Archive for the ‘Children\’s Corner’ Category

These are the 'school' conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

These are the ‘school’ conditions for many Ahwazi Arab children in rural areas, who are denied the most basic education facilities unlike Persian children

Written by Rahim Hamid

While tens of millions of Iranian citizens from various ethnic minorities are denied the right to education in their mother language, the regime has now announced the introduction of a new compulsory language syllabus in five European languages.

A few days after President Hassan Rouhani emphasized the need for education in foreign languages, Ahmad Abedini, the deputy of the regime’s Supreme Council of Education and Training announced that education in five languages – German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian – will now be mandatory in Iran’s schools.

The regime’s newfound enthusiasm for education in languages other than Farsi doesn’t extend, however, to the native languages of many of its citizens, with Arabs in Ahwaz, Kurds in East Kurdistan, and Turks in South Azerbaijan denied the right to education in their mother tongues and brutally persecuted for using their own languages.   This policy is strictly maintained despite the fact that Articles 15 and 19 of the Iranian constitution specifically state respectively that “ethnic literature” should be available to pupils in all schools and that all of Iran’s non-Persian ethnic minorities have the right to education in their native languages.  Farsi remains the official state language and the only one used throughout the education system despite the fact that it is the native tongue of less than half of Iran’s population.

The theocratic regime’s discriminatory and supremacist policies towards the country’s ethnic minorities are a continuation of those practiced by the secular monarchy, overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

Although the publication of material in other languages is tolerated (barely) by the Iranian leadership, the regime’s vilification of those ethnic groups using non-Farsi languages is systemic and relentless.     A recent and typical example of this was the Persian-Iranian primary school teacher in Ahwaz who forced two Ahwazi Arab pupils to wash out their mouths with soap and water for speaking in their Arabic mother tongue. The teacher at a school in the Amaniyeh neighbourhood of the Arab region’s capital also warned other pupils that they would face the same punishment if he heard them speaking Arabic or if they were reported to have done so in his absence.

This incident sparked further outrage and resentment amongst Ahwazi people who already face extensive apartheid-style discrimination and legislation outlawing their Arab language, dress and culture.

The regime has acknowledged none of its blatant discrimination towards Iran’s ethnic minorities in its new language education program.  Indeed, Rouhani has called on other cultural institutions to allocate funds for language education and training – for English and the other aforementioned European languages – adding that a proposal to prioritise the teaching of these languages has been put forward to the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council.

While the regime president has argued that the teaching of English should be prioritised since it’s the principal language of science and technology internationally, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is less convinced, criticising any “insistence on the promotion exclusively of English”, adding “The language of science is not just English… I don’t mean to shut down the teaching of English from tomorrow, but we ought to know what we are doing.”

Rouhani, who believes that the teaching of English should be the first priority for Iran’s advancement, had said, “You see the Indian subcontinent; because of the huge population most are almost fluent in English. Look at what they have done in information technology and how greatly the subcontinent has gained.  We must teach the language that would be best for scientific progress, creating more jobs for the younger generation and facilitating the future of our communication economy with the world. ”

The president’s praise for India’s adoption of English as an example was quickly criticised, with state media organ Tasnim quoting Sepehr Khalaji, the director of the Ayatollah’s Public Relations office, as writing in a statement published on Instagram, “Due to British colonial domination of India and a planned erasure of its people’s cultural identity to force them into compliance, India was forced into learning English. This is precisely the effects of colonialism that, as a first step, removes the signs of cultural and national identity in an effort to destroy the spirit of independent-mindedness among the populace. So this colonialist method of learning a language is not an honourable one to cite as an example.”

protesting to raise the world's awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

protesting to raise the world’s awareness of discrimination of many groups of people in Iran

The official did not seem to recognise the irony of such criticism coming from a representative of a regime which pursues the colonialist policies of its predecessors who forcibly annexed and colonised Ahwazi Arabs’ lands with British support in 1925 and have ever since enforced Farsi as the dominant language, refusing the people their right to education in their own language in an effort to crush the spirit of independent-mindedness among its populace.

It should also be mentioned that “linguistic justice” is a principle enshrined in international law, including the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which criminalises discrimination in the areas of language, ethnicity or religion, three of the areas in which the Islamic Republic’s regime discriminates openly and brutally against millions of its own citizens.


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.

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.

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

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

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

WRITTEN BY NICCOLÒ ZANCAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Commençons par décrire Yarmouk.

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

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

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

Une rue de Yarmouk.

Une rue de Yarmouk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

une victime de la famine.

Une victime de la famine.

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

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

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

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

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

Des volontaires de JAFRA distribuent des sacs de nourriture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

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

WRITTEN by STEFANO PASTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

What is your situation like today?

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

What is the situation of children?

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

Why did you flee from Syria?

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

Have you talked with a lawyer or with international authorities?

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

How did it happen?

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

Have you heard of other refugees detained in Egypt?

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

What are you asking for?

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

thank you to Nawal 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A green light to Assad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can the message get any clearer?

Can the message get any clearer?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The majestic independence flags wave

If I had to sum up in only one sentence the most emotional moment of my voyage, it certainly was when they brought us to the border between Turkey and Syria, and I saw, from the Syrian side, two gigantic independence flags waving majestically against the sky. I can’t describe it in words, but reading “Welcome to Free Syria” and recognising the colours of the flag that for more than a year has represented for us, Syrians, hope and the dream of freedom, as well as the end of the regime, was a marvellous feeling. I almost hesitated to set foot in Syrian territory, it seemed too good to be true: a dream that I’ve held in my heart for my entire life was, even if only marginally, becoming reality. Of Syria, the real Syria, I didn’t see anything. No, houses, no cities, no monuments, because I was in a border area, but the sensation of breathing in, finally, the air of my beloved and longed-for land, it was almost a rebirth for me. I bent down, picked up a stone, cradled it in my hand, I kept it with me… a small piece of Syria, a small part of me that has been suffocated by the injustice of the tyrannical regime.

