Archive for the ‘Grassroots Activism’ Category

Ken O’Keefe is back with a band new video of himself ranting (give the sheeple what they want?) and doing his usual Tourettes-inspired performance. He tells us he reckons he might be arrested, and if he is going to get arrested (and whatever for, pray tell?) he will go on a hunger strike. YAWN. Well, it might be interesting if you actually were emotionally stimulated by that psychotic HERO/VICTIM schtick he’s into about himself. Because, as you know by now, 99% of the things he writes about or rants about have himself in the middle of them. What’s a narcissist to do if they can’t stop talking about the Most Fascinating of Subjects?

At any rate, the new video, to spare you having to see all 17 minutes of it yourself, as a public service, we provide a really quick rundown of the salient points.

First, the title, and what a title!

Ken O’Keefe on the “Jewish Supremacist Talmudic Satanic Pedo Bankser Cult”

Yes.
He wrote that.
“Bankser”.

And also the rest of it. Hitler couldn’t have written a better title, could he?
Ken dropped the stuff about Zionism being the problem. For all the years and years Palestinians have been pounding the reality that they oppose those who oppress them, and those who oppress them are Zionists, they have no problem with Jews and have nothing to do with the racist rants going on. No. That is old school, that is too “politically correct” and the Palestinians’ will doesn’t matter any more. For Ken, the problem isn’t Zionism, it’s Jews, no nuance.

Anyway, here are some choice bits: Hitler Ken talks about the MAJOR problems of everyone  (else) in the whole damned activist world making videos about current events while he has been laying low, but busy, so busy. Oh, Laying Low is what got him into all the trouble with his Fans in the first place. He put on a big show to get a lot of money ASAP for something no one quite understood and which we wrote about here and here and here and here, warning people it was a scam, but people got scammed. His entire team challenged him and like all his teams in the history of Kendom, LEFT HIM and couldn’t stand to see his ugly face ever again. And like all these events, they are “idiots and agents” (left out clowns this time). He goes on for a while about how all those other people are horrible and [shock, horror] how they want him to prove that he is innocent after all the accusations. Somehow, Ken doesn’t think he has to prove his innocence. People just have to believe him. Oh, he DOES have a mickey mouse “statement” (unsigned and hilarious as all hell) on his site. Claims that is enough to keep the plebes satisfied, so they better STFU if they expect him to prove the accusations against him as false. Uhm. OKAY.

But, the brilliant thing is this: “I control the money!” he says with a wry smile.

Yeah.
That’s the problem Kenny boy.

People would like the money BACK, or that something actually is done with it THAT IS THE PROJECT THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE GETTING.

But Ken doesn’t “Do” projects that are actually going to serve the purposes for their creation, as we will point out very shortly.

Ken says that his purpose is to be a Lure for the Bait.
Uh, yes… try to figure that one out on your own. In “my” dictionary it sounds like “Controlled Opposition”, so in this, he actually does seem to finally say something that makes sense in its own roundabout way.

He’s says he’s going “back to the Jewnited States” soon. The land of Jewish Banksters. He is FORCED to use a USA passport (yeah, sure… first they force you to go to the Jewnited States, then they make sure you use a USA passport to do it, the nerve!) He’s pretty sure he’s going to get arrested, so he preventively told us he will hunger strike, because Ken’s Rights are sacrosanct. He assures us he would not commit suicide.

Then we get to the up closse and personal portion of the video. He brags about his girlfriend who has many talents including telling the World War II story – (the Greatest Story Never Told, all that Hitler lovefest stuff).  In the video we get him doing a little less of “come to yer uncle” that we had grown accustomed to, and instead have an “Against All Odds” romp video of them in the sunset, where at a certain point it looks like she is trying to see if there is something in his shorts. It’s pretty tacky, but we have gotten used to tacky from the Ken and GF team. And yes, we can deal with his being overwhelmed with lust/love for her, but when he says that when a woman like her shows interest in a man “You wouldn’t even THINK for a second before you’d be with her, or maybe you’re homosexual”, you have to fight to hold back the vomit.

And, that’s pretty much that! He said the J-word, he coupled it with other triggers including Pedo and Satanists, (oh, never mind that one of the people in the campaign promoting and pimping for his World Citizen Solution had THIS cool picture of what is commonly known as Lucifer as his icon on facebook). Ken’s speaking such “truth to power!”luke brown

At any rate, we know, yes.. we know that this WCS will end up like everything else he does… end up being all spent in the RUNNING of the thing.. the THING never ever happens!! (Trade not Aid, Samouni Project, Ferry to Gaza, Tahrir 4 Gaza… where did all that money (or all that little money in some less successful Go Fund Ken’s Ego campaigns) go? It sure didn’t go to Palestinians in any way other than them being a background for his own showing off of his major ego.

You don’t believe me? Well, let’s have a look at just ONE project, shall we? ALOHA PALESTINE.

It had big name promotors, Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Lauren Booth, Alexei Sayle (well, little big names, but we aren’t picky right now, it was a European-based project, but he did insert all kinds of inspirational Gandhi and Nelson Mandela quotes in there). He went around promoting it with Lauren Booth and made quite a flashy little video with animation of a cool looking ship.

Got a LOT of money.

 

This is the ferry… well, not really. This is the ANIMATION of the FERRY, because that is as far as he ever intended to have it go. Here are the returns found at the Companies House. Oh, of course, no taxes paid, it was a CIC, all the money is clean. Because you are doing something for the benefit of society and the community. Ken’s society and community are evidently his own little ring of people who make the money while the project develops…..but then, the project goes kaput and all that money… DONATED MONEY from basically normal people who have to work for a living and scrimp and save, but always try to keep anything extra aside for those who need help and money more than they do. In this case, he used THE PALESTINIANS, and gave them nothing in return.

Look at the accounts filed, available for anyone to peruse on the Companies House site.

£36,690 was spent in ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES out of £36,888
LET THAT SINK IN…. £36,690 spent to have £198 that could be used for the ferry!
And that was just the FIRST YEAR! in the second year, it went in the hole £2091.

£0.00 for the Palestinians. People pimping for Ken,  pushing for others to donate, then, lots of money coming  in and NOTHING spent on anything but Ken and his cronies. Let that sink in. It makes his rants just seem like some hot bullshit from a snake oil salesman.

This text was written by Dyab Abu Jahjah in 2012. This is his site.
Relative to revolutions all around the world, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are historical miracles and a shining example of non-violent, civilized uprisings. The Yemeni revolution, in its insistence on non-violence and its discipline, is truly amazing, as is the revolution in Bahrain. The Syrian revolution, in its enormous sacrifices in the face of a ruthless killing machine, is a historical epic. The revolutions in Libya is an epitome of effectiveness.
We cannot just mention Libya in passing because the Libyan case has become the favorite example for conspiracy theorists and doubters in the revolution. It is true that the intervention by NATO is complicated and is definitely not innocent. But it is also true that the agenda of the Libyan revolutionaries is not identical to NATO’s agenda. This divergence will emerge slowly but surely because the relationship between the Libyan revolution and NATO is not one of submission. European powers wanted to secure the oil contracts that they had signed with Kaddafi and at the same time appear to support the Arab revolution after their shameful support for Ben-Ali and Mubarak to the very end. The Libyan revolutionaries wanted air cover in their confrontation with Kaddafi’s barbaric killing machine. and unfortunately no Arab or Islamic country was able to provide such a cover. Hence, a deal was struck, and we must look at this deal from the point of view of shared interests. In the end, Libya has been liberated and there are no occupation forces and no NATO mandate on Libya. As for the oil contracts, they are a matter of commerce because oil is nothing more than a commodity that is sold by the state based on the people’s interests; it does not represent our dignity or our honor. Isn’t it better for a free Libyan people to trade and cooperate with foreign countries to benefit itself rather than for a dictator like Kaddafi to do the same thing while oppressing his people for the benefit of himself and his sons with their many lovers?

A free people determines its path by itself and no one can claim any longer that a deranged tyrant knows his people’s interests better than the people. The alternative, for those who are always asking about alternatives, as if we were replacing one totalitarian government with another, is always the ballot box. What’s more important, and what is true in any region in the Arab World, is that foreign intervention is a small detail in the midst of the massive historical movement that the Arab revolution represents, which neither the reactionary oil oligarchies nor Western imperialism will be able to co-opt no matter how hard they try. The old regimes and their remnants will fail in their attempt to paint the Arab revolution as a western conspiracy to dethrone them because of their achievements in pursuing the interests of the people. The people know that the historical trend in our region is one of revolution, and they are aware of the West’s attempts to intervene and co-opt the revolution, but they are also capable of thwarting these attempts. In Syria, for example, the revolutionary forces have rejected military intervention and instead called for international protection and observers, and some insist on most being Arab, in spite of the enormous oppression and killing. Those who accuse the Syrian revolutionaries of being traitors are similar to someone who denies a seriously ill patient medicine because that medicine is made in Paris or London and is being distributed by United Nations agencies.

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photo by Fran Cresswell

WRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN JR.
Chomsky and company counter pose an abstract revolution to the real revolution: they will support an abstraction, they assure us, but they have reservations about the actual revolution taking place, going so far as to deny it is revolution precisely because it does not meet the standards set by their abstraction. They fail to see that the Platonic ideal is never met (and Plato did not expect it to be met). No matter how good my compass, no matter how sharp the point on my pencil, I can never actually draw a real circle. The circle can only be described abstractly through mathematics because the true circle is un-real. A circle is an abstraction, of which at best I can make an approximate, imperfect, physical expression. Chomsky’s “revolution” is a shining sphere that Syrians can never attain.

Chomsky and company, however, are not merely making an error in reasoning, confusing the abstract with the concrete, they are creating an ethical abyss into which they can retreat and can continue their retreat without end. Their assurances of support for abstract revolution are worthless, because the abstraction of “revolution” which they “support” can never be achieved. Chomsky and company have created the perfect excuse for ethical cowardice: the standards for supporting a revolution can continually be raised, and these higher and higher standards of abstraction lead to inaction, even when faced with the reality that Assad and Putin are engaged in genocide (a term which they would also contest by raising higher and higher abstract requirements).

Sadly, the same error is common place among the revolutionary leftists who are anti-Assad, to their credit, but refuse to build a united front with the actual solidarity forces because the latter demand a humanitarian intervention–by imperialism. These revolutionaries speak of “solidarity from below” as an abstraction, and counter pose this abstraction to the actual, real solidarity movement. They will support unity with an abstraction, but not with the actual, concrete solidarity movement. They will support a solidarity movement that does not call for humanitarian intervention, but not the movement we actually have. And for the same reason, these comrades also fall into ethical inaction. Their support for an abstract solidarity movement is a rejection of the real solidarity movement, it is a failure to join in solidarity with the oppressed who raise a demand to stop the repression of bombing.

Ironically, even their opposition to “imperialism” is opposition to an abstraction. These same comrades counter pose an abstract “US imperialism” to the real US imperialism, to the reality of inter-imperialist rivalry and to the reality that Russian imperialism, in alliance with Iran, has the immediate method and goal of physically exterminating all political opposition to Assad, whereas US imperialism seeks to control the opposition to Assad, or failing to do so, will allow Assad and Putin to pursue genocide. The distinction is significant–real–and the Syrian opposition’s call for humanitarian intervention, supported by the real solidarity movement–not an abstraction–is a practical response to the reality of imperialist rivalries, rather than abstract imperialist powers that are indistinguishable, one from the other. The Syrian opposition and their solidarity movement are using the best compass they have to draw the finest circle they can, but it will never be good enough for the demanding school masters of the “revolutionary” left, who prefer to pendantically lecture rather than engage in real, practical effort.

For such “revolutionaries” the illusions in “imperialism” are just as grave a threat to the revolution as are genocidal bombing campaigns; one useless abstraction is as dangerous as the other.

whatsapp-image-2016-10-11-at-4-20-47-pm(Palestinian readers, PLEASE  sign the petition linked at the bottom) We, the undersigned Palestinians, write to affirm our commitment to the amplification of Syrian voices as they endure slaughter and displacement at the hands of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. We are motivated by our deep belief that oppression, in all of its manifestations, should be the primary concern of anyone committed to our collective liberation. Our vision of liberation includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.

We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria.

The Syrian revolution was in fact a natural response to 40 years of authoritarian rule. The Assad regime, with the support of its foreign financial and military backers, is attempting to preserve its power at the expense of the millions of Syrians whom the regime has exiled, imprisoned, and massacred. We believe that minimizing this context in any discussion of Syria dismisses the value of Syrian self-determination and undermines the legitimacy of their uprising.

We also believe that an important consequence of all foreign interventions, including those purportedly done on behalf of the uprising, has been the setback of the original demands of revolution. The revolution is a victim, not a product, of these interventions. It is imperative for any analysis of Syria to recognize this fundamental premise. We cannot erase the agency of Syrians struggling for liberation, no matter how many players are actively working against them.

Though we maintain that the phenomenon of foreign aid demands thorough critique, we are concerned by the ways in which foreign aid has been weaponized to cast suspicion on Syrian humanitarian efforts. Foreign aid is not unique to Syria; it is prevalent in Palestine as well. We reject the notion that just because an organization is receiving foreign aid, it must follow then that that organization is partaking in some shadowy Western-backed conspiracy. Such nonsense has the effect of both undermining humanitarian efforts while simultaneously whitewashing the very crimes against humanity that necessitated the aid in the first place.

Furthermore, we object to the casual adoption of “war on terror” language. Enemies of liberation have historically used this rhetoric to target humanitarians, organizers, and community members. From Muhammad Salah to the Midwest 23 to the Holy Land Five, our community is all too familiar with the very real consequence of employing a “war on terror” framework. Therefore, we reject a discourse that perpetuates these old tactics and peddles harmful and unwarranted suspicion against Syrians.

Along these lines, it is our position that any discussion of Syria that neglects the central role of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime in the destruction of Syria directly contradicts the principles of solidarity by which we abide. We have reflected on our own tendency to heroize those who advocate on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, and we fear that some members of our community may have prioritized the celebrity status of these individuals over the respect and support we owe to those Syrians affected most directly by the war, as well as those living in the diaspora whose voices have been dismissed as they have watched their homeland be destroyed.

We will no longer entertain individuals who fail to acknowledge the immediate concerns of besieged Syrians in their analysis. Despite reaching out to some of these individuals, they have shown an unwillingness to reflect on the impact of their analysis. We regret that we have no choice left but to cease working with these activists whom we once respected.

We would like to encourage others who are guided by similar principles to do the same.

Abdulla AlShamataan
Abdullah M
Adam Akkad
Adnan Abd Alrahman
Ahmad Al-Sholi
Ahmad Kaki
Ahmad N
Ahmed A
Ala K
Ala’a Salem
Alex T
Ali A. Omar
Amal Ayesh
Amanda Michelle
Amani Alkowni
Ameen Q.
Amena Elmashni
Amira S
Andrew Kadi
Areej
Bashar Subeh
Bayan Abusneineh
Budour Hassan
Butheina Hamdah
Dana Itayem
Dana M
Dania Mukahhal
Dania Mukahhal
Diana J.A.
Dareen Mohamad
Dena E.
Diana Naoum
Dina A.
Dina Moumin
Dorgham Abusalim
Dr. Isam Abu Qasmieh
Eman Abdelhadi
Eyad Mohamed Alkurabi
Eyad Hamid
Farah Saeed
Faran Kharal
Faten Awwad
Fatima El-ghazali
Fouad Halbouni
Hadeel Hejja
Haitham Omar
Haleemah A
Hana Khalil
Hanin Shakrah
Hanna Alshaikh
Hani Barghouthi
Haneen Amra
Hareth Yousef
Hazem Jamjoum
Heba Nimr
Helal Jwayyed
Husam El-Qoulaq
Ibraheem Sumaira
Imran Salha
Jackie Husary
Jannine M
Jehad Abusalim
Jihad Ashkar
Jennifer Mogannam
Joey Husseini Ayoub
Jumana Al-Qawasmi
Karmel Sabri
Kefah Elabed
Khaled B
Laith H
Lama Abu Odeh
Lama Abu Odeh
Lana Barkawi
Lara Abu Ghannam
Leila Abdelrazaq
Lila Suboh
Linah Alsaafin
Lojayn Ottman
Lubna H
Lubna Morrar
Loubna Qutami
Magda Magdy
Mai Nasrallah
Mahmoud Khalil
Maisa Morrar
Majed A
Majed Abuzahriyeh
Manal Abokwidir
Manal El Haj
Maram Kamal
Mariam Saleh
Mariam Barghouti
Mekarem E.
Mariam Abu Samra
Mira Shihadeh
Mohamad Sabbah
Mohammad Al-Ashqar
Mohamed Hassan
Mohammad Abou-Ghazala
Mona N
Msallam Mohammed AbuKhalil
Nadia Ziadat
Nadine H
Nayef Al Smadi
Nidal Bitari
Nour Azzouz
Nour Salman
Nusayba Hammad
Omar Coolaq
Omar Jamal
Osama Mor
Omar Zahzah
Osama Khawaja
Rami Okasha
Rana Asad
Randa MKW
Rani Allan
Rania Salem
Ramzi Issa
Rasha A.
Rawan A.
Rawya Makboul
Reem J
Reem S
Reema A
Riad AlArian
Riya Al-Sanah
Ryah A
Sabreen Ettaher
Salim Salamah
Samar Batrawi
Samar Azzaidani
Sameeha Elwan
Samia S.
Sami J
Sami Shahin
Samya Abu-Orf
Sarah Ghouleh
Sara Zubi
Sarah Abu.
Sarah Ali
Sarah Shahin
Shady Zarka
Seham A
Shifa Alkhatib
Shahrazad Odeh
Shirien D
Sima Dajani
Sonia Farsakh
Susan Al-Suqi
Tahani H.
Taher Herzallah
Talal Alyan
Tamar Ghabin
Tarek Abou-Ghazala
Tareq R
Tasneem Abu-Hejleh
Tawfieq Mousa
Yahiya Saad
Yamila shannan
Yasmeen sh
Yasser Quzz
Yazan Amro
Zaid Muhammad
Zachariah Barghouti
Zeina Labadi

SOAS Palestine Society

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fn-maxxi-2Announcing their “heroic” venture, the Italian neo-Fascist party Forza Nuova writes:
[From the Facebook page of Forza Nuova]

Forza Nuova Roma, pro-Assad blitz at the Maxxi

“This morning’s blitz at the Maxxi of Rome is a warning sent to the media and the liars of the regime [translator’s note: regime = Italian government]: we will not remain silent in the face of the war in Syria.

A conflict created and desired by the USA and by the Sunni allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in primis, to destabilise a key region of the Middle East.

A war fought on the battlefield by ISIS and supported by globalist disinformation, in  which the legitimate president Assad and the Russian president Putin, the only true peace-seekers in the region, are painted as “evil”, when they are the only ones fighting against the terrorism of ISIS and defending Italy and Europe against immigration and bombs.

