Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

pes 3WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo.
We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.

However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though his regime has a terrible record regarding Palestinians, (as did that of his father).  They will argue that support of Assad is a progressive (liberal) leftist value. Whether it’s called “selective humanitarianism” “double standards” or “hypocrisy”, it is a dangerous and insidious disease and should be cured. Here is a little test to discover if perhaps YOU are afflicted with this mental illness.

pes 2Do you perhaps suffer from PES without being aware of it? Fear no more! We’re happy to provide you a self-diagnosis test with simple YES / NO replies so that you can discover your own hypocritical stance, and hopefully, be on the path to the cure.

  1. Did you protest or complain about the unfairness of the USA elections for any reason but believe that Assad won a landslide victory in free and fair elections?
  2. Do you think that Assad is fighting terrorism?
  3. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Assad?
  4. Do you believe that the war in Syria is all about foreign aggressiondue to their national and pan-Arab stances” and is not a people’s uprising? In fact, you think the whole Arab Spring has got to be “exposed” as an imperialist, western plot.
  5. Do you think that the Intifada in Palestine is legitimate and that the uprising in Syria is manufactured (while of course saying so having been paid guest to Assad’s presidential palace)?
  6. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Hezbollah even when they target and kill Palestinian refugees and ignore the growing tensions between Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hezbollah?
  7. Do you condemn religiously-inspired militias such as ISIS and Al Nusra when they commit murder and use violence against civilians but have not condemned Hezbollah when it commits murder and uses violence against civilians?
  8. Do you think that it was a good idea for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) to shoot on the Palestinians who mourned those killed on Naksa Day 2011?
  9. Have you called Gaza “the world’s largest open-air prison” but don’t agree with the UNHCR claim that Syria’s war “is more brutal and destructive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has turned into the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”?
  10. Have you endorsed or thought a No Fly Zone was a good idea for Gaza but reject it as Imperialist meddling or a bid to save Al Qaeda if it’s done in Syria?
  11. Do you condemn the Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons (since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been tortured to death) but have not condemned the 200 Palestinians tortured to death in Syrian prisons since 2011? You naturally probably don’t know about the at least 11.000 Syrians who were tortured to death inside these prisons.
  12. Do the at least 10,000 bodies of prisoners in Syrian regime prisons that were ordered to be catalogued by the regime mean nothing to you since you don’t have details on what the reasons for their deaths could be?
  13. Do you call for release of political prisoners from Israeli jails but do not call for the release of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails?
  14. Have you actually asked for money to bring Gazan children to make a protest for the NFZ but think that asking for a NFZ in Syria is a bid to help Al Qaeda?
  15. Do you think Al Qaeda and ISIS are Mossad / CIA inventions?
  16. Do you protest against the death penalty in the USA: Executions in 2014, 35, but don’t do the same for Iran: executions in 2014, Between 721 and 801 at least.
  17. Do you think it is wrong for the US to provide Israel with armaments because it engages in war crimes but at the same time, think it is justified for Russia to provide the Syrian regime with armaments and military experts because “it’s war against NATO”?
  18. Do you condemn Israel’s “extra judicial killing” but claim that Assad must do everything he needs to maintain power because blocking his actions in any way, even by condemning them “… could end up ousting Assad. It would mean replacing him with pro-Western stooge governance. It would eliminate another Israeli rival. It would isolate Iran. It would be disastrous for ordinary Syrians.”
  19. Have you ever praised Assad’s government because it is secular, or “fighting the enemy of the West”: because after all, you only see the alternatives being Assad or the “Islamic Fundamentalists”?
  20. Did you support Haniyeh and Meshaal until they started waving the Syrian revolution flag?
  21. Do you erroneously refer to the Syrian revolution flag as the “French Mandate Flag” ignoring that even the Assad regime celebrated it as the Independence flag each “Evacuation (Independence) Day on 17 April to celebrate the resistance against the French colonialists?
  22. Do you know the names of at least one Palestinian dissident/political writer but don’t know any Syrian ones?
  23. Do you call the opposition to Assad “Western-backed rebels” either from a Pro-Israel or Pro-Iran standpoint?
  24. Did you protest for Palestinian detainees and even know their names but not do the same for Palestinian detainees in Syrian’s prisons?
  25. Do you know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by Israel but don’t know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by the Assad regime?
  26. You have protested against the racist and discriminatory Apartheid Wall and checkpoints in Israel/Palestine but you have nothing much to say about Syrian military checkpoints and sniper-lined checkpoints?
  27. Did you get angry when a US newspaper used a photo of Iraqi deaths, claiming they were Syrian, but when Palestinian supporters use Syrian ones, it’s “illustrating the suffering in Gaza”?
  28. You have protested against Israeli use of phosphorus bombs but you have nothing much to say about the unconventional weapons use by Assad against both opposition fighters and civilians such as barrel bombs and chemical weapons?
  29. Are you critical of the US for intervening in affairs of other countries but think it’s normal for Iran and Russia to be sending troops into Syria to help the regime?
  30. You would never consider Palestine compromising with Israel but you believe that the opposition must compromise with the regime in Syria.
  31. Do you condemn the Saudi monarchy and refer to them as Wahhabis, Salafis, etc., but refuse to recognise that Iran is a theocracy?
  32. Do you think that Assad is simply doing everything he can to protect the minorities in his country?
  33. Do you call the Israeli occupation of Palestine ethnic cleansing but do not speak out against the regime-driven massacres in Syria that are ethnically based?
  34. Do you refer to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran as the “Axis of Resistance” even when they don’t react to Israeli attacks on them?
  35. Do you think the following two statements are both true?
    a. Dissent in the United States is patriotic.
    b. Protesting in Syria is an assault on the State and needs to be quelled.
  36. Do you think the following two statements are true?
    a. Pepper spraying protesters in the USA is a violation of human rights.
    b. The Syrian regime has to use whatever force it deems necessary against protesters, because they protesters have violent intentions.
  37. Do you think that Israel must be brought to the ICC for crimes against humanity but think that the Syrian regime should not?
  38. Do you condemn the USA vetoes on the UN Security Council in favour of Israel but praise the Russian and Chinese ones in favour of Assad both to stop sanctions and to prohibit ICC investigation including three Chinese vetoes on Syria alone out of eight total vetoes in their history?
  39. Do you think the following statements are both true?
    a.Calling a U.S. citizen anti-American or un-American for being critical of the US government is ridiculous, knee-jerk, unintelligent and actually incorrect.
    b.People who are critical of Assad are closet or overt imperialists and want US control over the region.
  40. You do not believe that Russia is an imperialist state while you are certain that Syria is an anti-imperialist state defending itself against imperialist onslaught.
  41. Do you think that Erdogan is seeking to dominate politics in the region in an attempt to restore what was once the Ottoman Empire or even think the US is trying to establish an Islamic State but support Iranian domination and the Shi’a Crescent?
  42. Have you signed petitions against companies such as Soda Stream and Coca-cola but not against weapons provider, the Russian monopoly Rosoboronexport or even the western companies providing the Syrian and Iranian regimes with surveillance equipment that they use against dissidents and opposition?
  43. Do you call innocent victims killed by American drones or victims of war crimes but consider the Syrians and Palestinians killed by Syrian bombs and chemical weapons collateral damage?
  44. Do you reject the USA/UK “War on Terror” but believe that Assad has a right to use whatever means possible to kill whoever he considers as a terrorist in Syria and that Syria is a sovereign nation fighting Al Qaeda?
  45. Have you mentioned the Blockade on Gaza in conversations and know it is illegal and a crime against humanity but don’t feel the same about the Blockade on Yarmouk?
  46. Do you respond to criticism of Assad by pointing out USA human rights violations?
  47. You know the name of USA civilians killed by cops or vigilantes, but you don’t know the name of a single Syrian victim of torture in the Assad prisons.
  48. You have protested for the closure of Gitmo, but you don’t raise your voice or even one eyebrow over the Syrian Torture Archipelago in which “The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture [in the 27 detention facilities run by Syrian Intelligence] that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.” Moreover, you don’t want to notice that Syria’s government has been cooperating with the CIA extensively in renditions and the torture programme.
  49. You think that Israel should not have nuclear capacity but that Iran should have nuclear capacity. Extra points if you support Non-Proliferation. Super extra points if you participated in any No Nukes events in the West or signed any such petitions, super extra and mega extra points if you are against nuclear power.
  50. You believe that the Palestinian struggle is about human rights but the Syrian protests were sectarian and religious-oriented, driven by people who wanted to overthrow and overtake power illegitimately if not in fact manufactured by the West?
  51. Do you believe it’s normal for the Syrian constitution to be amended every time that it serves the Assad family but the US Constitution is sacred and especially no amendments should be made to limit gun possession whether you detest the US government or think it should basically call all the shots around the world?
  52. Do you think that Jews protesting the Israel government are noble people who are fighting for human rights and justice while any Syrian protesting the Assad regime are in cahoots with the Israeli government.
  53. Do you believe that, “We must not in any way call for the removal of President Assad unless he commits acts of terror against us. Assad’s government has committed no such act, thus rendering it criminal for foreign governments to undermine the Syrian regime. You either stand for national sovereignty, or against it. The choice is yours.” While at the same time have supported efforts from the liberals or conservatives to have Obama impeached?
  54. Do you believe that foreign countries helping the Palestinians militarily to win against Israel is legitimate but helping Syrians win against Assad is meddling and think that “any further intervention in Syria would be for U.S. interests, like weakening an ally of Iran, and would encourage Assad’s allies to step up their armament shipments. The carnage would continue, and perhaps increase.”?
  55. Do you reject claims that the involvement of Iran and Russia in favour of Assad is meddling?
  56. Do you think that the entire Syrian war is for the purpose of the US weakening Syria so that it can pursue its own interests in the region but ignore the fact that Russia has enormous interests in Syria that are far more evident?
  57. Have you ever found yourself denying Assad had chemical weapons but also applauding the Syrian regime’s decision to hand them over to Russia as a strong gesture towards peace?

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

Between 1 and 5? You are headed towards selective humanitarianism, or even are afflicted with Western Privilege Syndrome!

Between 6 and 10? You are dangerously using double standards and believe that human rights aren’t something universal, but allow your ideological or dogmatic prejudices to influence your ethical judgement!