I looked at Syria in the eyes

What struck me so very much during the encounters with our fellow Syrians, was the light in their eyes and faces… Despite the suffering that each one of them carries inside, despite the pain, the precariousness of their situation as refugees, people who had to abandon their homes and their people in order to save themselves from the air strikes, on their faces I saw no signs of hardness, but so much dignity, so much light; in the children and in the adults as well, men and women alike. The children adopted me as an aunt straight away, overcoming any shyness they might have had and they came to me to tell me about their experiences; the horrors of the war have forced them to grow up before their time and their words revolved only around this argument, and this was the case whether they were boys or girls. Even when they played, they repeated the scenes of their escape, the interventions of protection that the youth of the FSA carried out, escorting them until the refugee camp… The last day, before leaving, I tried to get a promise out of them, though knowing that what I was asking of them was impossible: “Try to play other kinds of games, don’t think about war all the time.” They lowered their eyes, they know I am asking too much of them. The war hasn’t physically killed them, but it has stripped them of their childhood, their feelings that they can be carefree, the drive to dream about life. The one, sole dream that they now have is to return home, to their schools, to the gardens where they used to play, to a home where they no longer expect to see the assassins of the regime with their bombs, their armoured tanks.

The immense heart of the women

In the various refugee camps we visited (Kilys, Islahiye, Altinoz, Bohsin, Yayladagi), after the necessary checks at the entrance, we were always presented by those running the camps and then welcomed warmly by everyone, with children taking part with enthusiasm, followed by many young men and women. The welcoming of the women, in particular, was very touching: each one of them wanted us to come visit them in their container or tent; there they tried to do everything possible so as to make me feel at home, then they tried to offer me something, a cup of tea, a sweet from the packets that the Turkish authorities gave them on occasion of the celebration of the end of Ramadan. I watched them move, putting in order those few objects that they had, which now represented their daily lives, with so much care and delicacy that it seemed that they were still the queens of their respective homes. Instead, today all of them are refugees, huddled together in conditions of poverty, with difficult living conditions, but this does not allow them to renounce their dignity, their values, their traditions.

Huda Dachan, Italian-Syrian social worker in the refugee camps in Turkey.

the amount of marches and number of participants has grown exponentially

WRITTEN BY ENRICO DE ANGELIS, translated by Mary Rizzo

After almost a year, let’s take a look at the fundamental moments of the revolt in Syrian, running the gamut of repression, the regime’s propaganda and “hope”. From the first protests in Damascus up to the bloody episodes of recent days.

A Syrian dissident once told me that ever since the revolts in Syria started, time passes faster than in the rest of the world. If outside, a day goes by, within the borders, it is as if a week has passed. It is hard to think that only a year ago, Syria had one of the most stable regimes in the Middle East. Its president Bashar al-Assad seemed to enjoy a consensus that the other Middle Eastern dictators, starting from Hosni Mubarak, did not have. The economic difficulties hadn’t yet reached the breaking point of tolerance as they had in Egypt. And lastly, the geopolitical position of Syria put several obstacles in front of a possible revolt. For years the Syrian regime had been the only certainty in an area that is dense with ambiguity and problems: the chaos of Iraq following the American occupation, the fragility of Lebanon with its intermittent civil wars, Israel and the occupation of Palestine. No one wanted, and in many ways no one still wants, the sudden and violent fall of the Syrian regime, not even the Western powers, starting from the United States. It is impossible to think of a “calculated” regime change, it is impossible to predict what will happen if the Assad regime, which has lasted 40 years, should fall.

All of these certainties collapsed one after the other. No one expected that the Syrian revolution could have reached such proportions and developed in this way. From a year since the start of the revolts, which began in March 2011, Syria today appears to be on the brink of a civil war. The regime’s repression of the uprising in the most recent days has reached its apex. The prolonged shelling of the city of Homs, one of the strongholds of the “rebels”, is bringing about the death of hundreds. A few days earlier, there was the failure and the withdrawal of the Arab League’s observers, after having admitted their own incapacity to put a halt to the violence. Then, the lack of reaching an agreement on the UN resolution from the Arab League initiative that asked for Bashar to step down and to start the transition process towards democracy. A resolution that, though excluding a military intervention, was blocked in no uncertain terms by the double veto of Russia and China.

Never before as today are all eyes set on the armed aspect of the revolt, that Free Syrian Army (FSA) constituted prevalently of deserters of the armed forces that since July 2011 has militarily opposed the repression. The United States, though excluding a direct armed intervention, seems to think of supporting the FSA with arms and money, with the help of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. On the other side, Russia and Iran continue to support the regime and supply Bashar al-Assad’s militia. In essence, there are all the elements for a sort of “proxy war” with dynamics that resemble those of Vietnam in the 1960s or, to stay in the region, similar to the style of the Lebanese civil wars.