We cannot tolerate that mystification pollutes the minds of the people with outright lies, no less by the seductive means of an exhibition.

Forza Nuova has been with Assad since the start of the aggression against Syria and it will remain steadfast until the last breath for peace and freedom!”

Alessio Costantini, Leader of Forza Nuova Roma

So much for their press release. Here is the account of their routing as soon as things got difficult for them. Article from La Reppublica

fn-maxxiRome, Forza Nuova stage pro-Assad at the Maxxi museum

The Roman museum is currently hosting the exhibit “Code name: Caesar. Syrian detainees, victims of torture”, a selection of photographs that document the mutilation, the abuse, the beatings and the torture of the bodies of the detainees in two  government prisons in Syria

The blitz at the Maxxi (photo from Facebook, Forza Nuova Roma) Neo-fascist pro-Assad blitz at the Maxxi Museum of Rome . A group of Forza Nuova militants, political group of the extreme right, long-time backers of the Syrian president, made an irruption into the hall that currently is hosting the exhibit, “Code name: Caesar. Syrian detainees, victims of torture”. It is a crude, dramatic exhibit, of great impact, with just a few images coming from the archives of 53,275 photos taken by a former Syrian police officer who had to document the mutilation, the abuse, the beatings and the torture on the bodies of the detainees in two government prisons in Syria.

Twenty activists entered into the hall, shouting slogans in a megaphone and throwing flyers in the air, sticking some of them even inside the showcases that hold the photos, causing fear among the twenty or so visitors present who were observing the images. As soon as the museum guards called the police, the extremists made a run for it. “The blitz – explained the leader of FN in Rome, Alessio Costantini in a press release – is a warning sent to the media and the liars of the regime: we will not remain silent in the face of the war in Syria. The legitimate president Assad and the Russian president Putin are painted as “evil”. We cannot tolerate that mystification pollutes the minds of the people with outright lies, no less by the seductive means of an exhibition.”

The reply by the General Secretary of Maxxi, Pietro Barrera is firm: “This vulgar provocation by FN, which fortunately did not cause any damage, confirms just how important our commitment is for the defence of human right wherever they are trod upon”.
[end]

The organisers of the exhibit issued their own press release:

THE INVASION OF FORZA NUOVA INTO THE SHOW ON THE TORTURE IN SYRIA AT THE MAXXI OF ROME: DENUNCIATION OF THE PROMOTERS

On Saturday 8 October, at around 11:30 am, a group of members of Forza Nuova penetrated into the exhibition space of the MAXXI, where very many Romans have already visited the exhibit Nome in codice Caesar: le foto che fanno vergognare l’Umanità regarding the Syrian victims of torture, sponsored by Amnesty International – ItaliaArticolo21FocsivFNSI – Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana, Unimed and Un ponte per…

In front of the showcases, where the images of the tortured bodies were kept, members of Forza Nuova were extolling the Syrian president Assad and the Russian one Putin, accusing the promoters of the show as having sympathies for the armed group that calls itself Islamic State (Daesh). For the humanitarian operators of Focsive and Un Ponte Per… it is a particularly serious accusation, given their decades-long commitment of service in the territory of Syria and Iraq, assisting and supporting the civil populations that are among the first victims of Daesh.

Notwithstanding that the history of all of the promotors is testimony that the only “sympathy” is that for human rights, freedom and justice, this invasion has strengthened the common determination to have this exhibit circulate as far as it possibly can in all of Italy. We strongly denounce this act and we ask that those who hold the same values likewise denounce it.

The promotors.

marcell

Marcell Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan. Photo from Global Voices Online

WRITTEN BY Marcell Shehwaro
I read Max’s article which aims to open our eyes to the dangerous hidden reality behind The Syria Campaign. I read it over and over and all I felt was a combination of patronisation and humiliation in detail after detail… Beginning with the focus on who took the photo of Omran and who published it and neglecting the fact that what happened to Omran did actually happen and the boy really was bombed. But of course this detail is marginal… just as marginal as all other Syrian men and women in that piece of writing. All of us are marginal details.

More important now is how to help the killer escape by spreading doubts around all the human rights violations they committed.

My organization is one of the 73 organizations that signed on to suspending cooperation with the UN. The decision was taken and planned as per the following steps. Months and days of dysfunctional coordination with the UN as a result of the political ties of the UN’s offices in Damascus. Let alone the grave failure, that the UN admits to, of dealing with the sieges. The Syrian anger towards this topic was portrayed through many responses, actions, banners and campaigns such as United Nothing. All those are purely Syrians but it seems not important enough for Mr. Blumenthal to mention.

We internally shared the statement, which was drafted by Syrian humanitarian organizations, for endorsement. We even objected to the mild language of the statement which some described as nice and friendly. After the internal agreement of the drafting organizations, which apparently it’s not convincing to the writer that the Syrian organizations have a decision-making mechanism, we shared the statement publicly for wider endorsement.

Of course Mr. Max is able to judge and knows better than all of us that we as Syrians have been influenced to shape our opinions! We have been “spurred” to sign! We are mislead, absent, easily manipulated.

This is how Syrian organisations are portrayed in the article.

On the no-fly zone and regime change. Here comes a more irritating speech. Early 2012, I wrote a “silly’ blog under the title “10 reasons why I am against no-fly zone”.

I wrote all possible and expected reasons in relation to sovereignty, imperialism and so on
I was “naive” back then to think there were global civilian protection mechanisms that will prevent us from tending to such solution ie; no-fly zone. I used to think that airstrikes will never be part of the regime response against people. I had the luxury to do so as by then we were not bombarded at from the sky yet.

Until today I regret that feeling of luxury.

Yes Max, The Syria Campaign say we need a no-fly zone and it is because it echoes what Syrians call for day and night.

Yes we want the shelling to stop. We want the aerial bombardment to stop. Which is until this moment just a small detail in your article.

Yes the Russian and Assad airstrikes target Syrians, their hospitals and schools. But this article is not about that small detail that takes the lives of hundreds every day. This one is about how dare an “advocacy” project for syrians to convey syrian messages to the world!!

Yes Max we do want a no-fly zone because two of our education staff were injured last week. Maybe because the manager of our education office in Aleppo has to face a decision whether to close schools and deprive children of their right to education or open schools and risk their safety and lives.

Because once we had to discuss a real decision, and not imagined, on what is the “normal” ij number of airstrikes where we would continue to operate civil and humanitarian activities and when do we cross the “Ok” number.

Because hospitals are underground. Because schools are now underground.

They brought us bunker buster bombs you know. I looked this word up in your article. It doesn’t sound that important.

Bunker buster bomb that destroys schools and hospitals and even shelters.

But what I found in your article that foreigners want a No Fly Zone. How dare they!!!
Dear Max, if you had listened to Syrians. If you just had assumed that we exist and do have opinions, maybe you would have figured out how we reached this point.

How do we live every day based on Whatsapp ringtone bringing the news of the location of each attack and who are the casualties.

Syrians there live on military air forces planes rhythm, wondering are we going to be bombed during the day only? Shall we work at night? Instead. No shall we do early mornings.

The Russians and the regime which you are discomforted with our will to topple are now working full time job. Day and night. We die. The simple logic is that we want to live. They attack us using air force. We want airstrikes to stop. Don’t you think this is logical? It is not because we are emotional people. All people across the world, I believe, don’t want to be attacked by air force. This is something common, no?

While discussing toppling the Regime it seems that you are missing some points dear Max. Let me make things clear for you. In 2011 we revolted against one of the toughest dictatorships. We called for freedom and for democracy. We as syrians, for sure if you managed to believe me, want democracy, we want the end of arrests, incommunicado arbitrary detention and shooting at peaceful demonstrations. We want the end of chemical attacks and Bunker buster bombs. We dream of change. Changing this regime, the same regime you referred to revolting against as a coup over a democratically elected government and not as a people’s will to restore its rights. Wait maybe you know better than us about our affairs.

Yes sir, The Syria Campaign as an advocacy group in support of us Syrians does say a lot of what we say over and over which no one listens to. Maybe this is considered political to you but I can see you are trying to take things to a level that is very dangerous for us Syrians. Not only as Syrians but you are undermining the activist movements across the world by painting democracy as a political issue. Hence justice, equality, freedom, and impunity become political issues that civil society activist should not get invloved in. This makes dictators happy while we work like doves of peace.

Yes Mr. Max, we syrians suffer daily from patronization over our advocacy as when we say Bashar Al Assad is killing us, our “supporters” rephrase to “ Syrians are being killed, Syrians were attacked, Syrians are starved”. The perpetrators are passive in that discourse.
Another example that comes to mind. We say:

“We want the shelling to stop so we can move on with our struggle for democracy”. Becomes “Syrians want the war to end so they can go back to peace.”

Our asks are trimmed or toned so we don’t disrupt anyone with such an ugly form of patronization. This what has forced us to see the need to define advocacy. Is it teaching Syrians what they should want while they face death everyday? Or conveying Syrian messages and voices to the world?

I will not even bother to comment on the White Helmets accusation. They have enough of the hallelujah of Syrian women every time they reach an airstrike site rushing to save people. In addition to cheers from children that they have saved and those are even more honoring than Nobel peace prizes even if I really hope they get it. We are just happy and proud as the White Helmets are from us.

Ah wait who are we? We are invisible in your article at the end. So no worries.”

US-SYRIA-POLITICS-PROTEST

Some “anti-imperialists” who think that the US Empire is the cause of the war in Syria. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

WRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.

Putin cynically offers humanitarian corridors to Aleppo. The cynicism of his proposal is so obvious that even the spineless United Nations must insist on control of the corridors, so as to offer the proposal a fig leaf of “legitimacy”.

Putin’s offer must be understood for what it is: 1) He is responding to international pressure to end the siege of Aleppo, 2) He is preparing a “justification” for new massacres.

Just as the Assad regime only “negotiated” while preparing military offensives, the “humanitarian corridors” offered by Putin are only intended to deflect international criticism as Putin and Assad starve 300,000 people and bury them with air and artillery strikes.

The “terrorists” are using the people as shields, we are told by the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime. A casual comparison of the relatively easy military victory over Daesh (IS) at Fallujah with the titanic struggle over Aleppo gives instant lie to this infamy.

The relatively quick collapse of IS at Fallujah compares nothing to the titanic struggle taking place in Aleppo, and the reason is obvious: Assad and his backers are fighting the forces of a popular democratic revolution.

The revolutionaries are fighting to the death because they know Assad can only offer death. There is nothing to negotiate.

Yes, indeed, the “Terrorists” are using the people as shields: but the terrorists in the battle of Aleppo are Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs.

In attempting to understand the course of the Syrian democratic revolution and how it is that the Assad regime has gone from near collapse to its current position of strength, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Syrian democratic revolution has been abandoned by the US and European left. To say this does not ignore the role played by the US arms embargo placed upon the opposition to Assad, or the intentional effort by the US and its Gulf State allies to prevent the formation of a cohesively united military command for the struggle against Assad–the fracturing of the opposition was engineered because the Obama administration has never supported the formation of a strong democratic Syria. Yet, these factors are givens: international solidarity movements for the democratic struggles in Latin America were always built as movements in opposition to US policy; the solidarity movement with Syria has also always objectively been opposed to the actual course followed by the Obama administration–his lip service to democracy notwithstanding.

It is an inescapable fact that the leaderships of our antiwar coalitions consciously decided against building solidarity with the Syrian people. The decision to abandon the Syrian people to Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs was led by pro-Baathist and Stalinist forces, which openly apologize for the war-criminal Assad regime and defend their treachery with claims of “anti-imperialism”, but these usurpers of our antiwar opposition were only able to triumph by cynically appealing to “unity”. Fears of splitting our antiwar coalitions allowed the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime to dictate our movement’s political orientation.

In the UK, it's clear that the support is for the regime.

The pro-Baathist traitors within our antiwar opposition have completely demobilized our movement.

The antiwar movement is dead. It’s last action was to stand in solidarity with the Assad regime!

We should never, ever, let this ignominious demise be forgotten.

Attempts to get around the defeat and demise of our antiwar opposition by ignoring it will gain nothing. There cannot be any serious proposal for the victory of progressive forces that ignores the terrible dangers of a military triumph by the Assad regime. The reasons are becoming increasingly obvious, no matter how hard they are ignored by the US and European left.

Even if Assad triumphs militarily, his regime cannot rebuild and stabilize Syria. Assad can only burn Syria; he has no other power; he cannot inspire and mobilize–he can only terrorize. Crushing popular revolutionary movements does not advance national development; crushing the energy of these movements destroys the very spirit that builds nations.

In the context of a burning Syria, despair and demoralization will only feed the growth of violent extremism. The centrifugal forces unleashed in Iraq will gain momentum in Syria. Daesh may be defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, but the anger and despair that feed the plague of sectarian violence can only deepen with the bitter divisions fomented by the Assad regime and by Tehran’s sectarian policies in Iraq and Lebanon. The alternative to violently sectarian forces has always only ever been solidarity with the struggles for democracy and self determination.

The alternative to violent sectarianism, building international solidarity with the democratic struggles–and centrally with the struggle in Syria, is also the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror” and to the imposition of permanent states of siege and the targeted repression of Muslims and immigrants in the West.

Daesh can be militarily defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, as it was in Fallujah, but the fight that must be won is to build a political alternative to the despair and alienation that allows Daesh, or any such nihilistic forces, to recruit. Walls, spies, permanent occupation forces in far away lands, and never-ending military operations cannot bring safety and security to the citizenry in the West. Demagogic proponents of a strategy to “follow Israel’s example” fail to recognize that much of the high command of the Israeli military is gripped by a sense of despair at the impossibility of maintaining a permanent occupation in the West Bank and a never-ending siege on Gaza. The Apartheid system of permanent repression could not hold in South Africa; it cannot hold in the occupied territories of Palestine and it cannot work as a strategy to contain the democratic aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East.

The leaderships of our antiwar coalitions want to ignore Syria, but by doing so they ignore the reality that the victory of the democratic struggle in Syria is the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror”, and by ignoring this reality, these leaderships have completely paralyzed our movement. It is no accident that there have been no mobilizations against the growing presence of US troops in northern Syria, against Obama’s decision to reverse one of the central campaign issues that brought him electoral victories–a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is no accident that even when US air strikes result in documented large numbers of civilian casualties in Syria, there are no mobilizations. The US antiwar “movement” is dead; it died when it mobilized in solidarity with the Assad regime. It was betrayed and murdered by the apologists for the Assad regime. The pieces that make up our antiwar coalitions may be able to regroup and rebuild, but only if they embrace solidarity with the democratic struggles.

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.

 

framing 1

WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

Framing the debate is about using the best language to draw others into one’s worldview. It is based on values and influenced by a set of assumptions about how the world is and how it works.

Most of us in the Free Syria campaign identify with progressive and nurturing values and believe in the Enlightenment idea that “the truth will set us free”. We tend to consider humans as basically rational beings. This means that our belief is that when people are presented with the facts, they will reach the right conclusions. But this is sadly NOT the case! We’ve seen this time and time again, as we become stupefied that people have reacted in the ways they have, with indifference, hypocritically, with hostility and with their insistent clinging to the negation of facts, even ones that cannot be denied or covered up.

That is because we haven’t realised that people don’t react to facts, but they only accept them if they already fit into their personal worldview, if they fit into their “frame”. Knowing what a frame is and how to use it to promote the Syrian freedom struggle is important, so we shall begin with explaining how this mechanism functions. All people are born into a world where language already exists and serves to maintain the dominant social order or the community, creating a common identity through its use. Because of how the human brain works, based on language-based thought, people are strongly “identity-based” and use automatically and adopt without critical thought, the framing of what they know or accept (or adopt) as their personal identity, as individuals in a common group. The identity can be based on factors such as nationality, sex, political leaning, religious or ethnic belonging, being part of a majority or minority in one’s own environment and notions of the “moral order”, a sociological concept that comprises a body of unwritten social values and conventions which serve to maintain societal order. The hierarchical moral order of value to society that is the dominant one in the US, God is above man, man above nature, adults above children, Western culture above non-Western culture, America above other nations, men above women, whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, is perceived, even if we don’t personally adopt it, particularly in the light of American foreign policy following 9/11, as being the values of America and its people, also because many do adopt it. In a multipolar world, even wanting to have an alternative framing, the dominant hegemonic one cannot be simply brushed off, and therefore, a very different framing evolved in the various peace movements, and many of us have adopted the alternative framing as our own, despite the fact that it is not the model in force when we were brought into the world. So we know we are able to reframe, but the world remains basically what it is.

Framing, particularly when it comes from a strong identity that is reinforced by the media and entertainment industry, has a preference for certain words. It is simply enough to hear the word so that an entire value system is conjured up in the listener, the value system behind that word, so we should know who developed those words and what their goals are, and if they fit into our value system. Every value system is going to have its own framing and it is going to use it during debate or when making points in discussion.

Here we come to a first principle for effectively framing an argument: DO NOT USE THEIR LANGUAGE. Their words are going to draw you and your audience into their worldview. If you keep the language of the adversary or their framing and just argue against it you do not win because you are merely reinforcing their existing frame.

Framing confusion!

Framing confusion!

So, it’s important to know what the adversary thinks and why they believe what they do. We have to try to predict what they will say, but also to understand the reasons why they hold these values. That means you have to plot people on a spectrum. It’s not a case of “we are good and they are bad”. Aside from a minority of truly convinced supporters of totalitarian societies and leadership, most of our adversaries got their opinions on Syria based on what we can even consider as “shared values”. Indeed, while it feels impossible that those defending the Assad regime’s crimes, its attacks on the civilian population and destruction of the country have any shared values, it is not as absurd as we might think. The denial of the genocide of the Syrian people is something that many who share common values with us buy into. Most of those who are currently our adversaries in Answer and Stop the War, advocating for staying out of the Syrian situation and letting it run its course without “us” made their first forays into protests shoulder to shoulder with us, against the Iraq war, in struggles for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and aggression against southern Lebanon. They were our comrades in leftist, progressive and anti-imperialist groups. Like them, we do not accept unilateralism or the violations of the sovereignty of nations. We too adopt the ideas of self-determination of populations. These are some common values that also contained strong and consolidated linguistic framing and slogans such as “not in my name” and “don’t bomb”. The pro-Assad movements co-opted many of these slogans and framing, but they did not adopt the most important frame and slogan, which is our patrimony and our core value, that of “freedom and dignity of the Syrian people”.

There are other common values that the defenders of the regime attempted to co-opt, and we simply cannot allow them to consider the regime as defending the values such as acceptance of diversity, rejection of sectarianism, the co-existence of diverse ethnic and religious groups in a common form of State, the separation of religious and governmental powers, equality of women and men.

