Archive for August, 2014

Most of us recognise this picture as being from Aleppo. Aftermath of one of the market bombings by the Syrian regime against a civilian population. It circulates also as Gaza, where those who are then corrected, instead of saying, "this is terrible and  a crime against humanity" say instead, "Well, it REPRESENTS the suffering of the Gazans". The point is lost and truth is not served.

Most of us recognise this picture as being from Aleppo. Aftermath of one of the market bombings by the Syrian regime against a civilian population. It circulates also as Gaza, where those who are then corrected, instead of saying, “this is terrible and a crime against humanity” say instead, “Well, it REPRESENTS the suffering of the Gazans”. The point is lost and truth is not served.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO
The question invariably arises when one loses faith in the narratives of the news media: If the mainstream media sets forth aspects of an issue in order to put forth a particular agenda of the dominant or powerful sector of society, and even the so-called alternative media presents its own narrative to push ahead its own ideologies or values and effect the situation with its own “solutions”, where is one to turn to if one seeks to know the truth?

The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. One has to find the truth oneself. The truth is indeed “out there”. The problem though is that it is an enormously cumbersome and time-consuming task to get to it, so difficult and depressing, in fact, that too many give up on it and fall back on whatever the media narrative is, even when we know and have the proof that it is full of lies, full of holes or full of propaganda. The truth can be found not in the various narratives of the news media, but in the vast and bottomless well of the body of evidence. To get to the truth, one has to do one’s own digging, sorting, one has to do one’s own thinking. One can only get to the truth on one’s own and only with great determination and persistency.

It is absolutely frustrating to look at the news on TV or read it in the paper and see things that not only “don’t look right” but “don’t feel right”. We claim (well, most of us who are interested in civil justice and world peace) that we are supporters of human rights. But do we realise that often what we feel as a violation of our own rights on our own soil we shrug off as just “the way they do things” when it is on a vast scale in another country. Mass arbitrary arrests, bombing of civilian areas, torture, policies of terror and starvation to subjugate a population are wrong in our own lands as they are wrong in other lands. However, for a very long time, the extent of these policies has been kept hidden from us, that is, our media only reported on institutionalised (policy-based) violations of human rights when at some level our own interests were involved or there has been what is perceived as a connection between “us” and “them”.  Somehow, the bigger the atrocity is, the more distant we feel from it and the easier it is to keep us away from this reality. We accept as well the media narrative, which sometimes is just the echo of the regime or dominant narrative because the truth, the reality is far, far worse than what even our wildest ideas of it could be.

Orphans in Ras al-Ain, survivors of a Syrian regime aerial raid; the winter clothes alone should tell observers to look beneath the "insta-pundit labelling" of the sufferers as Gazans.

Orphans in Ras al-Ain, survivors of a Syrian regime aerial raid; the winter clothes alone should tell observers to look beneath the “insta-pundit labelling” of the sufferers as Gazans.

There is a reason  why reality is not presented fully to us and why so many populations have been presented as “other”. The people are depicted as deserving of the oppression because they are primitive, not ready for rights and still needed to be controlled by a powerful figure that would take care of their interests, though at times he might be a little rough, he’s probably some kind of oriental despot that we have to learn to live with out of some perverted idea of “relativism”.

We extend our disgust in various ways towards the population and their ignorance. If they voted, they never did it “right”. If they didn’t vote, that was because they didn’t view democracy as a value and therefore if internal movements towards democracy arose, they would be depicted as being driven from reactionary forces abroad who would then throw the rulers out of power and establish their own protectorate. In essence, the individuals and the geographical/ethnic/linguistic/religious groups they belonged to did not have their own agency to affect their own change, and if they are not “willing” to help themselves, it’s very easy to promote the idea that they are impermeable to change or that it has to be imposed from outside if there is going to be any. Otherwise, they get what they deserve.

One of the innocent victims of the bombing of Azaz. The Assad regime kills them an the world lets them dig the dead infants out with their bare hands.  This picture has also circulated with great success as having happened in Gaza.

One of the innocent victims of the bombing of Azaz. The Assad regime kills them an the world lets them dig the dead infants out with their bare hands. This picture has also circulated with great success as having happened in Gaza.

Only those who  have forgotten (or who haven’t realised) that personal freedom is a right for every human on the planet and that there is a series of rights that belong to every human being in order to truly be considered as being a free individual, regardless of the geopolitical situation in which he or she was born or currently is living will be interested in finding the truth and rejecting the “story”, “spin” or “narrative” that any news providers is giving. News providers don’t appear out of nothing, they obtain their information and disseminate their information according to their own interests. If they support a particular ideology, they will have a bias towards only giving information that supports the tenets of their ideology. If they claim to be media providers that are free of ideological bias and hidden agendas, however, they are going to have to have an ethical code of some sort, they are going to have to follow some kind of criteria for the selection of the material they present.

This is the reason that the only way towards knowing and obtaining the truth is to sort through the body of evidence. We can’t pretend to know everything about everything or even something about everything, but if we are interested in international affairs, if we are interested in civil and human rights, we can’t afford the luxury of laziness. We can’t accept everything that is handed to us as “news” and what IS handed to us under that guise has to be scrutinised very carefully. We have been presented with a multitude of “instant pundits” and experts under various titles who assure us that they have a very consistent response to all the issues they speak about and yet, the only thing they are consistently doing is neglecting the bulk of material that comprises the body of evidence. Their arrangement and analysis of information is sometimes even based on no evidence at all, but mere speculation and repetition of what anyone could recognise as propaganda if they actually look at their sources of information or the repetition of specific images over the course of time.