The armed revolt and the regime’s propaganda – What is unfolding before our eyes can be defined as a sort of “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The regime has insisted since the beginning that the revolt was an armed on, directed by foreign elements, fruit of an international conspiracy and underscored by ethnic reasons: Sunnis against Alawites. Even when that was evidently not the case at all. In the regime’s version, the repression of the protesters has always been presented as a fight against invisible “terrorists” and against armed gangs that were not identified in any clear way. It had been Bashar al-Assad himself, in a speech held at the People’s Council at the end of last March, to set this narrative of events, deluding a good number of Syrians who hoped at least in a partial recognition of the growing dissent in the country and in the opening towards a pacific exit strategy that at the same time seemed still to be realistic. Today, some of the elements that constitute the regime’s propaganda have become reality: it is true that the armed revolt has assumed a certain importance. It is true that foreign intervention is ever more pressing, first under the form of economic and diplomatic pressure, and perhaps from now on even under the form of military aid. It is true that even the ethnic aspects of the clashes have become more evident. The Alawites, a minority group to which the al-Assad family belongs, are almost all on the side of the regime, as well as how the able propaganda of the regime has always tried to paint the revolt as directed towards the creation of an Islamic state in which the exponents of other religious groups would find themselves emarginated or worse, persecuted. Some of the lies of the regime have transformed themselves, at least in part, into truth.

The wind of the Arab Spring – But it has not always been that way. The Syrian revolt started spontaneously and it is still prevalently an authentic revolt, brought forward by the Syrian citizens without the help of anyone. The requests of the protesters are for the most part extraneous to a religious discourse: they are asking for freedom, democracy, social justice. And, despite everything, the peaceful protesters continue to build the true motor of the revolt. Everything had its start in Tunisia and Egypt. The Syrian revolt would probably never have taken place without the precedent Arab Springs. The domino effect in this case is striking. When the so-called Arab Spring began in North Africa, something in Syria had shaken. Small events, but taken all together make up a definite change in the environment. When I was in Damascus, in the winter of 2010, the transformation was evident. It was enough to look at the debates that were flooding the information sites in that period: there were discussions on the news of the uprisings against Mubarak and Ben Ali, and it is simple to pass from these arguments to the situation in Syria. One almost does not even notice it happening. In substance, the problems are and remain the same in all the Arab countries: corruption, growing gap between the rich and the poor, daily humiliation, lack of freedom, an economy that is on the decline in a way that is seemingly unstoppable. One talks of Egypt and Tunisia, and in reality, one is talking of Syria.

The phenomenon doesn’t concern only Internet. Even outside of the web, the atmosphere is visibly changing. The traditional remissive and apolitical nature that has always characterised the population seems to be crumbling. Acts of bullying and arrogance that were once tolerated by perseverance are now met with a growing impatience. In February the first marches were organised, in front of the Egyptian and Libyan embassies, to express solidarity with the Arab Spring. Then something that until only a few months before had been unthinkable: dozens of persons took to the streets of Damascus to protest against the violence of a policeman against the child of a shopkeeper. The protesters shouted, “the Syrian people will not be humiliated,” which successively became one of the most widespread slogans in the protests to follow. Damascus was thus the first city to move, something that today might seem incredible.

On 15 March, a group of youth gathered together at the suq (market) of Hamidiya: it was the first time that films that had been made using mobile phones had been put onto Internet. Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab network of Qatar, one of the Arab world’s most widespread channels, immediately began to transmit them, also allowing those who did not have an Internet connection to know what was going on. On 16 March, the relatives of some political prisoners gathered in front of the Ministry of the Interior. The security forces intervened with violence, beating the protesters and arresting dozens of them.  Small groups of protesters continued to take to the streets, but this was still a limited phenomenon. Until that moment, the only ones to make a move had been the “civil society” of Damascus: a middle-to-upper class of intellectuals and youth who were working in the cultural field, in journalism, civil organisations and human rights groups.

participation spans all ages

The dynamics of the protests had changed in those very days. In the small city of Dera’a, in southern Syria, a group of children with spray paint wrote some slogans against the regime on a wall. The emulation of the Egyptian revolt was quite clear: the writing was imitating the anti-Mubarak slogans used by the young Egyptians of the 25 January movement. The children copied them directly from the reports on Al Jazeera. The reaction of the regime was immediate: the children were arrested. The next day their parents and the families of the children took to the streets to protest, encouraged by that same atmosphere that had materialised a few days earlier in Damascus. The security forces intervened, shooting: there were the first deaths. The funerals became the occasion for even larger protests, and the repression was growing more and more ferocious. The nearby villages ran in support of Dera’a. The protesters numbered in the thousands. The Syrian revolt had begun.

The evolution of the revolt – From Damascus, the uprising moved to the provinces, and from the elite, it was substituted by the lower-middle class. This takes into consideration very often those same sectors of the population which initially constituted the pillars of the support to the regime: farmers, labourers, office workers and shopkeepers who in the last fifteen years had been abandoned and penalised by the liberalisation reforms. They were the ones who most strongly felt the effects of growing corruption in the circles of power that gravitated around the regime and of the progressive cuts in state aid. Other cities and regions progressively joined the protests: Banyas, Nawa, Homs, Latakia, Idlib, Qamishli, Hama and many others. At the start, the protests were born from various, localised needs: each region has its own requests and its own complaints regarding the regime. Especially, at the start, it was not asked for Bashar al-Assad to step down: the slogans demanded the end of corruption, reforms, more freedom.

It’s been the ferocious repression of the regime to give unity to this fragmented chain of uprisings. And, it is the repression of the regime to radicalise the requests of the protesters. As they gradually saw their death toll rise in the dozens, and then in the hundreds of protesters, the legitimacy of the president had progressively crumbled, and the marches became an open revolt against Bashar al-Assad and his regime. It has been a peaceful uprising: no one at the start thought of using arms against the army and the security forces. The control of the military by the regime is total, almost all of the officers are Alawites and their loyalty is absolute.