CODE-PINK-and-Popular-Resistance-protest-at-Armed-Services-hearing-9-16-14-e1410967258834But there are many other values that are common which have slipped away from the framing of those who once were progressives or, are Progressive Except for Syria, but who have now joined the debate in the defence of Assad. Our framing highlights the principle of protection of the people and of the infrastructure. There is also the idea of the lack of legitimacy of Assad. The idea we have of a revolution that demands the fall of the regime predominates, while our adversaries see the concept of Syrian sovereignty, i.e., the maintenance of the current State apparatus, as the core value. They buy into the view of the Syrian revolution as being just one more “colour revolution”, repeating the Russian framing that it is a form of warfare promoted from Washington and has nothing to do with protests against corrupt leadership or the desire to overthrow a totalitarian authority. Naturally, Russia is against all popular uprisings for their own political reasons, and thus, it is natural that the country that had a revolution as its foundational story, but was actually a new tyranny that still exists in different form today, would promote such a line to maintain their own hegemony. It also stood to reason that persons who wear Che Guevara shirts are unable to recognise an actual revolution when it happens because their fetish about revolution was based on State Capitalism and not true Socialism, and they still follow the dogma of the frames provided by those who promote themselves as the true opposition to American unilateralism.

The protesters in the streets who were shot at, thus in one fell swoop taking away any kind of moral legitimacy of Assad as Syria’s president and driving the country into war, with the soldiers who dissented forming the basis of the Free Syrian Army, were not seen as having their own legitimacy or right to self-determination. They view the Syrian revolution from the previous framing that comes from the post 9/11 policy of the USA, where wars in the Middle East derive from the unilateral American imperialist drive to dominate the area and control the resources. They know the USA lied about basic issues in order to pull the USA into wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. They know they depicted Saddam as an evil man and not the President of a country, so he would have to be fought and the population that died would be “collateral damage”, human blood on the hands of the West. The people who accept this framing do not really care about the facts that make Syria a completely different situation with a totally different scenario. They do not recognise that the people themselves in the Arab Spring were the ones demanding the fall of the regime, not “regime change”, a concept that entails foreign meddling for their own national interest. People who denounce UN Vetos when they are used against actions that defend Palestinians are supportive of them and applaud them when Russia and China use them to prevent actions that defend the Syrian people, protecting Assad from inspections about his chemical weapons, which his supporters first denied, but had to backpedal when Assad admitted having them and a deal was worked out to “hand them over” to the Russians. If there is an imperialist orchestration of the war, facts point out that it is Russia at the conductor’s podium. They aren’t interested, obviously, in overthrowing a regime that serves their interests so well and, but they are interested in providing it with arms to keep it firmly in power.

No-more-war-on-SyriaIn every situation involving a conflict, which we can define as a “story”, there is a crime, a victim, a villain and a hero. The legacy of Iraq plays heavily on the perception of these categories. People are not again willing to be fooled again. They don’t want to be dragged into what they call “oil wars”. Therefore, they don’t want to follow the pattern of the past, but can’t forget it, and the supporters of the regime use this framing to win international support. They don’t want to make Assad another Saddam, they don’t believe he is a true villain, but is instead the victim. His use of chemical weapons was ignored also because consensus in the USA will not “fall for” more frames that include WMDs. Slogans like “Bush lied, millions died” are not going to be forgotten easily. Thus, the crime scenario has changed as well. It is seen by these people not as what evidence and facts show, i.e., a crime against civilians where arbitrary arrest and torture and oppression, that were already the reason for the protests in the first place, were brought to an extreme level and done out in the open because they were framed with a scenario of “self-defence”. The victim shifted from being primarily the Syrian people into the Syrian government, busy defending itself in order to protect its people from foreign intervention and terrorism.

The regime’s justification for openly doing things that international conventions and common ethics do not allow was that they were defending themselves from various nefarious entities. They in fact, didn’t always deny the crimes they were accused of, but downsized them, attempted to put the responsibility for some of them on their opponents and used them in their framing on a continuative basis. The narrative of resistance to the Zionist state was no longer very convincing, as they never lifted a finger to liberate an inch of the occupied Golan, so the villain had to be promoted more fully and was effectively done with those who already have adopted the anti-imperialist narrative and framing. It also roped in the neo-cons and Islamophobes because it claimed that the enemy was more on various fronts, it was the Imperialist West, the Jihadis, Islamic Terrorists, Foreign Agents who trained traitors to overthrow a legitimate government, not respecting the will of the Syrian people to be governed by whoever they wanted, and in this case, by Assad.

Since any narrative functions only when the language can be quickly understood by the listeners, the previous slogans and language of peace movements were used to bolster the power of the regime. Rather than use the language in a reactive way, they used it in an assertive way, with some exceptions such as “Don’t Bomb Syria”. It has worked to depict and sell the war as a heroic struggle of good over evil with Assad and nations outside the unilateral power paradigm fighting those who want to destroy it and make it conform to an evil system. You will see many arguments about it not being in the Rothchilds banking system, about it being part of the Axis of Resistance to Israel, about it being some kind of state with a socialist division of wealth and its refusal to align with Western powers and serve their interests. The regime is depicted as a force against homologation and they are fighting against foreign invasion. The struggle that the regime is fighting is depicted as an existential struggle and he is framed as a good guy… or, if not quite a “good” guy, he’s certainly depicted as the “lesser evil”.

To do this, the regime has to be depicted as “moderate” and opposition to the regime has to be depicted as “extremist”, and the FSA and the many militias that oppose the regime but also oppose the Islamic State and the idea of a Caliphate have been either painted out of the picture, or reframed as belonging to some extremist Jihadi form of warfare that is anti-democratic and against our values that include secularism, pluralism, equality of the sexes, etc. The position and the power of the Islamic State had to be framed as the opposition to the regime, their presence had to be the only one acknowledged, their crimes against minorities had to be highlighted, while the crimes of the regime against the majority had to be ignored for this framing to be complete. The vastness of the regime crimes are nothing, really, if you compare it to what the Islamic State has in store. Thus, if you couldn’t whitewash Assad, you had to at least “admit he was the lesser evil”.

The concept of “lesser evil” should also be rejected as a frame. It somehow seeks to depict all sides as being forces of evil, current or potential, and it allows for the violation of human rights and exceptions to our ethical rules, because there would have to be exceptions made in order for a “greater good”. The violation of basic human rights, arrest of minors, arbitrary arrest of the adult population, disappearances, the suspension of freedom and so forth, have to be tolerated, stretching the moral and ethical standards beyond known acceptable limits. All of these things would never be allowed in democracies such as our own, and if they were, they would be slippery slopes indeed, so people rightfully march in the streets against these violations in their own countries. But when the Syrians marched, their rights did not matter, what mattered was the ideological and dogmatic things activists started to accept as the norm when supporting a “lesser evil” while also believing they were in the right and progressive.

If there are terrorists, it is commonly held that they must be fought and they must not win, by any means necessary, or so goes the narrative. By clumsy or manipulative definition of who the terrorist is, the regime allowed decent human beings to think that it was for a greater good that children and adults are preventively arrested, shot at and their cities even held under siege and arbitrarily bombed, creating what we know of in the West as the “refugee crisis”, but which in fact means that half of the Syrians have been displaced from the country and countless have been killed, arrested and disappeared. The activists in the West who support Assad accept starvation sieges and the suspension of freedom. These people are going to accept forced expulsions and ethnic cleansing of population to be replaced with populations supportive of the regime, because they accept the regime framing of them as “evacuations”: all in the name of their adoption of the “lesser evil” framing, and duly manipulated through the use of the framing they were already using since the Iraq war.

In our framing, rejecting the “lesser evil” framing, we must present the value that any evil is unacceptable. That we operate according to other values and standards and we are not willing to compromise on them. We uphold human life and freedom and we also recognise the manipulative nature of the fallacy of the regime narrative because we witness the effects of his policy. Since he bases his action on a goal of defending his power, but frames it as saving the nation, everything can be sacrifice to preserve the State apparatus as it exists under his control. There never could have been reform, as it would have threatened his power, so the narrative shifted from peaceful protests demanding reform to that of foreign-backed regime change and currently is centred on prevention and defeat of radical Islamic Terrorists.

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria's anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: "Murderer. Go away". REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: “Murderer. Go away”. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The revolution was reframed as external meddling, with a popular framing being that the Islamic forces, (ignoring the fact that they were often actually fighting against the Islamic State) were all terrorists that were “Al Qaeda affiliates” or they were part of the Islamic State. In some cases, the framing was that both Al Qaeda and ISIS were creations of the CIA, so the full spectrum of the opposition was nothing more than a CIA regime change operation. The Syrian regime was thus justified for almost any crime it committed. The systematic and institutionalised security apparatus that had been used to control the population and punish dissent in order to preserve power had been morphed in the framing into being a tool for prevention and containment of Islamic terrorism. In the framing of the anti-imperialists, he became a heroic defender of his country’s autonomy, sovereignty, and a pillar of secularism and pluralism. To those who  never harboured much affection for him, the  War on Terror narrative meant that he was the lesser evil when put next to Jihadi Terrorism, which basically only becomes problematic to them because it is without distinct boundaries, capable of recruitment, uses unconventional and random attacks more often than war on the battlefield, or it occupies rural areas and roads in faraway places in Africa, the Middle East and Asia but also in the cities of the West such as New York and Paris. Since it can’t be easily contained, but causes fear, it is perceived as a greater threat to the world. New alliances to support this new paradigm have been formed, such as those with Iran and Russia, entering into the framing as actions to “protect the world”.

The principle remains that facts serve the narrative, not the other way around. People will ignore the number of deaths caused by the regime because they feel that its struggle is noble, that it is also THEIR struggle, that he is a lesser evil. The facts that they illustrate are looked at and accepted as long as they fit the pre-existing or predominant frames.

So, how do we overcome this impasse when what is actually an aggressive, destructive, tyrannical force is passed along as the “good guy”? Not by ignoring or abandoning the facts, but by working on our framing. Facts will be ignored, but the frame, if it resonates with the VALUES of the listener, will remain. We have to focus on our shared values, think strategically and with the BIG PICTURE in mind, not moving from crisis to crisis or issue to issue, though at times we need to do that because of the humanitarian emergency that we are dealing with in Syria, and that our adversaries ignore until people land on their shores or cross over their borders.

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

Our enemy is war. Or enemy is terrorism. Assad started the war. Assad enabled terrorism and has used it over and over to stay in power. Assad raised the war to atrocity levels also by violating human rights further than what he has done already in “peacetime” but he now does it openly in the fog of war, where people are ready to suspend their ethics and values for a perceived “greater good”. He brought in foreign fighters to carry out his war, from places such as Russia, Iran and Lebanon, with their militias and their commanders leading battles and carpet bombing entire areas. Assad’s enemy is the Syrian people and their tendency to dissent, as a free people will try to do. He is against their dignity and self-determination. He is willing and able to destroy the people, drive them out of their homes and country, all in the name of holding onto power. His army uses the slogan “Assad or we burn the country”, and this is also their military policy. He allowed forces such as ISIS to develop by freeing the most radical elements from his prisons and replacing them with secular dissenters. He has never actually attacked ISIS and in fact, his army fled from cities they controlled, rather than defend them from ISIS, leaving the population at the mercy of the brutal Islamic State militias. He has labelled all those who oppose him as Islamic Jihadi Terrorists, Saudi or American agents, etc. The point is. Be PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE. List what Assad has done, talk about how he has taken advantage of the fear and uncertainty that has been a dominant theme of the world since 9/11 to oppress his people further, to consolidate his power and to create a “Coalition of the Killing” to help him carry out his own agenda, which is totally anti-democratic, not at all moderate, but is blood-drenched and destructive for the entire region and beyond. He created the refugee crisis that is affecting Europe, he is laying the basis for imperialist domination of the Levant. He is following the opposite of the principle of non-interference, as his internal calls for reform were met with violence and the nation’s army, rather than defend the country’s assets and people, was asked to wage war against them. Since they were insufficient for such a task of bringing the whole country under his control once the uprising became a revolution, he called for other armies and militias to do his battles, lead his forces and bomb opposition areas.

Keep the framing on a level of values, then substantiate with facts. Recognise that neutral people may actually be using a language and framing that they don’t fully agree with or adhere to, but that is because they are more familiar with it or have heard it more often Since television and the media focus, both mainstream and alternative, focus on ISIS crimes, the public may not actually be aware of the scope of the crimes of the regime and how it created the war in Syria.

In debates, never answer a question framed from your opponent’s point of view. Always reframe the question to fit YOUR values and frames. Stay away from set-ups where you have no control of your own presentation or language and are forced to conform to a frame you know is a lie. If you can’t participate in events due to their nature as set-ups, CREATE your own opportunities, and be aware that the adversary is just waiting for an opportunity to trap you into his frame. Don’t let that opportunity arise.

framing 3Stay with values that you truly hold, be aware of the values that those in the public hold and frame the shared values. Stay on the offensive, not the defensive. You can actually convince people simply by asserting something, bear that in mind. People do not always know enough about something to fact-check it, but if you know your facts, can assert your frame calmly and rationally, it shows that you are knowledgeable, convinced of the reasonableness of your point of view and it then becomes authoritative.

Reinforce our terminology and framing. We know Assad is not a “President” as the term is understood within a democracy, but instead, he is a “Dictator” and a “Tyrant”, illegitimately holding power by the force of a completely twisted election in which only his supporters were allowed to participate freely. We know his is not a democratic government with a legislative and judiciary branch and a security system that would be tolerated in any normal democracy, but it is a “Regime”. We know he is not a “Moderate”, but an “Extremist” who uses unconventional warfare and has committed crimes against humanity against his people. He routinely uses terrorism. We know he is not “defending” his country, but “attacking” it and has dragged the entire world into his war against the people just to maintain his power, which is also economic. Those countries dragged in are not freedom and sovereignty lovers, but instead are making profits and a killing (literally) through their arms sales and use of their weapons and soldiers. They are interested in their energy deals and the huge reconstruction that they will be paid to do in the post-war period. They have geopolitical designs in the area that go from their own control of a naval base to the re-alignment of the Levant under Iranian/Shi’a predominance. They want to stockpile their arms and forces in the area for expansionist policies.

We will be pulled into issues where we are put on the defensive. A current one is the denial of the starvation policy that the regime uses against opposition-held areas. We are told (in fact) two different narratives, and there are two framings that are used interchangeably. The first is that the “rebels” (which we should call simply “the Opposition”) have kept the food out and that they use the civilians as their hostages and human shields and the second goes that they there is actually no starvation going on, because what we see are pictures from other places and dates that are used in the reports that come out of these places.

We can use and pick apart both of these framing attempts and reframe so as to point out that it is indeed Assad behind the starvation campaign. First of all, we can point out that it is the regime that controls access to the city, which is not a secret to anyone. Nothing goes in or out unless the regime (or its proxy, Hezbollah, in the case of Madaya) lets it. UN and ICRC convoys that officially have delivered the first aid allowed in after six months, as well as independent convoys, all have acknowledged the regime restriction on aid being delivered unless it obtains permission from the regime, which finally gave it after the international outcry. Any other food coming in must be smuggled or bribes paid to the regime soldiers at the roadblocks, which has been how some aid has made it in through even the regime controls. Is it not morally bankrupt for food to have to be smuggled in? Restricting food violates all rules of war and international conventions about those caught in war and how they shall be treated. Secondly, we can point out that people are ethnically cleansed in order that the most ill can be treated and have food, while the word “evacuated” is used. They are not being evacuated from a disaster area, they are being further punished and forced out of their homes as part of a greater plan of ethnic cleansing and replacement of the population with a different one.

Regarding the authenticity of the pictures, reframing here also works to our advantage: we recognise that regular professional journalists are denied entry unless they are embedded by the regime. We also know that independent journalists are killed by the regime and the numbers alone prove that the regime has targeted journalists and hoped it would be a war in the dark, despite the age of internet and cell phones. Individuals who are not journalists smuggle out pictures and videos taken with their phones. Word-of-mouth is used to circulate the pictures and the tam-tam is not always accurate because the profession of journalism has not been allowed to do its work. Citizen journalists may not speak anything but their own language, they do not control the use of their images after they start to circulate and not even taking into account the disinformation campaign the Russians and regime supporters are trained in and practice, it’s not common practice for people to use due diligence and check the photos. And yet, their efforts have been verified by non-political agencies on the ground who have testified that what they had seen when being finally allowed in by the regime were indeed entire areas of forced starvation and siege, the withholding of food and medicine and the survival of the people by resorting to eating grass, leaves and salt. They claim that photos may be from one of the many besieged cities, that it is not just one city, but that this practice is widespread. Covering up crimes and atrocities this outrageous by shifting the focus onto the authenticity of specific pictures when there is ample evidence this is in fact the actual situation is nothing less than genocide denial. We refuse to adopt this as our principle. We do not miss the forest for the trees as the regime defenders do in their pitiful attempts to change the framing into one of “it’s all lies, none of this is true, nothing to look at, move on.”

By predicting what the adversary’s framing is, refusing to use it and thus reinforce it, but using OUR OWN framing in a PROACTIVE way, based on our values, we can draw others into our worldview, which puts the protection of the Syrian people as the priority, as well as the defence of their struggle for freedom, because freedom and justice are our core values, and we will never compromise on these humanitarian and human values.

101677e1441761633o6071WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

There are various moments / instances involved in the act of participation in discussions/debates

  • Launching the argument (starting the discourse)
  • Entering into a discussion that is already in course
  • Leaving a discussion (or closing a discussion)

For each of these, there are factors to consider: among which

  • Who is the interlocutor
  • Who is the listening public
  • Preparation of the participants
  • Preparation of the public – present at public events, broadcasts (real) or / Internet, Facebook, comments on articles (virtual)
  • Expectations of the public

Therefore, it is essential to know three things:

  • One’s own level of preparation and that of the interlocutor,
  • Determine the interest that the public has to follow your reasoning (and therefore, to adapt yourself, if necessary, to the climate of the debate and to the new elements that have emerged during the debate),
  • Know exactly what you hope to obtain and also that which you are unwilling to compromise on in terms or conclusion. The public often determines a “winner” of a debate. This is true even regarding interventions that do not include rebuttals, because the listener evaluates whether or not his or her own position has changed as a result of what the speaker has said.

Regarding our own preparedness, we are personally responsible, therefore, we have to keep well-informed of the arguments to handle, do our research, have an archive of facts and information that are easily accessible to us. We also have to be clear and convincing in our presentation of the information. We thus have to believe in what we are saying and also be able to support it with arguments based on reason, logic, supported by data that is as recent, reliable and convincing as possible.

In consideration of the level of preparation of the interlocutor, we also must do our research. Often, it is a person who has expressed his or her positions publicly, therefore, before the encounter, it is necessary to prepare ourselves on the arguments of this person. This means that we should know not only the probable content of her or her interventions, but also the sources he or she uses, the communication style, if in the past he or she has obtained something for supporting a position (we must not forget that almost all of the Assad supporters in Italy and Europe have been guests of the regime in Damascus or they have been paid or remunerated for their interventions, articles and sites in Europe). We have to mentally anticipate the discourse of the interlocutor, know his or her sources and their reliability, and we have to understand where he or she wants to bring the argument, as well as where he or she does not want to be brought by us.

