Archive for the ‘Refugees’ Category

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includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOAS Palestine Society

add you signature clicking this link 

marcell

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how Syrian organisations are portrayed in the article.

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

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

Until today I regret that feeling of luxury.

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

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

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

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

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

Because hospitals are underground. Because schools are now underground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%cf%80%ce%bd%ce%b9%ce%b3%ce%bc%cf%8c%cf%82-700x336Daphni, Greece. I was sitting in my office with the computer open, when a patient enters to ask for the medicine he had forgotten to take. The picture of a dead boy on a beach shows on the screen and the conversation that is below follows:

  • What’s that?
  • A child
  • Why isn’t someone picking him up? It will drown.
  • It has drowned
  • Where’s his mother?
  • I don’t know
  • She should be put in jail. She didn’t take care of the child
  • It’s not the mother’s fault. She put him in a boat to save him from war but those boats have no destination port
  • Why don’t they have a destination port?
  • Because the countries who aren’t in war don’t want them
  • So, refugees?
  • Refugees…..
  • Listen Maria…
  • John, my name is not Maria
  • It doesn’t matter. Your name is random and it’s by coincidence that you don’t live in a country that’s in war. Those who don’t want the refugees are cursed
  • They won’t change
  • Earth doesn’t belong to anyone. The people didn’t give a land for this child to walk on but earth gave him a spot to die….the soil makes no discriminations….the soil accepts everyone….whites, blacks, yellows…everyone
  • You believe he’s resting now?
  • Of course! He sleeps on his belly so not to see people
  • Go to your bed and get some rest
  • Don’t send me away when we’re discussing
  • I don’t want to discuss further
  • If you can’t take it anymore, go to the PM and tell him that we want the refugees and that he should bring them here. We have space. I’ll lie near the wall and then there’ll be enough space for one more person to lie in my bed. And the food is more than enough. It suffices fo reveryone. This is what you should tell him. Children aren’t supposed to die. Will you tell him?
  • I can’t tell the PM but I will tell lots of people in a while
  • Will you give a speech?
  • Something like that!
  • Tell people they should love children
  • I’ll tell them
  • And bring me my medicine

He’s in his bed, crying…he stopped asking for his medicine……he’s lying as close as possible to the wall and mumbles…why did I tell her just one? If I get a bit closer to the wall, two more people can lie in my bed….

Conversation with a psychiatric patient…

Ilda Dali, Nurse at Daphni Psychiatric Hospital

Translated by Christina Baseos

Original 

State Police photo of the Roman headquarters of the organ trafficking ring (courtesy RAI)

State Police photo of the Roman headquarters of the organ trafficking ring (courtesy RAI)

A gruesome scenario emerges from the reports of the latest investigation of the Anti-Mafia Directorate of the District of Palermo, which this morning has led to the detention of 38 people.

The operation: since the earliest hours of the morning, the State Police has been carrying out 38 arrests in Italian cities, issued by the Anti-Mafia in Palermo, against as many suspects believed to belong to a transnational criminal network devoted to the smuggling of migrants. The centre of financial transactions has been individuated in Rome, in a storefront where, in addition to a ledger showing names of foreign nationals and reference utilities were seized € 526,000 and $ 25,000 in cash.

The “repentant” State’s witness: Those who had no money were killed, their organs harvested
Those who did not have the money to make the journey by boat to Italy “were killed, the organs were then sold to some Egyptian organ merchants”. This is the shocking background that emerges from the “Glauco 3” Operation of the State Police, which at dawn today has led to the detention of 38 persons, issued by the Prosecutor of Palermo. To recount the details of this alleged organ trafficking is an State’s witness already in the operation “Glauco 2”, which had led to the arrest of 24 people, who had helped the Palermo magistrates to shed light on human trafficking.

Nuredin Wehabrebi Atta, 32, the repentant State’s witness, is an Eritrean smuggler arrested in 2015. After his arrest he decided to come clean and tell about how the functioning of human trafficking works. The investigation is coordinated by the Deputy Prosecutor Maurizio Scalia and by Prosecutors Gery Ferrara, Claudio Camilleri and Annamaria Picozzi. –

See more at: http://www.rainews.it/dl/rainews/articoli/Operazione-polizia-Glauco-3-inchiesta-DDA-Palermo-Uccidevano-i-migranti-e-ne-vendevano-organi-pentito-sulla-tratta-degli-esseri-umani-0b0e040e-ee29-44ab-8b3f-abb2c2e7069a.html

See also: http://www.ayyaantuu.net/nine-somalis-dumped-in-egyptian-sea-after-kidnapped-and-organs-removed-by-traffickers-in-egypt/

framing 1

WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

Framing confusion!