But even this story started to change: someone started to take weapons as a vendetta, then the first individual desertions took place as well as the formation of armed anti-regime groups. The prophecy of the regime became reality as civil war seems to get nearer, even if it is still avoidable. But looking at the current situation, one should not forget how the revolt began, and who is responsible for its degeneration.
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Siria: ricostruire le origini della rivolta quasi un anno dopo

A quasi un anno di distanza, ripercorriamo le tappe fondamentali della rivolta in Siria, tra repressione, propaganda di regime e “speranza”. Dalle prime manifestazioni a Damasco fino ai cruenti episodi degli ultimi giorni.

Un dissidente siriano una volta mi ha detto che da quando le rivolte sono cominciate in Siria il tempo passa più velocemente che nel resto del mondo. Se al di fuori è passato un giorno, all’interno dei confini è come se fosse passata una settimana. È difficile pensare che un anno fa quello siriano fosse uno dei regimi più stabili del Medio Oriente. Il presidente Bashar al-Assad sembrava godere di un consenso che altri dittatori mediorientali, a cominciare da Hosni Mubarak, non avevano. Il disagio economico non aveva ancora raggiunto il limite massimo di sopportazione come in Egitto. E infine, la posizione geopolitica della Siria poneva più di un ostacolo a una possibile rivolta. Per anni il regime siriano aveva costituito la sola certezza in un’area percorsa di incognite e problemi: il caos dell’Iraq dopo l’occupazione americana, la fragilità del Libano con le sue intermittenti guerre civili, Israele e l’occupazione della Palestina. Nessuno voleva, e per molti versi nessuno ancora vuole, una caduta improvvisa e violenta del regime siriano, neanche tra le potenze occidentali, a cominciare dagli Stati Uniti. Impossibile pensare a un passaggio di regime “calcolato”, impossibile prevedere cosa succederebbe se il regime quarantennale regime degli Assad dovesse crollare.

Queste certezze sono crollate una a una. Nessuno si aspettava che la rivoluzione siriana potesse raggiungere simili proporzioni e svilupparsi in questo modo. A un anno dallo scoppio delle rivolte, cominciate nel Marzo del 2011, la Siria appare oggi sull’orlo di una guerra civile. La repressione del regime nei confronti dell’insurrezione in questi ultimi giorni ha raggiunto il suo apice. Il bombardamento prolungato della città di Homs, una delle roccaforti dei “ribelli”, sta mietendo centinaia di vittime. Pochi giorni prima, l’insuccesso e il ritiro degli osservatori della Lega araba, dopo aver ammesso la propria incapacità ad arginare le violenze. Poi il mancato accordo per una risoluzione ONU su iniziativa della Lega araba che chiedeva le dimissioni di Bashar al-Assad e l’inizio di un processo di transizione verso la democrazia. Risoluzione che, pur escludendo l’intervento armato, viene bloccata senza mezzi termini dal doppio veto di Russia e Cina.

Mai come oggi gli occhi sono puntati sul lato armato della rivolta, quell’esercito siriano libero (ESL) costituito prevalentemente di disertori dell’esercito regolare che dal luglio 2011 si oppongono militarmente alla repressione. Gli Stati Uniti, pur escludendo un intervento armato diretto, pare comincino a pensare di sostenere l’ESL con armi e finanziamenti, con l’aiuto di Turchia, Qatar e Arabia Saudita. Dall’altra parte, Russia e Iran continuano a sostenere il regime e a rifornire le armate di Bashar al-Assad. Insomma si sta profilando una sorta di “guerra per procura”, con dinamiche simili a quella del Vietnam negli anni sessanta o, per restare nel Vicino Oriente, sullo stile delle guerre civili in Libano.

La rivolta armata e la propaganda del regime – Quella che oggi si dispiega sotto i nostri occhi ha l’aria di una “profezia che si autoadempie”. Il regime ha sostenuto fin dall’inizio che la rivolta fosse armata, pilotata da elementi stranieri, frutto di un complotto internazionale e mossa da ragioni etniche: sunniti contro alawiti. Anche quando evidentemente non era così. Nella versione del regime, la repressione contro i manifestanti è sempre stata presentata come una lotta a degli invisibili “terroristi” e a non ben identificate bande armate. È stato lo stesso Bashar al-Assad, in un discorso tenuto al Consiglio del Popolo alla fine del marzo scorso, a fissare questa narrazione degli eventi, deludendo non pochi siriani che speravano almeno in un parziale riconoscimento del dissenso crescente nel paese e nell’apertura verso una via d’uscita pacifica che al tempo appariva ancora realistica. Oggi alcuni degli elementi che costituiscono la propaganda del regime sono divenuti realtà: è vero che la rivolta armata ha assunto un peso importante. È vero che l’intervento straniero è sempre più pressante, prima sotto forma di pressioni economiche e diplomatiche e forse da ora in poi anche sotto forma di aiuti militari. È vero anche che gli aspetti etnici dello scontro sono divenuti più evidenti. Gli alawiti, gruppo minoritario cui appartiene la famiglia di Bashar al-Assad, si sono quasi tutti schierati dalla sua parte, anche come risultato dell’abile propaganda del regime che ha sempre dipinto la rivolta come diretta alla creazione di uno stato islamico al cui interno gli esponenti di altre confessioni religiose sarebbero marginalizzati o, peggio, perseguitati. Alcune delle bugie del regime si sono trasformate in, almeno parziali, verità.

