Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

 

BY SAMANTHA FALCIATORI
The Syrian situation is hell on earth. To understand what is happening is our human duty, as well as being indispensable for the comprehension of those phenomena that cross over the natural confines of that land. For this reason, our Magazine will always follow the Syrian war as closely as we can; a war which is in fact many different and overlapping wars, so as to provide an always up-to-date picture that is as accurate as possible.

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We have interviewed a volunteer of the Red Crescent, witness of the massacre of Al-Bayda and Banyas in May 2013 in which over 400 civilians were slaughtered, house by house, to then be buried in mass graves. His is a testimony that at 4 years from the massacre tells the story of one of the darkest and most bloody pages of the Syrian war.

What you are about to read is a unique testimony of one of the bloodiest pages of the Syrian war, the massacre that began on 2 May 2013 of the civilian population of two towns in the coastal area. The National Defence Force (NDF) and the Shabeeha, pro-government militias comprised of Shi’as and Alawites (the religious group to which the Assad family belongs), attacked the Sunni-majority towns of Al-Bayda and Banyas, nestled in the Alawite-majority zone between Tartous and Latakia, stronghold of the Syrian regime, with summary slaughtering the inhabitants (Sunni), breaking into their homes, setting them on fire, burning alive those who were inside, including infants.

The Banyas Local Council has identified a total of 410 victims, the Syrian Network for Human Rights has counted 459. The UN Investigation Commission on Syria has investigated this massacre, among many similar ones, identifying the perpetrators, ascertaining that there was no presence of armed opposition, nor were there any military clashes in the city during the massacre, and concluded in its report A / HRC / 24/46 (pages 32-33) that there was “reasonable evidence that the perpetrators were governmental forces”.

It is the Syrian regime itself that has confirmed the responsibilities of its militias carrying military operations on Al-Bayda and Banyas, broadcasting images of the carnage (as in this news report from al Manar) on the government-friendly TV channels, but always claiming that only terrorists had been killed. The images of women and children, including newborns, mutilated and burned alive, as well as the testimony of the survivors, tells another story.

We were able to interview an eyewitness of that massacre, already heard by Human Rights Watch investigators for their No One’s Left investigation. The man was in Banyas and was part of the team that the Syrian security forces sent after the massacre to arrange the corpses in the mass graves and clean up the streets. He accepted, asking for anonymity for security reasons, to tell Zeppelin what happened and what he saw, providing a rare and precious testimony also about the planning of the massacre (which had been in the planning for several months) and its political / religious motives. This is the transcript of the interview.

The massacre of Al-Bayda and Banyas can be understood in the wider project of ethnic cleansing of Syria, and it fits within the framework of the efforts of international justice to take the first steps toward punishing those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, thanks also to those eyewitness accounts, like this one, that, though they are brutal, should be listened to.

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Testimony of a volunteer of the Red Crescent from Banyas. 

He witnessed the 2013 massacre and disposed of the bodies in a mass grave afterwards. He requested anonymity for security reasons. The interview was recorded over Skype on January 5, 2017. 

Q: What can you tell me about that day? What happened and what did you see? 

[..] The Syrian Red Crescent could enter the city only 3 days after the massacre, because the army prevented all the people from coming in or out of Banyas [..] Banyas is a coastal town between Tartous and Latakia, the two biggest cities in the coastal area; Banyas is a smaller town, of about 50,000 people. It was one of the first which took part in the revolution, when people took to the street for many reasons, regarding what was happening in Deraa, the lack of freedom, but also because there were tensions between the rural areas of Banyas, mainly Alawite, and the city, mainly Sunni, and they felt the injustice because all the employees, all those working in courts, hospitals, in the oil industry of Banyas are all Alawites, and people felt injustice and took to the street. This was a choke for the regime because it thought that a coastal city, where the coastal area was the stronghold of the regime, would not participate in any kind of demonstrations. So Banyas was a surprise for the regime, they hated it, because they saw people demanding the fall of the regime in the heart of its stronghold.

Q: And the demonstrations were in the Sunni part of the city or all over the city?

In the Sunni part. In Banyas you have the Sunni part which is the old city of 50-60 years ago. Then when the Alawites took power, they came from rural areas, so all the officers, State employees settled in Banyas and built new neighbourhoods, so Banyas was getting bigger and now it is in two parts: the southern part, which is Sunni, and the northern part, which is Alawite. Christians are living in between, in the two parts. The Christians who are originally from Banyas are living with the Sunnis because that is the old city, and the new Christians who came to Banyas from other towns are living in the new neighbourhoods, the Alawite ones [..]. The demonstrations were 100% in the Sunni part. Christians, for many reasons, did not take part in them. I did, but secretly, because the regime tried to prevent Christians and Alawites from participating in the demonstrations because it did not want them to look like a national thing whose demands came from everybody[1], so it tried to emphasize their Sunni trait.