The climate of the debate could also be determined by the moderator, or when there is no moderator, by the persons on the discussion panel. At times the public could also influence the climate, particularly when the debate begins to get heated or during the Q & A. Each interlocutor always tries to have the public on its side, and therefore has to always be aware of the signals it is sending. Sometimes it is possible to know if the public is sympathetic, hostile or neutral. If one does not know, it is a good policy to assume that it is sympathetic, but not too much. The approach in this case is to explain / define some lesser-known points, but assuming that the public has basic notions and also has already formed an opinion. It is also correct to assume that your values and the values of the public are specular or similar. It is a good policy to anticipate (mentally) the questions and the worries of the public and to satisfy their need to obtain answers that are honest, concise and correct. If, during the debate, one finds oneself on the defensive, it is preferable to acts as if the public were neutral and in this case, rather than be argumentative or assuming a defensive attitude (which is not appealing to anyone), it is necessary to take a step back and explain basic concepts in which a common ground can be found once more. In this case, it is also a good practise to assume that the public is in good faith, just as you are in good faith, but only that it does not have some necessary information. Your task is to provide the information they are lacking.

Instances of discussions:  

Launch: When one begins a discourse, it should be clear what he or she hopes to obtain, but it should also be clear to the public. Therefore, decide and express immediately if it is an informational meeting, if the public will be involved in some way, if some kinds of  actions are being asked of them, if there is also going to be the presence and participation of persons with opinions that are in conflict with their own (debate), etc.

The introduction (prior to opening the participation in the debate to others) should also incorporate the point or points that are going to be addressed. It is an ACTION THAT PROPOSES AND SHOULD NOT BE REACTIVE.  It also should not anticipate conflicting opinions (which could emerge during the debate). It is important that if we are the ones to launch the discussion, the evolution of the discussion follows specific paths that we are the ones to direct. Therefore, we have to use the concept of “framing the discourse”, in which we do not allow that the argument is changed into a different argument,  we should avoid becoming distracted or brought too far away from our theme, we should not lose control and ownership of the discourse. Every time it becomes necessary, we have to know how to bring the discourse back on track. In these moments, the adversary could attempt to use various “derailment” strategies, trying to not allow us to conclude our line of reasoning, and to make us feel frustrated. It is important to NOT become frustrated, to not lose patience, but to communicate in a clear and reasonable way that the argument is going to get back on track now. Often we find that the adversary uses “argumentative or logical fallacies” which are violations of the rules of critical discourse, when he or she is unsuccessful in taking down an argument based on merit of logic of with facts. A fundamental resource of the discipline of Pragmatics and with helpful suggestions for persons engaged in public debates is the Journal of Pragmatics: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03782166

In conclusion, if you are launching the discourse, REMAIN THE OWNER OF THE DISCOURSE.

Argument already begun: This is generally the case during events when you are on the panel but have not organised the event, when you are in the public and have asked a question or “challenge” one of the interlocutors during the Q & A, when you are participating in a radio or television broadcast, when you participate in discussion groups in Internet, when you respond to comments in articles in newspapers or on sites.

Differently from the first instance, you are more REACTIVE and are responding to the points already expressed by others. Your form of response in general would be one of demonstrating the errors (or reasoning, source, data) of the information that’s been presented, or, if it is not a contrasting opinion, but only one that is not complete, to complement the intervention with further information.

It is always important to not deviate from the theme, or you actually CAN deviate the discourse of the others as long as it is logical and correct, but NEVER violating the rules of discussion. Always avoid fallacies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

Leaving a discussion or closing a discussion:  If it is an event that we or others have organised, the time limit has generally been established, and we should keep the discussion always within those temporal limits. The organiser has to always advise the public that the event is coming to its closure at around fifteen minutes prior to the end, and during this time will also try to express a conclusion or, if possible, to have the final word. If you are responsible for concluding the meeting, it has to be closed in a climate that is pacific, calm and conciliatory, even if during the event there has been heated debate. Never leave the public with the sensation that you are argumentative and quarrelsome or that you hold grudges. It is equally important to avoid using expressions that are exasperated or excessive.

If it is a virtual intervention, (that is, without a known time limit or the need to bring it to a conclusion) we have to always consider if it is worthwhile to persevere or if it is more beneficial to leave the conversation. Elements to consider: number of participants, if others are influenced/can be persuaded by our intervention, how many colleagues we have to sustain us and contribute or whether we are alone against everyone.

In addition, we have to always keep in mind the type of public that is present, and to choose both the method and the arguments where we can find common ground. There are various ways to convince the public of the correctness of our argument, but it will be more effective if our language, the issues we focus on and our conclusions are easily assimilated. We should participate in debates where we can contribute in a positive way with our knowledge, and we also have to know the terrain in which we are not knowledgeable and to leave the space to colleagues who are more informed than we are or who have particular experiences and information that could reach the public. We have to be aware of our own limits and recognise the merits of others, asking them to contribute in our place when they could communicate the concepts better than we can.

Also in Italian in Le Voci Della Liberta

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The greatest threat to Syrian civilians is not ISIS or terrorism, but the regime and its allies.

Any credible peace initiative cannot ignore the information that comes directly from the field nor the direct and indirect complicity of Italy and Europe in the massacre underway: this is not about taking sides with one of the warring parties, it is about saving the lives of civilians when they are buried in the rubble of their homes and not first determining what the geopolitical consequences of their tragedy might be.

More information about the weapons trade agreements of Italian companies with the Russian arms monopoly Rosoboronexport: https://www.change.org/p/laura-boldrini-impedire-contratti-…

Italian light weapons and targeting systems in Syria: http://www.unimondo.org/…/Siria-rifornita-di-sistemi-milita…

The Italian Iveco LMV vehicles deployed by Assad: https://www.facebook.com/Abu.Diana/posts/10153658728853627?__mref=message_bubble

Italian technologies in the service of repression of Assad: http://tetra-applications.com/21030 http://www.bloomberg.com/…/syria-crackdown-gets-italy-firm-… http://arstechnica.com/…/wikileaks-italian-firm-sold-syria…/

Open letter to Italian movements for peace, disarmament and solidarity. SIGN THE LETTER

The ongoing conflict in Syria since the beginning of 2011 has caused more than 250,000 victims, over 10 million people (half the population!) have been forced to flee their homes, hundreds of thousands of women and men have been arrested, tortured and made to disappear, while another 650,000 human beings are currently living in areas under siege, with no guaranteed access to water, food and medicine.

Despite the fact that the UN Security Council, with Resolution no. 2139, has unanimously called – as early as February 2014 – for the cessation of the bombing of the civilian population, it has continued, and alongside the bombing undertaken by the regime, including the use of the notorious barrels bombs, are the bombs of the “international coalition” that are justified by saying they are going against the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, but that, to date, has hit mainly civilians, not sparing even schools and hospitals. In 2015 over 73% of the civilian victims were caused by the Syrian government forces, followed by ISIS with 8%, 6% for the armed opposition and in just three months the Russian air force has been responsible for 5% of the number of victims in the year. The direct entry into the conflict by Russia – which has supported and armed the regime of the Assad clan, along with Iran and Hezbollah – has worsened an already desperate situation: three months from the first Russian aerial bombing, less than 20% of them have hit targets linked to ISIS, while the vast majority of bombs were dropped on other targets, with no regard for the civilian population.

Affected were hospitals and schools, bread production facilities and civilian homes, adding more blood to the already huge amount that has run over the past five years. According to the NGO Syrian Network for Human Rights, which recently published a detailed report, between 85% and 90% of Russian bombings have hit areas controlled by opposition groups to the regime of the Assad clan and densely populated areas. They have bombed, among other things, 16 schools, 10 hospitals or health care facilities, 10 markets, 5 bread production facilities, two archaeological cemeteries and one bridge.

Even more recently, Amnesty International has documented of the Russian bombing campaigns on the Syrians, claiming that they can be configured as war crimes and defining the attempt of the Russian government to deny having committed these crimes as “shameful”.

It seems clear, therefore, as the renewed efforts of the international governments – born in the wake of the conferences in Vienna and New York in the last two months and aimed at reaching a political solution to the conflict in Syria – are at high risk of failure, when which (in addition to being launched in the absence of any Syrian party) do not call for the immediate cessation of attacks on civilians. Significantly, after the approval of Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council of 18 December, they attacks and bombings have increased dramatically on all areas no longer under the control of the Assad regime. There is an upsurge in the use of cluster bombs, while the Damascene suburb of Moaddamye has denounced even a new chemical attack.

Faced with this scenario, the silence of the movements and organisations, of peace activists, of proponents of disarmament and of the Left in Italy is extremely embarrassing. Sorry to say it, but it seems that they think that the bombs from the White House are criminal and those of the Kremlin are innocuous or even positive. As hard as you look, you cannot find a statement or a simple comment on the devastation caused in Syria by Russian bombs, and no shortage of protests – sacrosanct – against sending Italian bombs and other weapons to Saudi Arabia, in the legitimate presumption that these bombs will be used in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. This double standard, in our opinion, is delegitimising the initiative of the movements and of the left: it is not credible to have a denunciation of the bombing on civilians when they are operated by the US at the same time as a total silence when similar bombings against civilians are carried out by another power. The excuse that these States are supposed to be our allies and so it is to Washington and the chancelleries close to it that we should focus our attention is a weak one, from the moment the Assad government has deployed the Italian means of production supplied to him by Moscow and still employs Italian targeting systems on his tanks, as well as Italian spy technologies used to detect and suppress nonviolent activists who gave birth to the Syrian revolt since 2011. Even the Italian weapons sold to the Russian Rosoboronexport are likely to be used against civilians.

With this open letter, we want to urge the movement and the Left towards undertaking a coherent initiative requesting the cessation of all military operations in Syria against civilians, by whomsoever they are committed, in the same way that we have to request the cessation of sieges and the creation of humanitarian corridors for cities, villages and refugee camps, that have been subjected to this collective punishment for years, as well as the release of all political prisoners.

In the absence of such an initiative, all talk of sustaining peace in Syria cannot but appear completely hypocritical.
Comitato Khaled Bakrawi

To join and support this open letter:  comitatokhaledbakrawi@gmail.com

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Original in Italian https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iqSTSxnN5Af_TcWIzYIs90v0uQ14MDpZM_FS_BVrIm0/viewform?c=0&w=1&fbzx=-1784805715108071000

 

show_imgReport to the National Conference for Freedom in Syria – 10-11 October, Bologna, Italy

Mary Rizzo

Since the beginning of the revolution, the civil society, in Syria and in the world, has expressed its solidarity or condemnation by means of declarations that were then signed by organisations and individuals, often prominent ones. These declarations are intended to be distributed with the purposed of informing the public about positions regarding principles but also on the policies that are desired but not yet in force. Most of these statements are concentrated in particular periods. Many of them were issued on anniversaries such as 21 August, the anniversary of the massacre of Ghouta. Others were issued after what is perceived as an emergency such as recent arrivals in Europe with the Balkan route.

These declarations fall into different genres and are used for various purposes: short-term and immediate policy declarations, statements of terms to enter a phase of transition and political solution, declarations of long-term policies and recommendations for entities like states, international bodies or political groups.

In statements that express reference to immediate policies, the most frequent requests are for the free passage of humanitarian aid without the authorisation of the regime, which blocks the arrival of aid in areas not under their control, forcing activists and charities to tackle many risks to bring these relief goods, medicines, clothes and products for infants in the first place, to areas where there is need, and denying them any type of protection. The protection of civilians is articulated in particular with requests for humanitarian corridors but especially with the request for the establishment of a No Fly Zone. The request for a No Fly Zone which started already in 2012 by civil society in Syria, initially was only for parts of Syria under the constant bombardment of the regime, but last year this request has been extended (particularly from groups belonging to the left) to all parts of Syria, which is now also under aerial bombardment by the Coalition and more recently, Russia. In one of the statements, by Rethink, Rebuild Society, the request is extended to the British government to support the coalition in the American bombing of ISIS and to extend it to Iraq after the population has been moved to safe places.

The other request of an immediate nature is often directed to foreign countries, and has to do with the policy of management of refugees and expansion of Operation Triton for rescue in the Mediterranean.

manifesto_for_syria_2_740Among the declarations of a more immediate nature is the Manifesto for Syria, written by Syria Solidarity Movement and inspired by the demands of Planet Syria and The Syria Campaign (which includes The White Helmets), grouping more than 150 different groups in Syria and in the diaspora. It is divided into two different proposals, supported by an international campaign of petitions with the titles, “A No Fly Zone for Syria” and “Syrian Refugees Welcome Here”.

Among the statements that express a principled stand for the transition, those standing out are from Syria, in particular the document of the National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in April of 2013 and the Declaration of the Syrian Islamic Council issued a few days ago and called The Five Principles of the Revolution. Both documents (which in fact mirror every single declaration regarding the transition) pose as a principle priority the end of the Assad regime as a prerequisite for any political solution or international initiative. They also exclude the participation of close associates of Assad in the transitional phase and exclude them as part of the solution for Syria. However, the fight is not against the state but against the regime and therefore the structures and state institutions must be preserved and re-organised for the purpose of protecting the state and the people who worked for the State but who are not corrupt or guilty of crimes. The Coalition also includes in military and security personnel the people to protect.

CPMjOpPWoAAS3OVThe document of the Syrian Islamic Council, signed by 74 revolutionary formations and 52 high personalities indicates the other four principles: The dismantling of the security agencies affiliated with the regime; that all foreign forces must leave Syria; the preservation of the unity, territorial integrity and national identity; the refusal to share power based on sectarian criteria.

The Syrian Islamic Council, founded in 2013, consists of 128 delegates, 50 of which in the liberated areas, represents 40 leagues and religious committees that have grown especially in the Diaspora since 2011. It does not include the Islamic Front but consolidates a moderate Islamist axis inside the opposition. The Council has issued a fatwa against Isis in 2014 but also a Fatwa this June, which forbids enlistment in YPG or PKK, who are seen as sectarian forces.

The rejection of sectarianism is a dominant feature of all the statements, and is part of the “Core Values”, in particular the statements offering long-term policies insist that the core values should be integrated in any transition framework or constituent phase. The values ​​are those for which the revolution began in the first place: the desires of equality, rights, representation, freedom of expression, assembly, affiliation, religion, rights for minorities and women and just distribution of the wealth of the state.

A core value of all the statements is territorial integrity and rejection of divisions along ethnic or sectarian lines. The Syrians have always lived as one people and the division would cause great instability.

4dea0958f8d68b45113c0a797d9fa256A declaration of principles that is perhaps the most representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people is The Freedom Charter by the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria (FREE-Syria), a humanitarian organisation of civil society development founded by people involved with the LCC (Local Coordination Committees). The Freedom Charter, inspired by the South African Freedom Charter, a document of national unity, was based on tens of thousands of face-to-face interviews carried out by a team of more than one hundred activists coordinated by FREE-Syria and the LCC with Syrians in each governate of the country, asking what kind of society they desired to live in. The Charter however reflected the values ​​of the revolution, for a state based on equality, justice and freedom. Aspirations are included in a State based on the rule of law, in which leaders are elected by the people. An independent, sovereign state, within the current UN-recognised borders and that follows and obeys international conventions and treaties. That the assets of the country belong to all of Syria and the Syrian armed forces serve only to protect the borders of the nation and defend its sovereignty without interfering in political, economic or social issues. That courts are independent and not subject to the authority of other government agencies or the pressure of special interest groups. Education shall be free, compulsory and available to all.

Syria_Between_Dictatorship_and_ISISIt is followed by a section that lists the rights, the principles of equality and respect for all cultures and ethnic groups in Syria. The Freedom Charter represents the aspirations of the Syrians, but does not suggest how to achieve these results. Similar to it, but with more concrete proposals is the document called Policy Proposals for the UK, a lengthy document issued by Rethink Rebuild Society, signed by Syria Solidarity Movement, Scotland For Syria, Kurds House, Syrian Association of Yorkshire and Syrian Revolution Committee in Newcastle. It is based on the Core Values of almost all the documents cited so far, but also includes policy suggestions for the United Kingdom in order to help overcome the current situation and rebuild Syria’s future. In its twenty pages, beginning with a brief introduction to the situation and its history, it contains seven wide spectrum proposals and suggestions of policies and strategies for the government to use to implement the proposals.

The basis of the Rethink Rebuild document is for the protection of civilians both inside Syria and in exile. The first step is the establishment of a No Fly Zone over all of Syria followed by British intervention against ISIS extending also to Iraq.

It demands a unified and democratic Syria without Assad. Indeed, the second point mentions the strengthening of Syrian National Coalition (whose document I mentioned earlier) and the Free Syrian Army to facilitate a transition to a post-war Syria. It demands the British government to actively support the emergence of a unitary and democratic Syria which adheres to internationally-recognised human rights standards. As the transition period is expected to be long and very difficult, it asks the British government to support the principles and encourage the incorporation of these ideals in any transitional or constituent phase. The values ​​to be supported are the same as all the documents cited so far and in the Freedom Charter.

The third point asks a guideline for humanitarian aid, both for its collection and its distribution and with the insistence that Britain calls for full implementation of UN resolutions 2165 and 2191 authorising the distribution of humanitarian aid anywhere in Syria, across borders and without the consent or authorisation of the regime.

The last points are more specific to European relations with individual Syrians. Topics include support for refugees and rehabilitation and education of Foreign Fighters and people that have extremist views, but who have not committed crimes. The sixth point is the ability to maintain banking services to Syrian individuals and entities and the last point asks for appropriate treatment to be given to Syrians that are residents in the United Kingdom, equivalent to that of other residents.

373047_313146128710043_1498568290_nThere are two earlier declarations to be considered as important references, and they are the Declaration of Dignity issued in December of 2011 by the LCC and the Declaration signed in Geneva in May of 2012 by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Syria, the World Campaign in Support of the Syrian People and the Syrian National Council. The first announces the values of the revolution, the rights of the people and the rejection of sectarianism and commitment to upholding human dignity. The second is based on defining the Syrian struggle along the lines of the Preamble of the UN Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. It is an appeal for a pacific transition in Syria, an immediate end of the violence and repression against civilians, release of political prisoners and reform of the mass media to allow free press. Its crucial point is that the UN Declaration supports the recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression and the protection of human rights by rule of law. It calls for a constitutional assembly to be appointed to draft a new constitution that limits the functions of the president, restoring Syria to the people and not allowing it to belong to a single individual, family or party. It requests the recognition of the revolution as legitimate, legal and worthy of support.

syria-istanbul-declaration_403x227The last document that I include in this overview is The Istanbul Declaration, signed this summer by many activists and members of civil society, including some prominent historical Syrian left. It begins with an introduction that identifies the suffering of the people. It declares that Assad oppresses the people strictly to stay in power to protect his interests. Then it talks about the determination of the people in its long and difficult resistance, even moral. It speaks of the institutions that civil society has created, such as the LCCs, but in particular, it cites with admiration the steadfastness of a people who despite everything continue to protest and to do everything possible to communicate their situation through an intense activity in social media.