Framing confusion!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONL74vUAAAJUI-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

if you use the following link, these are the fields to fill out in order:

*Required field

Full name*

Email address*

City*

Profession, role or organisation you belong to

Comments

Send

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

 

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

Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement is divided into seven points.

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

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

The third: condemnation of fundamentalist forces.

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

The fifth: denunciation of the policies of Fortress Europe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRMATO:

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

Rt. Hon Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP, UK

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

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

Peter Tatchell (Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation)

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

Abdulaziz Almashi (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

The Syrian Community of the South West UK

Hussam Ayloush (National Chair, Syrian American Council)

Faisal Alazem, Director, Syrian Canadian Council

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

Planet Syria (Organization, UK)

Laila Alodaat (Lawyer, UK)

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

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

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

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

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

Rana Issa (University of Oslo, Norway)

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

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

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

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

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (University of Stirling, Scotland)

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

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

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

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

Peter Clifford (Middle East Blogger, UK)

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

Saleh, Syrian, network engineer, KSA

Qusai Zakarya (Syrian Activist)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Sadri (The Syria Campaign, UK)

Robin Yassin-Kassab (Writer, Scotland)

Leila Al Shami (Activist and Writer, Jordan)

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

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

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

Paul Woodward (War in Context, USA)

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

Roxanne Abbas (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Ian Keith (Public School Teacher, Minnesota, USA)

Andrew Berman (Veterans for Peace, USA)

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

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

Omar Qureshi (Teacher, New York)

Michael Karadjis (Teacher, Sydney, Australia)

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

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

Mark Boothroyd (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

Clara Connolly (Immigration and Human Rights Lawyer, UK)

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

Bronwen Griffiths (Activist, UK)

Adina Mutar (Journalist, Romania)

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

Ed Potts (Socialist, UK)

Nina van Krimpen (Human Rights Activist, The Netherlands)

Alfonso Vázquez (Human Rights Activist, Spain)

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

Therese Rickman Bull (Human Rights Activist, USA)

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

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

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

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

Mazen Halabi (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Barry Rubin (Independent Scientist, UK)

Subhi Hadidi (Writer, Syria/France)

Farouk Mardam Bey (Publisher, Paris, France)

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

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

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

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

Adnan Almahameed (Syrian Citizen, Community Organizer, Canada)

Pierluigi Blasioli (Student, University of Pescara, Italy)

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

Samantha Falciatori (Humanitarian Volunteer and Solidarity Activist, Italy)

Terry Glavin (Author/Journalist/Columnist, Canada)

Nancy Lindisfarne (Anthropologist, Author, UK)

Grant Padgham (Solidarity Activist, UK)

Harry Shotton (Student and Campaigner, UK)

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

Jonathan Neale (Writer, UK)

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

Kenan Rahmani (Syrian American Activist, Washington DC)

Harald Etzbach (Translator/Journalist, Germany)

Ken Hiebert (Activist, Ladysmtih, BC, Canada)

Andrew Pollack (MENA Solidarity Network-US, Brooklyn)

Richard Dawson (Concerned Citizen, Los Angeles, California)

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas F Barton (Military Resistance Newsletter)

Ricardo Salabert (Political Activist, Portugal)

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

Jason Schulman (Editorial Board, New Politics, USA)

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

Associazione Rose di Damasco (Como, Italy)

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

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

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

Fiore Haneen Sarti (Human Rights Activist, Italy)

Jane Kelly (Activist, UK)

Jamie Milne (Labour Friends of Ukraine, UK)

Lara Bartocci (Freethinker and Graphic Designer, Italy)

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

Comitato Permanente per la Rivoluzione Siriana, Italy

Luke Staunton (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

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

Anthony Saidy (Author, Los Angeles, USA)

Ralph Apel (Engineer, Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

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

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

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

Mohamad Khouli (Activist, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Jennifer Kaiser (Researcher, Turkey)

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

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

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

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

Annalisa Roveroni (CIVIC Cooperativa Sociale, Italy)

Enzio Zuffo (Istituto Sviluppo Olistico, Italy)

Fred Mecklenburg (News & Letters, Chicago, USA)

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

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

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

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

WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA FALCIATORI
The nearly 1,400 people poisoned to death on Aug. 21, 2013 do not have an official murderer yet, but ballistic analysis leaves little doubt. Here is what we know and what cannot be told of that terrible night.