Q: So there was dissent also among the Christian and Alawite community? 

Yes, they tried to prevent them from getting in because when Alawites and Christians would come to the demonstrations it looked like it was not religious or radical [as the regime wanted to depict the demonstrations] but it would be a Syrian demonstration. But still, in the first 3 or 4 demonstrations, there were Alawite people coming from the Alawite neighbourhoods secretly who participated in the demonstrations. I have videos of this, many Alawite people came, they had speeches, they were welcome and people were crazy about them because they were Alawites supporting their demands, it was great. But after that, in May 2011 the Syrian army surrounded the city, they cut electricity in the Sunni part, they cut food [deliveries] preventing it from coming in, the siege lasted for 2-3 weeks, and after that they rolled the tanks and got into the city. They took a lot of prisoners, they were tortured in the Banyas stadium, where they took the people, 10,000 maybe, tortured them and humiliated them[2]. People were taken to the military prison in Tartous, Damascus and Homs, some people were never returned. We think they were killed under torture. After this, when the army came back to the town, patrolling the city, there were a couple of people trying to make very small demonstrations, like putting some homemade bombs where government forces were coming or going, but nothing as serious as it was happening in other parts of Syria[3], I think just 2 or 3 soldiers died in all these actions. This was still 2011, early part of 2012, then in Banyas everything was back to [normal] [..].

Suddenly, in early 2013 [..] all the Alawites involved in the militias of the regime, some were my friends […] they started to say that the people of Banyas were planning for something big. I said: “What are they planning for? Come on, the demonstrations have stopped, nothing is happening anymore”, so this kind of propaganda became to spread among the Alawites […]. There is a militia, the National Defence Forces (NDF), they are mainly civilians, 100% Alawites, and they are very tough, with a very strict point of view with the regime, they want all opposition dead, they started getting arms from the government and to participate in the battles all around Syria. One of them was called Ali Shaddoud, he is very famous in Banyas, he is a pharmacist. He is the founder of the NDF in Banyas and he told me personally that something big is happening in Banyas. Frankly I did not believe him.

Q: Because the opposition was not strong in Banyas? 

Yes, because in 2013 it was defeated. The government was in full control of the city, so “what will happen? Nothing”. But he told me “something very big is happening”. When I tried to understand from some friends of his, some told me that the regime was trying to focus on Damascus and the coastal area and it did not want anything to happen there, so if there are Sunnis remaining in this area they wanted them to have a lesson, so they cannot oppose the regime anymore […] Then there was no intervention by Hezbollah, Iranians or Russians, so the regime was afraid that it could not control all Syria, so it was trying to preserve Damascus and the coastal areas.

Q: They did not target the political or military opposition: they targeted the Sunnis.

Of course. From the Alawite point of view when they say “opposition” they do not mean the political meaning of the word, they cannot say “Sunni” in the street because that would be rude and sectarian, but by “opposition” they mean “the Sunnis”. And when they said “we want them to have a lesson”, they meant the Sunnis. This was clear since the early months of 2013. But it was not before the early days of May 2013 that… it happened very fast, we started to see tanks coming to the town, and it was not 100% weird, Syria was at war […] we thought maybe they are moving troops and vehicles, ok. But then they put tanks and mortars on the hill of Banyas, in the Alawite part of the town, the hill that overlooks the city. We started to see people that were not from the town, they were wearing regime uniforms but they did not sound like they came from Banays. Some people who saw them, including my brother, saw Lebanese people having dinner in a restaurant in the Alawite part of Banyas, this restaurant is famous because the NDF gather there. They were clearly Lebanese, so Hezbollah or close to Hezbollah, I do not know, and they were talking about a big operation that was coming to Banyas. There was this guy, Kayalli, the commander of a militia, he comes from Turkey, from the Alawite minority in Turkey, they are fighting for the regime and this Kayalli lived in Latakia, where he went on TV and said, literally, “Banyas is the only weak point for the government in the coastal area and we will put an end to this, the traitors can come in the coastal areas through Banyas and we need to end  it”, he said this 2 or 3 days before the massacre[4].

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The Alawite General Ali al Kayalli, better known as Mihrac Ural (he is of Turkish origin, but has Syrian nationality) is the head of a pro-government militia, composed of Alawites and  Shabeeha, called Syrian Resistance, based in al Baseet, North of  Latakia. He was among those responsible for the massacre of Banyas. In this photo, he is in the centre, with flowers in his hand, together with his men. Credits to: sbs.com.au.