A body of evidence, on the other hand is not sorted, is not usually accompanied by “analysis” of experts and it has a scientific criteria that we can apply, it has a rationale that we can use to judge and verify its strength. First of all, we have to have access to information that is as close as possible to those affected by events. We unfortunately know that witnesses to events, particularly in the worst and most inhuman situations, are too busy trying to survive or escape than they are in trying to inform the outside world about what is happening to them. Outsiders who make it in often themselves become victims of the same situation, so the number of outsiders must be dramatically reduced in order to prevent complications. But, in situations such as war in Syria, the body of evidence is overwhelming in its immensity. There are literally millions of photographs and videos available to anyone at any time. There are millions of witnesses who are able to tell what is happening instead of just posing for a photograph in their miserable setting of an overcrowded and disease-infested refugee camp. There is actually SO MUCH information that we are numbed by the overwhelming quantity of it… but mostly, it is surprising to find that despite the fact that the consistency and veracity of it (given strength by its size, range, content, precision, directness) is overwhelmingly constant: and almost always pointing in the same direction and the news media still seems to ignore it in favour of its own bias which is that of ignoring the voice and evidence of the oppressed in favour of a different narrative with its own appeal and history.

One of the hundreds of banners by the Kafranbel Media Centre... direct, to the point, and with no need for interpretation.

One of the hundreds of banners by the Kafranbel Media Centre… direct, to the point, and with no need for interpretation.

Since the onset of the uprising, protesters were determined to document the events in every way possible and to disseminate what they gathered outside of Syria. They did not own media providers, they were not part of an information “system”, they simply were providing evidence, most of it videos documenting the events and photographs of places during a protest or march or immediately following a sniper attack, a bombing, and later, a massacre. What has developed in Syria is a multitude of independent media aggregators, the Sham News Network, the Aleppo Media Centre, the phenomenon of the Young Lens photographers, the Kafranbel Media Centre and hundreds of others in every province and town, no matter how small. They collect, subtitle, disseminate and identify the evidence of the hundreds of thousands of witnesses to the war in Syria. They open YouTube channels, Facebook pages and blogs where anyone and everyone, INCLUDING mainstream and alternative media providers can tap into their evidence, and luckily, some outside news aggregators have picked up on their evidence and helped spread it far and wide. The problem is, the media providers that have a long history and prestige or are financed by advertising or political interest groups don’t tell a “sexy” story if it’s just about the (now four-year-long) struggle for survival of a besieged and oppressed people who have the misfortune of neither being of interest to the “imperialists” or the “anti-imperialists”, which are by the way, simply code words to express two variations of reactionary ideological thinking, where individuals don’t have rights, collective rights are also selective and all people can be fit into the prism of the narrative or spin of their administrations, regimes or leaders.

There is no shortage of evidence, the evidence provided meets all the criteria to be accepted as valid, even if it contradicts the story of the mass media, which often just serves as an amplifier of those who have the most power, preserving their interests. There is a clear causal chain that is evident to anyone who decides to access the body of evidence. The causal chain’s importance is heightened by the sheer magnitude of the evidence available. Literally, there are thousands of photographs and videos available that document the enormous quantity of atrocities committed against the people. It is not difficult to corroborate the evidence of the perpetrators of a massacre, and while the “pundits” will take the word of one “anonymous insider” whose words seem to mimic the regime narrative regarding who is responsible for the nerve gas attacks against the populations of the “free” towns that were resisting Assad and often victim to the regime’s violent attacks with more “orthodox” means, they refuse to study the evidence of experts who state that the only possible perpetrator is the regime and produce convincing argument that stands up to scrutiny, likewise corroborated by third party investigators who see more than the films, but have access to the sites or can scientifically test the tissue of survivors.

Infant victims suffocated in their sleep by Sarin in Al Ghouta (at the Arbeen field hospital). The fate of these innocent vicitms was "too horrifying" to be shown, but that all changed when they were recycled as victims of Israel and not of Assad and our indifference.

Infant victims suffocated in their sleep by Sarin in Al Ghouta (at the Arbeen field hospital). The fate of these innocent vicitms was “too horrifying” to be shown, but that all changed when they were recycled as victims of Israel and not of Assad and our indifference.

Yet, how could anyone in their right mind continue to even question or doubt such an obvious massacre as that of Ghouta? How could the proof of the culpability of the regime be in doubt for even one minute when their sponsors and patrons in the UN Security Council vetoed decisions made in Human Rights Commission following a detailed war crimes report to support the effort to bring the matter to the International Criminal Court which would judge the body of evidence in a legal seat and then exercise Justice, which then the world powers would have a leg to stand on when they took positions for or against Assad? By closing their eyes to the evidence, despite how great, consistent, direct, precise and applicable (i.e., bearing all the qualities that give what is known as “strength” to a body of evidence) they are able to hide the truth, but not to stop it being true.

Not only the massacre of approximately 1500 men, women and children by suffocation from exposure to nerve gas, but hidden or distorted are the numerous and well-documented “white weapons massacres” by knives and bayonets that are the signature of the Shabbiha thugs who operate for Assad, terrorising villages and leaving hundreds murdered despite their age, condition or innocence. The massacres of Houla, Banyas, Deir Ezzor and countless others have left in their wake hundreds and hundreds of photographs, videos and eyewitness testimony. If one looks at most of the news media though, you are going to find very little reference made to these events and they are simply not providing information on them, often with the ill-disguised goal of exclusion of the videos or pictures due to “the excessive cruelty of the images”, where they fall into the vacuum of oblivion, where our consciences can’t be reached and therefore our outrage can’t be aroused.

Instead they promote “massacres that weren’t” or at least that have no consistent body of evidence such as the “Adra Massacre” or the “Kessab massacre”. The “Hatla Massacre”, depicted as a sectarian attack against Shi’a Muslims by the agencies of the regime, bears a great deal of evidence that it was an armed conflict between anti-regime and pro-regime fighters with civilians caught in the crossfire and not a premeditated massacre to terrorise the population, though as a result, for a time the civilian population fled, as is the case in the entirety of Syria given the amount of urban warfare involved.

