Archive for December, 2011

Written by Valentina Baruda, translated by Mary Rizzo

You who talk about Syria without knowing anything about it.

You who talk in defence of the regime, saying that those who are revolting are Islamic Fundamentalists, manoeuvred by who knows which Western puppeteer.

You talk and talk, but never take into consideration – I don’t mean the farmers that have been slaughtered, or even the shepherds or the nomads who live in that land, but you ignore all the illuminated minds, all the revolutionaries, all the university professors (of a certain side), all the cartoonists, all the singers, all the actors and actresses, all the writers that are abducted, plummeted with beatings, tortured, assassinated. You don’t take any of that into consideration: it’s all fictitious.

Even the tortured flesh and blood of those who one recognises is “Zionist fakery”, for those of you who are creating a role for yourselves as experts of the Middle East.

If you are such experts on that country then you certainly know Paolo Dall’Oglio well. You will know his story, his strength, the place that he had renewed, certainly you know him!

You will have milked some goats in the highlands, you would have made incense with your own hands, or listened to your first mass in Arabic inside a tent. Before your eyes would be the brimming youthfulness and rebellion of that priest, like no other in the world.

A priest so unique and rare so well-loved in that land full of different religions, so in love with Islam and with his Christ… who now has become the enemy that the regime so dearly needs to defend itself from!

He will be expelled, after thirty years of building an extraordinary community: Paolo Dall’Oglio is a priest, yet, so very far from any conception of religious division. In that monastery one will be able to witness Mohammed arm in arm with Christ: in that monastery, thanks to this extraordinary man, you could see with your own eyes the TRUE Middle East, what real Islam is, what is the true way to live on a land, to love it to respect it and to rebuild it with other concepts of freedom.

Now dear Father Paolo has been issued a mandate for expulsion and in his defence we see all the revolutionary components who have been moving within the Syrian territory in these months, almost all of them Islamic.

This has to make us understand something, even to those bigots who fill their mouths with utterances only about anti-imperialism that has a sound to it that is sterile and reactionary in the face of reality, that those who are dying in the dusty streets of my Syria do not have to be classified so recklessly as being Salafis or Muslim Fundamentalists, and those who are being banished are certainly not those who want to bring about religious strife and division and a civil war: but those arguments are merely the regime’s instruments to keep mouths flapping…

Everyone with a conscience is writing, shouting and demonstrating in the defence of Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit by pure chance, a revolutionary by birth.




Razan Ghazzawi (photo by Gillian York)

Following the arrest of Syrian-American blogger Razan Ghazzawi on December 4 by Syrian authorities, Razan subsequently faces various anti-state charges that carry up to 15 years of imprisonment. Today, a group of Palestinian bloggers and activists issued the following statement of support, which appeared on a range of internet outlets and blogs and follows weeks of campaigns for her release. The statement read:

We, a group of Palestinian bloggers and activists raise our voices loud and clear in solidarity with all the prisoners of the Great Syrian Revolution. We stand with all the prisoners, activists, artists, bloggers and others, all who are shouting in the streets or on various platforms demanding freedom and justice, while decrying the huge amount of injustice and oppression practiced by the Syrian regime for more than four decades.

We issue this statement in solidarity with all those Syrian activists, and with the blogger Razan Ghazzawi who was arrested on December 4th, on the Jordanian-Syrian crossing border. Razan was adamant in her support for the Palestinian cause. She was the first to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian bloggers who were not granted a visa to enter Tunisia in order to participate in the Arab Bloggers Conference. Razan posted a blog in 2008 during the massacre on Gaza titled, “The Idea of Solidarity with Gaza.” She wrote, “I understand when Cubans, Brazilians, and Pakistanies stand in solidarity with Gaza. But what I do not understand is when Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, and also Palestinians in exile stand in solidarity. What is the meaning of solidarity in this context?”

Not only do we stand in solidarity with Razan and the other prisoners, but we also affirm that our destiny is one, our concerns are one, and our struggle is one. Palestine can never be free while the Arab people live under repressive and reactionary regimes. The road to a free Palestine comes with a free Syria, in which Syrians live in dignity.

Freedom to all of the prisoners in the Syrian regime’s cells. Long live the Syrian Revolution, free from dictatorship, sectarianism, and foreign intervention.