On the day of the massacre I was in the church because it was the Thursday before Easter[5] and suddenly […] we heard gunshots, we went out and saw the army and militia telling people to go home, so we went home. In the evening, we started to see… not from my home, but I went to the Alawite part, I saw 200-300 men coming from the highway, they were walking on the bridge that comes down to Banyas, some of them wearing masks on their faces, and also Alawite people, some of them were my friends, started to join them and I asked them “what are you going for with your guns?” They said “there is an operation in Banyas and al Baida”, al Baida is south of Banyas and it was famous in the first months of the revolution because it was actively participating in it […] so they began with al Baida, which is Sunni. Families of Banyas are living in al Baida and vice versa, so they are very close to each other. They started in al Baida and I was on the phone with a friend, and he was shaking, he was very afraid. I was surprised and asked “what is happening?”, because we thought they were going to take some men to prison, or beat and humiliate them as they did every day everywhere, but he told me “no, it is not beating nor humiliating, they are killing people”.  And I was like “What? Killing people? Why?” and he said “Yes, they are killing people.” He told me that his mother’s family were burnt alive, some people were killed by gunshots, some were burnt, they gathered people in a shop and burnt them, like 60 or 70 dead bodies there, and people started to flee the city. So this is what they [regime people] wanted. It was May 2nd.

On May 3rd […] they came to Banyas and made a massacre […] in the heart of the Sunni part of the city. My home is very close to this so I went on the roof and I saw clearly the tanks bombing the city, I was able to see clearly the shells coming over my house, I saw them with the naked eye, and dropping down in the middle of the town. Then again these masked men came and did these atrocities. I did not see it, but many people told us, they started to kill people with swords, axes, guns, by burning, and I know families by name. They came and killed whole families…for example the Taha family had 17 people killed, they killed father, mother, sons, the son’s wives and sons and so on.

 

Q: So was it a deliberate ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population of the city?

Of course, because they targeted [Sunni] families, like the Taha family, the Shighri, even when they see “Shighri” on your ID card the government forces would be upset because they see that you are 100% from Banyas, so 100% opposition, so 100% Sunni. So they did ethnic cleansing of [Sunni] families. People started to flee, to Latakia. Also my family wanted to go there and they were accepted. I did not go there but my sister did and at the entrances of Latakia there were regime checkpoint and they were screening people from Banyas, if they knew they were Sunnis they sent them back, if they were Alawites or Christians they let them in. This lasted until May 4th, when they moved to another Sunni village […] called al Basateen, where they did not do ethnic cleansing but they took 95-96 men to prison and we have not heard of them since. So we assume they were also killed under torture. After the killing was over, it was a real shock to see even the Alawites who are 100% with the regime, being shocked and upset. A friend of mine, she was working in my same company, told me that her brother, an Alawite who supports the government, was part of these NDF and went to Al-Bayda to participate in what he thought was a regular operation of the regime, and he was shocked by the amount of atrocities done, the amount of killings, burning bodies, killing children, he fainted and they had to take him to hospital. He could not eat for two days, he was in shock, even people who are very radical with pro Assad [positions] were in shock, it was completely unprecedented, unexpected. After that they began to steal, they took a lot of cars, family homes’ furniture, we could see them putting them on army trucks. After 2-3 weeks they let people go back to Banyas, but not to Al-Bayda. Al-Baida is still empty to this day. 

Q: But they didn’t let the Sunnis come back, or also the Sunnis?

Also the Sunnis. But of course after this a lot of, and by “a lot” I mean A LOT, of Sunni families in Banyas left. As my Alawite friend said, it was a lesson. So many families went to Turkey, and from there they came as refugees in Europe. […] Now in the Sunni part of the city you can only see old men, children and Sunni people coming from other towns, like Aleppo, these are the pro-regime Sunnis of Aleppo so the regime lets them stay in Banyas.

Q: When could you enter the targeted neighbourhoods as a Red Crescent volunteer?

We entered on May 7th, 8th and 9th for three consecutive days to bury the bodies, because they were in the street. I didn’t go to al Baida, because other teams were going there. Some members of the Red Crescent managed to smuggle out some photos of the dead bodies and these are the only photos we have of this massacre. They put us in a lot of trouble because they did not expect members of the Red Crescent, which is controlled by the regime, to smuggle photos out. These are the only photos because no media was allowed to go in and I know the people who took the photos and smuggled them out.