What are the images that people remember from the news? They see a “rebel” (not even a member of the Free Syrian Army) eating a heart, they see a “Christian” crucified by Islamists, and to them, the vision of these two images, out of context and factually incorrect (at least in the case of the crucifixion, the victims were Free Syrian Army soldiers, who by their identification are Sunni Muslims) become “the icons” and the real atrocities that matter. The tens of thousands of photographs of the torture of starved prisoners in regime jails was just a blip on the radar. The atrocities committed against Syrians who are tortured to death for crimes they did not commit are too vast to even contemplate. So, see the pictures, then forget them, that is how it works. It is much easier to bear one image and give it any meaning you want or you have been told. It’s not worth it to differentiate between types of atrocities and their intensity of occurrence.

a composite photo of some of the thousands of Syrian infants slaughtered in every way possible, one of them even wrapped in a Syrian Independence Flag... they finally got some interest when they ceased to be victims of Assad.

a composite photo of some of the thousands of Syrian infants slaughtered in every way possible, one of them even wrapped in a Syrian Independence Flag… they finally got some interest when they ceased to be victims of Assad.

But the opposition to Assad, the suffering population has its own iconic images. Millions of them, some of them so familiar to those who have been seeking truth and evidence from Syria for these four years that it comes as a painful shock to see them “recycled” as being Palestinian victims of Israel’s brutal attacks in Gaza. To see the photos cropped to cut out watermarks, Syrian flags or anything that identifies the identity of the victim and the circumstances of his or her death has been a genuine shock and additional accumulation of suffering when one considers that these photos and videos have been shared for years, in the vain effort to inform the world of the situation and the extent of this crime against humanity that is the genocide of the Syrian people, first by Assad’s regime and its infiltrate forces and since the past two years also by the rogue “Islamist” forces that are conducting their proxy wars for the domination of either Iran or Saudi Arabia in the name of their stated objective of the creation of a Caliphate in the Levant.

ISIS, as well as Hezbollah, makes the claim that their enemy is the West, but they are only good at slaughtering and oppressing other Arabs, including Muslims or those who have come to witness and share the information of the besieged and oppressed people, including journalists and human rights workers and volunteers. To the distracted observer, the war is a sectarian war that is now in the face-off stages of secularism vs obscurantism and there is no interest in investigating the facts, but to act “better late than never” against the enemy that is perceived as dangerous to the West, forgetting in essence the actions and objectives of the tyrant whose policies were at the genesis of the entire uprising and who has only consolidated his power in farcical elections that would never be accepted by anyone if they were to happen in their own countries under such condition and lack of democracy or legitimacy. His “election” has given him the perceived license to kill as much and as brutally as possible, and it is a license that he has taken full advantage of.

A roof in Aleppo, again, not surprisinging attracting interest only when it is mislabelled as being the destroyed home of a Gazan.

A roof in Aleppo, again, not surprisinging attracting interest only when it is mislabelled as being the destroyed home of a Gazan.

It is indeed frustrating to realise that the body of evidence proving the total destruction of Syria, its people and its infrastructure, including those who are living in the Palestinian refugee camps who have been subjected to siege, torture, arrest and death no less than their brothers and sisters in Gaza and in the rest of Syria, has been ignored for years, only to be carted out and presented as a different war, a different enemy, a different sponsor. Sometimes the Syrian independence flags that are used by every faction against Assad with the exception of the “black flag Jihadis” are not even cropped out or the subtitles changed. It is with a sickening Orientalism that these victims are passed off as someone more worthy of support, and at least for them, some support has been forthcoming. It is as if Arabs are interchangeable and a defiant Aleppo survivor who painted his ultimate resistance on the ruins of his bombed out roof has become a Gazan. The situation is not identical, though similar, but only one defiant resistant soul is honoured at the expense of another, whose suffering again is buried under rubble and debris. Nothing to see here, move along!

Another iconic image of Syrian grief and suffering,  mislabelled and blamed on anyone but Assad!

Another iconic image of Syrian grief and suffering, mislabelled and blamed on anyone but Assad!

There are shameless people who spread pictures and videos that depict persons in a state of shock after their loved ones are carried off dead in blankets among the buildings that were made to explode and collapse on top of them after air raids in civilian areas. The viewer should use a bit of healthy scepticism to realise that in July winter coats are not worn in Gaza and this event is someplace else, the victims are someone else. The perpetrator of such heinous crimes is not Netanyahu but instead it is Assad.

All of this evidence, the weight of which presents a picture that again and again shows the reality of the situation, the true story of what is happening, stripped from agendas and narratives, all of it is there for us to view. It is a deliberate choice we can make to ignore it and take the easy way out of accepting the stories told by the media that are deliberately hiding or altering this information in such a way so that the struggle to know the truth is stifled, and it is out of our hands to effect change in a positive way to those who are suffering (those whose side we have to be on, no matter what other considerations might influence us such as proximity or religious/ethnic affiliation).

If those who survived a massacre decided to document it, and took all the risks linked to that, they did this so that the truth would not be hidden. They did it in the hopes that those who had the power, influence or ability could help and protect them. They did it not because they want to shock us or draw us into a world that has nothing to do with us, but because this is our world already, it is only a short flight away from many of us or even has touched our shores with its outpouring of survivors of unspeakable atrocities. If we refuse to be lazy, we can look for the truth and we can find it. We are no longer bound to being complicit in genocides and then claiming in the same breath, “we didn’t know” and “never again”. It will be never again ONLY if we make it so NOW. Our task is to be an amplifier of the voices of the people, not a substitute or interpreter of them.  We have the enormous possibility of affecting change simply by not keeping information buried or tearing it out of context. If we choose to, we can save lives and make a better world. It’s up to us. Can we be up to the task? Isn’t it a noble goal to seek the truth and serve the truth?

The Syrians know the Media isn't divided into Mainstream or Alternative. Until evidence is all that matters, they will hold the high moral ground.