Over 10? You are a dyed in the wool Hypocrite! Maybe you should avoid “current events” altogether, you have no understanding of what human rights and justice mean, you should wash your mouth out before you ever speak about human rights for Palestinians or anyone.

dried wetland  Written by Rahim Hamid 

Thousands of Ahwazi people have gathered once again on 14th, 15th and 16th of February in front of Ahwaz Governorate office in Ahwaz’s capital demanding swift actions to cope with the dust storm that is currently crippling the lives of the Ahwazi people.

Ahwazi protesters, donning face masks, angrily shouted critical slogans against the lack of appropriate actions than those expected to be taken by local authorities to alleviate the suffering of the Ahwazi people as a result of the persistence of the dust storms.

The Iranian occupation security forces, by taking tight precautionary measures, scattered and arrested key protesters in yesterday’s demonstration.

The occupying security forces, in efforts to quell the public anger of Ahwazi Arab protesters, have tactically and brutally beaten up and handcuffed a group of Arab protesters who played important roles in organizing the peaceful protest.

The aggressive operations of police security forces in dealing with the protest resulted in the arrest of dozens of key activists and organizers who were kicked and punched savagely and taken to an unknown place by the occupying forces. The security forces the put up massive barricades to prevent protesters from advancing to other locations.

The mass arrests were carried out immediately, just thirty minutes from the start of the protest while protesters raised banners and began chanting slogans condemning the criminal policies of the occupation government. The occupying authorities, to clamp down on the protests, deployed significant anti-riot squad forces to battle the Ahwazi Arab activists who called people to take part in this protest through social Media.

Since early February, the Ahwazi people’s lives have been gravely disrupted due to the lingering intensive dust storms causing breathing disorders. Asthmatic attacks have become very problematic and prevalent among the people.

The protesters, by holding up numerous placards, placed the entire responsibility of the environmental disaster in Al-Ahwaz on the occupying Iranian central government’s policies in constructing excessive dams on Ahwazi Rivers diverting the course of the water of the rivers to the central plateau of Iran.

According to reports and studies led by Ahwazi medical research centers, Al-Ahwaz has become one of the most dangerous regions in terms of air and water pollution. As the annual review of the medical centers indicates, annually more than 22,000 Ahwazi citizens were admitted to hospitals and clinics due to diseases linked to inhaling polluted air or drinking contaminated water.

Through the protest which included adults and children, people  expressed their outrage  at the negligence and the aggressive policies of occupying Persian authorities as they raised banners that read “we have right to breathe clean air”, “you have stolen Oil, Gas, and water and left the dust for us”.

The World Health Organization since 2011 has repeatedly rated Al-Ahwaz as the world’s most polluted region. Not surprisingly, cancer and respiratory illnesses are on the rise among desperate poor Ahwazi Arab people. Annually, nearly 2000 people in the Al-Ahwaz area are diagnosed with cancer. A number is likely to increase by 90% by 2020, according to cancer research in Ahwazi medical centers. The WHO says Ahwaz has the highest measured level of airborne particles small enough to cause serious health problems for humans.

Despite the severe degradation of Ahwaz’s climate, the Iranian government has done nothing to effectively counter the spreading desertification that is encroaching on the most Ahwazi fertile agricultural lands, transforming them into arid and barren lands as a consequence of lack of water where the water of Ahwazi Rivers due to the diversion into Persian regions.

Several of participants in the rally expressed their resentment of what they described as shameful disregard and deliberate neglect by the Occupation state of Iran toward the lives of Ahwazi citizens as the occupying authorities only visit Ahwaz without providing any tangible solutions to combat the environmental and health disasters that are ravaging the lives of millions of Ahwazi citizens.

Ahwazi officials continuously stated that the level of dust particles in the Ahwazi atmosphere has seen no signs of improvement and exceeds the acceptable level by 66 times.

The Ahwazi protesters placed the responsibility for the devastating consequences of air pollution that pummel embattled Ahwazi citizens on the Iranian occupying government and blamed the Occupation’s pernicious policies at all levels in Al-Ahwaz.

The protesters, by chanting fiery slogans have slammed the government authorities for being irresponsible, indifferent as nothing can justify the inactions of the authorities. The protesters reiterated to continue their protest until the authorities take the necessary and essential procedures to tackle this adverse problem is crippling the lives of Ahwazis as the dense dust storm has reduced the visibility to less than 150 meters during the day.

The protests continued and escalated in recent days as residents gathered several times in front of the governorate in the Ahwaz capital as an expression of objection and discontentment regarding their neglected fundamental rights.

The residents have shown their anger and intolerance of the continued racial oppression and the systematic discrimination that has been practiced against them for decades at the hands of occupying officials and demanded comprehensive and rapid solutions to address the catastrophe of the dust storms have been sweeping through the entire Ahwazi cities for two weeks.

No report has been released on the number of Ahwazis who were admitted to hospitals or clinics after being affected by the dust storm. However, many reports with pictures by Ahwazi activists have been circulated via social Medias showing the massive numbers of Ahwazi Arab people who have been hospitalized in the medical centers in several Ahwazis cities due to the dust storm.

It is crucial to mention that the United Nations Environmental program (UNEP) said the dust storm in Al-Ahwaz is mainly originating from the dried wetland of Hur-Al-Azim in the west of Ahwaz. UNEP has already warned Iran about the catastrophic consequences of the dryness of the Hur-Al-Azim wetland.  

wetland 2During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) a large part of Al-Azim wetland was destroyed and the remaining part of it was devastated completely with prospecting and drilling of the Azadegan oilfield project, as well as the construction of the Karkheh Dam, which brought about the desertification of the wetland which was regarded as the only economic source of the local Ahwazi people, forcing the majority of them to migrate to surrounding cities.

The area of Al-Azim in Al-Ahwaz measures about 3,500 square kilometers but it has been totally dried out by the Iranian oil companies.

In recent years, dust storms have jeopardized the Ahwazi people’s health as the level of dust particles ultimately had reached 2,335 micrograms per cubic meter in the February of 2015.  The dust storm phenomenon in Al-Ahwaz led to numerous respiratory problems, asthmatic attacks, and even surge in various cancerous and chronic diseases.

The plundering policies of Iranian occupiers led to the dryness Al-Azim and Howeyzeh wetlands, the most extensive wetlands in Middle East.  The destruction of the wetlands has driven massive population of inhabitants to abandon their lands and migrate to cities. All of these factors combined have caused the majority of them to face homelessness and destitution as they are living in ghettos under the worst economic pressures.

Additional information
Ahwaz is occupied Arab land that is located in the South- West and South of Iran. The name of Al-Ahwaz has changed to Khuzestan, Bushehr and Hormozgan in 1935 after invading the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925. The Iranian regimes of Pahlavi and Islamic republic deployed different ways to suppress Ahwazi voices.


10961890_1407719049528535_223506516_n (1)

WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

The revolution of 1979 in Iran was visualized like a remedy in the minds and hearts of Ahwazi Arab people who were yearning for freedom and justice after having been oppressed by tyrannous and fascist policies of the Pahlavi regime.

The Ahwazi people, like other ethnic groups, pinned their hopes on the revolution because it was the only recourse for the freedom from racial oppression.

More than every other people in Iran, Ahwazi people were victims of anti-Arab policies of the Pan Persian Pahlavi regime. For this reason, they inspired to join the revolution so as to achieve their national rights and abolish the racial injustice and racism that had been practiced against them for years. However, in the early months of the revolution, all the hopes of ethnic groups including Ahwazi Arab people despaired after the revolution’s objectives turned out to be merely delusive slogans.

The Islamic Republic regime, to reach their illegitimate goals and continue to dominate over non-Persian ethnic people resorted to the worst type of racist tools.

The Mullah regime with much more aggressive policies in comparison with the previous Pahlavi system, has continued to carry out the ethnic cleansing policies through changing the demographic composition of Al-Ahwaz.   In this period, the policy of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz in various forms has been widely implemented.

Some of the methods that are used in line with ethnic cleansing of the Ahwazi Arab people are outlined as follows:

Exile:

Exile is one of the tools that the Islamic Republic regime, like its predecessor the Pahlavi regime, has used it against Ahwazis. This punitive measure is employed especially for those effective Arab intellectuals and influential political figures who have been campaigning to gain some of the social, political, cultural, and economic rights for the Ahwazi people.

10966681_1407719212861852_796136942_nThe regime, by applying exile, is seeking different goals such as disconnection of Ahwazi intellectuals with their society as a step for depriving the society of benefits of the intellectual’s insights. Besides the displacement of intellectuals, the regime is attempting to submerge the intellectuals and their families in the host community (Persian community) in order to prevent the continuation of their influence on the next generations.

As a matter of fact, in the early days of the revolution, the institutionalized policies, of banishing Ahwazi people to Persian regions, was carried out with greater frequency and intensity.

However, later with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war the exile and displacement of Ahwazis practically took on new and broader forms as this time there was no longer need for Iranian courts’ decisions to carry out the banishment of Ahwazis.

This is because of constant fears of rockets and mortar shells of the war that forced many of Arab people out of Al-Ahwaz. As it is estimated that around 1.5 million Ahwazi civilians have been relocated in provinces of Fars, Isfahan, Khorasan, Tehran and many other places.

War:     

Khomeini said war was a blessing for us. These ominous words today apparently reveal the destructive and the murderous theories that had been set against the Ahwazi people during the war.

The Iranian occupying theorists viewed the war as the best opportunity to implement their horrid goals and make them facts on the ground.

The Ahwazi liberationist movement was a serious obstacle for the Iranian totalitarian regime. Therefore, the large-scale turmoil of the war was an unrepeatable time for the government to liquidate most of the Ahwaz’s political class once and for all so that they could never become a challenge to the regime that see the demands of Ahwazis  incompatible with its centralized  ideology.

Finally, the Iranian death squads operated massive extrajudicial killings of any Ahwazi who was suspected of having cultural or political activism by accusing them of being a fifth column, or engaged in espionage or sabotage activism for Iraqi forces.

By the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, many Ahwazi political forces  called for the establishment of political and cultural institutions, but the governments of the time  did not respond to any of the demands. At that phase, the Ahwazi Arab movement suffered the greatest human losses due to repression by the Islamic Republic regime, as hundreds of Ahwazi cultural, civil and political activists were executed, based on unfounded accusations like treason charges.