Q: There is a lot of disinformation about the photos because they don’t have a source, being smuggled out secretly. So some people say they are Christians killed by Daesh [ISIS] or Palestinians killed by the Israelis, or whatever, so…

Look, the regime is not stupid. It is evilly smart. It tried to confuse us, its supporters put together some photos of Banyas, Palestine, Iraq and said “look, this is not Banyas!” but I can know exactly which photos were taken by us and I can tell you where they were taken, I can pinpoint them on Google Maps, and some of the photos are taken in such known streets that people know it is Banyas. These photos are taken by members of the Red Crescent. [..] I have an Alawite friend, he is the one who took the photos of the children. So let’s see the photos[6].

 The first one with children with a yellow shirt, another one with jeans, this is in Banyas. And this [scene of the] photo, I saw it personally, with the naked eye. I can assure you 100% that I saw this horrific scene. The second one, the two babies, I did not see this personally but it is in Banyas, and also the other one. The fourth one  is in Al-Bayda, I know this street, it is not Banyas, it is Al-Bayda. The other one, with the blood, the boy and the men, also this is in Al-Bayda and I know the guy, the family of the guy. The photo with the woman and the children, this is also in Banyas, in a neighbourhood called Ras Al-Nabe’. The last photos, with another woman and children, which is by the way the same as above, this is Banyas, and I know these stairs, everybody in Banyas knows them, this small street is in Banyas, in Ras al-Nabaa. The regime ordered us to open mass graves and put people in them. We were not able to put all the families in the mass grave together, respectfully. I will not forget where it is. We put a lot of bodies in it, I think 40-50 bodies and I heard from my friends that there are also mass graves in al Baida. We managed to bury all the bodies. […] We know from the Local Councils in al Baida and Banyas that there were 300 killed in al Baida and over 100 in Banyas. So totally 410. Half of them, more or less, women and children.

Q: I wonder something: after the massacre the regime blamed terrorists…

Actually no [..] they said the government attacked Banyas because there were terrorists hiding weapons there.

Q: But how can they justify the fact that in al Baida and Banyas many women and children died because of the massacre? How could they all be “terrorists”?

I know what you mean, but if you think that the people who support the regime try to find excuses, maybe you are wrong. From my friends, my colleagues, at work, at university… more than 75% of the people who are pro-regime, like Alawites and some Christians, they do not need excuses. Actually I hear some neo-fascist-nazi things, like “kill them, they are insects, they are animals, let them be taken out”. Of course some of them say “Yeah, killing children is not ok, but this is all their parents’ fault, they want the Islamic State, they want to kill minorities, so they had the right punishment”. You can hear this [being said] without any shame, so people do not need excuses, they know, they knew that the regime killed them, but they try to defend it, they try to convince themselves that they are terrorists, and maybe a couple of mistakes have been done, but they are living well with this. You cannot imagine how much hatred there is. Mainly the minorities feel like this, really, they are like Nazis, I’m sorry to say it but…of course some of the minorities are with the revolution, they stand bravely, but I’m talking about the mainstream.

Q: Many people say that before the revolution the Syrians lived together peacefully…

No, this is a big lie, we lived in a lie. We had a secretive regime that controlled every aspect of life and society […] In my classroom, we were like 20-25 guys, and 10-11 of us did not have the father because they were imprisoned and were never seen again. People tried to forget what happened in the 80’s, the horrible Hama massacre, but the hatred is real. […] The Alawites took all the positions in the coastal areas, all State employees are Alawites and many young Sunni were forced to go abroad to work.

Q: One last question: when I was reading the Human Rights Watch report… 

“No one’s left”? I was interviewed for that report[7].

Q: So maybe you remember that it says that the regime started the operation in al Baida because a man confessed there were deserters. What do you think about it?

No, I think that’s irrelevant. Banyas took part actively in the demonstrations, we hid some deserters, there was an assassination operation against a regime officer, all this happened. But I know it was deliberately planned months before, you cannot make such an operation in a city where there is no violent engagement like in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus or the rural areas. You cannot kill 400 people just to get a few deserters, the amount of forces that came to Banyas but are not from Banyas, all the talking to my Alawite friends about a lesson [to give] to the Sunnis in the coastal areas, I think it was well planned.

[…] The regime didn’t even bother to emphasise this confession as a pretext, it said “it was an operation, maybe some mistakes were done, but the rest is propaganda against us”. Since the early days there was a lot of talking about tanks, Lebanese and militia men coming to town having conversations, it was all obvious. But we were shocked by the size of it, it was huge to kill 400 in two days! […]