The declaration continues with a description of all the enemies of the people, the atrocities committed by the reactionary forces and religious extremists and includes a denunciation of the occupation of Syria by foreign forces, naming in particular the massive presence of Iran in support of reactionary forces and the regime.

The statement is divided into seven points.

The first: support of resistance and denunciation of the complicity of the Left with the regime, calling their behaviour betrayal.

The second: rejection of the intervention by anyone who is hostile to the revolution.

The third: condemnation of fundamentalist forces.

The fourth: the belief that there is no political solution that presupposes the existence of the current regime.

The fifth: denunciation of the policies of Fortress Europe.

The sixth: the connection with any popular struggle and solidarity with all oppressed people and those without justice, particularly in the region, citing, Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Palestine and any other country in the world oppressed by dictators and imperialists.

The seventh: support to the LCCs, the revolutionary councils and to humanitarian groups in addition to the independent brigades of the FSA fighting against the regime and against ISIS.

Any statements that we Italians and Syrians in Italy write and ask to be disseminated and supported should take into account the content of the existing statements. We can integrate many of their points, but also introduce points particularly relevant to our particular Italian circumstances. I hope that in the working groups we identify requests to our government, to Europe and to the general public, to come together in support of this glorious revolution.

hands offCi auguriamo che vi unirete a noi nel sostenere questo appello. Se è così, scriveteci il vostro nome così come vorreste che appaia nella versione pubblicata insieme a una frase breve (10 parole o anche meno) che vi identifichi (ad esempio professione, attivista, blogger, ecc), compreso il vostro Paese di residenza. Si prega di utilizzare questo indirizzo e-mail per contattarci: magpie68@outlook.com

“Giù le mani dalla Siria” vale anche per la Russia.
Come persone e gruppi provenienti da molti Paesi, uniti da un comune impegno per la pace, la giustizia ed i diritti umani, condanniamo l’offensiva militare russa in Siria (successiva escalation) iniziata il 30 settembre 2015.
Mentre il governo russo ha dichiarato che queste operazioni sono dirette contro lo Stato Islamico (ISIS), la maggior parte degli attacchi si sono verificati in aree con nessuna presenza dell’ISIS. L’obiettivo dell’offensiva militare russa sembrano essere le comunità civili e militari dell’opposizione nella parte a nord della regione di Homs, centro permanente di resistenza al regime di Assad.

Le vittime dell’aggressione russa il 30 settembre sono state prevalentemente civili, tra cui molti bambini. Le condizioni umanitarie erano già disperate nella zona prima che la Russia lanciasse la sua offensiva aerea, perché la zona era da tempo sotto assedio del regime per la sua resistenza.

Il regime di Assad ha provocato il caos in tutta la Siria. E’ responsabile di avere innescato la guerra civile con la sua politica di sparare contro i manifestanti che chiedevano democrazia. Il regime ha ucciso oltre un quarto di milione di siriani, ha costretto metà della popolazione ad abbandonare le loro case e ha creato milioni di profughi. Nel corso di questa operazione, ha perso il controllo di metà del Paese. Anche se la pace non potrà mai essere ripristinata dal regime che l’ha distrutto, sembrerebbe che la Russia ora utilizzi direttamente la sua potenza militare per puntellare ulteriormente un regime che, senza il sostegno straniero, sarebbe crollato anni fa. Questa operazione dalle forze russe può solo prolungare l’agonia del popolo siriano, aumentare il flusso di rifugiati e rafforzare forze estremiste come ISIS.

Le dichiarazioni russe circa la legalità dell’escalation militare non sono più veritiere di quelle usate dagli Stati Uniti per giustificare la sua guerra contro il Vietnam. Quando il governo che invita un Paese straniero a intervenire è illegittimo, lo è anche l’invito. Anche gli Stati Uniti hanno responsabilità per la catastrofe, come tutti gli attori regionali e internazionali che hanno ignorato le aspirazioni ed i sacrifici del popolo siriano in ogni loro tentativo di risolvere la crisi, sostituendoli con i propri bisogni strategici e ambizioni.

Noi condanniamo in modo inequivocabile sia le brutali azioni repressive del regime di Assad che l’intervento militare russo volto a prolungarne l’esistenza. Se la Russia vuole una transizione politica negoziata in Siria, deve fermare la sua assistenza alla brutalità e agli attacchi indiscriminati del regime siriano contro obiettivi civili e deve smettere di incoraggiare il rifiuto persistente del regime di Assad di impegnarsi in ogni serio processo di pace. Gli attacchi contro le popolazioni civili sono in violazione del diritto internazionale. Ci appelliamo alla comunità internazionale, ai governi nazionali e alle Nazioni Unite affinché assicurino il rispetto della Risoluzione del Consiglio di Sicurezza numero 2139, di cui la Russia è parte, che prevede che “Tutte le parti cessino immediatamente tutti gli attacchi contro i civili, così come l’impiego indiscriminato di armi in aree popolate.” Chiediamo a tutti coloro che si occupano di pace internazionale e di difesa dei diritti umani ad unirsi a noi nel condannare le azioni di ostentata arroganza della Russia con tutti i mezzi a vostra disposizione – lobbying dei vostri rappresentanti, manifestazioni pubbliche, petizioni pubbliche e le altre forme di protesta.

FIRMATO:

Mike Gapes, Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Ilford South, UK

Rt. Hon Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP, UK

Thomas Pierret, (Lecturer, University of Edinburgh, UK)

Rupert Read (Reader in Philosophy, University of East Anglia; Chair of Green House Think Tank, UK)

Peter Tatchell (Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation)

Yassin al Haj Saleh (Syrian Writer Living in Exile, Istanbul)

Abdulaziz Almashi (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

Haytham Alhamwi (Managing Director, Rethink Rebuild Society, Manchester Syrian Community, UK)

The Syrian Community of the South West UK

Hussam Ayloush (National Chair, Syrian American Council)

Faisal Alazem, Director, Syrian Canadian Council

Abdulrazzak Tammo (Leadership Consultant, Kurdish Future Movement, Syria/UK)

Planet Syria (Organization, UK)

Laila Alodaat (Lawyer, UK)

Juan Cole (Professor of History, University of Michigan & Blogger, Informed Comment, USA)

Jean-Pierre Filiu (Professor, Sciences Po, Paris School of International Affairs)

Sune Haugbølle (Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, Denmark)

Nader Hashemi (Director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver, USA)

Steven Heydemann (Professor of Middle East Studies, Smith College, USA)

Rana Issa (University of Oslo, Norway)

Mohja Kahf (Professor of Comparative Literature & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Arkansas & Member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement)

Vinay Lal (Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles, USA)

Ziad Majed (Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Politics, The American University of Paris, France)

Danny Postel (Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver, USA)

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (University of Stirling, Scotland)

Luke Cooper (Lecturer in Politics, Anglia Ruskin University, UK)

Juliette Harkin (Doctoral Student, University of East Anglia, UK)

Brian Slocock (Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Paisley, Retired, UK)

Mary Rizzo (Syria Solidarity Activist, Blogger at wewritewhatwelike.com, Italy)

Peter Clifford (Middle East Blogger, UK)

Saskia Sassen (Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, USA)

Saleh, Syrian, network engineer, KSA

Qusai Zakarya (Syrian Activist)

Lilia Marsali,. blogger and activist, Member, Algerian Congress for Democratic Change,France

Bill Fletcher, Jr. (Writer/Activist, Former President, TransAfrica Forum)

Gail Daneker (Friends for a NonViolent World, Minnesota, USA)

Clay Claiborne (Linux Beach Productions, Venice, California, USA)

Terry Burke (Minnesota Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria, USA)

Afra Jalabi (Syrian Writer & Vice-Chair, The Day After Association)

Andrei Codrescu (Poet, Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University, USA)

Stephen R. Shalom (Editorial Board, New Politics, USA)

James Sadri (The Syria Campaign, UK)

Robin Yassin-Kassab (Writer, Scotland)

Leila Al Shami (Activist and Writer, Jordan)

Rafif Jouejati (Director of FREE-Syria, the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria & English-language spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, USA)

Nicolas Hénin (Journalist, Author, ex-ISIS hostage)

Leila Vignal (Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre, Department of International Development, Oxford University, UK)

Paul Woodward (War in Context, USA)

Ella Wind (New York University and MENA Solidarity Network, New York)

Roxanne Abbas (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Ian Keith (Public School Teacher, Minnesota, USA)

Andrew Berman (Veterans for Peace, USA)

Mujeeb R. Khan (Department of Political Science, University of California Berkeley)

Şener Aktürk (Department of International Relations, Koç University, Turkey)

Omar Qureshi (Teacher, New York)

Michael Karadjis (Teacher, Sydney, Australia)

Fazal Khan (Associate Professor, University of Georgia School of Law, USA)

Kareen El Beyrouty (Economist and Member, Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

Mark Boothroyd (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

Graham Campbell (RISE Glasgow East and Glasgow TUC Unite/ Scottish Trades Union Congress Delegate, UK)

Clara Connolly (Immigration and Human Rights Lawyer, UK)

Soumya Datta (Assistant Professor, South Asian University, New Delhi, India)

Bronwen Griffiths (Activist, UK)

Adina Mutar (Journalist, Romania)

David L. Williams (Peregrine Forum of Wisconsin, USA)

Ed Potts (Socialist, UK)

Nina van Krimpen (Human Rights Activist, The Netherlands)

Alfonso Vázquez (Human Rights Activist, Spain)

Pete Klosterman (Retired Software Engineer, New York, USA)

Therese Rickman Bull (Human Rights Activist, USA)

David Turpin Jr. (Antiwar Committee in Solidarity with the Struggle for Self Determination, Northwest Indiana, USA)

Kelly Grotke (Fellow, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, USA)

Stephen Hastings-King (Author, Ithaca, New York, USA)

Dr Ahmad Sadiddin, research fellow in development economics, Univ of Florence, Italy

Mazen Halabi (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Barry Rubin (Independent Scientist, UK)

Subhi Hadidi (Writer, Syria/France)

Farouk Mardam Bey (Publisher, Paris, France)

Wael Khouli (Physician Executive, Member of Syrian American Medical Society, USA)

Mary Lynn Murphy (Grandmothers for Peace Delegate to the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, USA)

Rihab Naheel (Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria, Minnesota, USA)

Susan Ahmad (Syrian Human Rights Activist and Journalist, UK)

Adnan Almahameed (Syrian Citizen, Community Organizer, Canada)

Pierluigi Blasioli (Student, University of Pescara, Italy)

James Bloodworth (Journalist, Editor of Left Foot Forward, UK)

Samantha Falciatori (Humanitarian Volunteer and Solidarity Activist, Italy)

Terry Glavin (Author/Journalist/Columnist, Canada)

Nancy Lindisfarne (Anthropologist, Author, UK)

Grant Padgham (Solidarity Activist, UK)

Harry Shotton (Student and Campaigner, UK)

Kellie Strom (Artist and Children’s Author, UK)

Jonathan Neale (Writer, UK)

Bill Scheurer (Executive Director, On Earth Peace, New Windsor, Maryland, USA)

Kenan Rahmani (Syrian American Activist, Washington DC)

Harald Etzbach (Translator/Journalist, Germany)

Ken Hiebert (Activist, Ladysmtih, BC, Canada)

Andrew Pollack (MENA Solidarity Network-US, Brooklyn)

Richard Dawson (Concerned Citizen, Los Angeles, California)

Robin ‘Roblimo’ Miler (IT/Science Reporter and Editor, USA)

Louis Proyect (Writer, CounterPunch film co-editor, New York City)

John Wilborn (Veterans for Peace, Chapter 168, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)

Fouad Roueiha (Journalist and co-founder of Solidarity with Syrian People Committee, Rome, Italy)

Gerard Di Trolio (Editor, rankandfile.ca, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Thomas F Barton (Military Resistance Newsletter)

Ricardo Salabert (Political Activist, Portugal)

Manuel Barrera (Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA)

Jason Schulman (Editorial Board, New Politics, USA)

Edna Bonhomme (Doctoral Candidate, Princeton University, Brooklyn, New York, USA)

Associazione Rose di Damasco (Como, Italy)

Riccardo Bella (Activist for Syria and Palestine, Milano, Italy)

Veronica Bellintani (Student, Activist and Volunteer with Syrian Refugees, Italy)

Karama Napoli (Committee to Support the Arab People, Italy)

Fiore Haneen Sarti (Human Rights Activist, Italy)

Jane Kelly (Activist, UK)

Jamie Milne (Labour Friends of Ukraine, UK)

Lara Bartocci (Freethinker and Graphic Designer, Italy)

Enrico De Angelis (Media Analyst, Free Press Unlimited, Italy)

Comitato Permanente per la Rivoluzione Siriana, Italy

Luke Staunton (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

Joshka Wessels (Postdoctoral Researcher on Syria, Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts, University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Carol Coren (Social Enterprise Entrepreneur, Oregon and Pennsylvania, USA)

Anthony Saidy (Author, Los Angeles, USA)

Ralph Apel (Engineer, Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Linda Parsons (Supporter of the Syrian People’s Revolution, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)

Ali Rahabi (Syrian Activist, Local Coordination Committees in Syria, Deir ez-Zor, Syria)

Zaher Sahloul (Physician, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, USA)

Mohamad Khouli (Activist, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Jennifer Kaiser (Researcher, Turkey)

Polly Kellogg (Retired Associate Professor, St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, USA)

Basel Watfa (Pharmacist & Translator, Syrian refugee camp, Kusel, Germany)

Luna Watfa (Freelance Journalist/Photographer, Syrian refugee camp, Kusel, Germany)

Seyla Benhabib (Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University, USA)

Annalisa Roveroni (CIVIC Cooperativa Sociale, Italy)

Enzio Zuffo (Istituto Sviluppo Olistico, Italy)

Fred Mecklenburg (News & Letters, Chicago, USA)

Ron Aminzade (Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, USA)

MJ Maynes (Department of History, University of Minnesota, USA)

Meredith Tax (Writer & Chair of the Centre for Secular Space, New York, USA)

Deidre A. Kellogg Ketroser (Human Rights Activist, Refugee Advocate/Advisor, Minneapolis, USA)
Originale in inglese: http://www.syriauk.org/p/hands-off-syria-applies-to-russia-tooas.html

ahwaz2Written by Rahim Hamid

A call by a senior UAE official on Monday for formal recognition of Al-Ahwaz as an occupied Arab country has sparked a rapidly growing pan-Arab media campaign, with over 1,000 prominent Arab figures across the region so far announcing their support of ‘I recognise Al-Ahwaz as an Arab State’.  Despite only being launched a couple of days ago, the campaign is also spreading beyond the Arab world, with the slogan already shared across social media in 16 languages.

Launched in the wake of a statement issued by the influential former Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan calling on Gulf states to open embassies for Al-Ahwaz and to formally recognise the state, which was renamed ‘Khuzestan province’ in 1936 by Iran following its 1925 annexation, the campaign has continued to gain popularity, winning backing from a wide range of influential Arab figures from all backgrounds across the region.

Among the leading regional figures who have announced their support of the new campaign are Jerry Maher, the founder and director of ‘Radio Swat Beirut International’ and the distinguished and widely respected Kuwaiti academic and analyst Dr. Abdullah Nafisi.  In Egypt, TV show host Hussein Jouli, a moderate and opponent of the Sisi regime, said that he would head an Egyptian campaign for the recognition of Ahwaz as an Arab state. Another leading Kuwaiti figure voicing her support for the campaign was Ayesha Rashid, a liberal writer, journalist and political researcher.

Ahwazi activists hope that the new campaign, which has already been featured on media as diverse as Al Jazeera, CNBC Arabic, Sawa Middle East and even Japanese and Korean news channels, will help to raise awareness of the systemic injustices inflicted on the Ahwazi people by Iran for almost a century in near-complete international silence.

AHW 1Since the initial Iranian occupation in 1925, successive administrations in Tehran, both under the current theocratic regime and the previous rulers, have refused to recognise the most basic rights of the ethnically Arab Ahwazi people numbering around 10 million in total, who are denied not only the right to the same healthcare and education as Persian Iranians, but even the right to wear traditional Arab garments, or to publicly speak or learn their native Arabic  language,  being subjected to what is effectively an apartheid system of rule.

Despite occupied Ahwaz, now a region of south and southeast Iran, being the home to around 95% of Iran’s oil and gas reserves, the vast majority of the Ahwazi population live in medieval poverty and squalor, often without running water, electricity or the most basic sanitation, while the massive wealth from their natural resources is spent on other, non-Arab regions by Tehran.  This openly racist policy means that despite being the most resource-rich region of Iran, Ahwaz – or Khuzestan as Iran insists on calling it – is home to one of the poorest populations per capita on earth.

Anti-Arab racism is endemic in Iran, having been encouraged by successive regimes,  with Ahwazis bearing the brunt of this bigotry, both in formal policies which treat them as second-class citizens,  excluded from property  ownership and all but the most menial jobs,  and denied the most basic rights, as well as through a culture  which glorifies racism and casual violence towards Arabs:  many  of the most celebrated contemporary Iranian poets’ most famous poems are filled with virulently racist anti-Arab imagery and language.  This anti-Arab racism extends to all cultural forms, with   one fairly typical recent hit by a popular Iranian singer entitled ‘Kill An Arab’   issued shortly after a phone app game, ‘Beat An Arab’ in which the object of the game is to force-feed a grotesque caricature of an Arab before beating him unconscious:  both the song and he game were approved  for general release by the Iranian Culture Ministry, which routinely approves such offensive items,  and neither is viewed by  Persian Iranians as being in  any way objectionable.

Al-Ahwaz1Ironically while the theocracy in Tehran is keen to present itself as the champion of Palestinians and arch-foe of Zionist occupation, its own savagely imposed  occupation of Ahwazi Arabs’ land is arguably more brutal and its profound anti-Arab bigotry virtually indistinguishable to that of Zionists.

The similarities can be quite uncanny, with Persian Iranians offered generous incentives to move to the Ahwaz region where they are housed in specially built settlements provided with all the latest amenities, and given well-paid state oil industry jobs not available to Ahwazis or offered further substantial financial inducements by the Tehran administration to set up businesses in these areas. As with the jobs and loans, these settlements are off-limits to Ahwazis who are routinely ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands whenever these are confiscated by the regime, with no compensation or recourse to legal complaint, and are housed in overcrowded shanty towns often located near the region’s oil refineries, where open sewers and atrocious pollution lead to widespread health problems.

There is still no word on the  theocratic regime’s reaction to the new ‘I recognise Ahwaz as an Arab State’ media campaign, although the mullahs, who have long refused to  recognise Ahwazis’ basic humanity, let alone their right to their own lands and sovereignty are, like Queen Victoria, unlikely to be amused.

kafranbelwritten by Ruth Riegler     What foreign policy values does Obama actually believe in? From his speeches, each one a lovingly crafted oratorical masterpiece, one would imagine him to be a hybrid of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr, an impassioned idealist working tirelessly for a world of brotherhood, peace, love, justice, freedom, respect for human rights and other exceedingly laudable and desirable objectives.