Between 2:00 and 5:00 am on August 21, 2013 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta nearly 1,400 people, including 400 children, were killed in Syria’s largest chemical attack. According to Doctors Without Borders, in just 3 hours their hospitals received 3,600 people with symptoms of neuro-intoxication.


Victims of the chemical attack.

It was not the first time that toxic gas was used: as early as May 2013 in Jobar (another Damascus suburb in the opposition’s hands) a team of reporters from the French newspaper Le Monde was involved in a chemical attack,  presumably by government forces against the FSA (the moderate forces of the opposition). The team was there to document even more earlier reported cases of chemical attacks in the district. Among them there was Laurent van der Stockt, the most affected of the team: tests conducted in France on his biological samples revealed, as he himself declared, traces of sarin nerve gas. Their reports and testimony describe a terrible reality that was already widespread. In April the use of chemical weapons was also recorded in other areas, but never on a large scale. Until the attack in Ghouta, in the densely populated neighborhoods of Zamalka and Moadamiya. But why Ghouta?

Credit, BBC

Credit, BBC

Because in July 2012 the FSA offensive on Damascus had been successful and the opposition had taken control of some areas surrounding the capital, including Ghouta, threatening the Assad government as never before, who denied responsibility in the chemical attack and accused the rebels. The FSA and the civilians of Ghouta, however, accused the regime of having used chemical weapons to crush the opposition near Damascus.

The UN immediately opened an investigation with a fact-finding mission – which was already in Damascus on August 21 to investigate other cases of chemical weapons use in Khan al Assal and Sheik Maqsood (Aleppo) and Saraqeb (Idlib) – and confirmed the use of chemical weapons in the September 2013 report. The mission interviewed survivors, doctors, nurses and rescue workers, collected many samples (urine, hair, blood, soil, metal, etc …), including fragments of the missiles used, then analyzed them in the laboratories of the Organization for the Prohibition of chemical Weapons (OPCW), which confirmed the use of sarin nerve gas dropped through surface-to-surface missiles.

 A UN chemical weapons inspector in Ghouta (Credit to: Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty)

A UN chemical weapons inspector in Ghouta (Credit to: Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty)

In December 2013, the UN published another report on 16 chemical attacks registered before and after August 21, of which only 7 had been investigated. For none of them the responsible could be assessed. However, in some of these attacks, like the one on April 29 on Saraqeb and on Sheik Maqsood on April 13, 2013 the alleged gas was dropped, according to eyewitnesses, by Syrian army helicopters (which is only force in Syria to have aviation). To this regard, the report says on page 79: “Syrian government officials said they have no information to offer on the alleged incident.” More doubts remain on the case of Khan al Assal, the only case that also Russia looked into, producing a 100-page report, which was never published but delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in which Russia accused the rebels.

Assigning blame is not easy for a political body such as the UN, considering that at the Security Council sit both allies of the Syrian government and of the opposition. This is why the report does not determine who has used chemical weapons even in the case of Ghouta: the purpose of the mission was to ascertain the use, not those who used them, as explained by Ban Ki-Moon. If on the one hand not determining who is responsible may be politically convenient, on the other hand it is a double-edged sword: it means that the report can be interpreted in favor of the 2 opposite thesis. In fact, Russia has blamed the rebels, going as far as to accuse the UN inspectors of having conducted a “prejudicial and biased” work, while the US, France and Britain have blamed the Assad government.

Let’s start with what is certain: the details that emerge from the report and from the ballistic missile trajectories makes it possible to trace the launch site. Among the most accurate independent works are those by Human Rights Watch and the New York Times. In the report on pag. 26 it is stated that of the 5 missiles launched on August 21 only 2 allow one to calculate the trajectory: the 1st and 4th, respectively launched on Moadamiyah and Ein Tarma. The 1st has an angle of 35° and an azimuth of 215°, while the 4th has an angle of 285° and an azimuth of 105°, which means that tracking back the launch site, the only result is the 104th Brigade of the Republican Guard.