I think it was a deliberate ethnic cleansing. It was not part of the daily activities of the war […] We have not seen this elsewhere, in Latakia I saw a shooting on a demonstration that killed 30 people, but still that was “regular activity”.  But this and the Ghouta attack are beyond the clashes between regime and opposition. It was ethnic cleansing, also in Ghouta they were 100% Sunnis and in Banyas no Alawite or Christian was injured, not killed, not even injured. [..] My friend, who took the photos of the massacre, is still having nightmares to this day, after more than three years […] Those two days changed everything, I had friends and family who are with the regime, two of my cousins tried to defend the massacre and we are not talking anymore since the massacre. So divisions are also in the families, imagine in the society. They say there were terrorists, but in that area there was not jihadist or ISIS presence, it was a stronghold of the regime […]. I remember one thing, I was talking with a guy whose uncle was a prominent Alawite officer who worked for Hafez al Assad, Ali Douba, he was very famous because he was the head of the Military Intelligence Services, and this guy told me once: “Do you know why they chose Banyas?” and I said “No, why?”. “Because they could not do it in Latakia or Tartous because they are big cities and by doing it there they would risk to paralyse the city, so they decided to punish Banyas because it is small and even if life stopped in Banyas, that would not have affected the economy”. […]

Q: Ok, thanks a lot for your time and testimony [..].

Thank you. I don’t want this story to die, I want people to know. It’s very important what you and others are doing.

Source: http://www.thezeppelin.org/al-baida-e-banyas-massacro/

[1] Regardless of ethnicity or religion, as the demonstrations actually were.

[2]This episode is well documented. See Amnesty International, Syrian student tells of torture ordeal in mass stadium detention, 24/05/2011.

[3]For an overview of the story of Banyas from the early demonstrations to the massacre and the development of local councils and brigades, see S. DARWISH, M. DIBO, Cities in Revolution. Baniyas. Al-Bayda: The White City, 24/05/2011.

[4]Video online: https://youtu.be/y0P4rhRjR9I.

[5]The Orthodox Easter was on May 5th in 2013, the massacre started on Good Thursday, May 2nd.

[6]Yallasouriya, The Baniyas Massacre: Why Assad Did It, 6/05/2013. Online: https://goo.gl/km1NY9 In this link videos of the aftermath of the massacre can also be viewed.

[7]“No One’s Left”. Summary Executions by Syrian Forces in al-Bayda and Baniyas, ibid.

Interview by Samantha Falciatori. Introductory text by Samantha Falciatori, translated by Mary Rizzo

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gassan-asassali Certainly, by now we’ve all seen the tear-jerking, heart-rending tale of the American family of Syrian origin whose relatives (who had obtained a visa and had a nice house waiting for them in Allentown Pennsylvania) were turned back to Syria due to the Trump Executive Order banning people from entering into the US if they were citizens of one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria.

The family told their story several times to TV crews and even had a Go Fund Me set up for them to help defray their costs for this setback.

Well, all it takes is a tiny peek into their public content on Facebook to see that their story gets quite a bit less warm and fuzzy, they actually support a mass murderer. Ghassan Assali and his wife both have regime flag profile pictures, indeed, there is a lot of pro-regime content on (particularly) Ghassan’s page. One of his shared memes was celebrating that Hillary Clinton would have to “Go Away” rather than Assad. I left a comment on that meme (which Ghassan did not leave on the meme), and he sent me this message:

assali-1

Which, in English means:

Everyone makes mistakes but thank God, Trump apologized for what happened and gave them a new visa and compensated them for everything. Now they’re on their way. There was a problem interpreting the order, which includes Islamists and terrorists only. The crushing [of the Syrian opposition translator’s note] is still going on.

Well, that’s some big news! The family is back on their way COMPENSATED FOR EVERYTHING!

Then why is there still the Go Fund Me active?

And apparently, Trump supporters don’t care enough to send money because the Organiser of the campaign had to leave this update:

Update 4
Posted by The Wild Family

13 hours ago 

   Share

As the organizer of this page, I feel compelled to speak publicly and respond to some of the comments made on this page regarding reports that the Assalis of Allentown voted for Trump. These reports are incorrect. They did not vote for any candidate, and more importantly, were vitally concerned about the safety of their loved ones in Syria. For that reason, they discussed the relative benefits of one candidate over the other, and as with many in the local Syrian community, voiced hope that Trump might bring about a safer world for their family. HOWEVER, they did not vote for him, period.
Even more important, however, is to keep in mind that their family members who have now been returned to Syria did not vote (obviously) and had no political convictions about the election in the U.S. They just knew that they had to get out of Syria. So, please do not hold any grudge against the people for whom this page was organized. I hope this answers any questions. If you have more, please send an email to the organizer of this page (me) and I will do my best to answer any questions. Peace, Susan

So, either Susan or Sarmad is lying: “Assali said her vote for Donald Trump was done out of a desire to see secure borders, though she didn’t expect one of her candidate’s chief campaign promises to be applied to her relatives, who are all Orthodox Christians with green cards.”