Il vento della Primavera araba – Ma non è sempre stato così. La rivolta siriana è iniziata spontaneamente ed è ancora prevalentemente una rivolta autentica, portata avanti da cittadini siriani senza l’aiuto di nessuno. Le richieste dei manifestanti sono per lo più estranee a discorsi di tipo religioso: si chiedono libertà, democrazia, giustizia sociale. E, nonostante tutto, i manifestanti pacifici continuano a costituire il vero motore della rivolta. Tutto ha avuto in inizio in Tunisia ed Egitto. La rivolta siriana non sarebbe probabilmente mai avvenuta senza le precedenti Primavere Arabe. L’effetto domino in questo caso è lampante. Quando la cosiddetta Primavera Araba è cominciata nel Nord Africa, in Siria scatta qualcosa. Piccoli dettagli, ma che insieme disegnano un deciso cambio d’atmosfera. Quando ero a Damasco, nell’inverno del 2010, la trasformazione era evidente. È sufficiente guardare ai dibattiti che affollano i siti d’informazione in quel periodo: si commentano le notizie sulle insurrezioni contro Mubarak e Ben Ali, ed è facile passare da questi argomenti alla situazione in Siria. Quasi non te ne accorgi. In fondo i problemi sono e restano gli stessi in tutti i paesi arabi: corruzione, crescente differenza tra ricchi e poveri, umiliazioni quotidiane, mancanza di libertà, un’economia che declina apparentemente in modo inarrestabile. Si parla di Egitto e Tunisia, e in realtà si parla di Siria.

Il fenomeno non riguarda solo internet. Anche al di fuori della rete l’atmosfera sta visibilmente cambiando. La tradizionale remissività e apoliticità che ha sempre caratterizzato la popolazione sembra cominciare a sbriciolarsi. Atti di bullismo e prepotenza che prima erano tollerati a testa bassa sono ora accolti con crescente insofferenza. A febbraio vengono organizzate le prime manifestazioni, davanti alle ambasciate egiziana e libica, per esprimere solidarietà alla Primavera Araba. Poi è accaduto qualcosa che era impensabile fino a qualche mese prima: decine di persone a Damasco scendono in piazza a protestare contro la violenza di un poliziotto nei confronti del figlio di un negoziante. I manifestanti gridano “il popolo siriano non sarà umiliato”, che successivamente diverrà uno degli slogan più diffusi nelle proteste successive. Damasco è quindi la prima a muoversi, cosa che oggi può sembrare incredibile. Il 15 marzo gruppi di giovani si riuniscono al suq (mercato) Hamidiya: è la prima volta che vengono girati e sono diffusi in rete i filmati realizzati con telefoni cellulari. Al-Jazeera, la rete pan-araba del Qatar, uno dei canali più visti del mondo arabo, comincia immediatamente a trasmetterli, permettendo anche a chi non ha una connessione internet di sapere cosa sta succedendo. Il 16 marzo i parenti di alcuni prigionieri politici si riuniscono di fronte al ministero dell’interno. Le forze di sicurezza intervengono duramente, colpendo con forza i manifestanti e arrestandoli a decine. Piccoli gruppi di oppositori continuano a scendere in piazza, ma si tratta di un fenomeno ancora limitato. Finora a muoversi è stata unicamente la “società civile” damascena: una classe medio-alta di intellettuali e giovani che lavorano nel campo della cultura come giornali, organizzazioni civili, gruppi di diritti umani.

La dinamica delle proteste è cambiata in quegli stessi giorni. Nella piccola città di Deraa, nel sud del paese, un gruppo di bambini muniti di bombolette spray scrive sui muri slogan contro il regime. L’emulazione della rivolta egiziana è fin troppo chiara: le scritte sono copiate da slogan anti-Mubarak usati dai giovani egiziani del 25 gennaio. I bambini le hanno copiate direttamente dai report di Al-Jazeera. La reazione del regime è immediata: i bambini vengono arrestati. Il giorno successivo i genitori e le famiglie dei bambini scendono in piazza a protestare, incoraggiati da quella stessa atmosfera che si era materializzata qualche giorno prima a Damasco. Le forze di sicurezza intervengono, sparando: ci sono i primi morti. I funerali divengono occasione per manifestazioni ancora più ampie, e una repressione ancora più feroce. I villaggi vicini corrono a sostegno di Deraa. I manifestanti si contano a migliaia. È cominciata la rivolta siriana.

L’evoluzione della rivolta – Da Damasco l’insurrezione si sposta alla provincia, e alle elite si sostituiscono ceti medio-bassi. Si tratta molto spesso di quegli stessi settori della popolazione che prima costituivano il pilastro di sostegno del regime: contadini, operai, impiegati e piccoli commercianti che negli ultimi quindici anni sono stati abbandonati e penalizzati dalle riforme di liberalizzazione. Sono loro che hanno maggiormente risentito della crescente corruzione dei circoli di potere che gravitano intorno al regime e del taglio progressivo degli aiuti statali. Altre città e regioni si uniscono progressivamente alle proteste: Banyas, Nawa, Homs, Latakia, Idlib, Qamishli, Hama e tante altre. All’inizio le proteste nascono da esigenze diverse, localizzate: ogni regione ha le proprie richieste e le proprie lamentele contro il regime. Soprattutto, all’inizio non si chiede la caduta di Bashar al-Assad: gli slogan domandano la fine della corruzione, riforme, più libertà.

È la repressione feroce del regime a dare unitarietà a questa catena frammentata di sollevamenti. Ed è la repressione del regime a radicalizzare le richieste dei manifestanti. Man mano che i morti arrivano a decine, poi centinaia di manifestanti, la legittimità del presidente si sgretola progressivamente, e le manifestazioni divengono un’aperta rivolta contro Bashar al-Assad e il suo regime. Si tratta di un’insurrezione pacifica: nessuno all’inizio pensa di poter usare le armi contro l’esercito e le forze di sicurezza. Il controllo dell’esercito da parte del regime è totale, quasi tutti gli ufficiali sono alawiti e di fedeltà assoluta.