Additionally, the cataclysm of the prolonged war operated as a potent weapon in favor of the Iranian regime to displace Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and as the conflict reached its fiercest peak the war-stricken cities such as Abadan, Mohammareh, Albseytin and rural areas in borderline which exposed to extensive havoc and damage were almost deserted and its Arab population moved to the central regions of the Iranian plateau thereafter they were scattered among different cities. As a consequence, the large active part and one of the most efficient pillars of Ahwaz society, particularly in Mohammareh city, has been practically excluded from influencing the movement of the Ahwazi Arab nation.

After the war, the successive governments had undertaken similar policies against the Ahwazi people. They refrained from allocating part of the economic budget to the reconstruction of the devastated infrastructure of the war-ravaged regions, especially in the cities of Abadan and Mohammareh. In this way they were able to foreclose any possibility regarding the return of the Ahwazi people in exile to their homeland. Thus, the Iranian occupying state had pioneered in contemporary history of the Middle East in one of the largest changes of demographic composition, that of uprooting the Ahwazi Arab people.

10966804_1407719286195178_544516746_nAs always, the regime, with overt relocation programs, sought to use the condition of the war-torn areas from where its Arab people had largely evacuated during the conflict as an excuse to prevent and discourage the return of thousands of its original inhabitants.

The regime did not reconstruct these areas, particularly those bordering villages and instead have declared them as prohibited military zones and have cordoned the areas off with barbed wire and patrols leaving it empty to this day.

In fact, the Arab people belonging to these rural areas after fleeing their villages were relocated in shanty town and marginalized areas around Ahwaz city and other urban areas outside Al-Ahwaz.

They waited long years to return to their villages, but their hopes have steadily weakened and became a mirage contrary to what they had previously assumed; that they could come back to their homes soon after the end of the war.

The Arab people have lost not only their villages, but also their agricultural lands. They retain countless mines and unexploded rockets. The Iranian governments did not attempt to restore and de-mine the agricultural lands from the remains of the legacy of the war and in exchange used it as a preventive measure with which to deprive the Arab villagers from cultivating their lands.

Such measures have caused the Arab villagers prefer to live under the harshest conditions in the margins of the metropolis of Ahwaz and to not return to their ruins.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Dearest daughters, dear Vanessa and Greta,

Welcome home. We are very happy to know you are safe within the loving embrace of your families.  In these five months we have never stopped praying for you.

I want to just write a few lines to thank you for your sacrifice and your commitment, thank you for having made the cause of the long-suffering Syrian people your own and for having taken so fully to heart the suffering of the children, women, youth and the elderly who are dying in Syria. You are a noble example of what volunteering is, the pride and joy of Italy, where every day thousands of persons are dedicated to helping those in need. The Syrian people thank both of you and all the Italians who have never stopped sending their aid and who have welcomed and comforted refugees in transit on Italian soil.

You have been mothers to the little orphans and sisters to the many Syrian women who are paying with their lives without any reason for it. You have waved the flag of Free Syria, honouring the sacrifice of the 270 thousand Syrian victims who have died in the name of dignity and freedom.

As a father, I am so proud of your altruism and your generosity: so young, and yet at the same time, so sensitive to the pain of the millions of helpless civilians who have been undergoing a genocide for almost four years. My dear daughters, five months spent so far away from your loved ones, five difficult months of pain and suffering: you have paid so dearly for your altruistic instinct for which the entire Syrian population, 21 million persons, are indebted to you.

Please don’t apologise, on the contrary: the world of free men and women is on your side and is with you, and is very sorry for all that has happened to you and what you have had to undergo.

Welcome back, and may you receive the blessings that the Lord will grant you for your generosity and sensitivity.

Dr. Dachan Mohamed Nour

Syrian National Council

medico_1219482A word from Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to take part in the mission in Syria with the two recently freed Italian girls. She had met the girls in Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” of the Caritas Ambrosiana.

Written by Stefano Pasta, translated by Samantha Falciatori 

These are days of controversy and speculation about the reasons why Vanessa and Greta went to Syria. We talk about it with Rosamaria Vitale, 55, the surgeon who was supposed, until the last moment, to go with them on the same mission to Syria. In the same spirit, and always willingly and unpaid, she worked on the Mare Nostrum ships, in Kenya with the Camilliani Fathers (she has been going there for ten years) and other places of suffering in the world. During the months when she is at home, in Milan, she is one of the many citizens who, in different ways, helps the Syrian and Eritrean refugees (at least 70,000) reach Milan in their journey to Northern Europe. It is here, in the Central Station and in the reception centers activated by the Municipality, that she met the two girls.

Where did you meet them?

In Milan, in the reception center of via Novara, which is run by the cooperative “Farsi Prossimo” (Caritas Ambrosiana). It was October 2013. The Municipality had just decided to accept refugees in transit for a few days and, as it is now, it was cooperating with a very heterogeneous group of Milanese, some belonging to associations, but above all, individuals motivated by solidarity for what these families have suffered. Sometimes it would happen that you would see Syrian children with wounds from firearms. Until last June, “Medici volontari italiani” (“Volunteer Italian Medics”), the association to which I belong, was in charge of the first aid intervention of what was a sort of small refugee camp. Greta and Vanessa, who spoke perfect Arabic [translator’s note, according to the interviewee], helped me with the translation, but they were devoted mainly to entertaining the children, and organizing games and activities. These volunteer “activists” also had other tasks: to welcome the refugees who arrived from Southern Italy to the Central Station, to accompany them to the reception centers, and to help them with train tickets. Then when there was no more room in the reception centers, we turned to private homes (I myself have hosted several Syrians). Now at the Station there is a valuable group of volunteers, but the management of the incoming refugees in the centers is now handled by the Municipality.

What struck you about the two girls?

Their effort, shared also by many activists of all ages: almost daily and always withoutgetting a cent, they came and went from their cities to Milan. Sometimes we left the center together and I gave them a ride to the underground stop next to my house. It was an opportunity to share thoughts about the suffering we had seen during the day. It often happened that the patients let us see the photos of their lives in Syria, some which had fought against the Assad regime. It was clear to us who the weak were: on one side there was Assad who destroyed his people, and on the other side, there was a people of survivors who fled in search of a new life.

Then came the proposal of the trip to Syria…

Greta phoned me asking if I wanted to go to Syria for 5-6 days in the rural area of Idlib, that both girls had already visited in a previous mission. They knew that I already had experience in many countries at war. I immediately said yes, confirming I would willingly collaborate with them. At that time, in the Syrian areas controlled by the rebels,  virtually none of the biggest organizations operated anymore. Only small groups, often self-organized, did it, with a few day-long missions during which they delivered medicines and aid in kind.

slide_396732_4873160_freeWhat was the project of Vanessa and Greta about?

I still have the April email in which they sent me the project. It was a well done project, with objectives developed after careful analysis of the needs of the territory. In the roughly twenty villages in the area, medical facilities had been bombed and there were no doctors (they had fled or had been killed). All the medical assistance was handled by only one veterinarian. In the first mission, Greta and Vanessa had identified the deficits, setting two goals for the next missions. First: to activate a first aid course providing the necessary materials. Second: to ensure the sick of chronic diseases (for example diabetes) access to the right therapies. As far as the first is concerned, we are talking about gauzes, disinfectants, pills, therefore, materials that each family had to keep at home; Greta, a Nursing Sciences student, had all the necessary skills.

But then you did not leave with them…

No, I could not join their second mission due to problems that arose at the last moment. I also couldn’t attend the third, the one in July, because I was called to serve on the Navy ships, in the Mare Nostrum Operation. When I learned about their kidnapping, I was already in Kenya. Before both missions, I had helped them choose and collect the medicines to bring to Syria. During the missions, they used to write me via email and Facebook to ask my opinion by sending me photos of the patients they met.

Were they naïve and inexperienced?

No. For Greta and Vanessa their life was a mission, nothing else. There are people who give top priority to the good of others, even at the cost of their own life.

Original: http://m.famigliacristiana.it/articolo/vanessa.htm

greta-ramelli-vanessa-marzullo-1WRITTEN BY ASMAE SIRIA DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

The emotion was immense when, Friday, 16 January, 2015, the Italian news agency Ansa finally released the title:”Palazzo Chigi (Office of the Prime Minister, translator’s note) confirmed, Greta and Vanessa are free.” It’s over, thank God; the nightmare that has lasted five months is over. An interminable time in which, respecting a news blackout and considering the need of discretion, I preferred not to write anything, entrusting my feelings and my thoughts to prayer.

The day the news was released of their kidnapping I was at home, having returned just a few days before from a poignant trip to Syria; Ramadan had just begun. Hearing the names of Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli on the TV and that word, “abducted” was terrible. The beginning of a nightmare for all who love and know them. But now they are back home, in the close and reassuring embrace of their families.

On the news many times was broadcast a video in which Vanessa and I are together: an interview in Bologna in November 2012, on the occasion of the Global March for the Children of Syria’, an initiative of solidarity and denouncement in which many had taken part, from every part of Italy. Syrians, Italians, volunteers, students, journalists, families, charities: a colourful procession bring to Italy the voice of Syrian civilians. Vanessa was one of the organisers of the march, whose local slogan was ‘Follow Your Heart’ and I made the interviews with the participants, while Paolo Crobu oversaw shooting and editing. Initiative ignored by the mainstream media, with interviews that were only broadcast on the YouTube channel; the aim was to raise awareness about what was and is still happening in Syria, where from 2011 to today there are at least 270 thousand deaths, including more than 20 thousand children.

Many had written and phoned to tell me that they had seen the video on TV. It had been there on the net almost unnoticed and, in the light of the abduction, was instead disseminated. I’ve seen it countless times.

Vanessa speaks quietly but with determination, she speaks of the Syrian drama, the dream of freedom for a people with whom she, a young student of Lombardy, has been in contact with and to whom she is attached. Only twenty years old, at his age many of her peers are busy only with their studies and organising their amusement, but she hasn’t thought only of this. Ever since I met her, I’ve noted that she was writing every night of Syria, denouncing kidnappings, rapes, abuses suffered by civilians. She translates the stories and dramatic testimony that is disclosed in the network by young Syrian activists. ‘Clandestine Communicators’, ‘opponents’, ‘rebels’, ie, people who have found the courage to challenge the censorship imposed by the Assad regime, giving voice to the genocide of which the world seems not to have taken notice. Because the dictatorship leads to this: to move like ghosts, to become ‘outlaws’ for disobeying the impositions of the tyrant. In Syria one shuts up and obeys the rules, or else you are finished, and this the world, at least the countries that in the past have suffered such violence, know, or at least should know.