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

It is one of the Syrian government bastions, on Mount Qasioun, a place overlooking the Presidential Palace where the Republican Guard and the infamous 4th Army Division (led by Assad’s brother, Maher) are located, which would mean that the order came directly from Maher Assad, as some UN officials believe. The issue is complicated: according to some frantic phone calls between high-ranking Syrian officials intercepted by the BND, the German intelligence service, by Israeli and American intelligence, it would seem that Bashar Assad is not personally involved in the chemical attack. Indeed, the intercepted calls reveal that 4th Division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace for the authorization to use chemical weapons for 4 and a half months and that Bashar had always denied. It is likely that Maher Assad made the decision alone. In any case, there is broad agreement that it was the Syrian government who used chemical weapons.

In fact, Mount Qasioun is one of the strongholds more firmly in the hands of the regime, where government troops launch their attacks on rebel areas. The argument put forward by the Syrian government and its ally Russia is that, as Putin himself wrote for the New York Times: “No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke [military] intervention”. Which in fact, after the attack seemed to be imminent, when Obama found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to act on the threat made to Assad the previous year to use force in the event of a chemical attack, which was a red line.

But if so, it should at least be explained not only how the rebels would have been able to steal nerve gas from the regime, but also how they managed to penetrate the stronghold of government troops and self-launch sarin. To this regard, it is useful the statement of prof. Ake Sellstrom, head of the UN mission, who in this interesting interview (page 10) admits: “If you try the theory that it was the opposition that did it, it is difficult to see how it was weaponised. Several times I asked the government: can you explain – if this was the opposition – how did they get hold of the chemical weapons? They have quite poor theories: they talk about smuggling through Turkey, labs in Iraq and I asked them, pointedly, what about your own stores, have your own stores being stripped of anything, have you dropped a bomb that has been claimed, bombs that can be recovered by the opposition? They denied that. To me it is strange. If they really want to blame the opposition they should have a good story as to how they got hold of the munitions, and they didn’t take the chance to deliver that story”.

_69784568_chemical_weapon_624_v4

In September 2013 a military intervention in Syria to eliminate the chemical threat, opposed by most of global public opinion, seemed imminent, although the US themselves were not excited at the idea. In fact, they seized the Russian proposal to dismantle the chemical arsenal of Damascus with the regime’s consensus.

The Syrian government had denied for years that it possessed any chemical weapons, but, when pressed, not only had it to admit possessing them (revealing, to the surprise of the inspectors, also production plants artfully disguised, such as labs on mobile trucks with 18 wheels), but it also had to access the Chemical Weapons Convention to dismantle them and to allow OPWC inspectors  into the sites. On paper the mission was successful; in reality, not quite. In May 2015, when the mission was virtually over, OPCW inspectors found other  undeclared sites where the Syrian government was working on Sarin and VX nerve gas. This shows that the Syrian government has lied regarding its arsenal and therefore could still possess chemical weapons. All this seems to confirm many claims, spread by several parties from 2013, that the Syrian government was moving chemical weapons into friendly countries, such as Lebanon and Iraq, so that more than once (as in January and May 2013) Israeli jets bombed Syrian convoys bound for these countries to prevent arms transfers.

More detailed are statements from Syrian army deserters who warned several times of chemical weapons transfers across borders and of their use. But perhaps the most important testimony comes from Brigadier General Zaher Saket, former commander and chemical weapons officer in the 5th Division of the Syrian army, who defected in March 2013 and who now works with the OPWC mission. He revealed the chain of command behind the use of chemical weapons and that the orders are to use them in those areas in opposition hands where the army is unable to eradicate the enemy. Saket also revealed that he was ordered to use chemical weapons three times, the first time in October 2012. The order to release poison gas on Sheikh Maskeen, Herak and Busra (in the province of Deraa) came from Brigadier General Ali Hassan Ammar, but Saket did not execute the orders and replaced the mixture of phosgene and chlorine gas that he was supposed to use with a harmless water-based mixture. The third time was in January 2013, but his supervisor became suspicious about the lack of victims after the attacks, so Saket was forced to flee to Jordan. As of September 2013, according to Saket, chemical attacks by the regime had been 34.