Ma anche questa storia comincia a cambiare: qualcuno comincia a prendere le armi per vendetta, cominciano le prime diserzioni individuali e la formazione di gruppi armati anti-regime. La profezia del regime diviene realtà e la guerra civile sembra avvicinarsi, anche se è ancora evitabile. Ma nel guardare la situazione attuale non bisogna dimenticare mai come la rivolta è cominciata e di chi è la responsabilità della sua parziale degenerazione.

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a father mourns his slaughtered son in Homs

WRITTEN By Soubhi Dachan, translated by Mary Rizzo

In a world in which communication has become a duty, the silence that reigns over the Syrian tragedy is even more shameful.

Only yesterday, Tuesday 21/02/2012 in the city of Homs there were 400 rounds of shells launched upon the defenceless city for the 18th consecutive day.

In this slaughter which is being consumed before our very eyes, no one is spared, not even journalists, killed under the cannon mortar.

In a country in which all foreign press is prohibited and in which every foreign observer is now forbidden entry, it is natural to ask some questions to those who still today sustain that there is no truth to the news that reaches us from Syria:

– Why are outside journalists now allowed to report from Syria?

– Why are the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent forbidden from operating in Syria?

– Why are all the Syrian cities under siege?

– Why are non-government agencies not allowed entry into cities such as Hama or Baba Amr and other Syrian cities?

The protesters have reported widespread use of chemical weapons against civilians, carpet-bombing, bombing of hospitals and mosques, shortages or absence of food, water and medicine, lack of gas and electricity. For over a month, there has not even been oxygen for the sick who need it.

Four hundred victims in only a few days. Among them women, children, the elderly.

What is going to have to happen so that this genocide will stop? What other excuses do people need to fabricate in order to maintain their shameful silence? And thus, to remain accomplices of this state terrorism adopted by the criminal dictatorship of the Syrian regime?


In un mondo in cui la comunicazione è diventata dovere è quanto più vergognoso il silenzio che si cela sulla tragedia Siriana.
Solo ieri martedì 21.02.2012 nella città di Homs sono stati lanciate 400 cannonate sulla città inerme per il 18° giorno consecutivo
In questa mattanza che si sta consumando nessuno è risparmiato, nemmeno i giornalisti, uccisi sotto i colpi di mortaio.
In un paese in cui …ogni stampa estera è vietata e in cui ogni osservatore estero è bandito, viene naturale chiedere a coloro che ancora oggi sostengono la non veridicità delle notizie che giungono dalla Siria:

– Come mai non sono ammessi altri giornalisti?
– Come mai non è permesso alla croce rossa internazionale o alla mezza luna rossa operare in loco?
– Come mai le città di tutta la siria sotto assedio?
– Come mai non si permette alle organizzazioni non governative di entrare nelle città come HOMOS e BABA AMR e nelle altre città Siriane?

I rivoltosi denunciano l’uso di armi chimiche, bombardamenti a tappeto, bombardamento di ospedali e moschee, la mancanza di viveri, acqua e medicinali, gas e corrente. Nemmeo l’ossigeno per i malati è presente oramai da più di un mese.

Quattrocento morti in meno di pochi giorni, donne, bambini e anziani.
Cosa bisogna aspettare ancora per fermare questo genocidio? Quali altre scuse bisogna fabbricare per rimanere ancora in questo vergognoso silenzio, e dunque, complice di questo terrorismo di stato adottato dalla dittatura criminale del regime Siriano?

Our Children in Syria
WRITTEN BY Asmae Dachan, translated by Mary Rizzo

Syrian children carry the photo of Hamza Al Khatib, before and after his torture and death

Every parent would like to buy their own children toys so that they can play, books so that they can get an education, clothes and shoes to wear, food and drink for their nourishment. They would like to smile while they get out of bed during the night to check on their children as they sleep in their room, tucking them in well under their covers; wake them up in the morning, help them get ready, bring them to school, kiss them goodbye and then embrace them again when they return from work, sit beside them on the sofa, listen to them tell about their day, watch their eyes light up when they are excited, look through their notebooks with them to see what they are learning, hugging them tightly, watch a film with them…

These are scenes from daily life: you may be asking yourself why I have used a conditional mode for this text. Because in Syria, for 11 months, none of these things exist any longer. In Syria, it has been exactly the love of freedom of a group of children from the city of Dar’à who wrote on a wall of their school “The people want the fall of the regime” to cause the repression and wicked violence of the bloody regime, which has been in power for over 40 years. In Syria, for 11 months, unarmed civilians are suffering unspeakable violence, they are under the guns of snipers and their homes shelled by armoured tanks. To this day, there are over 7,000 dead, among them, 400 children! Children who have been torn away from life, from the love of their families, their relatives, their friends. Children who have been deprived of the right to play, dream, grow.

More than 400 flowers cut by the criminal hands of the dictator Assad and his militia. More than 400 little voices who filled the lives and homes of their mothers and fathers, the classes of their schools, the streets of their towns, the gardens and playgrounds and now have been silenced forever. More than 400 innocent victims full of love and curious to discover life, who today sleep eternally. More than 400 tiny souls who will always remain in the hearts and the memories of those who loved them, including the other children with whom they shared the days in school or the afternoons of play. 400 times “goodbye” to these pure angels.