If you wish to help #FreeRazan, repost this on your own blog and spread the call.


Abir Kopty

Abrar Agil

Ahmed Fahoum

Ahmed Nimer

Alaa Abu Diab

Ali Abunimah

Ali AlMasri

Ali Bari

Amal Murtaja

Amani Ighbaria

Amra Amra

Anas Hamra

Asmaa AlGhoul

Bashar Lubbad

Budour Hasan

Dalia Ghorab

Dalia Othman

Deema AlSaafin

Diana Al-Zeer

Doa Ali

Fidaa Abu Assi

Hala AlSafadi

Hamza Elbuhaisi

Hanaa Mahameed

Huwaida Arraf

Ebaa Rezeq

Irene Nasser

Jalal AbuKhater

Khaled AlShihabi

Linah AlSaafin

Maath Musleh

Maha Rezeq

Majd Kayyal

Mariam Al-Barghouti

Meera AlBaba

Mira Nabulsi

Nader Al-Khuzundar

Nadine Darwish

Nalan Al Sarraj

Nihal ElAlami

Nisreen Mazzawi

Ola Anan

Osama Ghorab

Osama Shomar

Rasha Hilwi

Rowan Abu-Shahla

Saed Karzoun

Saleh Dawabsheh

Thameena Husary

Yusra Jamous

by Shepard Fairey

by Aya Homsi (translated by Mary Rizzo) graphics by Shepard Fairey, quote by Frederick Douglass

* Reassure yourself that your country is not country X (X is the country that had undergone revolution right before yours). Throw the blame on Al Jazeera, then close its offices in your country.

* Say that you “support the young protesters” (as long as your security forces are ready to beat those same youth to death).

* Denounce the Islamists. Start at the lowest levels (the Muslim Brotherhood) prior to climbing straight towards the biggest nightmare of all, Al Qaeda.

* (At the start) Act as if nothing is happening. Then you will become aware of the severity of the situation once it is too late, addressing the nation at around midnight. * Warn people about the menace of Communism, Sectarianism, Tribalism and the other “isms” that frighten them to death.

* Make an explosion in a Church and then accuse the Islamists. Say that your permanence in power is synonym of stability and protection of the minorities. * Make some changes in government then… make some more.

* Burn the police stations and then accuse the protesters.

* Insist upon the fact that everything is going just fine.

* Once the situation has degenerated totally, cut off all the telephone lines and block access to the social networks. When things get REALLY bad, just block Internet.

* Make statements that the protesters represent merely an infinitesimal percentage of the population. The majority supports you. Cite the results of the last “elections”.

* Say that “change is necessary” and promise a lot of fun things if the youth accept to stay at home.

* Order the Ministry of the Interior to kill protesters, but then fire them for “excessive use of force”.

* Say that the youth have been pushed to protest under the influence of X (X can be KFC, Nescafè or other hallucinogens).

* Organise huge assemblies in favour of your regime. But instead of providing banners and flags to those present, offer them 50 dollars each and some AK47s (Kalashnikovs).

* Accept to be interviewed by a very famous journalist. (Christiane) Amanpour will do it. * Prohibit funerals.

* If people in the West criticise you, denounce their interference in your affairs and affirm that “they understand nothing of the culture of this country”. “In our culture, I am the leader and the people obey.”

* Evoke the spectre of the economic situation. Youth are about to destroy the country. But especially mention the state of the economy of your nation before (prior to the start of the revolts).

* If the evidence of billions in your accounts, declare that you are only saving so that you can make a big gift to the people.

* Book a suite in Jeddah (where Ben Ali took refuge), in case of…

Shady Hamadi

“Just like a poet, I will try to escape, to make a breakout from prison, to make the road on which I take flight become your road and to take you with me to safety” (Voices from the Spirit – S.H.). Shady Hamadi was born on 23 May 1988 in Milan, of a Syrian father and Italian mother. A very young writer, he is the son of a political dissident who had been tortured and sent into exile.

by Angela Zurzolo, translated by Mary Rizzo

“For a certain period we even tried to go back to Syria. Then, in 1997 we received amnesty from President Assad. Despite that, my father was always stopped at the airport and he was only able to enter Syria twice in his 35 – almost 40 – years of exile.”