One of the weekly Kafranbel protests marking the first chemical attack anniversary. Credit to: Occupied Kafranbel

One of the weekly Kafranbel protests marking the first chemical attack anniversary. Credit to: Occupied Kafranbel

On August 7, 2015 the UNSC unanimously approved resolution S/RES/2235 that should create for the first time an investigation mechanism to determine who is responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria. Perhaps one day truth will be ascertained and those responsible will be judged. For now, we have the terrible testimonies of survivors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

muslim-girl-crying-8(Traduzione di Claudia Avolio)

Una ragazza palestinese diciottenne di nome Huda ha spiegato nel dettaglio le orribili esperienze vissute nelle carceri del regime siriano, che vanno dalle percosse alla tortura con scariche elettriche agli stupri multipli.

Huda, originaria del campo di rifugiati palestinesi di Yarmouk, a Damasco, che non ha voluto diffondere il suo vero nome per ovvie ragioni (la paura di ulteriori ripercussioni da parte del regime) è stata arrestata da membri del Fronte Popolare per la Liberazione della Palestina – Comando Generale (FPLP-CG), gruppo pro-regime, all’entrata del campo verso l’inizio del 2013 quando aveva 16 anni con accuse di “terrorismo”.

Huda ha detto che lei ed altre tre donne palestinesi del campo di Yarmouk sono state torturate dal personale del FPLP-CG prima di essere consegnate al tristemente noto braccio “Palestina 235” del regime di Assad a Damasco, in cui è stata incarcerata per i quattro mesi successivi.

Ha ricordato di aver subìto tutte le forme di tortura da parte degli agenti di sicurezza del regime ogni volta in cui la portavano fuori dalla cella che misurava appena 3 metri per 4 ed in cui è stata tenuta insieme ad altre diciotto donne, la maggior parte palestinesi come lei. I torturatori del regime hanno iniziato con le scosse elettriche, ha detto Huda, seguite da percosse con fruste e corde. In seguito è stata trasferita al “Braccio 215” sempre a Damasco, in cui nelle sue parole la tortura è “esponenzialmente” peggiore di quella che aveva sofferto al braccio “Palestina”.

Al “Braccio 215”, ha ricordato ancora la ragazza, “gli investigatori interrogavano giovani donne e uomini del campo di rifugiati di Yarmouk, chiedendo nomi [di chiunque si opponesse al regime]. Quando negavamo di conoscerli, ci picchiavano, torturavano, lasciavano morire di fame e ci davano scosse elettriche. Sono stata stuprata nel corso della mia permanenza lì per oltre 15 giorni. A volte sono stata stuprata ripetutamente più di dodici volte al giorno da diversi funzionari e guardie della prigione”.

Huda ha scoperto di essere rimasta incinta nel corso di uno degli stupri quando ha abortito per via delle percosse quotidiane che le venivano inferte come sempre, di cui ha detto che il risultato è stato “il mio essere ferita e sanguinante al punto di perdere conoscenza. Mi hanno gettata in una cella piena dei corpi di detenuti uccisi sotto tortura, in cui sono stata obbligata a restare, circondata da quei corpi e da quel sangue per circa tre settimane. È stato allora che ho scoperto di essere incinta, quando ho abortito per via delle percosse”.

Lo stupro di detenute donne è pratica comune, ha spiegato Huda, aggiungendo: “Una di loro ha tentato di suicidarsi sbattendo la testa sui muri della cella. Ogni volta perdeva conoscenza per alcune ore”.

La ragazza ha ricordato un caso di cui è stata testimone quando una ragazza palestinese di 20 anni nella stessa cella ha dato alla luce un bambino concepito quando è stata stuprata ripetutamente dalle guardie del regime. “Dopo che è nato, non riusciva a guardare il bambino o a tenerlo vicino a sé nella cella, e non sopportava il suono del suo pianto. Voleva solo sbarazzarsene, ucciderlo mentre non guardavamo, perché la sua esistenza era un promemoria del fatto che fosse stata stuprata dai funzionari”. Ha continuato dicendo: “Alcuni giorni dopo una guardia è entrata e ha portato via il bambino – sapevano che la sua presenza nella cella era una prova della tortura che l’aveva creato”.