The Syrians know the Media isn’t divided into Mainstream or Alternative. Until evidence is all that matters, they will hold the high moral ground.

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1397298_611763265539907_779226832_oWRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

The news from Syria and Iraq on the persecution of the Christian and Yazidi minorities on behalf of ISIS is shaking world public opinion.

Is not acceptable, either moral nor civilly or religiously, that a person or a group of people are threatened and suffer violence because of their ethnicity and/or religious belonging and any act which is contrary to the universal principle of equality between human beings must be condemned without reservation.

Respect for the sacredness of human life is the basis of every civil society and must be the premise on which to base any reasoning and every action.

Today, dialogue, brotherhood, solidarity, human solidarity are seriously threatened. There is a danger of seeing burned, together with houses, places of worship, monuments and books, even centuries of coexistence, respect, and dialogue.

Syria and Iraq are, in fact, the cradle of the monotheistic religions and civilisation and have always been an example of tolerance, brotherhood, and opening up to the other, with all the difficulties that have been part of such a thing over time. And it is precisely from this point that we need to start: the dramatic events of these days should not obscure the fact that the serene and fraternal coexistence between Christians and Muslims in these two countries has lasted for centuries, since, that is, when these two great civilisations were born and developed.  It is a historical error to give the credit of the constructive and peaceful coexistence to the regimes that govern these two countries. Quite the opposite: their policies have resulted in the growing bitterness of relations between the different communities that make up the respective civil societies, creating a climate of tension that is the outpost of sectarianism.

The situation in Iraq and in Syria in recent years has become dramatic: the war waged against Iraq in 2003 and never finished (the one that was sold to the world as war to export democracy) and the repression of the regime of Damascus against what should be his own people, which began in 2011 after forty years of domination of the Assad dynasty, have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. They are two different situations, but the consequences on the population and on social equilibria are sadly all too similar.

In fact, the war, the bombings and the rapes, kidnappings, torture, violence is the humus in which they are born and from which grow evil sprouts of terrorism.

There are many who are taking advantage of the situation of general chaos to conduct parallel wars and satisfy their own interests and the interests of those who are pulling their strings. The case of Daesh/ISIS, the infamous Islamic State of Syria and Levant, is proof of that.

Hordes of barbarian mercenaries have been infiltrated into two countries, armed and trained by foreign powers and in fact supported and given free rein by the governments of both countries and, taking advantage of the situation of total anarchy, have themselves become a power.

For more than a year the Syrians have been loudly proclaiming that ISIS is not against Assad, but fights, rapes and kills its opponents and especially blasphemes and slanders Islam saying that it operates in the name of that faith. No one has listened to the Syrians, indeed, part of politics and the press has continued to label ISIS as anti-Assad rebels, it is absolutely false because In Syria ISIS moves and operates only where government troops have withdrawn and opens fire, persecutes and massacres civilians and opponents of the regime.

Today ISIS is a military power that frightens and in the face of the escalation of its violence, which has brought to Iraq its nearing to areas where there are oil reserves, it seems that the world is waking up.  Nobody has moved a finger for the Syrian civilians (more than 80 percent Muslims), killed by these barbarians, and they even deny the massacres that have taken place, but today that the cries against the persecution of minorities are made, in Syria as in Iraq, the alarm is being sounded.

Therefore the message gets out that if to die is the Muslim majority it doesn’t matter, but woe to those who harm others. In doing so it is only playing the game of ISIS that wants to create tension and foment sectarian hatred. In this context, the regimes sing victory, posing as guardians of minorities and the already unacceptable death of innocent people is even hijacked.

It is necessary, therefore, to stop and shed some light on the matter:

1- In Syria the main causes of death is the bombing by air raids by the Syrian regime, affecting in vicious and indiscriminate manner the entire population, destroying and killing regardless of faith and ethnicity; today there have been over 200 thousand victims in 41 months, of which more than 18 thousand are children under 16 years of age. In Syria Christians, Muslims, secular people, atheists, Kurds and Armenians have been dying for over 3 years. It is a genocide that is affecting the entire population.

2- In Iraq even the UN has stopped counting the dead, but now most sources say that there are about a million; Christians are between 5 and 8% of the population, have experienced the sufferings and the atrocities that all of the other social components are undergoing. With the advance of ISIS their situation has even worsened and the threats, the started, the house to house persecutions that totally resembles Nazi style persecution. The persecution of the Yazidi is being given a religious significance, but in reality ISIS is concerned with occupying their lands and putting their hands on the oil fields.

3- ISIS does not represent the feelings, values, principles of Islam, quite the opposite: ISIS must be defined as what it is, a group (even if it defines itself as a nation) of terrorist mercenaries whose work is contrary to Islamic faith. ISIS is killing Muslims in Syria and Iraq and killing with them the other ethnic and religious components. ISIS abuses, mortifies and blasphemes the name of God. The only deity to which ISIS responds to is money. ISIS does not represent Syrians, does not represent the Iraqi people, does not represent Islam.

4- ISIS is comprised of foreign mercenaries that have nothing to do with the cause of the Syrian people who have opposed themselves to almost half a century of tyranny, nor is it with the cause of the Iraqi people who now fight for their survival after years of genocide. ISIS is a creature of international secret services that finds support in different monarchies and were formed for the purpose of “wreaking havoc”, to conduct wars by proxy.

To learn more read these articles (in Italian): http://www.sirialibano.com/tag/isis http://www.pagina99.it/news/mondo/6681/Che-succede-in-Iraq.html http://popoffquotidiano.it/2014/08/11/hillary-clinton-lisil-e-roba-nostra-ma-ci-e-sfuggito-di-mano/ http://megachip.globalist.it/Detail_News_Display?ID=107832&typeb=0

5 – The strategy of false information is harvesting many victims: photos purporting to be what they are not (to follow will be one of my article on the false story of the decapitation of Christian children) are causing reactions even from the top, among the powerful of the world. It would only take a minimum of attention and professionalism to check the origin and the matrix of a photo and a news item, but the media war is one that the regimes and terrorists are fighting – no holds barred – and careless reporting, or even complicit reporting becomes an amplifier.

