Archive for May, 2013

rep syrBy GIUSEPPE SCARPA translated by Mary Rizzo

PAID MARCHERS. Young, attractive, disinhibited. And ripped off. Women who are very Italian in favour of the blood-thirsty Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. It’s a little bit strange to quite understand. At least the Italian nationality of those protesters, that itself would have been hard to comprehend, given that these young women were asked to shout slogans in Arabic.

The date was 22 November 2011, and in Piazza Santi Apostoli, there was a sit-in in favour of the regime of Damascus. A flop. Only fifty people and nothing more. Most of the sympathisers of Assad were even recruited for money, by who knows what client, from the ranks of an agency that hires attractive young ladies to appear at organised parties in discotheques.

An episode, that of the pro-dictator march in Piazza Santi Apostoli, which emerges from within the details of a suit for fraud filed against the manager of that agency. Accused, by 16 women in their twenties, of never having paid one cent for the services of the “image girls” rendered by the young women who work for most of Rome’s discotheques. Including naturally, the performance in Piazza Santi Apostoli.

“Usually, one works from Thursday until Sunday (in the discotheques, ed. note). On one special occasion – it is written in the claim  presented by the women to the court – we worked on Tuesday from 2 pm to 3:30.” The special occasion was the sit-in in support of the regime of Damascus in Piazza Santi Apostoli on 22 November 2011. In Syria, in fact, from 14 March 2011, the civil war broke out. In the protest, “my job was to stay in the square, holding the flag high and shouting words in Arabic.” A well-paid service: the manager of the agency “told us that we would have been paid double.” But that is not all: because the manager of the agency also asked the same women to bring other protesters in the square. Naturally, with the promise of paying them more money. “For each person that we brought, there would be an additional 25 Euros.” The pact was that for no reason at all would the women reveal that they were “paid protesters”. “The manager of the agency told us,” continues the claim filed, “that no one should come to know that we received money to participate in that protest.”

The claim for lack of payment to the women had been archived by the PM however. Legal measures are being pursued by three of the sixteen women who were victims of this fraud. “I am certain,” explains the Attorney Valerio Vitale, “that Justice will follow its course and that the responsibility of the interested subjects will be ascertained.”


The protest in favour of Assad, the Syrian dictator was organised for 22 November of 2011 in Piazza Santi Apostoli.

The protest in favour of the dictator was however a flop. The square was filled only with about fifty persons.

The 16 Italian women who normally work in discotheques had never been paid by the agency that recruited them.

thanks to Fouad and Germano for the find.

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.

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
in Arabic


Over 432,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan. they often tell the same tales of horror.

We are posting the observations made by a person who has been assisting Iraqi refugees inside Jordan for the past six years. Since late last year, the organisation has also begun assisting Syrian refugees.

I had a long discussion today with a Syrian refugee family (extended). I asked many questions – about what they had experienced, witnessed, and wanted for their country. Some of the more interesting points are that they say that there are entire brigades of Alawites who are fighting with the FSA and that, as in Iraq, sectarianism does not exist at all to the degree the media is painting it as being. That this is propaganda being put out by Assad’s gov to negate the genuine revolution.

They told me of witnessing, themselves, a woman shot in the head by snipers as she prayed by government snipers, other women who were killed the same way while doing nothing other than walking down the street…about a man – a vegetable dealer – stopped at a military check point and asked what he was up to. He replied “As you can see, I am going to sell vegetables” and he was told to go ahead and then, when his back was turned, he was shot dead by them. Another witnessed an Imam driving to the mosque to speak at Friday prayers. His car stopped at the same checkpoint, he was told to step out of the car and was immediately shot and killed. The soldiers then filled his car trunk with weapons, photographed this and then claimed they had killed a “terrorist”.

These people told me that areas under FSA control have organized to provide medical care and financial support to the injured and help for the destitute. They told me that they are an educated intelligent people and fully capable of creating a government that will respect of the people – all of the people of Syria.

I asked about the claims that there are hordes of foreign fighters supposedly aligned with the FSA, who are carrying out brutalities. They said these claims are grossly exaggerated and that foreigners fighting against the government are a very, very small percentage of those fighting…that this is a revolution and it is the Syrian people who are fighting it.

I asked what, if any, help they wanted from the outside. They told me that the ONLY thing they ask is for a no-fly order to stop the missile attacks by the airforce. They said they do not want weapons, that what they have are enough and are being increased by confiscation from defeated Syrian troops. They said that if a no fly zone was created they could bring down the government within 10 days.

In our work with refugees here, every Syrian family I have interviewed have consistently told me these same things – and I believe them. Not because I had an opinion and they are validating it; I did not. I came in skeptical of both versions of the “truth” about this conflict. And, as we must scrutinize every case to make sure they are truly in need, over the years I have developed a pretty astute “bullshit meter” – these people are utterly sincere. across the board. I am now absolutely convinced that there is a genuine people’s revolution and on a massive scale. That this sincere and determined quest for freedom is a collective act of bravery beyond comprehension and that their determination and courage against the terrible odds they face is one to be not only applauded but to be supported.

There has been a very sophisticated – and largely successful – effort to deny the truth of this situation and this effort has and continues to result in mass murder of innocent civilians and the ancient and irreplaceable infrastructure of this nation. What is appalling is that it appears to me that it is pure laziness on the part of a large part of the international activist community that has bought into the propaganda that resulted in this ongoing unspeakable destruction and the support of Assad that has allowed it. We have become “conspiracy theorists” first, over champions for justice – we support a dictator whose crimes against his people should appall us and call us for action – and all only because we are so eager to see the dirty hands of the USA and NATO (and I do agree that they are filthy) “behind every bush”. We allow a genocide by Assad only to satisfy our own smug opinion of how astute we are in sussing out “another” USA-led imperialist adventure.

What a damned shame – and I hope that we who have erred so badly and with such disastrous consequences will someday (and soon) feel this shame to the degree it belongs to us and learn from it that our oh-so-smug egos are as dangerous on an international scale as they are in our personal lives – and that we are just as vulnerable to accepting propaganda as are those we ridicule, as long as the propaganda supports, in part, our own agendas and world views (whether those are accurate to a large degree or not).

Luckily, from what I have seen, the Syrian people do not need us to succeed. They aren’t motivated by wanting our approval but by a genuine compulsion for freedom from oppression and that ‘justice’ we all claim to be working for. Their determination will result in their success in overthrowing this brutal tyrant and, hopefully, end this reign of terror and mass murder.

Does this mean I support the USA/NATO and that I am ignorant of their malicious and deadly meddling? No. I am well aware that these entities certainly do provide support for whoever they feel will ultimately benefit their agendas. If they feel that removal of Assad is to their benefit, they will support his removal – by whoever they feel will be successful – whether they have the best interest of the people or not. Certainly there are factions inside this revolution who, if taking power after Assad falls, will only continue or even perhaps “improve on” Assad’s techniques and, if the USA/NATO feels that any of these entities will best serve their purposes, then they will be supported in their quest to take power. Let us hope that those, like these people I talked with today, those who support a free and cohesive new Syria will succeed and that they will not sell out due to any US/NATO influence. (à la Iraq). But, in the meantime, let’s recognize and support a people’s fight for freedom and that they are so determined for it that they are willing to face death for it.