Prison-HandsHuda ha parlato di come sia quasi morta in uno dei centri di detenzione del regime per via degli effetti della tortura, della fame e dello stupro, che l’hanno ridotta sanguinante in modo grave; le guardie del regime l’hanno lasciata nella sua cella senza alcun riguardo sanitario né medicine.

Tra le forme di tortura psicologica che ha ricordato, Huda ha detto che mentre era tenuta nella cella coi corpi senza vita di altri prigionieri è stata obbligata a mangiare del cibo gettato sul pavimento davanti a lei come a un animale, cibo che si era mescolato al sangue rappreso lasciato dalle ferite dei prigionieri morti. I detenuti ricevevano un pasto al giorno composto di bulgur (grano spezzato), a volte accompagnato da una fetta di pane. Ha detto ancora: “Potevo sentire dei lamenti dalle celle vicine mentre camminavano sui corpi delle persone per portare dei cadaveri fuori nel passaggio che collega le celle”.

Ha descritto guardie ubriache far subire ai detenuti percosse in modo indiscriminato senza alcuna ragione o giustificazione, insieme a costanti abusi verbali in cui insultavano i prigionieri e la loro religione, aggiungendo che un’altra giovane donna è morta per le ferite riportate alla testa nel corso di queste percosse date a casaccio.

Funzionari e guardie si vendicavano spesso sui prigionieri delle perdite subìte dall’esercito del regime in scontri con le forze ribelli all’esterno, nonostante i prigionieri non avessero nulla a che farci, ha detto ancora Huda, ricordando poi una donna che è stata punita e messa in una cella di isolamento per oltre tre mesi dopo che ha insultato Assad nel corso delle torture.

Yarmouk, agosto 2015, manifestazioni contro il perdurante assedio del campo profughi palestinese vicino a Damasco.

Yarmouk, agosto 2015, manifestazioni contro il perdurante assedio del campo profughi palestinese vicino a Damasco.

Dopo essere stata finalmente rilasciata dalla prigione, Huda ha scoperto che suo padre era morte in un bombardamento da parte del regime del campo di Yarmouk molti mesi prima, mentre lei era in carcere, e che quattro dei suoi fratelli erano stati imprigionati. Quando ha cercato di scoprire dettagli su dove fossero finiti, recandosi all’ufficio dell’OLP a Damasco e all’ambasciata palestinese, è stata informata da un membro dello staff che “se non fossero stati terroristi non li avrebbero arrestati per così tanto tempo” e che “meritavano di venire arrestati visto che erano terroristi”. Huda ha detto di essere riuscita a identificare tre dei suoi fratelli dalle foto trapelate di detenuti che sono morti nelle prigioni del regime sotto tortura, mentre il destino del suo fratello più giovane resta sconosciuto.

Il Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria ha chiesto che il regime siriano rilasci tutti i prigionieri palestinesi e ne riveli la sorte, sottolineando che quanto sta avvenendo nelle prigioni del regime è un crimine contro l’umanità sotto ogni standard. Il gruppo ha ufficialmente catalogato 933 prigionieri palestinesi detenuti dal regime, confermando l’uccisione sotto tortura di 408 di loro, di cui 77 appurate dalla pubblicazione di immagini trapelate di alcuni dei prigionieri uccisi sotto tortura nelle prigioni del regime.

Articolo tratto dal Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria

Via: Shahba Press

English version https://wewritewhatwelike.com/2015/08/07/arrest-detention-torture-starvation-rape-when-you-are-a-palestinian-girl-in-syria/

muslim-girl-crying-8(translated by Ruth Riegler) An eighteen-year-old Palestinian girl named ‘Huda’ has detailed her horrific experiences in Syrian regime prisons, ranging from beatings and torture with electric shocks to multiple rapes.

Huda, from Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, who wished to withhold her real name for understandable reasons (fearing further persecution by the regime) was arrested by members of the pro-regime ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command’ (PFLP-GC) at the camp entrance in early 2013 when she was 16 years old on charges of “terrorism”.

She said that she and three other Palestinian women from Yarmouk camp were tortured by the PFLP-GC personnel prior to being delivered to the Assad regime’s infamous ‘Palestine – 235’ branch in Damascus, where she was imprisoned for the next four months.

She recalled being subjected to all forms of torture by the regime’s security agents whenever they took her out of the cell there measuring roughly 3 x 4 meters, where she was kept with eighteen other women, mostly also Palestinians. The regime’s torturers began with torture by electrocution, she said, followed by beatings with whips and rods. After this she was transferred to ‘Branch 215’ also in Damascus, where she said the torture is “exponentially” worse than that she’d suffered at the Palestine Branch.