For those who have faith, for those who believe, for anyone who has a conscience and a minimum of intellectual honesty it seems even superfluous to have to reiterate that there is no war in the name of God, that nothing and no one can justify the persecution, the threat, the offence and the killing of an innocent. Let us not fall into the trap of sectarian hatred, we will never cease to dialogue with each other, let us not allow the sowers of conflict outweigh the bridge builders.

It takes much determination and bravery, especially now, but it is precisely in the face of these difficulties that the world of believers of different religions and the civil society as a whole, secular, atheist, must join hands and feel that the real strength is in dialogue and the commitment to peace. It is not naïve optimism, indeed, it is much more challenging to reiterate the reasons for dialogue and bring ourselves toward the other than to erect walls and close ourselves in the hell of hatred.

If you want to imagine a manifesto of Syrians, Iraqis, of Muslims that at this moment are associated incorrectly and unfairly to terrorism we must repeat indefinitely: “No, not in our name”. Christians are our brothers, the human beings of every religion and ethnicity are our brothers and sisters.

As author of this blog, as Syrian, as Muslim I repeat too and I am proposing the campaign:

“Not_in_our_name”, to say no to persecution, false news, the sowers of hatred.

ORIGINAL http://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/not_in_our_name-le-guerre-e-il-terrorismo-stanno-uccidendo-il-dialogo/

Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

My dear daughters Greta and Vanessa,

in these days of silence we are living in a state of anxiety, worry and pain. Your good hearts, your profound humanity and sensitivity prompted you to not turn your backs, but instead to take to heart the cause of the Syrian people, as if it were your people, your family. You have taken the time to work to bring awareness to the situation and bring relief to the needy, thinking especially about the children. 200,000 dead, 50,000 died under torture, 500,000 prisoners in the prisons of the regime, 150,000 missing without a trace 3 and a half million refugees, 9 million internally displaces, 3 million homes destroyed, 1 million wounded, over 650,000 mutilated: behind these numbers, there are people, human beings, an entire population that is undergoing a genocide.

The proportions of this drama have left parts of the world indifferent, but not the two of you, who with your own small hands have been active and involved. I join in the prayers of your parents, friends, and everyone who knows you and who anxiously awaits your return. I join all of those who, like you, in these three years have wanted to be involved in concretely helping Syria. Selfless and generous men and women who work every day in silence to relieve the pain and suffering of so many innocent civilians. People who have not given up any of their own humanity, as instead have done those who revel in making judgements, comments, malicious criticisms certainly not worthy to be mentioned. People who behave like hyenas and jackals.

The situation in Syria is dramatic: the regime, which for over forty years has been repressing the entire nation continues its offensive on the cities using the air force and the army, sparing no bombs, including chemical ones. There are at least 26 groups of foreign mercenaries, with various acronyms and names, who are fighting against the people and the Syrian resistance. These terrorists, paid, armed, sent abroad, invade the liberated areas and carry out executions, kidnappings, crimes against the defenceless population and against the partisans who try to defend Syria and its people.

These same terrorists use religious names and clothes to disguise their wickedness and they are accredited by those same parties who favoured their onset and their operations, while the faithful know that such actions and such people are only an insult and blasphemy against religion and are useful to the purposes of disinformation and sectarianism, which is desired by the regime in Syria as in Iraq. Even the most unsophisticated people know that the caliphate is something else, but today we are faced with armed men in disguise who are committing unspeakable crimes against innocent people of every ethnicity, faith, social class, which in addition to enduring shelling, sieges and lack of medical care, food and education are also threatened by the wicked, persecutory and inhumane acts carried out by these barbarian invaders.

The acts of these criminals are a threat to the people of Syria and Iraq, but not only to them, because they are undermining the coexistence between religions and ethnicities that has lasted for centuries. It should be stressed that the reality of brotherhood, dialogue, respect, coexistence between religions has been in the hearts of the Syrians for centuries, from the very birth of these faiths, which have developed into the great monotheistic religions. It was not certainly the merit of the regime to create conditions of coexistence, conditions that today, however, are threatened by the arrival of these criminal occupants.

Our thoughts turn to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, symbol of this coexistence and fraternal dialogue and it runs towards you, Greta and Vanessa, who have not been frightened by diversity, but have made it a richness. In the name of your example, in the name of the commitment of millions of Syrians, men and women of different ethnicities and faiths, we continue to believe in dialogue and support for the most vulnerable. Do not let the screaming of the sowers of discord prevail over the words of love and good sense that unites those who work in solidarity and peaceful confrontation. Dear Greta and Vanessa, dear Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, dear Syrians, we join our prayers for your immediate and unconditional release and your return in peace and serenity to your families.

Your uncle, Dr. Mohamed Nour Dachan

Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo, two human rights activists and aid volunteers for Syria.

Missing from Aleppo, no news of the two young women since 1 August

Hours of anxiety for the fate of two young Italian aid workers abducted in Syria in Aleppo, where they had been since 28 July to carry out humanitarian projects. The Foreign Ministry, which has activated the Crisis Unit, confirmed “the impossibility of contact of the two Italian citizens,” but the strictest secrecy on the matter is being maintained.

The abducted women are Vanessa Marzullo from Brembate (Bergamo) and Greta Ramelli from Gavirate (Varese), respectively 21 and 20 years of age, the founders of the Progetto Horryaty – solidarity initiative for Syria, which is primarily concerned with activities in the sectors of health and water.