You see, Ghassan and his wife think Assad is the man protecting them and fighting Islamists and Terrorists, but at the same time, in televised interviews they claim that their family has even before the war had been persecuted for their religion. Oh… but they aren’t asking for Asylum, and at the same time, Assad is apparently the protector of the minorities, isn’t he?

The family had been working since 2003 to escape religious persecution in their war-torn country. They have a furnished home waiting for them in Allentown.

As of this moment, the Go Fund Me is still active, though the Assali family is also suing.

So, what is it? Were they persecuted? If they have been compensated and granted new visas, why are they still collecting money and playing the victims?

assad-must-gooh, and here’s the meme about going away that was so funny to Ghassan Assali in November. I guess he kind of changed his mind since then, because these are his groups today: no-trump

 

_87939070_87939069Written by Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi Arab writer 

It seems the Italian authorities thought they had to cover up all the nudes in a museum for President Rouhani’s visit. Europe allegedly despises the veiling of ordinary Muslim women, but hypocritically covers up statues to appease the Iranian Islamic leaders – censoring classical art is all about oil.

The West’s silence with respect to Iranian terrorism and Tehran’s interference in the affairs of others is a strong contributing reason for all that is happening and will happen in this region. The West’s double standards in defining terrorism and what it means to counter it have now become overt to all.

Khamenei, the main backer of Assad, continues to support the Syrian dictator, responsible for a war that has killed over 250,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s population.

The major powers, especially the United States, look to the region through a different lens than the Arabs and other regional nations do. It appears that immediate economic, political and military interests are the main drives for the involvement of the Western countries in the Middle East, and no other considerations, such as human rights and long-term implications seem to be of any importance at the current juncture.

Iran rejoiced and welcomed Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential election in 2009. The Iranian pro regime masses at that time translated Obama’s name into Persian to read; “He is with us.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (2nd L), Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2nd R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) wait with others ahead of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 26, 2015 during negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool - RTR4UXKJ

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (2nd L), Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2nd R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) wait with others ahead of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 26, 2015 during negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool – RTR4UXKJ

Many remained heedless towards the Iranian political readability. But with the progress of time and Obama’s focus on the Iranian nuclear program after failing in all other areas in the region, some began talking about the wager of “Obama” on Iran in the hope that history preserves his legacy after he leaves the presidency in early 2017. In fact, the intent of the Obama administration, all along, has been to empower the Islamic Republic regionally – and they’ve certainly succeeded.

Based on his actions, Obama clearly doesn’t care about the fate of Iran and ordinary citizens who are oppressed by the regime any more than Bush did; he’s better at PR speeches and paying lip service to human rights. He’s naive in that he managed to convince himself and others in his administration that it would be in the interests of the United States to have Tehran as a regional policeman, rather than the United States, and a “partner for peace” for the West, via controlling the region.

Iran’s involvement in the region would enable the US to “pivot to Asia” or otherwise focus on whatever the latest foreign policy trend the policy wonks are recommending. In reality, allowing Iran’s expansionist ambitions is a recipe for endless war. Despite his seemingly idealistic vision, Obama is certainly no anti-establishment guy.

Obama’s primary ‘legacy’ has been to empower fascist demagogues, dictators and totalitarians domestically – such as Trump, who probably genuinely could shoot people and still get more votes, as he claimed – and globally. Proof is his support for the political descendant of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the Castro regime in Cuba, the brutal Islamic State regime, Bashir al-Assad. Obama’s policies have also led to Putin’s Russia increasing their interference and influence around the world.

George W. Bush considered Iran part of the “axis of evil”, and Iran calls the United States “the Great Satan”, today we witness a temporary marriage between “the evil” and “the great Satan”.

Protests against Rouhani's visit in Rome

Protests against Rouhani’s visit in Rome

What brought the region and the world to this point?  How will the face of the region change after Tehran feels emboldened by the loosening of Washington’s grip on the region, giving the green light to the Islamic Republic’s interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and continuous strengthening  of sleeper cells and spy networks, agents of influence, support for terrorism, and instigation of sectarian strife in the region?

The Western States, on the one hand, shake hands with state sponsors of terrorism, and secretly strengthen those bonds with multiple partnerships on various levels, and on the other, these Western states demand that Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia,   fight terrorism and freeze the financing of terrorist organizations, root out support for terrorism in all forms. Hypocritically, these states simultaneously slam and condemn Saudi Arabia for executing terrorists, so long as such condemnations play into the hands of the Islamic Republic.

These two contradictory stands do not mix well. They can work only in the baseless fantasy of Obama’s projected entente with Iran, allegedly aimed at providing the region with security, stability and integrity.