In the real, non-rhetorical world, he’s been the best thing for totalitarian expansionism since the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, with the world’s most repressive regimes joyously taking advantage of this new US détente with brutal authoritarianism.

Having ordered the bombing of seven Muslim nations in six years to date, and collected half the world’s dictators on speed-dial, Obama’s expanded the endless global war of terror beyond GW Bush’s wildest dreams, now making its Middle East front fully sectarian in a partnership with Tehran’s theocratic regime, to whom he’s graciously delivering control of most of the Mashreq as a means of ensuring “regional stability” of the totalitarian variety, while the rest of the region remains under the control of other US-friendly dictators.

The Syrian and other Arab peoples’ feelings about yet another Western-backed regional takeover and their concerns about the resulting ever-worsening regional meltdown, meanwhile, are ignored or treated with a condescension more commonly seen from a kindergarten teacher addressing four-year-olds, in the traditional Western policymakers’ style. All of which rather jars with the Age of Aquarius foreign policy visions outlined in the POTUS’ aforementioned lovely speeches.

This isn’t just the customary understandable gap between unattainable lofty ideals and messy reality; this is an intergalactic-sized Grand Canyon. How is it that a president who came to power on a platform of progressive yearning for a fairer, better world ended up being the BFF and helpmeet of totalitarianism worldwide? How did the president of peace become the warmonger supreme?

Much of the answer lies precisely in that ‘progressive’ worldview. Obama is the archetype and patron saint of contemporary Western progressive values, primary among which is a boundless Orientalist arrogance and condescension for non-Western peoples. For the West’s ‘progressives’, the timeless leftist ideals of universalism and solidarity with the oppressed, liberté, égalité, fraternité – are passé. At heart, though unlikely to admit it, progressives fundamentally share the far left’s and far right’s belief that freedom, equality and brotherhood are far too important to be shared with the non-Western masses, reserving their solidarity instead for the leaders of modishly despotic regimes.

The one partial exception to this adulation of oppression overseas amongst Western progressives is Palestine – although even this laudable support for freedom, justice and human rights extends only to those Palestinians in occupied Palestine itself, while those in Syria dying for the same basic rights are dismissed, like Syrians, as expendable “collateral damage” or of course – in true Zionist style – as “extremists” and “terrorists”.

Indeed, the Western ‘progressive’ politicians and media deploy exactly the same lexicon of dehumanisation to support exactly the same apparently endless ‘war on terror’ as the conservatives and neocons who are their supposed arch-nemeses, with the only perceptible difference being that the progressives have outsourced more of the grunt work and added more touchy-feely patently ludicrous speeches about supporting human rights.

While neocons preferred to abuse the words ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to justify carpet-bombing and backing for totalitarianism, progressives prefer to radically reinterpret the ideas of ‘peace’ and stability’ for the same purpose.

As with Bush’s preferred version of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ via bombs and occupation, progressives’ preferred version of ‘peace’ and ‘stability’ in the region is of the maximum security prison variety – those are, after all, peaceful and stable places by their nature and woe betide the tens of millions of inmates demanding freedom and human rights.

In both cases Washington’s objective takes precedence over the wishes of the subject peoples, for whom subjugation, despotism and rule of terror remain the only constants, whether the glossy rhetoric from the faraway backers of that oppression is neoconservative or ‘progressive’ in nature. Meaning that Washington is doomed to be treated with the same disregard by the Arab people in turn.

from Radio Free Syria: https://www.facebook.com/RadioFreeSyria

p paolo 2WRITTEN AND TRANSLATED By Samantha Falciatori

“Democracy in Syria is possible, but only if freedom of expression is assured and if you waive any attack on human dignity and abuses against human rights”, wrote Father Paolo dall’Oglio in 2011. At the outbreak of the revolution and in front of the repression that followed, Father Paolo sided immediately with the oppressed.

Jesuit of Roman origins, Paolo dall’Oglio fell in love with Syria when he was a young man and he settled there with a mission: to promote peace and dialogue between religions and ethnic groups in Syria. To do so, in the ’80s he founded the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa (Monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian), north of Damascus.

His work for peace and for the promotion of dialogue between Christians and Muslims has earned him respect across the country, but after the outbreak of the revolution it became troublesome. To resolve the crisis, Father Paolo wrote an article in 2011 in which he proposed a peaceful transition to democracy in Syria, on the basis of what he called “consensual democracy”, with a Parliament that had real power; something that in over 40 years of dictatorship has never existed, except on paper. President Bashar al-Assad would have a central role in this process and, conceding the reforms that the people asked, he could stop the violence and maintain the country’s stability.

“I pray with all my heart that the President, his family and his advisers, can see this occasion as historic because Syria can make a quantum leap in the direction of a more just future,” wrote Father Paolo. But his prayer fell on deaf ears; on the contrary, it unleashed the wrath of Assad, who issued an expulsion order, where among the motivations there was “aiding terrorists”. In an interview in January 2013, Father Paolo explained:

“I have been in one of the besieged cities in the hands of the revolution, I gave blood to the wounded, I tried to free the prisoners, the kidnapped, and this put me in contact with the armed resistance [author’s note: FSA]. Later it was said that Father Paolo is connected with terrorism, but for the government all the revolution is terrorism[..] Now since I am in solidarity with young people who demand democracy and are imprisoned, tortured or massacred, I become a terrorist agent.”

padre p 1The expulsion was not immediately implemented and Father Paolo could stay, as long as he would keep a “low profile”, avoiding statements opposing the regime. However, following the publication of an open letter addressed to the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan (May 2012) in which he urged the intervention of the Security Council, the UN peacekeepers and the establishment of a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the indiscriminate bombings by the government aviation, under the pressure of his bishop he was forced to leave Syria. He was accompanied to Lebanon by the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, not by government authorities, on June 12, 2012. He went into exile in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. But also from the exile he did not stop denouncing the ongoing violence in Syria and claiming loudly the need for a democratic solution to the conflict that could only start from the renewal of the Syrian government and from the end of decades of dictatorship.

His courageous stand in support of the protesters, in the name of human rights and of the legitimate aspirations for freedom, made him even more loved by the Syrian people: on December 4, 2011 Syrian citizens dedicated to Father Paolo one of the usual Friday protests to emphasize how religion is a factor of unity and not of division.

In December 2012, Dall’Oglio was awarded with the Peace Prize of the Lombardy region for his efforts to bring peace in Syria. But the honesty, the frankness and the intransigence of its position against the Syrian government made him troublesome even for ecclesiastical authorities, which are historically allied with Damascus. Even Father Paolo’s open letter to Pope Francis, also a Jesuit, fell unheard.

In July 2013 Father Paolo returned to Syria, in the eastern city of Raqqa. His last whereabouts are recorded in these videos http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/…/video-father-paolo-dall… that show him taking part https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xwrC76gtqM&feature=youtu.be, on July 28, to a rally in support of the martyred city of Homs, then besieged by government troops. On July 29, he was kidnapped by ISIS and since then there is no information, if not conflicting and never verified reports. According to some sources he was executed two hours after the kidnapping, but then he was reportedly spotted in a prison in Aleppo and then among the prisoners of ISIS in Raqqa. The Italian Foreign Ministry has never confirmed nor denied and to this date his fate is still unknown.

But why Raqqa?

Because when Raqqa became the first Syrian city to fall entirely in the hands of the opposition, in March 2013, it became one of the first successful experiments of self-government by the civil society, that formed local governments and peaceful movements (such as Our Right and Raqqa Free Youth Assembly) that kept the city going. There were even the first free local elections after 40 years of dictatorship. But the idyll did not last long, not just because the government air force bombed Raqqa daily, but also because ISIS (which in those months was beginning to consolidate power in Syria) attacked the city assuming total control in the following months. Terror returned, along with the hunting down of activists, the tortures and the executions. In Raqqa Father Paolo wanted to meet with ISIS leaders to demand the release of foreign journalists, but he was kidnapped too.

“It is madness for a sheep to talk peace with the wolf”, wrote Thomas Fuller. Maybe, but he who believes in peace, in democracy, he who does not bend to the logic of political opportunism, he who makes out of Christian ethics his lifestyle and not just a dress, he does not even fear wolves.

To commemorate the Jesuit priest, on July 23 the Association “Journalists friends of Father Dall’Oglio” was established.

In Italian: Translation http://www.thezeppelin.org/padre-dalloglio-il-gesuita-rapi…/

ahwazi kidsWritten by Rahim Hamid  

The objective of this article is to highlight the pervasive systematic violations of the Ahwazi Arab people’s rights. Over the last 36 years, essentially coinciding with the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, these violations have increased many-fold, even as the Ahwazis continue demanding their legitimate rights.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of the prolonged oppression of the Ahwazi Arab people. They are suffering from ultra-national racism, institutionalized discrimination and deliberate neglect at the hands of Iran’s regime. They are facing various barriers in accessing education, employment, housing, healthcare and other essential services.

Since 1925, the Ahwazi Arab people have been subjected to summary executions, forcible displacement, migration, and the confiscation and destruction of homes and personal property. Under Iran’s current fundamentalist sectarian regime, the Ahwazi people live in constant fear of oppression. The current Iranian clerical regime is systematically completing the ethnic cleansing agenda that was begun by the deposed Pahlavi regime.

Around 10 million Ahwazi Arabs inhabit the south and southwest of Iran.  They are one of the Middle East’s oppressed peoples.

They are united through race, culture and language. Their Arab dialect resembles the Iraqi Arabic dialect.  The Majorities are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are a number of other religions and creeds, such as Christians and Mandaeans.

The Iranian regime has shown a deep-seated hatred against the Ahwazi Arab people, who constitute 10% of the population.  In 1925, the emirate of Al- Ahwaz, ruled by Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi, was toppled by an invasion by the Iranian regime. The invasion put an end to the independent sovereignty of Al-Ahwaz, which was annexed to the newly formed country of Iran in 1934.

Since then, through countless rebellions, armed insurrections and unarmed movements, the Ahwazi Arabs have reiterated their determination to continue their struggle and their resistance against the occupation of Ahwaz and to reassert the sovereignty of Ahwaz that was lost to the Iranian invasion.

For generations, the Ahwazis have received harsh treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities.  In response to the popular uprisings that followed the Iranian occupation, successive Iranian regimes have forcibly resettled much of the Ahwazi Arab population in Persian regions, as part of a program of ethnic cleansing. Historical Arabic names of cities have been changed into Persian ones. Arabic dress has been completely banned. The use of the Arabic language in Ahwaz has been greatly restricted and even criminalized. Even the ethnic identity of the Ahwazi Arab has been denied.

Ahwazi Arabs have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. In recent years, Ahwazi lands have been confiscated forcibly with threats and intimidation and redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to “Persianize” Ahwazi regions. In the late 1940s, the government began systematically settling the nomadic “Lur tribes”, who are offshoots of Persian ethnics, into areas with Arab majorities, particularly in the oil-rich cities from which the Arab people were forcibly relocated.

These ethnic cleansing policies have been accelerated in recent years in an effort to destroy the demographic fabric of Ahwaz. Any popular movement or protest led by the Ahwazi political class, such as the popular uprising of April 2005 against institutionalized ethnic oppression, has been brutally crushed  by cracking down on the protestors and making mass arrests, even executing the majority of the prominent political figures.

In fact, the Ahwazi Arab people have sought and tried all peaceful political channels to obtain their most basic and legitimate rights, which are enshrined and stated in Iran’s current constitution. In particular, the Ahwazi Arabs have sought the application of Articles 15 and 19 of the Constitution, which stress the right of education in the mother tongue for all ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchs. The regime, however, refuses to implement these articles, thus depriving more than 50% of the non-Persian population of their mother tongue. Instead, the regime has imposed the Persian language as the official language of the education curriculum. This policy has resulted in a high rate of students dropping out from schools at early ages in the marginalized non-Persian regions:  due to the challenges of learning the Persian language, students are held back linguistically, becoming only partially proficient in both their native tongue and the imposed Persian language. This also results in students suffering from a dual identity crisis.

 The Iranian occupation regime is utilizing a variety of strategies in its efforts to obliterate Arab identity in Al-Ahwaz. One of these strategies is to introduce Persian-speaking settlers and give them homes among communities of Arab citizens with the aim of having a negative impact on the Ahwazi Arab citizens in Al-Ahwaz. In addition, a massive number of schools, institutions, and centers are being built for the express goal of imposing and spreading the Persian language and culture, while obscuring and excluding the Arabic language and everything that is associated with the identity, culture and history of the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Iranian settlements are Persian-only, racially exclusive, and their residents live in comfort, with all the facilities provided, while the surrounding Ahwazi Arabs are denied the same facilities and live in desperate squalor in their own homeland.

Of course, the Ahwazi Arab people’s protests against the Iranian occupation are not limited to such issues. Since the military occupation of Al-Ahwaz until now, Iran has been practicing all types of repressive measures, and through the prosecution of multiple pernicious policies, the regime is attempting to eliminate totally the Arabic identity of the Ahwazis.

The terrible legacy of Iran’s repressive nationalist occupation cannot be overstated. It has inflicted horrendous suffering on around 10 million Ahwazi Arab people, who have long suffered systematic marginalization by consecutive regimes of Iranian occupation, going back to the Shah, before the current theocratic regime, in terms of land, territories, resources, language, culture, customary laws, and political and economic opportunities.

From the outset, the occupation of Al-Ahwaz by a racist colonial-settler state has been aimed at eradicating all that is Arabic in Al-Ahwaz. No effort has been spared to liquidate the culture, the language, the history and the whole Ahwazi Arab national entity within the crucible of the Persian culture through the denial of all legitimate rights, such as education and the teaching of the Arabic language, which is one of the most important pillars of raising new enlightened generations. A second language (Farsi) is being imposed.

Since the emergence of the Islamic Republic’s regime, everything related to Arab culture has been declared to be ‘against God’ and thus banned. As a matter of fact, the clerical regime does not concern itself with religious beliefs as much as they are concerned about fighting the Ahwazi Arab identity and snuffing out their culture. This colonialist policy has led the Ahwazi Arab people to fall far behind in terms of development and education, with the policy being practiced in parallel with terrorism, intimidation and oppression, all of which have weakened and made the Arabic language fragile among the Ahwazis.

The Iranian occupation apparatuses have been attempting to falsify and distort the national identity and   culture of Ahwazis by describing them as Iranian Arab and as an Arab-speaking minority, which is intended to suggest that they are not originally Arab, but that they are Persians who over time have come under the linguistic influence of their neighbors and become Arab-speakers because of the proximity of Arab countries. The threat of the national Ahwazi Arab ideal to a Persian national security policy has occupied a key position not only among the Iranian security forces; it has become central to the Iranian nationalist political ideology, which is based on the dual doctrines of Persian nationalism and Iranian Islam (Shia Islam).

From the books and studies published by the Iranian strategic centers at the service of the occupation, we can understand how critical this issue is to the regime. Such studies and publications are full of strategies and vile concepts aimed at countering the Ahwazi Arab struggle; they are filled with weird concepts created to tarnish the image of the national Ahwazi movement. For example, these books and publications label Ahwazis as loyalists of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. After the fall of the Iraqi regime, the Iranian occupation produced the concept of Wahhabism. Then it invented the lies that the Ahwazi political activists are Western spies and stooges, enemies of God, traitors, or infidel atheists. These charges carry the death penalty, and the biased judicial systems of the Iranian occupation use them to murder Ahwazi Arab political prisoners.

ahwazi3Owing to this, the threat of imprisonment and execution has been a constant reality for every Ahwazi. This threat is aimed at weakening the willpower of the Ahwazi Arab nation so that it will surrender its prolonged struggle for liberation, its struggle to regain the independence stolen by Iran in 1925. Despite all these repressive strategies, not only has the Ahwazi Arab culture not lost its fortitude, on the contrary, it has become even stronger.

Racial denial and elimination, mass extrajudicial murder, ethnocide and forced displacement have constituted the main policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in dealing with the Ahwazi people and other national groups. However, the indigenous culture and the ethical and historical values of the Ahwazi Arab nation, as manifested in the context of social resistance, have never surrendered to the assimilationist policies of the Iranian effort to build a nation state on the basis of a mono-ethnic Persian identity.

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad's forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad’s forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Written by Ruth Riegler
Since the 1948 Nakba, association with the cause of Palestinian freedom has been endlessly useful.
It hasn’t been useful in any way, of course, for the vast majority of Palestinians, who continue to languish in disempowered internal or external exile from their lands, now occupied for over 67 years and counting. But for generations of regional and other leaders, totalitarian regimes, pundits, activists and anyone else fancying a bit of easy reflected glory, Palestine has provided an invaluable patina of revolutionary kudos by association.

Every government in the Middle East and a good few elsewhere, more particularly the nominally anti-imperialist regimes and dictators, plays the ‘anti-zionist’ card professionally: the Assads, father and son, have been adept exploiters of Palestine since Hafez al-Assad first seized power. The regime has relied heavily on its ‘heroic resistance’ reputation, winning admiration and praise worldwide. The most cursory analysis of the regime’s actual ‘resistance’ shows a long track record of cynical exploitation, betrayal and oppression of Palestinians since Hafez first seized power right up to the modern day, ranging from its attempts to hobble the PLO and complicity in the massacre in Lebanon’s Tel al Zaatar camp to the current ongoing ‘Second Nakba’, demonstrating the Assads’ true distaste for freedom, for Palestinians as for Syrians, Lebanese or anyone else who stands in their way.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Should Palestine actually be liberated or Zionism be dismantled, as the Assads have always been fully aware, the regime would need to find new excuses for its savage domestic repression. But as the Assads and the other ‘axis of resistance’ leaders are well aware, people will always prefer the reassuring lie of jam tomorrow to the dark reality of totalitarianism today.

Indeed, that bleakly ironic dependence on exploiting the cause of Palestinian freedom to justify brutal domestic oppression is a common feature to all the ‘axis of resistance’ members. Any demands for greater freedom, investment in infrastructure, more schools or anything else can quickly be dismissed with accusations of those behind them being Zionist agitators attempting to derail the always-imminent glorious liberation. Any questioning of the Assads’ expenditure of 90 percent of GDP on the military for decades has been quickly countered with the insistence that this is essential both to defend the homeland from Zionist expansionism and for that same ever-imminent liberation. In reality, as we continue to see, the regime’s military juggernaut, like that of the Assads’ ‘anti-imperialist’ allies, has been reserved exclusively for use against Syrian and Palestinians in Syria, but small details like this don’t stop the regime’s hot air emissions about “opposing Zionism.”