In Syria able to move freely is the regime and their supporters; anyone who is opposed to it is illegal. Anyone who has picked up the flag with the three stars, the historic Syrian flag hoisted after the end of French colonialism in 1946 (and not the red, white and black with the two stars imposed by the regime) is branded for life. Anyone who has taken part in marches, demonstrations, initiatives, is branded. Not only in Syria. Even among Syrians abroad. Everyone knows that having declared themself to be against the regime, the regime that after fifty years of power and four years of bloodshed still holds Syria in its fist, means to have finally signed their forced exile from the homeland. The Syrians who have fled in boats of death, which in the absence of an international humanitarian corridor, are entrusted to human traffickers, they know they will not be able to return home. The same for those who are in the condition of refugees. This is something Vanessa and Greta knew and they did not look the other way. They participated, along with many other young people and volunteer associations in operations of hosting the Syrians in transit at the station in Milan to reach northern Europe.

They have taken Syria to heart. They have embraced the pain of a humanity forgotten. With selflessness and courage. Exposing themselves personally. Risking, without any fear. You can criticise their imprudence, but demonise them, no.

Now they are paying for their courage. On the web the media lynching is nothing short of disgraceful. I have never seen so much fury even against mob bosses or serial rapists. Certain political areas exploit their dramatic story for their campaign. We are witnessing a sexist drift, a blind hatred and theatre of hypocrisy that dance embraced tightly to ignorance. Because most of the people, even in good faith, ignore what is happening in Syria and how we have come to this state of total chaos.

Greta and Vanessa are becoming the scapegoat for many crisis situations. Paying for being young, for being women, for having taken the side of a people struggling against a tyrant, for putting the lives of others before their own. Turning them into what they are not is ignoble.

Has the sacrifice of these two young girls perhaps rekindled the spotlight on the Syrian drama? Is anyone wondering what is going on over there? Today it seems that the problem in Syria is only Isis, circulating many distorted concepts, the truth is systematically raped and the dramatic situation is ignored. The Syrian situation is the most serious humanitarian emergency in the new century. Please read the reports of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, UNICEF, the UN and humanitarian organisations that are monitoring the situation. It is reflected by the numbers of this massacre: 270 thousand deaths, including 20 thousand children, 9 million IDPs, over 3.7 million refugees, 1 million wounded and more than 250 thousand missing. Taking Syria to heart means not being indifferent to all this.

As a Syrian I feel strong embarrassment towards Greta and Vanessa for what they have suffered in Syria. I am equally embarrassed for all the hatred that is flowing against them. Both situations are ignoble.

A dutiful thanks goes to those who worked towards bringing them home safe and sound.

Greta and Vanessa are courage and recklessness, selflessness and sacrifice. We have waited anxiously. Today they are here. Welcome Back Home.

 

Original: https://diariodisiria.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/greta-e-vanessa-il-coraggio-contro-lindifferenza/

van a casa greta a casa

Written by Mary Rizzo

Hundreds of articles, thousands of comments and dozens of conjectures have emerged since the liberation of Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo from their imprisonment in Syria. Reading them, I am continually shocked by the content, mostly because the relationship of the content of these articles with reality is close to nil. And, of course, since those of us who know these women have acted responsibly, following the instructions of our government to keep press silence for their sake, it has given space to the vultures and monsters of orientalist, conspiracy, reactionary yellow journalism, who see in them all the ingredients for their “articles”: beautiful young maidens who are victims of the evils they embraced. Articles are coming out basing their research on the trash articles full of falsehood and insane conjecture, because during those endless 5 and a half months, the trash writers had free reign and their inventions, which will naturally be held up to scrutiny now that it is possible to respond to them, and certainly lawsuits will arise from the defamation they contain.

Five and a half months where those who know, and those who know better, were discouraged from expressing in public our solidarity, prohibited from making marches, creating petitions, even from something so simple as making a supportive page in Facebook. Asking activists to go against their instincts of protesting, getting into the streets and involving the general public in awareness raising activities is asking a lot of them, especially if the thing they are being asked to do is to keep silence regarding persons they know and love very much. But this was done, some of us suspending our feelings of disappointment in how our government works, and simply trusting them and obeying them. Our government pulled through and fulfilled their obligation to bring back our co-citizens who were victims of criminals in a foreign country. We are so grateful to them for their efforts and thrilled at their success.

There are other Italians who are not so happy about it though. One of them, for instance, is a former minister, Luca Zaia who says, (taking the words of some unknown “Tweeter” account statement as legitimate against the word of his own government that states that no ransom was paid and international laws were adhered to) “there has to be a norm for whoever gets themselves in trouble, they have to find their own way to get out of the mess.” He suggests that the goods of the families of Greta and Vanessa should be confiscated for life, to repay the Italian State, in fact.  All of that is pretty rich coming from someone who, when he was minister of Agriculture brought upon the Italian State fines amounting to 2.4 billion Euros for not adhering to EU limits of milk production, “The smooth operators and cheaters in the milk quotas have cost us Italians 4.5 billion Euros. In 2009 then Minister of the Northern League Zaia bailed out the “tax evaders” and denied the Revenue Agency Collection the right to get back the amounts paid by the State on their behalf.”

Then there are those who say they were involved with Jihadis and militias of every kind. Others who say they ought to have stayed in Italy and taken care of our many poor and needy. Still others say they had no preparation to go where they went to do what they claimed they were there to do. Neither of the first two groups have the faintest idea of who Greta and Vanessa are. They don’t know that they have been involved in the humanitarian aspect of what is a war zone. They have absolutely a point of view, given their interest and knowledge of the situation, and it is impossible to remain “neutral in the face of oppression” or pretend that there is not a war going on and know how it started and what areas are suffering the most. They don’t know that they also have volunteered and been trained in Italy and other countries, and that they were not “sent” by anyone. It seems peculiar to these people that young adult women can have a grasp on a very complex situation. Just because those condemning them don’t have a grasp, they assume it should be the same for Vanessa and Greta. The third group of critics has a slight advantage in that while they are wrong about them being totally unprepared, they are right that this kind of volunteer work in a war zone has absolutely no rules and anything can happen, even to the most prepared person, so this is all the more true of two individuals representing a humanitarian group they were the founders of, without a history of safety regulations and a staff to organise every particular up to the smallest detail.

Those who doubt their sincerity, however, or why they should be so involved in Syria, evidently have not had the same exposure to the information that the women have had. Ones who are informed of the situation of the Syrian population, who have learned about the suffering and the slaughter of innocent people, particularly children, simply can’t just shut it off. It becomes a sort of obsession, a constant suffering. There are simply people in the world, empathic and humanitarian people, and Vanessa and Greta are two of them, who when they see the suffering of others, enter into a state of profound com-passion. They feel it fully, they share in the pain and it becomes so deeply felt that they feel that their duty is to help, they cannot NOT help. They believe in the power of love and the human duty to not look away but to do like others have done before them throughout the history of the world, where the people we are given as examples for life go to the den of the leper and embrace him, to make him feel that he is not alone in the world and to try to heal his wounds. They knew that their aid might be a drop in the bucket, but the power of sharing the suffering, taking part and witnessing, that is something that they felt compelled to do, and all the friendly advice of those who love them could not change the path that they set before them, to BE THERE for others. If there are those who doubt this sentiment can exist, I say, they are surrounded by grey people, and when they find themselves alone and in pain, they may not have someone there to stand by them, that kind of thing is not contemplated in their world. But this is the world of Greta and Vanessa, the world of compassion and sharing in the burden.

It is disgusting to read the various comments by people who only criticise them or even smear or defame them. But it is good to realise that they come from a world that is alien to mine and to that of Greta and Vanessa, who are thankfully enjoying the support of many, despite the louder voices of the vile and vulgar ones. In schools across Italy (if I take for an example my own child’s high school) the “hour of religion” – yes, Italian public schools have this, and given that the students prefer to stay together during the day, even those who are not Catholic participate and they are basically classes where ethics and current events are discussed – all of the students applauded the girls, said they were proud of them, admired them, thought they were the best representative of humane ideals, but simply that they were wrong to have underestimated how dangerous it was and to have caused their families the worry. In Italy, unlike America, young people often live at home even after they reach 18, and independence is not complete, though the right to make important decisions is recognised, it is still considered necessary to obtain parental approval for some things, and in this case, the students of my child’s class thought that this was the only thing they did wrong. It seems that 17 year olds have a better understanding than 50 year olds sometimes…..

But there is one subject that remains to be discussed, and that is how it happened. All we know is that despite the media circus, the “jihadi” theory is ridiculous and so is the one that they were working for the FSA. The dynamics are going to come out in time, and rather than the weak little Pollyannas that some may have thought they are, the two Italian women are proving to be stronger than lions. They not only had to undergo the horrors of their imprisonment, but they are fully collaborating with the magistrates who are investigating the kidnapping. They, in the first place, who believe in justice and dignity, are not going to withhold any information that leads to the arrest of those who are responsible for their abduction and detainment against their will. It is possible that those who are responsible don’t live in a war zone, so justice may indeed be served.

It is said that in their auditions before the investigators, who have opened the case to investigate and ultimately prosecute those responsible, they were aware of the reason they were abducted the moment they were taken away, because they asked, “Why??” and the response was, “For money”.

Yes, this is where those of us who not only love and admire Vanessa and Greta now have to take a stand. We, like them, believe in justice, human rights and most of us also support the revolution against Assad. We are quite willing to condemn any and every group and individual who not only has violated the rights of humanitarians but who have betrayed the very cause of opposition to Assad if they engage in actions that are against human rights and harm innocent people. If it is true that, as they admit, they were in a place considered as safe, only for it to instead have been a trap artfully set up by those who acted like friends only to betray them, then this is not going to be buried under the rug because it is shameful. Instead, we trust more than ever our authorities to investigate, find the evidence that will prove that they have been set up by guys who boast of their importance inside Syria with the oppostion and their excellent and safe connections, and there is going to be no rest if it turns out that these are individuals who are hiding behind the Syrian revolution flag or acting like they are for the overthrow of Assad or even if they are (as they may claim) greatly respected by the revolutionaries and even influential in Syria. If their tactics are the same, treating innocent people like merchandise, a cheap form of human trafficking, it is all the more shameful because it has brainwashed itself that it’s for “the cause”. It’s not for any cause that Vanessa and Greta and the rest of us stand for. If it is a person or persons involved in the opposition militia, my personal wish for them is that they simply keep on as they are doing, because even if they achieve martyrdom, they are not going to ever achieve Janna (paradise) because they have committed a crime so heinous that there is no way to atone. They will learn what imprisonment is, eternally.