At Branch 2015, she recalled, “the investigators were interrogating young girls and young men from Yarmouk refugee camp, demanding names [of anyone opposing the regime]. When we denied knowing them, we’d be beaten, tortured, starved, electrocuted. I was raped during my stay there for more than 15 days. Sometimes I was raped repeatedly more than a dozen times a day by different officers and prison warders.”

Huda found out that she had been impregnated during one of the rapes when she miscarried a baby as a result of one of the daily beatings administered as standard, which she said resulted in “my being injured and bleeding heavily, losing consciousness. They threw me into a cell filled with the bodies of detainees killed under torture, where I was forced to stay, surrounded by those bodies and blood for approximately three weeks. Then I found out I was pregnant when I miscarried as a result of the beatings.”

Rape of the female detainees is commonplace, she explained, adding, “One of them tried to commit suicide by battering her head off the walls of the cell. Each time she’d lose consciousness for a few hours.”

Huda recalled one case she witnessed when a 20-year-old Palestinian girl in the same cell gave birth to a baby boy conceived when she was repeatedly raped by the regime guards. “After the birth, she couldn’t bear to look at the baby or keep it next to her in the cell and wasn’t able to endure the sound of his crying. She just wanted to get rid of him, to kill him when we weren’t looking because his existence was a reminder to her of being raped by the officers.” Huda added, “A few days later a guard entered and took the baby away – they knew that his presence in the cell was proof of the torture that created him.”

Prison-HandsHuda recalled how she nearly died in one of the regime’s detention centres due to the effects of torture, starvation and rape, which left her bleeding severely; the regime guards left her in the cell without any medical attention and no drugs, she added.

Among the forms of psychological torture she recollected, Huda said that while she was kept in the cell with the dead bodies of other prisoners she was forced to eat food thrown on the floor in front of her like an animal, which had mixed with the congealed blood that was left there from the wounds of the dead prisoners. Detainees received one meal a day of bulgur wheat, she said, which was sometimes augmented by a round of bread. She added, “I could hear groaning from neighbouring cells as they stepped on people’s bodies to bring dead bodies out into the connecting passage between the cells.”
She described drunken guards subjecting detainees to random indiscriminate beatings for no reason and without justification, in addition to constant verbal abuse cursing the prisoners and their religion, adding that another young woman had died from the head wounds inflicted during one of these random beatings.

Officers and guards would often take revenge on the prisoners for regime military losses in clashes with rebel forces outside the prison, despite the prisoners having nothing to do with it, she added, further recalling that one woman was punished by being subjected to solitary confinement for over three months after she cursed Assad during torture.

Yarmouk, August 2015, protests against the ongoing seige in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, outside Damascus.

Yarmouk, August 2015, protests against the ongoing seige in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, outside Damascus.

After finally being released from prison, Huda learnt that her father had died in regime bombing of Yarmouk several months previously while she was incarcerated, and that four of her brothers had been imprisoned. When she tried to find out details of their whereabouts from the PLO office in Damascus and the Palestinian embassy there, she was informed by a staff member that “If they weren’t terrorists they wouldn’t have been arrested for so long” and that they “deserved to be arrested since they were terrorists.” Huda said that she had been able to identify three of her brothers from leaked photographs of detainees who died in regime prisons under torture, while the fate of her youngest brother remains unknown.

The Palestinian Working Group in Syria has demanded that the Syrian regime release all Palestinian prisoners and reveal their fate, stressing that what is taking place in the regime’s prisons is a crime against humanity by every standard. The group has officially catalogued 933 Palestinian prisoners detained by the regime, with 408 of this number confirmed to have been killed under torture; 77 of these deaths were confirmed by the publication of leaked images of some of the prisoners killed under torture in the regime’s prisons.

From Palestinian Working Group in Syria
Via: Shahba Press

http://www.shahbapress.com/news/2002/%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B9%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%AA-%D9%84%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Radio Free Syria 

AHW 1WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian colonial projects in Al-Ahwaz  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahwazi demonstration

Ahwazi demonstration

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

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

Historical context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the demands laid out in the memorandum were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regime oppression continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.