According to the website of the Jordanian newspaper Assabeel, responsible for the abduction of the two Italian aid workers would be an armed group which in the past has kidnapped several activists and journalists. It cites as a source a local activist who reports to some newspapers, according to which, the girls were taken in the town of El Ismo, west of Aleppo, in the house of the “head of the Revolutionary Council” local, where they were housed. With them, the source continues, there was also an Italian journalist, Daniele Raineri of Il Foglio, who managed to escape and alerted other to what happened. “The two Italians – Assabeel states – were seen for the last time Friday, 1 August.”

The site does not give the name of the group behind the kidnapping, nor specify whether it is a criminal organisation or a politically motivated one. But he adds that in the past several of its members were killed in military actions.

On Greta’s the Facebook page, for whom this is the third trip to Syria and who already behind her has several experiences in humanitarian missions in Africa, the last update to was on 31 July: a picture of Aleppo devastated by bombing and a boy with a Kalashnikov and a camouflage jacket that looks at the rubble in front of him. On Vanessa’s, the last post was on 16 July. “Red, red like that crib, and in the crib the battered little body of the girl of Aleppo whose legs were pulverised by an explosion. Red like the bloodstains now encrusted on the walls and the floor, in the corner of the room where you have been tortured until you want to die, until you die in an unspeakably horrible way …., “wrote the volunteer who is studying “Linguistic and Cultural Mediation” at the University of Milan and who speaks Arabic.

Immediately from the disappearance of two young women, the Foreign Ministry had activated the crisis unit, intelligence and “all the information and research channels for the necessary verifications.” The families have been informed and are kept constantly informed of developments. “If you want to stay close to Vanessa and Greta, just tell the world what’s going on in Syria and why it is in this situation.” This is how a close relative of Greta Ramelli responded to reporters about the kidnapped woman when questioned by journalists at the family home in Gavirate.

Since the first of August it has been working to bring them home, as was done successfully in the past in similar events. “I hadn’t heard from Vanessa and Greta for a few days,” said Roberto Andervill third manager of Progetto Horryaty, who in March had gone with them to survey rural areas of Idlib. There, the aid workers wrote on Facebook, they “had tried to establish an initial relationship with the local population, in order to understand the true needs and visit the places involved in the project.” “During this mission – it says – we were always accompanied and escorted by local staff, with a high degree of safety.” This time, the two aid workers had entered Syria through Atma, one of the largest refugee camps near the border with Turkey.

With Vanessa and Greta it brings to the number of Italians kidnapped and currently missing in Syria to three: from July of last year there has been no news of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, 59, Roman Jesuit who had worked in the country for thirty years. Throughout the world there are three other Italians kidnapped: Giovanni Lo Porto, 38, missing volunteer in Pakistan for two years; Gianluca Salviato, 48, clerk, who was kidnapped in Libya in March; Marco Vallisa, technician kidnapped a month ago in Libya.

Original La Stampa http://www.lastampa.it/2014/08/06/esteri/siria-sparite-due-volontarie-italiane-THhNZTD0WFWMTLSxBjAZTN/pagina.html translated by Mary Rizzo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED TO LA STAMPA.

 

Two Italian women abducted in Syria, for six days no information of their whereabouts is known, perhaps in the hands of common criminals

Two Italian volunteers, Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli, were abducted by armed men, probably common criminals in Syria, near Aleppo.

The two women, founders of Progetto Horryaty (charitable initiative for Syria), had entered 28 from Atma, a village on the border between Turkey and Syria. A few kilometres away is the namesake refugee camp, one of the largest in the country. Here over 28,000 people have found refuge.

The area of ​​Atma is a sea port managed jointly by several militant groups, such as those of the Jabhat al Nusra and the FSA, but also frequented by ISIS cells and criminal gangs. It is not clear what the two women came to do in Syria, if to enter with a cargo of medicines or food staples to be delivered or if only for an exploratory mission. The abduction is said to have taken place in Aleppo, in the Al Abzemo area, around four o’clock in the morning between 31 July and 1 August, according to reports from local sources.

An abduction that was carried out by dozens of armed men (at least thirty militants) that surrounded the house the Italians were staying at, taking hostage also two Syrians of the battalion Noureddin al-Zengi who were with them with the task of protecting them. The Syrians were then subsequently released a dozen miles from the house. The two women had with them about four thousand Euro in cash. The kidnappers also took away laptops and mobile phones of the women.

The information activities. The Foreign Ministry, confirmed the impossibility of contacting Greta and Vanessa, meanwhile, has launched information activities on site in order to reconstruct the sequence of events. The last message in chat by one of the women carries the date of 31 July at 3:31 pm. Then, nothing. Also according to some well-informed sources, the two were last seen together with members of Jaish al-Mujahideen, an acronym that contains a dozen Islamist groups (allies of the Free Syrian Army and anti-Isis).

“The women were in a house. With them were three men to protect them,” says a Syrian who knows them and who previously had accompanied the first two voyages. “I do not know with whom they entered from Atma and what they were doing in Aleppo. They told me that they had several thousand Euros with them.”

The hypotheses. At the moment no one knows where they are, and above all who is with Greta and Vanessa. The hypothesis of common criminals is the most likely one, even if nothing happens by chance in Syria. Organising an abduction with the use of four vehicles and thirty people is not a trivial matter and takes a planning stage, people and vehicles.

Whoever organised the kidnapping knew they would arrive in the country, when and where they would go and how many men would be in their escort. And in a country where people have been killing and seeing others kill for over three years, where people are left with nothing and where violence is the daily companion of everyone, abducting two Western young women is a business that can mean the exchange of millions of dollars.

The other trips. It was not the first time that the two volunteers have been in Syria. In March 2014, their first trip, according to what is said by other activists, then a second at a distance of a few weeks to set up small projects and send medicines and basic necessities. A journey, the second, seems to have been done with a casualness that leaves many speechless.

Syria is not the ‘country of evil’ as the journalist Domenico Quirico labelled it, himself abducted in Syria in 2013 and held hostage for five months, but it is not a country where two young women can go on their own, relying on chance. Father Paul dall’Oglio, who knows Syria like the back of his hand, is an unfortunate witness. For over a year, no one knows anything of his whereabouts.