If they have even the thought that the lives of these women have X value and they tricked them or led to them being tricked, then they are no different than what we are against, and they, hopefully soon exposed, should be made to pay their debt with justice until their last day on earth. They are not going to find any “friends” who cover for them or pat them on the back or who justify what they have done. Whoever it is, may they feel that the circle is closing in on them, and the sooner the Syrian people are rid of such traitors, the better. It is also unfortunate that thanks to situations like this, other humanitarian efforts are thwarted, relief to the suffering Syrian population is going to be denied and the end of the Assad regime is going to be set farther ahead. Yes. Thanks to the betrayal of such kinds of persons against all that is good and right, who abuse trust and good faith and the purity of decent people. They betray all of Syria by their actions.

Lastly, we thank Greta and Vanessa from the heart for proving to us that there is indeed humanity, for being the beautiful people they are. We wish for them only the joy, happiness, serenity they deserve so much and we are thrilled that they are reunited with their families who strongly supported them and went through their own suffering, but who are not punitive, because there is nothing to punish heroes for, because it is a blessing to be in the midst of heroes, humanitarians and persons who know the meaning of the phrase, “stay human”. No matter what choices Vanessa and Greta make in life, we stand by them, we trust them and we love them, and hope we are going to be worthy of them.

Written by Ahwazna

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a mass demonstration entitled “we never forget our Ahwazi oppressed people” in front of the embassy of the Iranian occupying regime in the Danish capital on Saturday 10/01/2015.

The demonstration was held to denounce the policies of occupation of Iran and its ongoing crimes against the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Ahwazi demonstrators carried their protest through the streets of Copenhagen, chanting anti-regime slogans as they headed toward their final destination, which was a rally that gathered in front of the Iranian embassy.

The Ahwazi crowds packed the streets outside the Iranian embassy in the largest anti-regime protest to date, shouting “Death to the Iranian occupation regime” as well as  chanting slogans such as “Ahwaz will be freed, and Iranian occupiers will be out of it”.

copen demo 2The protesters also carried Arabic and English signs reading “Stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people”, the world must condemn the land confiscation policies conducted in Ahwaz”.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community residing in Denmark who took part in the demonstration, showing their solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people as well as a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries were participants in the rally.

The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people are under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state made an unforgettable and effective participation in this demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and collaboration and actual solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in Arabic and English condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the sinister Persian occupiers. They strongly denounced and condemned the diverting the course of the Karoon River, where the occupying regime is pumping its water away from the Ahwazis and diverting it to central Persian regions.

The organizers of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz who had called for this demonstration, stated during the Press Conference that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remains invisible to the world at large. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the demonstration is to bring it to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place further pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the executions and arbitrary arrests of the Ahwazi Arab people, the detainees being mainly political and human rights activists.

They asserted in recent years that around 35 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have been executed but these atrocious and senseless crimes have elicited very little reaction from the international community.

For years, Iran has been cracking down on the Ahwazi Arab people by mass arrests, torture and intimidation as well as carrying out the execution of innocent Ahwazi civilians.

The wealth and natural resources, especially natural gas and oil, of Ahwazi lands are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

This racial oppression has led the Ahwazi people to be one of the most destitute and marginalized people in Middle East, with a very high incarceration and execution rate.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, as there is an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the ocean of oil and gas and mineral resources that are being exploited by the Persian occupation state since 1925 and still ongoing.

The censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists to voice out the non-stop abuses committed against the Ahwazi people. This serious obstacle has allowed the regime to discriminate strongly and consistently against the Ahwazi Arab people.

copen demo 1The ethnic oppression includes the prohibition of Arabic, leading to the inability of Ahwazi people to study in their native language, the denial of job opportunities, the confiscation of lands and building Persian settlements for Persian settlers.

At the end of the Press Conference, the organizers of the demonstration appealed to human rights organizations and the Arabic and Western media to speak out against the despicable crimes of the Iranian regime in Al-Ahwaz. And finally, to recognize Ahwaz as an occupied Arabic country.

Al-Ahwaz1WRITTEN BY AHWAZNA, Prepared and presented by: Committee for research and studies in The Arab Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz

Ahwaz is an occupied Arab country located in the southwestern region of the Republic of Iraq and also in the southwestern region of Persia. It is bounded on the north by the Kurdistan Mountains the eastern border of the Lorestan Mountains which are known as the mountains of Zagros. These mountains in the north and the east create a natural border that separates the Ahwaz Arab lands from Persia. To the south, Ahwaz lies along the northern coast of the Arabian Gulf.

In terms of climate, the areas of occupied Ahwaz are quite similar to the plains of Mesopotamia as well as being entirely different in all respects with the climate of Persia.

Arnold Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad in 1918-1920, also asserted when he visited Ahwaz or Arabistan, “Ahwaz (Arabistan) is quite different from Iran. Ahwaz is surrounded by mountain chains forming a wall completely surrounding Al-Ahwaz and constituting a geographic division. The interval between Ahwaz and Persia and the difference between Ahwaz and Persia resembles the differences between Germany and Spain. In addition, this difference is not only confined to the geographical landmarks of Ahwaz, but includes culture, language, customs and traditions, history and population, fertility of the land and agricultural crops”.

The actual total area of this occupied Arab land is 375 thousand square kilometers, but the subsequent Iranian occupying governments have proceeded to usurp vast areas of this Arab land and have annexed adjacent Ahwaz areas to the Persian regions, all for the reason of legitimizing the diminishment of the area of Ahwaz. This organized plundering, shrinking the area through a land-grab and pernicious policies had been sought since 1936 up to the present day where Persian governments, under the pretext of conducting modern administrative regulations have truncated the following parts of Ahwazi lands:

  • Cutting off 11 thousand square kilometers of southern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Fars Province.
  • Cutting off 10 thousand square kilometers of eastern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Esfahan Province.
  • Cutting off 4400 square kilometers of northern lands of Ahwaz and annexing it to Lorestan Province.
  • Other regions such as Elam, Bushehr, and Bandar Abbas also have been cut from Ahwaz and exposed to Persianization policies by displacing its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants and settling Persians there. In Bushehr and Bandar Abbas large numbers of Ahwazi Arab inhabitants have been forced into Arabian Gulf countries after experiencing oppression, poverty, the appropriation of their property and possessions, particularly through forcible confiscation of their lands.

Consequently, the map of Al-Ahwaz has dramatically been shrunk from its original size to 159,600 thousand square kilometers according to current Iranian statistics.

Despite the lack of accurate statistics on the precise amount of the Ahwaz population, the number of residents of this occupied Arabic country is estimated to be eight million people. According to the most recent census issued by the Persian government in 1962, the population of this country that remained after the annexation of large regions from it was approximately 3.5 million Arabs. In addition to the 100,000, settlers who came from the Persian cities to this country after Reza Shah Pahlavi invaded Ahwaz.

According to other statistics recognized by the Persian occupation which was carried out after administrative divisions led into truncation, large parts of this usurped Arabic country the Ahwaz or Khuzestan area, as Persian rule calls it, is 64,236 square kilometers and the census of Arab people is 374,6772 residents.  So, if we retrieve the population of the separated areas and add it to the aforesaid number, then the number of Arab inhabitants of Ahwaz will reach nearly eight million people.

Since 1925 and right after the fall of its last Arab ruler through the military occupation of Reza Shah, Ahwaz has been the target of racist policies of successive governments of Persian regimes.

The most vile, dangerous and destructive policy inflicted on Ahwaz is the plague of Persianization that is changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz with the goal of eliminating the Arabic identity and destroying all its major pillars of nation building.

ahwazThis policy in the long-term has drawn a vicious vision for the Persian occupation that is the requisite of dragging the Ahwazi Arab nation to a stage in which calling it a nation will no longer be possible. They have spared no effort to make this vision a reality on the ground. The practices and policies undertaken by Persian occupation can be divided into two eras.

The overt racist philosophy of Farsism began in the form of the pan-Iranist party during the Reza Shah Regime. But our intended concept is the inherent popularized idea of Farsism that has penetrated deeply into the mind and the characters of the Persian people, even those who are seemingly combating racism.  However, they are more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to anti-Arab sentiment or fighting against Arabs.

The contemptuous attitude toward other non-Persian, people particularly toward the Ahwazi nation, constitutes the backbone of Farsism as an ideology. In fact, the policy of racial discrimination is being applied at the beginning of the founding of the state – the nation.

The Ahwazi Arab people have been the first victims of this policy. Because the radicalism of Farsism, which seeks to maintain and stabilize its illegal roots in the land that was occupied it by force, has committed mass murder and genocide of Ahwazi Arab people in different ways. Before the occupation, Ahwaz had a homogeneous Arab population with various clans and tribes.  After the conquest of Ahwaz and consequent overthrow of Arabic rule, Reza Shah by applying the recommendations of Farsism theorists such as Foroughi, Mirza Malcom, Akhound Zadeh and Taghi Zadeh, practiced the policy of forced migration and displacement of populations against the Arab people. In his first criminal acts, we can refer to the mass exile of Arab sheikhs outside Ahwaz.

Then, he ordered the banishment of a large number of Ahwazi Arab tribes to the Khorassan region, forcing them to walk barefoot long distances day and night without water and food, having to cross grueling mountain routes as so many women, children and elderly people were killed due to extreme fatigue, thirst and starvation.

For years, Reza Shah had widely practiced the policy of reverse migration of Ahwazi people to the central Persian regions and in contrast promoted the settlement of Persian people in Ahwazi regions.