Their stories burn in our souls as if we are being branded. Our children in Syria know what it means to be tortured, they know what it means to die on account of an infection, from a bullet that penetrates their bodies, from a grenade launched against the homes they live in. Our children in Syria have learned what it means to spend days without eating and drinking, they know what it means to die from the cold, since the regime with determination cut the electricity and the gas, and they prohibited the inhabited centres in the zones of the protests from being supplied with these basic necessities. In Syria our children know what it means to see their own mother or father die before their eyes, they know what it means to look fear in the eyes…

Today in Syria parents are forced to buy shrouds for their children, and when it is not possible, they give them the final farewell wrapping them in their own blankets.

What kind of humanity can accept all of this?

In Syria our children die twice: The first time at the hands of the regime, the second time on account of the world’s indifference!

Do not be accomplices in this slaughter of innocents!
The Martyrdom of Syrian Children WITH VIDEO

WRITTEN BY SHADY HAMADI, translated by Mary Rizzo

victims of a massacre, women and children included

The week that has just ended has been the bloodiest since the start of the Syrian uprising. At least 66 killed yesterday alone, as reported by activists in Syria. The regime of Damascus has started a violent offensive against the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the protesters: the deaths come from each one of these groups. The Syrian Foreign Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al Chaar has declared, by means of the official SANA news agency that, “the regime is determined to re-establish order and security and to clean the territory of its criminals.”

In the suburbs of Saqba and Zabadani, which are now under the control of the FSA, there are equally heavy attacks from the regime underway, which aim at regaining control, not only of these two zones, but of the entire band of suburbs surrounding the capital. The Arab League, due to the escalation of the violence, has ended their observers mission. Nabil al Arabi, secretary of the Arab League, has flown to New York in order to United Nations’ support for a plan of peaceful transition of power.

What is now in Syria becoming a true war of liberation encloses one tragedy in another: it is that of the Syrian children who have become involuntary protagonists in a revolution that is robbing their innocence from them. More than 400 children have died from violence since the beginning of the protests.

Hamza al-Khatib, born in October 1997 in Jiza, in the Daraa province, was arrested on 29 April in a checkpoint, while he was going to Daraa with other persons to bring aid to the citizens under siege by the Syrian regular militia. The body of the child was brought to his family completely mutilated, his penis was cut off, and bearing many other signs of torture, he had gunshot wounds on his limbs and chest.

Tamer Mohammad al-Sharey, 15 years old, he was arrested together with Hamza al-Khatib and like him, he died under torture; his teeth were pulled out of his mouth while he was alive, they gouged out his eyes and shot him in the legs, stomach and face. Signs of cigarette burns were found on every part of his body.

And several days ago was the terrible massacre of children in the village of Hasal al Wuard. Eleven components of the Bahado family were executed by the regime’s “security forces” and among the victims, five children. How long will mankind be attracted to evil, How long will be keep accepting that all of this happens?


The lifeless body of 14 year old Mohmmed Abdul Salam Al Mlaessa

The 14 year old shot dead by a soldier in front of his classmates

He was a model student, just like the rest of his classmates. Mohammed was a student at one of the institutes for gifted youth in Eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border. The other morning, together with his classmates, Mohammed was taken from his classroom: brought to the street, he was forced to join in a pro-regime march in the city of Deir ez Zor, a hotbed of dissent. Mohammed dared to give voice to those who like him did not want to go and protest against the decision of the Arab League to suspend Syria for the brutality of Assad’s repression of dissenters. He dared to ask to simply go home. The response was a bullet in his chest, in front of his classmates as they witnessed in

The teen had fallen to the ground, but Assad’s military security forces continued to shoot: first they kicked him and clubbed him with sticks and then they ended by firing one more shot into his side. “Make sure he is dead,” was the order given by the commander of the Military Security Forces, in the account given of the incident before the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO with a London base that has access to a large number of voluntary informers who life in Syria.

Mohammed Abdul Salam Al Mlaessa was only 14 years old. How he was beaten and brought to such pitiful condition at the end of this brutal execution can be seen in the videos on You Tube (it is not possible to verify the authenticity, Western journalists are forbidden to report by the regime): a bullet hole in the left side, his face plummeted and in a pool of blood. An “exemplary” lesson for the other youth present.

That Damascus is afraid of students was something that was clear from the start:  at the beginning of the protests, last March, repression against a group of youth that had made anti-Assad graffiti on the walls of their school. “From primary school to high school, the youth of Syria are in the front line in the protests,” Mousab Azzawi, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights states. “No regime can resist when students protest and for this reason, they fear them, they kill them, they take them as hostages. And they make their families hear their voice over the phone as they are torturing them.”

The funeral of Mohammed was attended by at least 45 thousand people, according to estimates. “To disperse the crowd, agents used electrical sticks that provoked temporary paralysis,” Azzawi states. At the ceremony there was an evening sit-in with 8 thousand youths in what has been renamed “Liberty Square”. The gathering was dispersed by firing from the security forces: here there were two of the day’s thirty victims, the majority of which in the city of Homs, the capital of the protesters, where the deserters have taken refuge. But also in the streets of Hama, Deraa, Idleb, people continue to be killed. The activists report that yesterday forty protesters had been killed by soldiers near the Jordan border.

The repression has not stopped, despite the agreement made by Damascus on 2 November to follow the Arab League’s peace plan which calls for the end of the violence and the withdrawal of the tanks from the cities. And after the assaults on the Embassies of the Arab countries that had announced the suspension of Syria from the pan-Arab organisation, the regime has used the iron fist to fill the squares with pro-Assad marches and demonstrations. The case of Mohammed is not an isolated one. Similar incidents have been reported in other parts of the country. Azzawi states: “This same Sunday at Hama, the security forces shot against a group of students who had refused to participate in a loyalist march: five of them never again opened their eyes.”