The Iranian regime, the fulcrum of the ‘resistance’ axis, is even more adept in and reliant on its exploitation of the cause of Palestinian freedom. Having sold itself as the great saviour of Palestine, prevented from triumphant liberation of Al Quds only by fiendish Zionist plots for 36 years to date, Tehran is wholly dependent on Israel’s continuing occupation to justify its own domestic totalitarianism and more recently its own colonialist regional empire (re) building and occupation. As Ahwazi Arabs have known for a very long time, of course, the Iranian regime is little different in supremacist essence and bone-deep racism to its counterpart in Tel Aviv; indeed, it’s one more bitter irony that the Israeli occupation is less savage overall than that imposed by the ‘great liberators’ in Tehran, both domestically and regionally.

With the regional regimes and tyrants, however, their lie of support for Palestinian freedom at least has the excuse, however pathetic and contemptible it is, of being essential to their own survival. Those in the West who continue to cynically abuse the cause of Palestinian freedom to support, justify and/or deny Assad’s and Tehran’s genocidal oppression lack even that despicable and threadbare figleaf of justification. George Galloway, ‘Stop the War’, Cynthia McKinney and countless other prominent Western activists for Palestinian freedom (or for the freedom of those Palestinians under Israeli occupation, with other Palestinians being considered unworthy of liberation) lack even that miserable semi-excuse. Indeed, they continue to parrot Assad’s and Tehran’s now surreally obscene and utterly discredited script of anti-zionist, anti-imperialist revolutionary zeal to justify another, ongoing Nakba and regional occupation.
Even more ironically, the language of the selective Western supporters of (some) Palestinians’ freedom, like that of Assad and Iran, is now largely indistinguishable from that of the devoted Zionists and neocons who they claim are their sworn enemies; any barbarism, any crime against humanity, no matter how monstrous, up to and including ethno-sectarian cleansing and genocide, can be justified or mitigated as being part of a valiant battle against Islamist terrorism to protect the state, and those crimes which can’t be manipulated can be simply denied or ignored.

The nobility and rightness of the cause of Palestinian freedom, of Syrian freedom, of freedom as the right of all peoples, are unsullied by those who exploit others’ suffering to justify their own vast inhumanity. All that the exploiters reveal and emphasize is their own profound and utterly shameless moral bankruptcy.

from Radio Free Syria 

AHW 1WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid

Al-Ahwaz region of Iran is currently witnessing a wave of mass protests and demonstrations demanding freedom and an end to the Iranian regime’s multifaceted oppression of the Ahwazi people, which has been continuous since Iran first occupied the region by the use of military force.

Ahwazi Arabs are among the most brutally oppressed peoples in the Middle East. The population of the region in the south and southwest of Iran totals around 10 million, with the people united by race, culture and language. The Ahwazi Arab dialect strongly resembles the dialect in neighboring Iraq. The majority of Ahwazis are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are other sects and creeds, including Christian and Mandaean.

Ahwaz is a Persian-occupied Arab country located in the north and the east of the Arabian Gulf to the east of Shat Al-Arab waterway which has been occupied by Iran for more than eight decades and renamed ‘Khuzestan.’

The entire territory of Ahwaz, covering 324,000 square kilometers, is bounded to the west by Iraq, to the south-west by the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and to the north, east and south-east by the Zagros Mountains, the natural boundary between Ahwaz and Iran.  With an Arab population of ten million, Ahwaz is among the most resource-rich territories occupied by Iran, holding more than 80 percent of the country’s oil and gas resources.

The region has three major rivers, the Karoon, Jarrahi and Karkheh, which play a vital role in the lives of its people, with most Ahwazis long economically dependent on the three waterways for their income from both fishing and agriculture, with the waters used to irrigate the rich arable land.

Historically the Semitic Elami tribes, the first known peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, settled on Ahwaz’s riverbanks and valleys, establishing a great civilization, particularly the ancient city of Susa, now known as Shush.

Since the initial annexation of Ahwaz by Iran, then known as Persia, 90 years ago, the humanitarian situation of the Ahwazi Arab people has steadily worsened, with the level of murderous repression by the current regime rising daily, extending to the level of systemic ethnic cleansing as policy, forcible eviction of the Ahwazi indigenous people, and the construction of exclusive apartheid-style settlements for non- Ahwazi, non-Arab settlers; these settlers are offered multiple economic and social incentives to move there and given guarantees of a promising future, while the Ahwazi Arab indigenous peoples are further marginalised, alienated and denied the most basic rights in every field.

Historically the catastrophic suffering of the Ahwazi people first began after Reza Khan, the then-ruler of Persia, now called Iran, and invaded the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925, overthrowing the last independent Arab ruler of the region, Sheikh Khazaal Alkaabi, who was subsequently imprisoned in Tehran for 10 years before being murdered in 1936 by strangulation on the orders of Reza Khan.

The current theocratic Iranian regime has imposed authoritarian rule on Al-Ahwaz region by the harshest measures, in a bid to isolate the Ahwazi Arab people from their origins and their historical association with the Arab nations, simultaneously imposing an absolute media blackout on any reporting of the suffering of Ahwazis.

As is widely known, the Iranian regime provides no official statistics on the number of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, but studies conducted by Ahwazi activists confirm that the current total Ahwazi population stands at between 8 and 10 million. American historian William Theodore Strunk in his work about Ahwaz: The Reign of Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir and the Suppression of the Principality of Arabistan: A Study in British Imperialism in Southwestern Iran, 1897-1925, Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University August 1977, wrote that during the discovery of oil 1908 in Al-Ahwaz region, Ahwazi Arabs made up roughly 98 percent of the regional population.

AHW 2This majority has now shrunk to 70 percent, due to the regime’s policy of systemic and deliberate Persian immigration and colonisation of the region in order to alter its demographic composition.

The primary reason for Iran’s occupation of Al-Ahwaz is the region’s major oil and gas resources. The region also has extensive and fertile agricultural plains irrigated by the Karoon River.

Ahwaz is a tropical region located in the south and south-west of what is currently known as Iran, with the region being a major producer of crops, including dates, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat, sugar and corn and many other cereal crops.

Despite all this natural abundance and its status as the center of Iran’s oil and gas industry housing massive industrial complexes, Al-Ahwaz is also the home of Iran’s poorest people, with 99% of Ahwazi Arabs living in extreme poverty and endemic deprivation. This destitution among the region’s indigenous people has its origins in the profoundly racist mentality of the Iranian occupiers, in whose eyes the Ahwazi people’s Arab identity poses a dangerous threat to the country’s national security.

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive 

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive

Iranian colonial projects in Al-Ahwaz  

The Iranian regime occupiers to this day seek to increase the proportion of non-Arab settlers in Ahwaz, even changing the original Arabic names of cities, towns, rivers and other geographical features to Farsi names in an attempt to deny the region’s Arab identity.

This systemic eradication of the Arab character and identity of the Ahwaz region and its peoples extend into every area of life, showing a thoroughly planned strategy to bury and erase the Arab culture and identity of Ahwazis once and for all via the illegitimate and forcible imposition of the Persian occupiers’ culture on the Arab peoples.

There is all too plentiful evidence of this policy which has led to the current bitter daily reality of the Ahwazi peoples.  One of the earliest demonstrations of this policy was during the era of Reza Khan’s rule of then-Persia when the speaking of Arabic and wearing of Arab clothing in public were outlawed, with transgressors facing horrendous punishments.

Thereafter and to this day, Iran enforced an all-Farsi education curriculum in Al Ahwaz, with the teaching of the Arabic language forbidden and all studies in Arabic made illegal.  This led to rampant illiteracy among the Ahwazi people, adding to the problems of widespread unemployment, with Ahwazis denied access to job opportunities on the pretext of their lack of educational qualifications. Through these openly grotesquely racist policies, the Ahwazi people were very deliberately weakened, losing any possibility of economic and social stability. These apartheid policies of successive Iranian regimes mean that Ahwazi people are still forbidden from giving their children Arab names or from wearing Arab dress, with the ultimate goal of eradicating all Arab identity and subsuming the Ahwazi people into simply another part of the Persian nationalist whole.

Karoon Rivers which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Karoon River which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Ahwazi peoples suffer from systemic exclusion in every area of life and at all levels, with the regime continuing a policy of ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily seizing homes, land and property and ‘giving’ these to settlers from neighbouring Persian territories in order to change the demographic balance of the region; under the Iranian legal system, the Ahwazi peoples are denied any legal recourse to object to such grotesque injustices.

The key leadership positions in the region are dominated by Persians, with all such positions being off-limit to Arabs. There is no real representation of Ahwazi peoples at any political level in the region due to the ‘security’ concerns of the occupying Persian authorities in all affairs concerning the Ahwazi people.

Despite the region providing approximately 80 percent of Iran’s oil and gas resources, Ahwazis, the rightful owners of this wealth, are denied any share in the massive profits generated by their mineral or other resources.

The only part of the oil and gas production which is passed on to the Ahwazi people is the related air and water pollution and a related increase in dangerous diseases as a result of the toxic waste and toxic gases emitted by the oil and petrochemical facilities whose emissions are largely unmonitored, discharging massive amounts of harmful industrial substances into the surrounding environment.

Recent acid rainfall and dust storms in the region resulting from this large-scale industrial pollution have seen more than 50,000 Ahwazi people admitted to hospitals and medical clinics for treatment for related conditions, providing terrible and plentiful evidence of the environmental pollution in the region.

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Successive Iranian governments have allocated far less than one percent of the monies from the region’s oil and gas revenues and related petrochemical projects to the   development of Al Ahwaz; indeed the Iranian parliament recently rejected – for a fourth time – a proposal presented by the regional vice-consul to allocate 1.5 percent of the region’s oil revenues for the reconstruction of towns and cities in the region devastated in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which ended 27 years ago.

Following Reza Khan’s 1925 military invasion of Al Ahwaz in 1925 and the ousting of Sheikh Khazaal, Ahwazi independence and sovereignty were formally denied when Al Ahwaz was annexed to become part of the newly established nation of Iran in 1934.

Since then, several Ahwazi Arab uprisings have taken place and been brutally quashed, with both military and civil movements reiterating their determination to continue their resistance and struggle for justice and freedom from Iranian occupation and to restore Ahwaz to its previous sovereign status.

Each uprising has met with murderous brutality at the hands of the Iranian authorities, with massive numbers of Ahwazis being banished and forcibly transferred to Persian regions.

Ahwazis have now received harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities for generations. In the wake of the first popular uprising following the initial annexation of Ahwaz, Persia’s then-rulers banished large numbers of the people, forcibly resettling them in  Persian regions as part of an ethnic cleansing policy, as well as changing the name of the region to Khuzestan and conferring Farsi names on cities, towns,  villages and even geographic features like rivers, as well as banning the wearing of Arab clothing and criminalizing the speaking of Arabic, all in an effort to deny and effectively eradicate the region’s Arab identity and history.

These policies continue to the present day, with Ahwazi people’s land and property forcibly confiscated to be redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to ‘Persianise’ the Ahwaz region.  In the late 1940s, the Persian rulers introduced a policy of settling people of Persia’s nomadic ‘Lur’ tribes in areas with Arab majorities, particularly around the oil-rich cities in the Ahwaz region, while Arab residents were forcibly transferred elsewhere.

This systemic ethnic cleansing policy has accelerated in recent years, with the apparent objective of eradicating the Arab identity and culture of Ahwaz. Any popular political movement or uprising led by Ahwazi dissidents, such as the last major one in 2005, protesting against this institutionalized injustice and oppression is brutally quashed by regime authorities, with massive violence against demonstrators and mass arrests and executions of hundreds of the most prominent dissidents.

Ahwazi demonstration

Ahwazi demonstration

After every uprising, hundreds of bodies of Ahwazi dissidents arrested tortured and killed by Iranian security forces are recovered from the Karoon River where they are dumped.  The detained prisoners are routinely held incommunicado for months, during which they are subjected to horrific torture and interrogation, with ‘confessions’ extracted under duress.

Ahwazi people have repeatedly sought to utilize every peaceful political means to attain even the most basic human rights, which are supposedly guaranteed under the current Iranian regime’s constitution, particularly in Articles 15 and 19, which stress the right to education in the native language of all ethnic groups within Iran, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchis. This legislation is effectively superficial window dressing, however, since the regime refuses to implement these articles,  with the result that more than half of Iran’s population who are ethnically non-Persian  are denied the right to be educated in their mother tongue; this in turn means that, with an educational curriculum taught solely in Farsi,  schools in the already marginalised non-Persian areas see high rates of non-attendance, with pupils dropping out at an early stage, leaving these populations further disadvantaged by widespread illiteracy and low education levels.  Added to this, the criminalization of Arab culture, including proscriptions on Arabic language in both speech and education, along with the widely resented imposition of Farsi as the official language leaves students largely unskilled in both languages and suffering from a dual identity crisis.

Historical context

To understand the contemporary crisis in Ahwaz, it’s necessary to know some historical background.  Oil was first discovered in Ahwaz, as elsewhere in the Middle East, in 1908, piquing the colonial greed of both the Persian state and the Western powers, with the then-British Empire seeking to expand its regional power and control in tandem with other European powers.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ahwaz also assumed a strategic importance for the nations involved due to its strategic location.

In 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty came to power in Persia, ousting the previous ruler of Persia, Ahmad Shah Qajar.  Reza Pahlavi identified the geopolitical significance and resource wealth of Ahwaz as potential major assets, with the new rulers wasting no time in invading and annexing Ahwaz, deposing Sheikh Khazaal, in 1925.  In 1936, the year of Khazaal’s execution, Ahwaz was given a new, Farsi name, ‘Khuzestan’, while Persia was renamed ‘Iran’ – ‘Land of the Aryans.’

As Persia’s new name suggested, the Pahlavi dynasty was founded on a strongly nationalistic ideology, with all of Tehran’s territories depicted as homogenous parts of a mono-ethnic, monocultural Persian whole. This resulted inevitably in deeply racist antagonistic policies towards the Arab peoples of Ahwaz as to other non-Persian peoples in territories under Iran’s control from the 1920s which continue to the present day, with all non-Persians essentially robbed of their culture and identity. This denial and eradication of non-Persian identity extended into every area of life, from language, dress, education to all aspects of culture. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, these brutal proscriptions extended to religion, with non-Shiites (and Shiite dissidents) being persecuted and non-Shiite religious ceremonies and worship heavily punished by imprisonment, torture and often execution.

A History of Dissent: Ahwazi resistance continues in the second Pahlavi era under Mohammad Reza Shah (1941–1979) and since the ‘Islamic Revolution’.

The grievances of the minorities under Iranian rule (who combined comprise the majority)  grew throughout the second Pahlavi monarchy (1941-1979) since Mohammad Reza Pahlavi adopted his father’s deeply chauvinist policy to ethnically restructure the country completely based on Persian ethnicity and identity. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi introduced even more extensive policies intended to subjugate, marginalize and eliminate the five largest minorities under Iranian rule: Ahwazi Arabs, Turkish Azaris, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen peoples.

In response to these brutal policies, Ahwazi Arabs and other oppressed groups launched both peaceful and armed uprisings to defy this policy of systemic subjugation and ethnic cleansing.  In 1958, the ‘Arabistan Liberation Front’ was established with the objective of liberating the homeland from Iranian occupation, operating primarily in the cities of Abadan, Mohammareh and Ahwaz.

Two decades after this, in the initial period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ahwazi Arabs felt inspired and hopeful of positive change as a result of the overthrow of the brutal monarchy.  In light of this new spirit of optimism, a delegation of 33 leading Ahwazi figures representing all classes and points on the political spectrum was dispatched to Tehran in late April that year, under the aegis of the then-Ahwazi spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Taher Al Shobair Khaghani, for talks with the new provisional government, then chaired by Mehdi Bazargan.  The delegates took with them a memorandum containing 12 demands for very basic reforms, as agreed by the vast majority of prominent Ahwazi political and social leaders, with the people pinning their hopes on the new rulers in Tehran to help Ahwazis attain their legitimate rights and achieve long-denied freedom.

Among the demands laid out in the memorandum were:

  1. Legal recognition of Ahwazi Arab nationality, to be acknowledged and protected under the new Iranian constitution.
  2. The formation of a local committee to administer the affairs of the Ahwazi region as an autonomous, broadly independent territory.
  3. Recognition of Arabic as the official language in Ahwaz, to be taught at school and further education level and the foundation of schools and universities for this purpose, with Arab students to be granted the opportunity of overseas scholarships.
  4. A guarantee of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the freedom to establish Arabic newspapers and broadcast media, and an end to the draconian censorship policies of the Shah’s regime.
  5. Abolition of discriminatory policies towards Ahwazis in civil service recruitment.
  6. The allocation of sufficient funds from the oil and gas revenues from Ahwazi lands to help in development of the Ahwazi region.
  7. The restoration and recognition of the Ahwazi people’s right to their Arab identity, i.e. through reintroducing the Arabic names of towns, cities, villages and geographic features rather than the Farsi names conferred under the Shahs’ rule.
  8. Revisions and reforms to the previous regime’s agricultural legislation in order to allow land to be redistributed in a fair and equitable way among Ahwazi farmers, with their ownership rights to be taken into consideration.

During their week of talks in the capital, the delegates met with the then-Prime Minister and other ministers of the new government, as well as with the clerical regime’s religious leaders, including Ayatollah Khomeini.  In these talks, they were assured of the new leadership’s full commitment to overturning the policies of the previous regime, renouncing violence and preserving the unity and integrity of the country.  The delegates, on their part, reassured the officials that the Ahwazi people fully accepted that all state affairs concerning foreign policy, military issues, the monetary system, international treaties and economic plans should be exclusively the concern of the central state.

The Ahwazi delegates had hoped that even if all the demands laid out in the 12-point memorandum were not met, the new leadership would at least grant the Ahwazi people their basic rights and put an end to the Shahs’ decades-long policies of systemic brutal injustice and oppressive rule.   During their meetings, however, the delegates came to realise that the new rulers were little different to the previous despotic regime in their racist attitudes and discriminatory policies towards Iran’s non-Persian population.

Following their return from Tehran, the delegates issued an official statement declaring that the new Iranian leadership had trivialized and undermined the concerns of the Ahwazi people. This led to widespread public anger among Ahwazis, who had been hopeful of real change following the revolution, with many taking to the streets for demonstrations against the continuing racism of the Iranian state to voice their disappointment and disillusionment. The protesters pointed out that the leaders of the Islamic Revolution had come to power with slogans promising a new openness and tolerance and making promises to fulfill the Ahwazi people’s long-denied demands for basic rights, all of which had turned out to be false. Instead, said the protesters, the new regime had shown the same contempt as the previous one, baring its teeth in response to their demands for freedom and rights.

In response to these protests and to the Ahwazi Arabs’ demands, officials of the new clerical regime immediately launched a propaganda and disinformation campaign, now widely known as a standard regime tactic, falsely alleging that the Ahwazi peoples’ protests were part of a regional and global conspiracy to separate Ahwaz from Iran, and asserting that any concessions to the Ahwazi people’s demands would undoubtedly threaten Iran’s territorial integrity, warning ominously that any such protests should be ‘neutralised’ at any cost.