AHWAZ MAPThe nomadic Lur and Bakhtiyari tribes, as their original homelands is beyond Zagros Mountains and because of their proximity to the northern regions of Ahwaz, had frequently travelled  with their herds to Ahwazi areas to find pasture lands to feed their flocks of sheep and goats. This situation helped Reza Shah to resettle them quickly in Ahwazi areas especially in Qenitra (Dezful) and Susa (Shush).  The Bakhtiyari tribes were only living in mountain regions and foothills of the Zagros in Izeh and Masjed Soleyman and in winter and summer they were commuting between their original homeland and the Ahwazi areas (Izeh and Masjed Soleyman. This meant that they left Ahwaz in the summer and returned to Ahwazi areas in the winter. These areas had the greatest potential for changing the demographic composition of Ahwaz. However, the industrialization of the cities of Abadan and Ahwaz had created the basis for the massive migration into the cities.

The Pahlavi regime repeatedly sent groups of Persian laborers into cities and through the granting of privileges, established a Persian middle class in the heart of Ahwazi cities, thereby enabling and reinforcing its occupation policies. Since 1925 the systematic migration of Persians has been carried out through the settlement of the “Lor and Bakhtiyari” tribes in Izeh, Masjed Solyman and Qenitra (Dezful), agricultural projects in Toster to Muhammarah, and industrial and oil projects in Ahwaz and Abadan.

Once Persian immigrants started to descend on Ahwazi cities, it did not take long for the total political domination of the Persian state over Ahwaz. Further development of the Abadan oil refinery in 1938 led it to become one of the largest refineries in the Middle East, providing thousands of job opportunities and paving the way for the arrival of many immigrants.

Iran_Oil_Arab_Population_MapApproximately 25 years after Reza Khan entered the region, the population of Abadan increased to 227,000, more than ten times that of 1956. The arrival of Persian settlers was to such an extent that there was not sufficient housing to lodge them. It followed that the English-Iranian Oil Company had to construct exclusive residential buildings for their workers and employees, and these buildings are known as “Bangleha”. According to government statistics, 62 percent of these immigrants are from the Isfahan and Yazd provinces, 24 percent are from the Fars province and 8 percent from the Kermanshah province.

These government settlement programs resulted in an influx of large numbers of Persian settlers to the cities of Abadan and Mahshor. The occupation authorities ever since have sought to build new industrial hubs in other major cities in an effort to further spread the scale and scope of Persian settlement of the cities of Al-Ahwaz.

Through the establishment of governmental centers, industrial factories in and around the Ahwaz capital, in addition to promoting and strengthening the military’s role in establishing large military bases, improving roads and routes leading to Ahwaz city, they created another new industrial hub in the region that brought tens of thousands of Persian immigrants to the city.

The consequence of this policy led to the population of Ahwaz city in 1977 to reach half a million people, surpassing Abadan and other cities.

The outbreak of the Iran revolution in 1979 and after the Iran-Iraq war, the migration of Iranians to Ahwazi regions had relented for a while. But after those ethnic statistics were excluded from the official statistics of Iran, it was the beginning of a lack of transparency in statistics related to immigrants coming to Ahwaz.

As every year, the hideous assimilation phenomenon (Persianizing land and human settlement) plagues Ahwaz, mainly the northern and the eastern bordering regions. This monstrous occupying Persian state aims at devouring the entirety of Arabic characteristics of Ahwaz.

Changing the demographic structure in favor of non-Arab immigrants, changing the Arabic names to Farsi ones, the ban on teaching the Arabic language and breaking up Ahwazi territories by annexing parts of Ahwaz and inserting them into Persian regions adjacent to Ahwaz are all part of the agenda, seeking the corroboration of the occupation authorities in targeting all the pillars of the national Arabic identity of the Ahwazi people.

In addition to forced migration and deporting Arab people to Persian regions and reverse migration of non-Arab people into Ahwaz, the Persian state has adopted other evil methods against the Ahwazi people.

The confiscation and plundering of agricultural lands by Persian feudal owners followed new approval of agrarian reforms.  Under the new and unfair law, the non-indigenous feudal entities had seized the chance to illegally become the owners of the lands that had previously been usurped from Arab farmers. In this regard, the death of Majid Khan, the great feudal owner, had been a perfect opportunity for the Persian central government to take control of 25,000 hectares of the lands that were virtually usurped.  Later, the occupation government has established the “Karoon Sugar Cane Development project” on these confiscated lands in the Toster (Shushtar) region.  As a matter of fact, the agrarian reforms made by the government were not so different  when compared to the feudal ones with respect to giving the possession of lands by its main Arab owners and once again it was a lose–lose situation for Ahwazi Arab farmers. Although some feudal lands were granted to Arab farmers, the majority of lands that were under the possession of feudal ownership, once again were confiscated by the central government and  Arab farmers were deprived of their lands forever. Additionally, those nomadic Lor tribes that forcibly settled on Ahwazi lands according to the agrarian reform Law become the owners of lands that formerly had belonged to the Arab people.

In Mahshor, Temimiyeh (Hendijan), Khalafeyeh, Ramez and Omideyeh the Pahlavi government claimed that the lands belonged to a Persian person named “Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi” and after his death the government declared the confiscation of all these lands.

The Pahlavi government’s argument that apparently based is on speculation and lacks any credible evidence was announced as follows:

It seems that before the ownership of lands by Hosseinqoli Nezam Alsalteneh Ma’âfi, these lands were under the authority of Sheikh Khazaal (the ruler of Ahwaz) but when Sheikh Khazaal married Batul Ma’âfi, the daughter of Hosseinqoli, he endowed the lands to Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi.  After the fall of Sheikh Khazaal and occupation of Ahwaz, Hosseinqoli Ma’âfi gave half of these lands to the government endowment organization and kept the rest in his ownership until the end of the Pahlavi regime. Later the Islamic Republic seized the part of lands owned by him. Now the Ahwazi Arab people, the original inhabitants of these lands, remained tenants residing on the lands that mainly belong to them and every time the landlord (government) wishes it can expel them from these lands.

Most statistics and evidence show that the government has put more focus on changing the demographic structure of Al-Ahwaz. Because they know well that a divided and heterogeneous nation is no longer able to stand against colonialism for this reason, the government has ever since been targeting the Ahwazi Arab nation from the inside.

It is a silent killer policy aimed at exterminating the entire Ahwaz population, and it has been pursued in the form of changing the demographic structure of Ahwaz.  This inhuman act is conducted without adequate news reflection or attention. In silence, its annihilating consequences are disintegrating the Ahwazi nation from the inside.

In addition to the above methods, the government has deployed modern methods for changing the demographic structure, such as constructing Persian settlements to make a rapid and widespread change in the fabric of the population in favor of Persian settlers.  New Yazd and New Isfahan settlements built in Khafajah city are only examples of these grave crimes that not only have not stopped under the current Islamic Republic regime, but have continued with greater frequency and intensity.

Of course, these are just a few cases of the Pahlavi regime’s crimes in the demographic structure of the Arab nation of Al-Ahwaz. In the second part of this article, we will shed more light on the current policies of changing the population structure of Al-Ahwaz under the Islamic Republic regime.

 

WRITTEN BY MASSIMO RUSSO, translated by Mary Rizzo
What do the tears of Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman at the summit for the Peace of Rome tell us: if we don’t like the present, it is only up to us to change it

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of Nobel Laureates
The embrace between Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman on stage at the summit of the Nobel prize winners (Photo: Wired)

“I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Iranian people for what the government of my country has done first in Syria, supporting a dictator – Bashar al-Assad – who kills his own citizens, and now to the Yemen of my sister Tawakkul, because it is helping the counter-revolution to stifle change. ”

Sometimes international meetings on peace are resolved in formal occasions to repeat formulas that are a  little ‘age-worn’. At the 14th World Summit of the Nobel Peace prize, which is being held these days in Rome, things were different. The abstract concept of peace and diplomacy became transformed into a hug, and into the tears of two women, the Nobel laureates Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkul Karman, divided by nationality and religion, united by belonging to the species of those who did not give up.

And if you wonder what this has to do with Wired, the answer is: because both these women are innovative. No, they are more than that, they are hackers.

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian, won the Nobel in 2003 for her fight for human rights. Magistrate, she was relieved of her duties and lives actually in exile in London. Tawakkul was the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel in 2011 for her peaceful campaign for equality, freedom and against corruption, which led to the overthrow of the regime in Yemen. A few moments before receiving the embrace of Shirin, Tawakkul had cried out passionately, asking the international community to condemn Iran for its intervention in support of the dictators of Syria and Yemen and against the Arab Spring, in order to establish itself as a regional power and obtain more favourable terms in the negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

Tawakkul in her speech emphasises a concept dear to all disruptive innovators: do not ask permission.

“No one will give you your rights if you are not willing to take them for yourselves, to take to the front lines and fight for them. And the only ones able to declare your defeat are yourselves. If you lose hope, you are already finished, everything depends on you. ”

Ebadi adds: “Democracy is alive, and it must be looked over every day, even when you’ve achieved it.”

Then there’s the idea of hacking. Because only the creative tampering of reality, even when all logic is contrary, it can lead to change in seemingly hopeless situations. All revolutionaries, rebels who are really changing the world, start by listening to themselves, to their own convictions. So they act, and change their own roads, their own community, their own country. Without any excuses.

What does this embrace between two extraordinary women in a sleepy Roman Saturday morning have to say to us? Again, the answer is a lot. To all of us. The first words that Shirin Ebadi addressed to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, and Italians were: “Do not accept the money of dictators. Many have brought their wealth to Italian banks. “But the real point is that people like these, with their vital example, speak to our attitude of detached cynicism, western pessimism of bored depression. The fate, the future is in our hands. From the crisis to corruption, to work, which is not created by decree. Nobody will change our destiny in our place. And the hunt for the culprit, to those who have it taken away, is simple. Just get up and look straight the first mirror.

original: http://www.wired.it/attualita/politica/2014/12/13/labbraccio-nobel-senso-dellinnovazione-nostra-pigrizia/

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as "the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East"

A dynasty borne from a military coup which cancelled out elements of secularism and which promotes itself to the West as “the Stronghold of Secularism in the Middle East”

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO: Many people have never heard of the word Sectarianism until the past few years. A simplistic definition would be a conflict between religions or ethnic groups. The antidote to this is considered to be secularism, which is intended as a supposed neutrality of the state towards all religions. Secularism additionally connotes ideas of protection of minorities in a society.

