regime and for the zionist state, have exactly the same amount of legitimacy and merit and stand up equally well to even the briefest scrutiny or analysis, which is to say none and not at all.

People have the right to say that they wish to remain neutral on Syria. In the end, however, as Desmond Tutu wisely noted, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ ”Neutrality” – or simply indifference – from the outside world is what all abusive spouses, all dictators, all totalitarian regimes, all brutal and oppressive states rely on in order to continue with their brutality and oppression. Neutrality in such monstrously unjust situations is not an admirable and objective stance, but a tacit nod and wink to evil.

People have the right to suggest that maybe dictators are better for some – if they themselves are prepared to give up their own freedoms and live under dictatorship since of course they wouldn’t be hypocritical enough to wish for others what they don’t wish for themselves (perish the thought…).

People also have the right to say that Western democracy is a sham, and I would agree wholeheartedly that it could certainly be massively improved. But oddly I don’t notice the Western totalitarianism groupies actually rushing to renounce their citizenship of horrid sham democracies in favour of emigration to glorious people’s republics, or indeed campaigning for fewer rights in order to feel less oppressed by the horrors of democracy.

People have the right to say that Western leaders and governments are monstrously hypocritical, amoral and indifferent to human life, paying only lip service to the ideals of freedom and human rights while actually opposing them whenever expedient for their interests. And I would agree wholeheartedly without reservations. I’d also suggest that this is one more reason why we should not exhibit the same monstrous hypocrisy, amorality and indifference to human life – because if we pick and choose which people’s freedom and human rights to support or oppose we are no different, no less hypocritical, amoral and indifferent to human life, and certainly no better than those governments we condemn.

In the end, people have the right to say, do (or not do) and believe whatever they want, about Syria or any other issue. But that right comes with the attendant acceptance of responsibility for the results of their words, action or inaction and beliefs. The results of neutrality of indifference towards Assad’s war on Syria are tacit support for and complicity with it. The neutral and indifferent people around the world are not flying Assad’s warplanes, dropping the cluster bombs and phosphorous bombs, carrying out the rapes, torture, massacres, but their silence gives their consent for the regime to continue doing so, tipping Assad a silent nod and wink to ‘Carry On Killing.’