The meaning of this ‘neutralisation’ became horribly clear on May 29th 1979,  only a few months after the revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, with the new clerical regime’s military, supported by affiliated voluntary extremist sectarian militias launching a murderous offensive on Ahwazi Arab dissidents, killing many hundreds, with thousands more imprisoned and forcibly ‘disappeared’ or forcibly displaced.  The day subsequently became known amongst Ahwazis as ‘Black Wednesday.’

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

The ‘Black Wednesday massacre was carried out in direct response to a Fatwa (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, who directly ordered Ahmad Madani, the then-military governor of Ahwaz to organize the massacre of all the members of political and cultural organizations of the Ahwazi Arab people in Mohammareh city.  To carry out this crime against humanity, Madani deployed the regime’s air and naval forces, who were supported by masked volunteer militias, who coordinated a massive military operation besieging and attacking all the headquarters of Ahwazi political and cultural organisations in the cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, and Mohammareh cities.

Ahmad Madani subsequently became a hero to the Persian people for his leadership of this slaughter, being appointed Commander of the Iranian Navy as a reward for his leading role. He was subsequently quoted as stating, “The Ahwazi are inciting riots so I will drink their blood if they continue insisting on their illegal demands.”

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

The staff and anyone else in the buildings, including those who attempted to flee the regime’s forces, were either arrested or shot dead if they attempted to flee.  When news spread of the regime’s massively brutal offensives, hundreds of enraged residents of the three cities rushed to the scenes of the atrocities in a desperate effort to save the activists.  Despite being unarmed, these people in turn were machine-gunned in massive numbers by the masked militias and otherwise executed in cold blood, with survivors who didn’t manage to escape being arrested, imprisoned and/or forcibly exiled.

Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali, one of the main regime officials under Madani responsible for organizing this slaughter, was subsequently appointed as  Chief Justice of the regime’s revolutionary courts in the region, where he ordered the execution of countless other innocent Ahwazi Arabs, often following ‘military trials’ which lasted no longer than a few minutes.

Unfortunately, like so many of the clerical regime’s brutal crimes against Ahwazis and others, ‘Black Wednesday’ has remained uninvestigated and unmentioned by international human rights organisations to date, despite being deeply etched on the memories of the survivors and of all Ahwazi peoples, for whom it is impossible to forget or to forgive until the perpetrators are brought to justice. Despite the regime being accorded absolute impunity by the international community to act with barbaric savagery and to sweep such crimes against humanity under the carpet, the day will live in infamy among all Ahwazis, even those who weren’t born at the time.

One desperate reaction in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’ was the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London by an Ahwazi Arab pro-autonomy group who demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Given the relentless decades-long murderous repression of Ahwazis by successive regimes and their refusal to grant even the most basic human rights to the Ahwazi peoples,   some Ahwazis see no hope of regaining their rights under such monstrously unjust leadership, with the Pahlavis’ monarchy and the Islamic Republic’s theocracy being effectively two largely indistinguishable faces of the same genocidal and deeply racist coin for Ahwazis and other minorities in Iran.

Whilst it has gone down in Ahwazi history as one of the most infamous of the Khomeinist regime’s crimes,  ‘Black Wednesday’ was not isolated incident, with similar murderous brutality meted out routinely, indeed systemically as regime policy, to Ahwazi peoples and other minorities by regime forces and militias in that period and ever since.

Like their predecessors, Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals continue to face the threat of imprisonment, torture and execution simply for campaigning or writing in support of freedom, self-determination and human rights.

The three founders of the ALF, Mohiuddin Al-Nasser, Dohrab Al-Nasseri and Isa Nasseri, were executed in 1964 at the hands of the Organization of Intelligence and National Security, better known by its Farsi acronym, SAVAK, which led the regime’s rule of terror between 1957 and 1979. This, along with the tragic bloody massacre in  Mohammareh city in 1979, and the brutal crackdown on another popular uprising in 2005, are just a few of the stark indications of the dangers faced by Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals, who live under the constant threat of prison, torture, exile and/or execution.

In the face of this relentless persecution, the Ahwazi people have continued their long struggle for freedom, self-determination and their long-denied legitimate rights; despite the lack of regional and international support for their cause, the people have maintained their determination to continue until they attain their objectives.

Indeed, it could be argued that the many obstacles and the lack of external support or recognition of Ahwazis’ struggle have resulted in strengthened resolve among the Ahwazi people, recognizing that only they can achieve their liberation and succeed in the struggle for freedom, social emancipation and self-determination.

These efforts have led to the establishment of a number of political organisations and groups which have introduced political and social programs that enjoy widespread popular support. Ahwazi groups have also built strong links with liberation movements representing other non-Persian minorities in Iran oppressed by successive Iranian regimes during the same period, including Kurds, Turks, Baluchis and Turkmen.

After its initial revolutionary fervor, the clerical regime’s profoundly reactionary nature, along with its double standards and hypocrisy, became clearer as time went on. For one example, despite having lived and studied in France, the home of liberté, égalité, fraternité, during his exile, Bani Sadr, a prominent figure among the leaders of the Islamic Revolution, returned to Iran only to become one of the most vehemently racist Persian nationalists in the new regime.  Sadr enthusiastically supported the brutal persecution of the Ahwazi people under the new leadership, with his greed for power quickly overcoming any revolutionary ideals he had previously espoused. In an interview with a Paris-based Iranian news agency concerning the popular uprising by Ahwazis in support of freedom and self-determination, Sadr said, “  will not grant autonomy to any territory because it simply means the disintegration of the country”.

Another official, who had met with the Ahwazi delegates during the 1979 talks and promised that their demands would be submitted to the consultative committee then drafting the new constitution, reneged on his promises, telling the official news agency, “Granting autonomy is without doubt considered separation which threatens national unity.”

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khalkhali, prioritized his loyalty to the new regime, vehemently opposing any autonomy and stating, “We will cover the Shaat al-Arab with the blood of those pro-autonomy Ahwazi Arabs.”

In extracts from his posthumously published memoirs, reported in the Iranian Hamshahri newspaper in December 2001, the ayatollah appeared to have been proud of his criminal practices against Iran’s Arab Ahwazi and Kurdish peoples, writing, “I have killed a lot of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurdish and remnants of the monarchy, but I don’t regret it, and my conscience is not tormenting me.”

Regime oppression continues

The clerical regime’s racist attitudes to Ahwazi Arabs and other minorities remain as deeply entrenched today as they were in 1979, having become institutionalized and systemic as under the Shahs’ rule.  Ahwazis continue to be subjected to ethnic cleansing and the withholding of all rights, with imprisonment, torture and execution standard policy for even the most minor offence or for no reason other than to maintain fear,  and ensure continued subjugation and break the will of the people. As a result of this policy, the percentage of Ahwazi Arab prisoners in the regime’s prisons is, unsurprisingly higher than that of any other group. Regular calls by the EU and international human rights organisations for the introduction of fair and transparent trials for Ahwazi prisoners, who are routinely denied access to a lawyer as standard practice, have been disregarded.

Despite the clerical regime’s oft-repeated claims to stand for Palestinian freedom, anti-Arab racism is endemic and encouraged by the regime, with Arabs being commonly referred to by derogatory terms such as ‘lizard-eaters’ and ‘camel’s milk-drinkers’ and depicted as uncivilized  barbarians and barefoot nomadic peoples.

Denied rights and employment, destitution amongst Ahwazis is widespread, with disproportionate numbers living in the most abject poverty amid unimaginable conditions. With the Tehran regime deliberately withholding funding, infrastructure development is non-existent, with thousands in the regional capital, Ahwaz, living in areas with open sewers, no sanitation, rampant diseases due to pollution, no access to running water, electricity or gas, despite the fact that the region is, as mentioned above, the centre and backbone of Iran’s massive oil wealth, containing over 80 percent of its oil and gas resources. Ahwazi peoples are essentially treated as fifth-class subjects in their own lands, while Persian settlers introduced by Tehran to change the demographic balance live in great affluence in pleasant Persian-only settlements as part of the regime’s policy of tempting more Persians to move to these areas.   Those Ahwazis who are able to find employment have access only to the most menial, low-paid jobs, with all desirable jobs reserved for Persians.

Although most Ahwazis are Shiite, those who are Sunni face even greater discrimination due to the clerical regime’s persecution of non-Shiites.

Almost a century of systemic racist subjugation as policy has led to the Ahwazi people being one of the most marginalized and oppressed peoples in the Middle East and the world,  with one of the highest rates of incarceration and execution globally.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state towards Ahwazi Arabs have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, even while their lands sit on virtually limitless oil, gas and mineral resources that have been exploited to benefit Iranian occupiers since before the state of Iran even came into existence.

The absolute censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists attempting to raise awareness of the systemic racism and abuses perpetrated against the Ahwazi people, allowing the regime to continue these inhuman and supposedly internationally outlawed policies.

Iranian hard-liners consider Ahwazis a threat to the integrity of their theocratic state and to the oil and gas wealth which is one of its primary income sources, and have done their utmost to disseminate negative perceptions of Ahwazi peoples, labelling activists as apostates and terrorists and thus enabling the judicial system to issue grotesquely unjust prison sentences against them. The EU parliament and a number of international human rights organisations have issued a large number of extensive, well-documented reports listing some of the abuses and violations commonly inflicted on Ahwazi peoples and other non-Persian minorities in Iran. These decades-long abuses comprise part of a longstanding policy, which predates the clerical regime but have been enthusiastically adopted by it, with the ultimate objective of eradicating, subjugating and subsuming the non-Persian population in every way.

For far too long, successive Iranian regimes have denied the true diversity of the ethnic mosaic which makes up Iran, which is in reality the most ethnically diverse   country in the Middle East.  The flagrant and systemic violations and abuses against non-Persian minorities show that the current regime, like the monarchy that precedes it, is in reality founded on a savagely fascistic, repressive and racist mono-ethnic, monocultural ideology, regardless of its veneer of theocratic piety.

In summary

At present, we see strong and continues popular movement in Al-Ahwaz, once comes out in a football stadium to express the power held by the people against the Iranian military, again it shows up at the funeral of   “Younes Asakereh” the martyr which his funeral turned into a huge anti-regime protest in “Mohammareh” city.

As people in one united voice chanted revolutionary slogans calling for popular uprising in Ahwaz against the racial discrimination, the national oppression, the marginalization, the rampant poverty, unemployment, and attempts to obliterate the Arab identity of the region at the hands of the occupying   Tehran government’s policies in Al-Ahwaz.

As matter of fact, organizing such Ahwazi populace movement at wide scale which engulfed the most parts of Al-Ahwaz aims to the following:

–    Applying pressure on the Iranian regime, through the general popular rejection of the brutal Iranian policy in Ahwaz and in all countries that Iran presents.

–    Working with non-Persian peoples against mullahs’ authority to expose its violations against the peoples exists in geopolitics Iran.

In fact, this Ahwazi movement has become an example to the rest of peoples in geopolitical Iran, the people of (Turk, Kurds, and Baluchs) was directly affected by this movement on many occasions and in conjunction with Ahwazi people have staged protest rejecting the repressive measures of Iranian regime conducting against non-Persian national groups and even Persian community. Many senior intelligence officials has visited Ahwaz to calm the situation which came up in a very critical time for Iran while it’s looking for internal cohesion to continue its sabotage in the Arab world, This senior-level of security officials visits reflects the strong movement of Ahwaz and it’s reflection to what is going on in the Arab Nation which is fed up with Iranian hegemony.

Without doubt, all these events in the region are in the national security interests of the Arab countries, the inner uprising of the non-Persian peoples are fruitful to those peoples firstly, and secondly they are in the same row against Iranian expansion in the Arab world.

For Ahwazi Arab people, the matter is not being forgotten like before, we now see the Arab media generally interested in Ahwaz’s cause specially the Saudi media, as well as the liberation groups started to have armed wings, the “Arab struggle for the liberation of Ahwaz” movement on the top of it which succeeded in directing painful blows to Iran in both revolutionary field inside occupied Ahwaz homeland or its political activities in all over the world.

This is the truth in spite of Iranian media ignoring Ahwaz’s movement which is living real uprising despite more than eighty years of Ahwaz’s occupation, where Iran exercised all forms of racism to root out the Arabic identity and it didn’t even succeed to contain all Ahwaz’s Shiites, which most of them are resisting the Persian occupation, on the other side the Sunni elimination didn’t succeed and the number of Shiites who converted to be Sunni exceeded all the expectations.

It is noteworthy that ever since the April 15th uprising in Ahwaz in 2005 commemorating the anniversary of the original 1925 Iranian occupation of Ahwaz (which was subsequently renamed Khuzestan in 1936), Iranian security and intelligence services have launched brutal crackdowns and mass arrests of activists and civilians in the weeks preceding the anniversary in an attempt to intimidate the people and prevent further demonstrations.

It is imperative that Arab and Western human rights organisations take up the too-long ignored cause of Al Ahwaz on the basis of basic humanitarian principles, recognizing that the occupied and horrendously brutalized peoples are being deprived of their most basic rights as fellow human beings.

The voice of the Syrian people. It would be a novel idea for activists to actually LISTEN, KNOW what the requests and demands are of the oppressed in areas that the activists "speak for" them. They might be surprised to learn that not only do those in Syria KNOW what they want, they want to stop dying and suggest a possibility. But, of course, Western activists "know better than they do what is right for them"!

The voice of the Syrian people. It would be a novel idea for activists to actually LISTEN, KNOW what the requests and demands are of the oppressed in areas that the activists “speak for” them. They might be surprised to learn that not only do those in Syria KNOW what they want, they want to stop dying and suggest a possibility. But, of course, Western activists “know better than they do what is right for them”!

WRITTEN BY DAVID NAVA
There is a rot eating away at the moral courage of Americans. I see the rot when I talk to people about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I see the rot when I ask them, “aren’t the crimes of Assad despicable?”, and in response they turn their faces, or their chins touch their chests.

In the face of atrocities, silence.

When we cannot find the moral courage to condemn mass murderers and torturers than we have fallen into a moral swamp.

Lift your chins from your chest. Find the courage to defend the basic principles of human rights. Your courage is needed.

There are two huge difficulties facing us here in the US: 1) there is the infuriating and ugly problem of the “deniers” and the misinformation spread by Fox news and company–at the service of Big Oil; 2) there is the problem that Americans are turning away from the world, rather than waking up to the urgent need to become aware of our place in the global community–a community that is everywhere struggling for democratic rights and social justice.

This second issue is deeply disturbing because it is a sentiment that is gaining traction even among Leftists.

I find the problem most acutely demonstrated by anti-war groups that are opposed to a No Fly Zone in Syria, not on the grounds that this might drag the US into a war with Assad’s regime (this argument is weak because of the relative correlation of forces–Assad would never challenge US air power–but at least it does not violate moral principles); rather, these groups (ANSWER etc.) reject a No Fly Zone because they accept Assad’s claim that the conflict was created artificially and is strictly between the regime and foreign fighters! In other words, ANSWER defends the dictatorship! While Scientific American has the political maturity to carefully state that changing climate conditions are exacerbating social struggles, ANSWER simply denies there is a real social conflict! This is an unmitigated moral disaster for our anti-war movement. The most-widely recognized leadership of our anti-war movement has adopted the propaganda of a regime guilty of destroying its own country in order to preserve its rule!

Even in regards the problem of sectarian violence, the Jihadists forces, this position–defending the Assad regime–is completely indefensible. How will it be possible to defeat the forces of sectarian violence? Militarily? Perhaps. For a while. Perhaps IS and Al Qaeda can be destroyed. Yet, in the absence of stable democratic societies, will not these forces return, again and again? Of course they will. The military strategy is a recipe for never-ending war, and a never-ending war at the service of repressive regimes! If we are anti-war, if we are truly anti-war, we have no choice but to support the struggle for democracy. There simply is no alternative.

Concerns raised by members of the revolutionary Left that supporting a No Fly Zone is a trap set by imperialism is merely a repetition of the same error: the victory of democratic forces would be a huge blow to imperialism. Controlling corrupt, repressive regimes is how contemporary imperialism works, from Mexico to Egypt. The only difference in the case of Syria is which imperial power is in control. Syria falls under the Russian-Iranian orbit, instead of the US’s. So this makes Assad’s regime progressive?! The argument is absurd upon recognition of its content. The anti-imperialist argument is not an argument to support one imperialist camp over another; the anti-imperialist argument has always, at root, been about support for the right to self-determination of ALL peoples against ALL foreign masters. (You will never find Lenin calling Ottoman domination of the Middle East progressive relative to domination by French or English imperialism. Lenin supported the struggle for self-determination; this was the foreign policy–anti-imperialist–of the USSR, at least before Stalin.)

In any case, the moral imperative of saving innocent human beings trumps all geo-political questions. To the people being terrorized by barrel bombs, it does not matter if the bombing has been stopped by an imperialist power. Is it any wonder than that the demand for a No Fly Zone comes from the Syrian people?

While I am talking about the Syrian’s right to self-determination, let me pause to consider another objection to the demand for a No Fly Zone: some Syrians are opposed to a No Fly Zone because they support Assad; would we be trampling their rights? Let us pause to think about what happens in democratic and social revolutions. Is it ever true that 99% of the people reach agreement and simultaneously rise up to fight oppression? No, this has never happened. Revolutions always advance in a combined and unequal manner. Our own revolution, in 1776, was fought roughly with 1/3 of the population supporting King George. When we finally got around to defeating slavery in the South, we were only able to do so by killing many tens of thousands of poor White sharecroppers, who did not own slaves. Mussolini and Hitler enjoyed the support of many of their people. How then do we recognize which side in a civil war or revolution is advancing a people’s democratic rights? Well, there is no easy way. We must do our homework. We must study history and think critically; but this is the only way to understand any social historical process. If we do our homework in regards Syria we see that the regime is built on repression, that it has consistently exploited sectarian strife to justify its rule, that it does not advance the sovereignty of the people.

How can we call for the US to impose a No Fly Zone and also oppose US imperialism in the Middle East? We do so by also demanding an end to all US military aid to the coup in Egypt and to Israel, and the redirection of this aid to the survivors and refugees of Gaza and Syria. There is no sense in which these demands would strengthen US power in the Middle East. In other words, we do not try to sweep the bloody humanitarian crisis under the rug because recognizing the disaster might be too complicated. On the contrary, we adopt the humanitarian demands because that is the morally correct thing to do. Moreover, imperialist interventions in the region are indirectly responsible for the humanitarian disaster. For decades our government has undermined the democratic movements and strengthened the dictatorships. The USSR also wrought terrible damage by supporting another camp of tyrants. The solution is to finally support the struggle for self-determination. There is no alternative. The victory of the dictatorships will not bring stability because they have nothing to offer the people.

The issue is deeply complex. The humanitarian crisis, however, is painfully simple, very painfully simple. We have the power to protect civilians from aerial bombardment. Therefore we have a moral duty to act. We may not understand the struggle, but there is one good thing we can do, we can stop the bombardment of civilian populations.