One of the greatest myths of the Syrian war is that it is a sectarian war and that the presence of Assad in the Presidency is the reason for which Syria maintains its secularism. In fact, in a paternalistic way, Bashar Assad, as did his father Hafez has skilfully used propaganda towards the population in order to create domestically the idea that only the regime and the Ba’ath party can serve as a stabilising factor of national unity and internationally to paint himself as a “progressive” who is the last bulwark against the forces of darkness, extremism and religious fundamentalism.

When Assad’s father took power in 1970 in a coup which overthrew the government that only the year before had drafted what can be considered as the only true secular constitution Syria ever had, he made sure his coup was “legitimised” by an election where he was the sole candidate and in 1973 amended the constitution so that it guaranteed explicitly that the Head of State must be of Muslim faith. He even established the “Waqf”, which is a Ministry of Religion and appointed a Mufti of the Republic that establishes an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials and granting them such authority in governance can hardly be defined as “secular” if we take that concept to mean separation of Church and State. It is clear that Bashar al-Assad KNOWS that outside the Levant secularism is a value that gives a kind of “reassurance” to other nations and it hints at a behaviour that is inclusive. It is not important for Syria to BE secular in Assad’s eyes, but it is important that it is PERCEIVED as such in the West, and this is why he promoted himself as the defensor of such a state.

Thus, if there was no secularism for Assad to defend, the only way to promote such an idea of the “irreplaceable quality of Assad” that would be strongly supported by progressives and those who believe in the separation of Church and State or even those who abhor the idea of a religiously-based State anywhere but in Tibet and/or Israel and/or Iran would be for Assad to create “sectarian strife” himself.

The Syrian heart of darkness did not begin as a conflict between religions, and as a matter of fact, placing the conflict in a simplistic Sunni vs Shi’a equation, while currently popular, is actually a self-fulfilling prophesy and a strategic option used by the Assad regime to the hilt.

The reality of Syria is that it is essentially a clash between an authoritarian, ruthless leadership and the masses (mainly comprised of the majority Sunni population that had been excluded from the most important positions of power and subjected to constant obedience) that was simply tired of kneeling down before the president and those associated with his power. It must be stated that the majority of the positions of control and ownership of wealth in the country belonged to the religious group of Assad, the Alawites, carrying on the tradition of the father of surrounding himself with loyalists particularly in the military, however his associated élite also includes members of various religious groups, though the dominant trait of all of these personalities is not their sectarian belonging but rather their unconditional support to the Assad regime.

A bit of "Baathist Realism" painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

A bit of “Baathist Realism” painting: depicts Assad nurturing the tree sprout supported by: Sunni Grand Mufti of Syria Badr ad-Din Hasun (lower right), Greek-Catholic (Melikite) Patriach Gregory Lahham (upper right), an unidentified Shiite cleric who has similarities with Iraqi sayid Ammar al-Hakim (top center) and a Druze shaikh, maybe shaikh al-‘aql Hammud al-Hinnawi (top left).

Depicting the war in Syria as a continuation of the Sunni-Shi’a schism (which dates back to the dawn of Islam) rather than a struggle of the disenfranchised for their rights is a gross misrepresentation of facts and a distortion that serves to manipulate public opinion internally and abroad as to the “necessity of Assad.” Discounting the true causes and the true nature of the struggle serves only to remove or reduce the revolutionary spirit that started out as legitimate demands for reforms and rights that had long been denied and are considered by all in the world who believe in human rights as fundamental and legitimate rights.

It is even an established truth that influential segments of Alawite and Christian intelligentsia have always been on the side of the masses during the uprising and even after the regime “reacted” by severe prosecution for the courage of being openly so closely tied to what had been quickly painted by the regime and its apologists as a “Sunni rebellion” that would endanger the minorities. Given that defence of minorities is a secular conquest, somehow it is difficult to understand how the regime’s torturing, murdering and imprisoning minorities that rebelled against the regime could be construed as defence of the minority. This reality could only be true in the criminal interpretation of the concept that predominates the Assad narrative.

Yet, it cannot be denied that exploding onto the scene to enhance the sectarian strife and add great numbers of combatants was none other than the theocratic Republic of Iran, which itself persecutes the ethnic and religious minority of the Ahwazis (Arab Sunnis). Could the reason for this be some kind of Shi’a solidarity? No doubt, it is simpler to use a religious “calling” to convince the population that a cause is worthy, as people are historically far more apt to sacrifice their sons in war for a sacred or religious purpose than to an economic one, but the persons who make the decisions in Teheran probably share a stronger  opposition to Iraq than they do a unified vision of extension of the Shi’a influence. Additionally, both of them (at least on paper) share a common animosity for both the United States and Israel. One could say that they might be using their own status as anathema to reinforce their own individual positions with a bit of leverage.

Hezbollah’s intense involvement as well seems to be economically based, as financially they exist by will of Iran and Syria and it could either be payback time, while Hezbollah is also giving the Assad regime the lifeblood and soldiers that it needs to keep on surviving. While it might also be true that some in Hezbollah fight against the opposition to Assad because the opposition is comprised for the majority of Sunnis (which should not serve to define it as a Sunni army, given that 74% of the population are Sunnis any more than the USA army could be defined as a Christian army even though 76% of the USA population are Christians) others in this militia could possibly believe they are fighting for a resistance cause against the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia in a sort of proxy war. That many “secularists” who support Assad seem to turn a deaf ear when Nasrallah makes speeches against “Takfiri” (a Muslim who accuses another Muslim of apostasy) is another indication that there is very little genuine concern for secularism no matter what some of these defenders of Hezbollah in the west might claim. They also might get a slight case of the hives when they find  out that just this week Assad has made a decree that puts in the school curriculum “Shi’a education”.

Yet, the greatest risk for Syria, as long as the myth of sectarianism remains part of the dominant discourse is going to be run by the minority populations. It is not at all unlikely that the Assad regime will be defeated. The outcome could be that the country is torn apart by collective blame of the Alawites who would bear the brunt for the abuses of the regime, despite the fact that part of the regime is Sunni. It will be nearly impossible to construct and rebuild a secular-pluralistic Syria that existed in some dimension historically and is yearning to free itself from oppressive rule based on favouritism and interests. Creating a truly just Syria for all Syrians means to recognise the myth of sectarianism as one of the war strategies of Assad for the sole purpose of maintaining his personal power and the wealth of those close to the regime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1397298_611763265539907_779226832_oWRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dear daughters Greta and Vanessa,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your uncle, Dr. Mohamed Nour Dachan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (to il Messaggero)

Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRIT Against war and imperialism. Now and forever Resistance.

WRITTEN BY FOUAD ROUEIHA, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grande-foto-articoloWRITTEN BY Margherita Leggio, translated by Mary Rizzo

TRAPANI, ITALY (21 May 2014) – – “In Syria there are many young people who want to leave the country, but they are stopped and imprisoned. I appeal to the international community so that it can intervene somehow to help them.” This is the appeal of a father, who at the end of a difficult and troubled journey, managed to bring his family to safety: five children who are still adolescents and his wife.

This is the story of a physician of 54, the man who for security reasons intends to remain anonymous, and whom we will call Jibril, an invented name, for the sake of convenience. The practitioner was able to escape from the hell of civil war that since 2011 that has bloodied Syria. He practiced his profession in a hospital in Homs, but over a year ago, after witnessing the horrors of the continuous fratricidal battles that took away even friends and family, he gathered together his family and left. In 2014, it has become impossible to hope to lead a normal life. We met Jibril at the Sprar centre “La Locanda” of Castelvetrano, run by the cooperative “Insieme”, where he arrived on 11 May after the landing in a single arrival in Trapani of 423 migrants. Jibril spoke in English to us of his pain, the suffering of an entire people and of many other migrants fleeing war and hunger.

“Even with us – he explains – it’s the mafia calling the shots. Girls are abducted from their homes and taken away. During the war, I decided to no longer go to work in the hospital. It had become too risky. For three months I exercised my profession at home, where I took care of many injured people for free. Then the situation became untenable. So, with my wife and my children we decided: it’s either life or death and we fled from Syria. We reached Egypt by car in two days and from there, after two more days, Libya.”

In the latter country, which is also politically in disarray, Jibril remained for a year before being able to face the “journey of hope” through the waves of the Channel of Sicily. He was among the lucky few. He did not, in fact, undergo the drama of imprisonment in a concentration camp. He found a place to live in the home of friends, but he lived the heavy atmosphere of the gruelling wait.” It’s the mafia – he adds – that organise these trips and there are also Syrians organising them. The people, after having paid the sum demanded, are rounded up in a place where they have no contact with anyone and from there they are directed towards the boarding place. Then, at some point, we were told, “this is your boat to go to Italy” and my family and I, paying $1,200 for each member, climbed aboard with hundreds of other people. It was a 12 meter long vessel on which we were crammed in around 300. We were tired and desperate and we had presented plainly before us our choice: to live or die. Now we are here, alive and sound.”

Also for Jibril Italy is only a country of transit. His goal is to go somewhere else, like many other Syrian families, who in the aftermath of their arrival at the “Locanda ” have collected in a plastic bag in their few belongings and have left. They reached the railway station of Castelvetrano and from there headed to other destinations.

“My family and I – concludes Jibril – we want to go to Sweden, where we have a relative, and where I hope to go back to work in my profession as a doctor. One day, however, if the situation ever changes, I hope to be able to go back home to Syria.”

ORIGINAL http://www.chiesacattolica.it/pls/cci_new_v3/v3_s2ew_consultazione.mostra_pagina?id_pagina=57252

WRITTEN BY NICOLE MAGNOONA GERVITZ

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench. Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Hafez al-Assad (second from left) is briefed by one of his officers in a reserve trench.
Next to Hafez al-Assad is Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and next to Tlas is Rifaat al-Assad, 1973.

Black September 1970: Hafez al Assad made the decision to send tanks into Jordan to support the Palestinians against Hashemite King Hussein. The PLO won popular support amongst the Arab masses after the regimes were thoroughly discredited in the 1967 humiliation at the hands of Israel. King Hussein ordered his Jordanian military to attack the PLO forces in Jordan because of their declared policy to overthrow him. Assad refused to send any major Syrian military support because he feared another war with Israel would erupt. He refused to provide air cover to the Syrian tanks and they were forced to withdraw following the bombardment by the Jordanians. This left the Palestinians isolated, abandoned, and several thousand of them were massacred by Hussein’s Jordanian military. Only a few weeks after Black September is when Hafez al Assad led his military coup in Damascus.