12650191_1529432960690476_931880828_nWith honesty that suits the political landscape and developments around us, we should say without hesitation or shame: the Iranian aggression and projected expansion that targets our nations with the tacit complicity, and the terrible silence of the West cannot be met only with a similar response.

This is the time to respond with firmness and determination in a world that tolerates no weakness or hesitation. Iran has spread its arms and military cells in our countries; it seeks to resuscitate a sinister version of the Persian Empire, create a Shiite Crescent and under the umbrella of Mahdism and other nationalist auspices while harping on the glories of the Sassanid past.

The current regime only understands the language of force. Therefore, we are forced to respond with the same methods. However, no strong response to the Islamic Republic’s expansionist ambitions can be made successfully taking a fitting strategic agenda and a thoughtful decision-making process.

The Islamic Republic correctly reads the West’s capitulatory policy the region as its inability to confront Iranian arrogance. The West’s perceived weakness emboldens the Mullahs to continue in their interventions and to grow and multiply their wicked plans.

The West forgets that the actual power in Iran lies not with Rouhani but with its Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who is directly responsible for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s counterpart of the former Soviet KGB, imposing oppressive measures at home and promoting terror across the Middle East.

ShowImageIt is this regime, controlled by the Supreme Leader and the mullahs, that continues to contribute heavily to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and funding Shi’a militias and individual despots such as Assad who have committed mass atrocities against his own citizens.

One could (and should) criticize the mullah regime for being racist and utilizing racism and scapegoating to support centralized power and keep their subjects away from heretical thoughts. Iran has a long history of conquering and subjugating its ethnic and religious minorities.

Ethnic subjugation and oppression precede the Islamic Republic — we need only to take a look at the history of Al-Ahwaz, Iranian Kurdistan, and Baluchistan, not to mention South Azerbaijan. There is no shortage of horrifying stories about activists who have been imprisoned, raped, beaten or tortured.

The hostilities of the Iranian Mullahs towards the Arab Gulf countries is not born of the moment, and the burning of embassies is an accurate reflection of the nature of the Iranian regime. It is an aggressive theocratic Persian cult worship which underlies the structure of the regimes’ ideology.

This doctrine survives only as long as exporting violence can be perpetuated, which itself is achieved via claiming all Arab Shiites as Iranian subjects and their land as Iranian land.

This Iranian exportation of sectarian violence among Arabs and in Arab lands is affected in order to avoid solving Iran’s unsolvable internal problems and to export them outside its borders.

Since 1979, Iran started applying its provocative policies which were vigorously and successfully responded to by Iraq and Iran was forced to retreat inside its borders. With the American destruction of Iraq, however, the Arab world was left wide open to Iranian aggression. Iranian purposes cannot be achieved in a quiet area away from escalation due to its interior economic and political and social problems.

The Iranian people, including ethnic groups, have long suffered and experienced harsh suppression at the hands of the Iranians in power. In order to cover up for Iran’s chronic unsolvable problems, the peculiar Persian cult worship type of Shiism was developed, and exporting it gives the Mullahs respite in their tenuous hold on power inside Iran.

Thus, Iran’s policy was built on interference in Arab affairs and continues to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arabs in the era of monarchists as well as during the revolutionary period of the Mullahs. Both under the Shah and Khomeini, wherever Shiism exists the land is claimed Persian one way or another!!!

This shows that Persian expansion has always come at the expense of the Arab countries and interference in their internal affairs. Most important though is that this aggressive Iranian policy is not the result of a particular system, but is thought rooted in the very foundations of the Persian state that sometimes shows itself in Monarchy apparel and other times dressed in the Islamic Republic guise.

For both the Shah and Khomeini intentionally created an arch and historical enemy for the Persian State, which permeates both old and new Iranian doctrine.

A psychological hostility was established in the center of Iran towards the Arabs which led to the arrogant racist view of the Iranian community members who make up the political and social system and the rest of civil institutions and non-civilian organizations.

img_0045If we investigate a little bit, the monarchic Iranian or Republican culture both rely on racist approaches. Both insist on focusing Iranian education on mobilizing Persians via arrogant racist socially constructed myths in favor of bullying the Arab region, intending to building generations who harbor hatred towards Arabs even among opponents of the regime living in European countries, where we find that the hatred of the Arabs is rooted and ingrained. However, they endured the oppression from their rulers in the Royal era.

Iran is not a state of institutions as it claims, but a state of the militia. Charters and international laws will not deter it but it can be hindered by firm force as Iraq did in 1980 and Saudi Arabia in 2011 in Bahrain, as well as the Gulf-Arab alliance in a decisive storm in 2015, and add to this it is the right time for Arab countries to activate the cause of oppressed peoples in Iran such as Ahwazi Arab people under Iranian occupation and through supporting those people in their claim of right to self-determination.