Shady Hamadi instead has seen Syria three times, in 2001, in 2006 and then in 2009, “the first time that I can say I had really been there.”

He recounts: “Syria enchants you, it is for this reason that many Italians who have been there are unable to accept and to understand that behind the ‘beautiful’ Damascus, there is a population who for 40 years has been downtrodden and oppressed. If one said anything at all against the President, he would be intercepted by the omnipresent Syrian Secret Services and then they would drag him away in the dead of the night.”

This is one Damascus. Then there is another, the one hidden behind the poetry clubs, the one that is found under Hotel Fardus, where the intellectuals of the “Damascus Declaration” met in 2001: “Directors, actors and poets who wrote verses against the regime. Kurds and Syrians together.”

Since the start of the protests in Syria, Shady Hamadi has stepped forward to encourage the Syrians who live in Italy to publicly air their dissent. A ‘moral obligation2, inherited, he says, even from history and from the example of his father, who had been arrested and tortured various times during the 1960s.

“This revolution is the moment for those whose fathers had been tortured and forced into exile to put themselves on the line, as I have been trying to do since this May.”

Of his father he mentions that “he was a young leader of the Arab Nationalist Party that was ‘thrown’ in prison numerous times, as well as tortured with electrical wires and beaten with clubs. They would kill people right before his eyes in order to try to get him to talk.”

Concerning the Syrian situation, Hamadi insists that Hezbollah are controlling the border between Syria and Lebanon, while the Iranians are alongside Assad’s army at the checkpoints. “Some NGO reports denounce cases of persons kidnapped in Lebanon and then brought to Syria.”

Regarding Turkey, the other key player in the Syrian events, he stresses: “Now they are playing an important role for our people, but we must not forget that Ankara is responsible for the kidnapping of Colonel Harmoush who came from the city of Deraa – one of the first to have founded the ‘free officials’, and who ended up in Syrian hands thanks precisely to the help of Turkish intelligence. The colonel was then executed before dozens of officials. His sacrifice has awakened the conscience of many in the army.”

On the shabbiha, commonly defined as “armed forces that get their orders directly from Assad”, Shady explains that “they are not actually armed forces in the normal sense of the term,” but instead “mafia bands that belong to some important families who deeply believe in the ideology of the regime.”

“The shabbiha are dressed in plainclothes, they ride in pickups, armed with Kalashnikovs, and they are the reason why in Aleppo and Damascus there have not yet been the large protests as we see in all the rest of Syria.”

The regime, Shady affirms, resists because the armed forces number “almost 400 thousand men, 100 thousand of them are loyalists to Maher al Assad.”

And regarding the Arab League proposal, Hamadi comments: “It has been an excellent move, I only hope that the League will keep the same consistency in the future as well, with the other countries that are violating human rights and personal dignity. Because the revolutions of this Arab Spring have been done in the name of dignity.” Indeed, “Assad should have been able to easily have saved himself right from the start, if he had granted freedom of thought, dignity and free elections.”

Then, when asked about the French proposal to open a humanitarian corridor, he observes: “We need to see what clauses this is going to bring with it. The Syrian people have already expressed their will to not want military intervention from the French or from the Americans. No one should be entering into our country. We can save ourselves by ourselves. But we need consistency in foreign diplomacy, which has never happened. Just think about this: Bashar was decorated on the 11th of March of 2010 with honours from the Italian Republic. Is that not scandalous?”

For Shady, consistency has never been a strong point of the Italian government: “Look at the optimal relationship between Berlusconi and Gaddafi or the fact that after having granted honours to Assad, the Italian parliamentary and ministerial authorities welcomed Burhan Ghaioun, leader of the SNC, to Rome.”

“The meeting with the Vatican was instead organised to clarify that there will not be a Christian diaspora from Syria as well, as has happened in Iraq and how it is presumed will happen in Egypt.”

It is precisely the fear of sectarian clashes that dominates, while Hamadi stresses that among the revolutionaries there are both Sunnis and Alawis, many of whom are renowned intellectuals.

“The solution that we are hoping for,” he concludes, “is that of the no fly zone, a buffer zone. Then the defections of the army will reach 85%.”

10 December 2011 Italian original

After years of watching human rights abuses, censorship and detention of civilians in Syria for no other reason than them writing or even commenting on Syria in a negative way, the latest arrest hits me very personally. Razan Ghazzawi is a personal friend, and as others have said much better than I ever could, a heroic individual, and I will add, a true Syrian.