Alessandra Muglia for Corriere della Sera (translated by Mary Rizzo)


On November the
13th , 2011, 09.15 local time in Dir Zour, the elements of military security took out the students of the pioneer students school in the city by force to the street and compelled them to participate in a march organized by Syrian security forces to condemn the decisions of Arab League concerning the  suspending of Syrian membership in the League.When first-graders of high school refused to participate in the march, and asked to be allowed to go back homes, security forces arrested the student Mohamed Abdul Salam Al-Mlaessa (14 years) who spoke on behalf of his classmates who do not want to participate in the march supporting Syrian Regime, and shot him directly in his chest just under the right wishbone in front of his friends. Then, they started beating him with batons while he bleeds in front of all students crowded for few minutes. When they were not sure about his Death, several minutes after the first shot in his chest, and the awful beating he was subjected to, the commander of the present elements of military security recommended the elements to shoot him again to ensure that he dies (this is literally what the commander said), and this is exactly what happened through the second shot in the flank of the child Mohamed Abdul Salam Al-Mlaessa, which led to his death.Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls on all Arab and International organizations concerned with protecting civilians and child rights, to urgently intervene to protect civilians in Syria and refer all those responsible for committing such crimes against civilians in Syria to International Criminal Court to consider what might be a typical example of the crimes against humanity that are taking place daily in Syria.To see the documenting videos, you can click on the links below:

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

London, November
13th , 2011

Jamila Al Habash

It has been two years since the war launched on the Gaza Strip. On 27th of December 2008 at 11:30, explosions were heard everywhere; and then the nightmare of 22 days begun. The nightmare, which resulted in 1,434 martyrs and 5,303 injured most of them were children. For most of the Gazans, the war did not end yet. Its memories bring alive the moment of the war. Everyone in Gaza has his own story to tell about the war. The war came into our houses like a thief, stole our beautiful and precious things and left for us pain and agony. Every house, every family, every person, every child and even me has a story of loss, fear and horror. I have lived the moment of fear and horror that I might wake up; and I do not find my family around me. In my dreams, I have seen my mother crying beside my dead body. The suffering did not end. Mothers still remember their children dying in front of their eyes, fathers still smell the blood of children on their hands and some children are still afraid that the war might come back again. There are many tragic and appalling stories to tell. Al Samouny family’s story, Jamila Al Habash and Om Ahmed Fawaz Saleh all suffered from the brutality of the war.

Al Samouny family’s plight began with the Israeli incursion into and firing at Al Zaytoun neighborhood. The Israeli occupying forces started bombing the area leaving no way out to the people living there. As the situation deteriorated and the shelling intensified, Al Samouny family sought refuge in Tallal Al Samouny’s house, thinking that they would be safe there, 60 members of Al Samouny family gathered at Tallal’s house. They were left without water for 24 hours. Unconcerned about the people’s lives in the area, the Israeli forces continued shelling the house. Emergency services were banned from reaching the area. Dead bodies of Palestinians lay in the house, only thirteen family members were still alive. Eight of them were children, some of them injured, who had been locked in for three days with the bodies of their dead parents and family members, with no access to food or water. Overall, 26 members of the Al Samouny family were killed, including 10 children and 7 women. Back to the children who had been locked in with the dead bodies for three days. Those children will be traumatized by the sad and mournful memory of seeing their parents dying in front of their eyes. They will be imprisoned in their painful past forever. Can any child in the world endure what those children have undergone?

Om Ahmed Fawaz Saleh has a story of loss to tell. Om Ahmed lives in Jabalia; she had four children. She lost two of them in the war, Ahmed and Fawzia. During the war, Jabalia was subjected to an intensified Israeli shelling. Most of people there left their houses to seek shelter. Om Ahmed did the same thing. She wanted to take her children to a safe place, her sister’s house. She started packing her children’s clothes, but the Israeli forces were faster than she was. As her children stepped out of the room, a missile hit the house. Ahmed and Fawzia achieved martyrdom, and the other two children were injured. Om Ahmed tried her best to save her children, but she could not. She spoke about her children with tears in her throat. She remembers her sons, Ahmed’s, dreams. She said:” Ahmed wanted to go to the kindergarten; he wanted to buy me sweets with his pocket money. But his dream will never come true.” Om Ahmed has nothing left for her except memories that will always bring the harsh moment of war.

Jamila Al Habah is another evidence of the Israeli barbarity and cruelty. Jamila is a 15-year old girl who lost her legs in the war, when her house was bombed by a missile. Her sister and cousin were killed. Jamila was taken to the hospital and had several operations. When she woke up, she discovered that her legs were amputated. In spite of her ordeal, Jamila decided to be a strong girl, smile, and continue her way towards her dreams. Jamila went under physical treatment and used a wheelchair. Now she is able to walk using crutches with artificial limbs. When I met Jamila, I was impressed by her beautiful smile and her strong will. She challenged her plight. She continues going to school every day on crutches. Looking at her gave me hope. She is willing to achieve her dream and be a famous journalist. Her story is a story of faith and hope.

The Israeli war caused the Gazans so much misery; but it did not break our strong will to exist. The Israelis are to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity, and the truth will be exposed one day. Despite the war, the life in Gaza did not die. Nothing will kill the Gazans’ spirits. Finally, I would thank a friend of mine who supported and helped me in writing this article; a friend who has a story of loss; but it was so painful to talk about it.