ORIGINAL il Messaggero 
http://www.ilmessaggero.it/PRIMOPIANO/ESTERI/rapite_siria_due_ragazze_italiane_criminali_comuni/notizie/836524.shtml translated by Mary Rizzo

Thursday, August 7, 2014 – 08:13 Last updated: 14:08

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (to il Messaggero)

Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRIT Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRITTEN BY FOUAD ROUEIHA, translated by Mary Rizzo

I keep on seeing photos and videos that come out of Syria passed off as if proof of the atrocities committed by the Israelis in Palestine… but with everything the Zionists are doing, is there really any need to turn to these falsifications to make the point?

Moreover, I see these images on the pages of people who for over three years have not given a damn about what is happening in Syria, that is, in the instances when some of them were not rooting for the criminal Assad and his disgusting allies.

When faced with the same images (with the sole difference being the caption, which indicates Palestinians as the victims and Israelis as the perpetrators) there is today those who “shout” their protest and indignation on the social networks while seeing them in action for the past 3 years, they never did anything for Syria but repeat that the situation was “too complex for me to take sides on” or that “Assad’s surely no saint, but at least he is secular” (as if Hamas, which today will get their support because they deem it the legitimate resistance, was a secular movement).

The latest example? The video in the link below in which Assad soldiers are torturing a misfortunate soul while continuing to repeat to him in Arabic, with a clear inflection common to Alawite speech, “So you want freedom?” … a phrase that is sadly known among Syrian activists:
https://www.facebook.com/magarimuori/posts/837975529547680

But there is an abundance of examples, in recent days I have seen the famous (for us Syrians) video of the Syrian refugee boy who was beaten by a Lebanese boy upon incitement of his  family, also this was passed off as “”Israeli boy who beats a Palestinian boy in the West Bank”… when I mentioned it to the random “know-it-all” (who from his profile boasts Iraqi origins and is always posting the Qu’ran in transliteration and translation) he answered, “In fact, the dialect seems Lebanese, but I can assure you that in Israel much worse things happen”… So, someone who doesn’t know that in Israel Hebrew is spoken and not Arabic, and then claiming to recognise the Arabic dialects when in actuality the distinction between the dialect of northern Palestine and southern Lebanon is so slight that it would not be able to be detected unless by a highly trained ear.

If the solidarity between ourselves and the Palestinian people wasn’t written in our history, our soul and our culture, these disgusting propagandists that once again humiliate our dead by taking advantage of the documentation of their suffering for their own purposes would have been enough to break our connections.

But luckily, they won’t be able to do that. The pro-Palestinian movement however, which for decades I felt part of, appears to me to be more of a shadow, a tradition. The support for Palestine is an indispensable trendy position of the “leftist” groups, including those who are nostalgic for Stalinism, and instead of being a true desire of solidarity and support FOR the Palestinians, it is a movement AGAINST Israel and the United States (and make no mistake, their policies make me sick as well) in an aprioristic manner and not limited to healthy anti-zionism or anti-capitalism.

Speaking with Palestinians who live in Palestine and not connected to political movements (and therefore, excluded from the élite of Ramallah or Gaza) the reciprocity of solidarity between us Syrians and them is more than evident, in addition to the historical reasons that unite us there is also the deep reciprocal understanding of our suffering. But Palestinians abroad that talk are especially those who are close to the dominant groups, those who don’t accept the criticisms of the Oslo Accords or the Palestinian National Authority, or classic case, those people who support Assad and yet never talk about the Palestinians persecuted by him in Syria or in the siege of Yarmouk.

palestina_liberaIn particular, the “pro-Palestinians” who stand by Assad are in general the same ones who chant “Free Palestine, Red Palestine” in the protests, leaving out the fact that for Palestine to be truly free it has to be the Palestinians alone who decide if it should be red or yellow or purple or anything else… otherwise we will act just like the governments that we have criticised when they isolated the Palestinian government the day after Hamas won them in what were considered fair elections, in those days we said: “We aren’t fond of Hamas, but democracy means also letting those we don’t like govern when they win.”

These characters talk of international interests, regional equilibrium, energy market, areas of influence, national sovereignty… but never once have be heard them talk about popular sovereignty, will of the people, of the reasons that brought the Arab masses to fearlessly stand before bullets.

They assume that the people who have filled the streets and squares in protest don’t have their own will, their own personal reasons or agency, but that instead they follow the designs or interests that manoeuvre every event like demiurges, with the amazing capacity to control to the smallest detail complex dynamics in which the number of variables is incalculable and among them, the illogical way that humans sometimes act, which social sciences only are able to forecast according to probability, getting their forecast wrong most of the time.

There is a subtle (but not even too much) racism in the incredulity of those who don’t think that the Arab populations desire freedom and dignity, desires that evidently can only be born from mature societies like the western ones, countries that have obtained democracy in spite of the fact that 3 days before the hanging of the corpse of Mussolini in Piazzale Loreto they were hailing the dictator or who had democratically elected Hitler. Those who say that Arab societies are primordial and tribal, used to a perpetual state of conflict and fatalist to the point of not giving value to the lives of individuals. Societies permeated by superstition and an invasive religion, populations that need a strong leader to prevent them from self-destructing, winding themselves into a spiral of barbarity that is comprised of throat-cutters, decapitation, stoning, flagellation and infibulation.

That the dictatorships (illuminated? Benevolent?) are the best instrument for preparing a society for a democratic evolution is just one of their pet concepts…

There is not much difference in this from the racism of those who insist that the populations of the Middle East are angelic: the Arabs are fearless revolutionaries, incorruptible, willing to become martyrs at all costs to defend their cause and their land. The Arab culture is that of hospitality, tolerance and friendship, not yet exposed to the defects of capitalism and materialism.