1973: Syria attempted to regain control of the Golan Heights and it was another failure. Hafez al Assad found himself becoming the security guard for Israel’s northern border. Colonel Rafik Halawi, the Druze commander of the infantry brigade that was destroyed by the Israelis in the Golan, was executed under the orders of Hafez before the war even came to an official close. The Syrian regime claimed he was killed in battle with Israel and anyone who was caught saying anything otherwise was threatened with torture and imprisonment.

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

1976: Hafez al Assad supported the Lebanese Christian fascist Phalangists against the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance that had formed in opposition to both Phalangist and Ba’athist tyranny. The Syrian military’s invasion of Lebanon in 1976 was approved by the US. However, the Lebanese Communist-PLO alliance wiped the floor with the Syrian occupation forces in June of that year. Two months later Hafez al Assad made an example out of such resistance. The Phalangists, backed by Hafez al Assad, committed a massacre of Palestinian people at the Tal al Zaatar refugee camp. With the blessing of the Arab League the Syrian government decided to ally itself with Israel to prevent the defeat of the Phalangists. They besieged the Palestinian camps of both Karantina and Tel al Zaatar with Syrian weaponry and 2,000 Palestinian people were slaughtered. An open letter from the Palestinian resistance within the camps was released that summer;

“Syrian weapons are being used – most unfortunately – against our camp, while the rulers of Damascus continue to repeat that they are here in Lebanon in order to defend our camp. This is a murderous lie, a lie which pains us more than anyone else… But we wish to inform you that we will fight in defense of this camp with our bare hands if all our ammunition is spent and all our weapons are gone, and that we will tighten our belts so that hunger will not kill us. For we have taken a decision not to surrender and we shall not surrender…”

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

Palestinian refugees fleeing Tel al Zataar refugee camp. Merit goes also to Hafez Al-Assad

 

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

Photographs of a few of the tens of thousands of Syrians massacred in Hama in 1982.

1980’s: As part of its vicious crackdown against leftist dissidents during the 1980’s Hafez al Assad’s regime arrested hundreds of activists from both the Party for Communist Action and the Syrian Communist Party in an attempt to smother the last remaining voices of dissent after it had crushed the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the Syrian Communists who worked with a group of Palestinian dissidents called the Palestinian Popular Committee in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Damascus governate. The Palestinian Popular Committee was founded in 1983 but was forced to dissolve two years later as a result of Hafez al Assad’s campaign of arrests. 200 members of the Party for Communist Action were arrested by the Syrian security forces in 1986.

The PLO began to splinter in 1983. Colonel Saed Abu Musa was Arafat’s rival and he led a rebellion amongst al Fatah in the Bekaa Valley. Abu Musa had been a professional soldier in the Jordanian army before joining the PLO. The Syrian regime supported him and assisted in supplying him with weapons. Abu Musa and his followers ran Arafat’s men out of Tripoli that summer. When a reporter from Newsweek asked Yasir Arafat for a comment regarding this mutiny he responded with, “Don’t ask me about the puppets and the horses of Troy… Assad wants my pen. He wants the Palestinian decision, and I won’t give it to him.” Most of the Palestinian refugees chose Arafat over a Syrian puppet, but as a result of Hafez’s meddling Arafat’s men were forced out of Tripoli and the Palestinian resistance was disempowered.

In the “War of the Camps” between 1985 and 1988 Hafez al Assad recruited the Shia Lebanese Amal Movement. It was in armed conflict with Hezbollah at the time and it opened fire on the Palestinians and Hezbollah simultaneously.

Lebanon: Tripoli is a Sunni majority city with an Alawite minority that is given financial support by Syrian government. Syrian Alawites are placed in the Lebanese Parliament entirely due to pressure from Damascus. Lebanon’s naturalization laws are also completely subverted. Palestinian refugees who have lived in the impoverished refugee camps since the Nakba of 1948 and its sequel in 1967 cannot attain Lebanese citizenship whatsoever, but Syrian Alawites can at any time.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

a scene from within the Tadmur prison, where many political dissidents were tortured to death.

2000: While Bashar al Assad was praising the second intifada hundreds of Palestinians were languishing in his jails. Attieyeh Dhiab Attieyeh, a Palestinian in his early 30’s, died in Tadmur prison in early 2000 due to medical neglect. He was already very ill when he was transferred in Tadmur in 1996. Attieyeh was a member of Fatah, the faction led by Yasser Arafat, and had been arrested in 1989 in south Lebanon before being sent to Syria.

2008: There is a similarity between the Hama massacre of 1982 and Cast Lead. In both massacres the minarets of the mosques were destroyed by the invading occupation forces. They claimed that the minarets were being used by Islamist snipers. There’s no evidence of that in either situation, but there is evidence of the distaste for orthodox Islam expressed by both sets of perpetrators.

May 2011: A few Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp managed to break the siege on Deraa and deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Nakba Day 2011: Hundreds of Palestinians from the refugee camps in and around Damascus were bused to the demilitarized zone that separates Syria from the Golan Heights. The safety of the Palestinian civilians was not prioritized. The fence was breached and Israeli occupation forces opened fire and a dozen Palestinian people were killed. There was a repeat of this bloodshed in June on Naksa Day; the anniversary of the outbreak of the June War in 1967. Another dozen Palestinians were shot and killed. This was unprecedented because never before had the Syrian government bused hundreds of Palestinian people to the Golan on either anniversary. Why 2011? To deflect attention from the ongoing slaughter in the streets. One of the main intelligence branches in Syria deals only with Palestine-related issues. It’s impossible for the Syrian government to not have known that a breach of the fence in the Golan would’ve cost Palestinian lives.

images (6)Fall 2011: Ghiyath Matar, a young man with Palestinian origins living in the Daraya suburbs of Damascus, pioneered the tactic of handing out roses and water to the Alawite security forces sent to shoot demonstrators. By early September of 2011 he was dead. His mangled corpse was delivered to his family four days after his arrest. Several US envoys attended his funeral. The spokespeople for the Assad regime said an armed gang was responsible for Ghiyath’s torture and death, and that is half true because, after all, there was an armed gang running the government.

As a result of Bashar al Assad’s genocidal campaign of government repression Yarmouk became a home for one million internally displaced Syrian refugees by the end of 2011. When the Free Syrian Army gained ground in the southern suburbs of Damascus the Syrian military began to shell the camp while, at the same time, arming the pro-regime PFLP-GC. Mortars were fired at the camp by Assad’s forces before the FSA ever stepped foot in it.

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

victims of the mosque massacre in central Yarmouk, from Syrian Air Force bomb raids

Summer 2012: Alawite para-militaries who lived in Nisreen street, close to Yarmouk, opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration. They killed ten Palestinians, including a little boy.

Fall 2012: The FSA set up a supply line through Yarmouk, and massive collective punishment at the hands of the regime ensued. Syrian government forces and Alawite militias encircled Yarmouk and by October of 2012 the entrances to the camp were only open two or three days a week. The civilians bore the brunt of the violence; starvation, disease, and random shelling.

December 2012: Syrian regime warplanes bombed a mosque in Yarmouk that was housing internally displaced Syrian refugees. Dozens were killed. The excuse for such an atrocity was that the FSA had hidden some weapons in the basement of the mosque. 

2013: Khaled Bakrawi, a young Palestinian-Syrian community organizer and founding member of the Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development, was arrested by Alawite state security forces in January of 2013 for his leading role in carrying out humanitarian and aid work in Yarmouk. By September the Palestinians of Yarmouk learned that Khaled was killed under torture in a detention center in Damascus.

Khaled Bakrawi  and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi and Hassan Hassan, two Palestinians active in community services both tortured to death in Assad regime prisons.

Khaled Bakrawi took part in the June march into the Golan. He witnessed the leader of the PFLP, Ahmad Jibril, lead the people into the Israeli-occupied cease-fire zone. Knowing what was going to happen he tried to dissuade his fellow Palestinians from following Ahmad Jibril’s orders, but to no avail. Khaled was forced to watch Alawite state security forces relax and drink tea while Israeli occupation soldiers rained bullets down on his neighbors. Khaled took two bullets in his leg. The young man who was labeled a hero for taking a few Zionist bullets would later fade away into obscurity following his murder at the hands of Bashar al Assad’s security forces.

Palestinians in Yarmouk are also sometimes murdered by other Palestinians. The Russian BM-21 Grad Rocket was used to attack Yarmouk in July of 2013. Two grad missiles were fired onto the Hamdan bakery on July 24th, killing fifteen civilians. It was reported by both Reuters and the Yarmouk Camp Coordination Committee that this attack was carried out by the PFLP. Fifteen Palestinians in Yarmouk died of starvation between September and December of 2013. The number of Palestinian refugees killed since 2011 in Syria has reached 1,597, in addition to 651 others lost or imprisoned, and 74 tortured to death in regime detention centers by the fall of 2013.

The Assad regime’s annihilation of the country is good for Israel: – An Arab despot who crushes his own people always has a special place in the Zionist heart. Israel has always relied on corrupt Arab despots like Bashar al Assad to put down the masses for them,- An anti-Iranian sentiment is being sown in the Arab world as a result of its colonization of Syria. – Hezbollah is too busy murdering Syrians to cause Israel much trouble. – Israel no longer faces any pressure to give up the Golan Heights.

 

You can take your neutrality and hang yourself with it. 

If you are interested in the sources, feel free to message me and I will send you 583736648728255485947476 books, articles, videos, photos, more books, human rights reports, and advocacy organizations.

SEE: http://www.scribd.com/doc/220568814/Understanding-a-Revolutionary-Syria-Rebellions-Uprisings-and-the-Persistence-of-Tyranny

 

 

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

a letter written by the detained Syrians in Egypt

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

WRITTEN by STEFANO PASTA, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

What is your situation like today?

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

What is the situation of children?

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

Why did you flee from Syria?

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

Have you talked with a lawyer or with international authorities?

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

How did it happen?

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

Have you heard of other refugees detained in Egypt?

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

What are you asking for?

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

thank you to Nawal