Like many others, I “virtually met” Razan in her role as a blogger. I admired her attention to all kinds of issues, especially Palestine and the fate of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but also her dedication to other issues such as animal rights and women’s rights. I admired her bravery to personally campaign for each and every man or woman detained for expressing their views, and there are probably 20 or so campaigns she sent to me, which I circulated in my own network. I asked her to join the anti-imperialist translations collective I founded, Tlaxcala, and she was enthusiastic, though, never had much time to for it, which was understandable, given her intense writing and research activities as well as her very extensive on-the-ground activities. Our friendship grew, as well as my awareness that she was an outstanding communicator, so I invited her to be one of the speakers at a convention I was organising (not about blogging, but about the concept of living under occupation and attempts to make an Italian public become familiar with the idea of Palestinian right of return and the refugee situation). Unfortunately, she was unable to make it.

It was due to Razan’s older blogs, Decentering Damascus, especially (which contains some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered), but also Free Occupied Syrian Golan and Damascus Spring, which introduced me to the Damascus Spring movement and the repression they underwent, which prior to then, I had not been remotely aware of. She had an archive of Asmi Bishara writing in a blog as well. She gave me permission to use many of her photos on posts for my blog and site and quite often, I would republish her articles on them as well. Later, I got to know her even better, as her posts became more personal, though always strong and focused, on the blog everyone knows well, Razaniyyat. In an interview for Maktoob, when asked who my favourite writers were, it was easy to come up with a list, and topping the list was Razan. Her writing is simply intense, and it could only be because of her very powerful sense of justice, her keen perception and her amazing humanity and compassion for people and animals.

But I wonder if the “authorities” who stole her liberty and are detaining her realise that they do not have an enemy at all. This is the huge mistake that the regime makes, by pointing the finger at various outside entities or a perversion of the idea of patriotic spirit in their repression of dissent and in their will to quelch all who are perceived as their enemy. They fail to realise in the desperate clinging to power, that they are killing off those who love Syria. So, after reading once again the blog of hers that meant the most to me, tears running down my face worrying about her well-being, I invite you to read just one passage and to ask yourselves: is Syria’s regime so afraid of Syrians who THINK about Syria and question it and seek to belong to it as much as their hearts want them to?

“With a country and our belonging to it, the process becomes rather complex. Each Syrian loves her Syria, and each fights or not, to maintain the Syria she sees or wants to see growing. I think most of our belonging to Syria is either fictionist if not imagined. For some, Syria lies in Syrian food, for others it lies in old cafes in Old Damascus. Some belongings to Syria lie in the longing for her. I think some belongings are “touristy” when it comes to Syria’s traditional atmosphere.

Syrian becomes its “ornamentation”.

I believe racism, sexism, sectarianism, human rights’ abuse, are unconsciously celebrated in the Syrian daily life. Just like the Syrians are now the prime reason for everything wrong happens in Lebanon, the Iraqi refugees are the prime reason of everything wrong happens in Syria, if one caught AIDS, it’s an Iraqi girl, if one cannot find a job, it’s the Iraqis’ fault, if a family are sleeping in the streets, it’s the Iraqis fault. Syrians now, and away from the regime’s tyranny, are constructing the “Syrianism” within this binary opposition “Syrians/Iraqis”, as a continuous process that started with the “Syrians/Lebanon”. Syrians are formulating a belonging to Syrian in opposition to the “new comers” of Syria.

I am not here trying to unfold the current Syrianism in order to come up with another, I don’t like fixed entities, I like chaos, I trust chaotic identities. My Arabism is like no other Arabist, neither is my Syrianism. To be a Syrian is not a question to be answered or to look for, it shouldn’t be there or obvious, it should be a repeatedly questioned question.”

Also, in 2007, her article about the censoring of Facebook is definitely worth a read.

Now, all I can add after this is: please participate in all the campaigns to free Razan. A petition:  a Facebook page with many useful campaigns: and a site with many useful links:

Please write, call, share information, use the #FreeRazan hashtag on Twitter and don’t stop until Razan is safe at home with her family, friends and loved ones. ALL Syrian detainees MUST be freed immediately.