Ladies and gentlemen, it might seem strange to you, but the Arabs are simply persons, who suffer for their dead and cry for their children when they know they are going to be tortured. Among the Arabs are people who take advantage of the gaps in power caused by the revolution so that they can create their own little empires or for their own personal gain. There are noble heroes and scum of the Earth, fine thinkers and hopeless bigots. Just like some criminals managed to sneak themselves in with the resistance fighters against Fascism, there are some who let themselves go to personal vendettas, looting and taking advantage of the situation, in the exact same way that there is “among us”. Just like there are those who sacrificed their own lives, those who divide their pitiful crumbs of bread with their brothers in arms, but also with their enemies, there are shining examples among the revolutionaries but there are also among the supporters of the Ba’ath regime decent persons who take no part in the crimes of Assad, while all the same preferring his regime to uncertain alternatives that risk to become the caliphate of Baghdadi… a black and white world does not exist, let’s leave the die-hard fan where he belongs, in the stadium.

Do we want to do activism? Let’s do it for human rights, for self-determination of peoples, let’s do it listening to the people and not who claims to represent them. Let’s do it asking ourselves questions without thinking that we have simple, final or complete answers, leaving everyone the benefit of the doubt. Let’s do it with humility and without paternalism or idolatry of those we support.

Aftermath of attacks in Douma, near Damascus. The Assad regime drops barrel bombs repeatedly, sometimes just to target those who recover the dead and wounded.

Aftermath of attacks in Douma, near Damascus. The Assad regime drops barrel bombs repeatedly, sometimes just to target those who recover the dead and wounded.

WRITTEN BY RUTH REIGLER
In the 19th century, wealthy Western philanthropists wishing to bestow their patronage on the less fortunate would first distinguish between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor to decide, in effect, who among the poorest, most wretched and powerless ‘deserved’ to eat or starve, live or die.

While this concept has largely, thankfully, died out at least towards Western peoples, it has since been adopted by Western ideologues and others worldwide to distinguish between which non-Western peoples being subjugated and slaughtered by oppressive states deserve patronage and a show of compassion and which should be dismissed as unworthy of empathy – the deserving and undeserving dead.

The ideologues of both the Western left and right base their faux compassion on which governments nominally or actually support or oppose those states and rulers perpetrating oppression and genocide and in what name the oppression and genocide are perpetrated. Broadly speaking, liberals and leftists will claim to oppose injustice, oppression and genocide as and when they’re backed by Western powers and support them when they’re perpetrated and backed by non-Western states, with the right inverting this – Western-backed oppression and genocide good, non-Western-backed genocide bad.

It’s noteworthy that the stance of the neo-nazi far right is indistinguishably aligned with the Stalinist left, sharing the same taste for totalitarianism.

In both cases, the subjugated and slaughtered peoples are one-dimensional ciphers, existing only to support the ideologues’ and activists’ own political views; thus, when Pol Pot’s anti-imperialist rhetoric to justify mass oppression and slaughter was swallowed and regurgitated by the left, there was not a word of complaint from the Western left about the killing fields; only after the covert US support for Pol Pot was exposed was there a sudden outpouring of outrage for the victims.

When Iraqis were killed by US warplanes in the name of a US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the right smeared the victims as terrorists while the left professed outrage at the slaughter. Iraqis are still being slaughtered in massive numbers by US helicopter gunships, but now that these aircraft are bought and used by the Tehran-allied Maliki government, the left has lost interest – the subjugation and genocide are, as usual, approved or disapproved dependent on the perpetrator’s and backers’ identity, and the left’s long love affair with Tehran means that there can be no liberal or leftist condemnation of that regime’s participation in and sponsorship of repression and mass slaughter, either domestic or regional.

Likewise on Palestine, the fact that Israel’s subjugation and oppression are primarily backed and sponsored by Western powers means that expressing support for Palestinian freedom and horror at Israel’s brutal subjugation and slaughter are rightly de rigeur for any liberal or leftist, while the political right automatically aligns itself with Israel. In both cases, this is only nominally out of any concern or interest in the subjugated people being slaughtered by warplanes, who simply serve as useful props for either condemning or supporting Western governments’ policy, being labelled victims of genocide or terrorists by the left or right respectively. If, by some miracle, Russia and China were to switch overnight to being Israel’s primary supporters while the US proclaimed itself the backer of Palestinian freedom, there is no doubt that the vast majority of liberals and leftists would become ardent Zionists overnight, while the right would take to the streets for Palestinian freedom, despite the actual subjugation and slaughter themselves being unchanged.

This is most clearly shown at present in Syria, where the world’s liberals and leftists have adopted the same Islamophobic rhetoric they properly abhor when deployed by Tel Aviv or Washington to justify a totalitarian regime’s genocide which has now been underway for over three years. Assad and Tehran, just as adept as any hasbara at prompting the hatred of Muslims never far beneath the surface with most Westerners fed War on Terror drivel for over 13 years, add a patina of anti-imperialist oratory to keep the useful idiots happy in justifying a genocidal Nakba unprecedented in the past 65 years. Meanwhile Tel Aviv’s supporters on the right, who themselves have no real objection to Assad’s genocide continuing, enthusiastically point to the left’s support of Assad in order to justify their own backing for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

This monstrous alternate indifference to or exploitation of people’s subjugation and slaughter as a political tool is, of course, not limited to the Middle East; it can also be seen in North Korea, DRC, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Burma, where oppression and slaughter are also viewed as ideological tools in an endless point-scoring ideological dispute. With Washington having outsourced its endless ‘War on Terror’ as a global franchise and the world’s left long ago abandoning the great ideals of universal brotherhood, of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité as rights for all humankind in favour of selective, expedience-based faux-compassion, the bodies of the subjugated and slaughtered peoples are reduced to a one-dimensional backdrop for political posturing. Reduced to mere ciphers useful for political debate, the dead, both ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving,’ are, in the end, ‘collateral damage’ all round.