I am well aware that the decisions to be made are difficult, but the most difficult is the fact that the world respects only those with power, regardless of moral imperative. Thus, we are forced into a Solomonic dilemma of having to launch a decisive storm in alliance with some Arab countries, against a much greater evil in the face of the Iranian regime.

The world has tolerated the status quo for military action approved by the Security Council; this approval would not have been possible if the operations did not originate on the ground and the Arab states did not prove they can take crucial decisions on their own without waiting for the approval of Western or Eastern states. Perhaps this successful model can lead the Iranian regime to shift from an offensive to a defensive position and to retreat to the inside, where it will be forced to face the long overdue retribution in the hands of its own citizens.

That is when the Iranian people will take their stand for freedom from tyranny and religious fundamentalism.  And thus, the region can finally achieve the release from the evil of the Iranian regime. Revolution has not yet come to Iran. Therefore, Iran will be the major root of instability and violence all across the region.

Now the time has come when Arab nations, in order to rid themselves of terrorism, need to set aside their differences and act as a united force to confront Iranian hegemony.

In addition, the Western powers need to reconsider their view of the Middle East and not contribute to conflicts that may be difficult to contain later. The silence of the West to Iranian terrorism and intervention in the affairs of others is the primary reason for the growing instability and violence in the region.

When will the great powers take the actions of which they are capable and prevent the spread of violence in the region?

p paolo 2WRITTEN AND TRANSLATED By Samantha Falciatori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why Raqqa?

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

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

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

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

ahwazi kidsWritten by Rahim Hamid  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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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.

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.

no more mosquesWRITTEN BY SHADY HAMADI, translated by Mary Rizzo

I am a Muslim and I condemn the massacre at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and I condemn Islamic fanaticism. But for some, and in a particular way I am thinking of certain politicians who carry out electoral campaigns inciting hatred towards immigrants and Islam, the condemnations by the religious leaders of the Islamic world are not going to be enough. Even if every single Muslim in the world speaks out to condemn what happened, this, unfortunately, will still not be enough because all that is being done is pointing the finger at a sole culprit, against the Islamic religion.

Even now, they will tell you that Islam, that is, more than two billion people, has declared war on you, on your values and on your Western belonging.

A certain kind of politics will seek consensus exploiting the massacre of Paris. Our politicians will tell you that “we are already at war against Islam and that we have to defend ourselves,” and the only real defence against the Islamic tide, is to vote for precisely those parties that have made xenophobia their raison d’etre. They will launch campaigns against the construction of places of worship for Muslims, declaring that “the mosques are the breeding ground for new terrorists” and, in so doing, they deny a right … just like those fanatics who they claim they want to fight.

tumblr_n7kzh7oJLR1skw9p7o6_1280You can choose. You can believe those who say that a war with Islam is inevitable. According to them, this religion embodies the violence and brutality that is then transmitted from one believer to another, through the study of the doctrine and prayer. For them, there aren’t good Muslims but there are only terrorists. They paint them all with the same brush, providing the right motivation that serves the terrorists to proselytize among the multitude of the desperate.

Another possibility, more sensible and correct, is to try to reason and understand that for the actions of two terrorists, two billion people and a religion cannot be responsible. We must understand that fanaticism in the Islamic world has many reasons, most of them related to social and historical causes, that affect societies today.

A century where colonialism and dictatorships, foraged from the West, have produced enormous damage to the Arabic social fabric. School systems built around an education formed on totalitarian regimes that have produced widespread ignorance; the lack of economic opportunities; the syndrome of Arabic nihilism, well described by the late Samir Kassir; the total lack of hope for the future and the tragedies that came about as of September 11 were some of the reasons that have produced contemporary religious radicalism. The first victim of this fanaticism is Islam itself. Sunni Muslims are the most persecuted by fundamentalists, as evidenced by the massacres in Syria: a whole population victim of the totalitarianism of Assad and the ISIS barbarians. And it is always Islam, the perception we have of this religion, to suffer the most damage because of the acts of those insane minds.

Today, in fact, Islam has become synonymous with terrorism in the West, so as to be deprived of any spiritual significance. It is marred by those who continue to associate it, without knowing anything about it in the least, as an enemy to fight. Clichés, simplifications and stereotypes about Islam are the collateral damage of a lack of knowledge that is far too widespread.

Now more than ever, we need constructive encounters, ones that are the sign of Mediterranean conviviality and an inter-religious discourse. Only with mutual recognition can we continue in our common history, managing to build a society for all of us. The fight for freedom is the struggle of each one of us, regardless of our faith.

If we abandon ourselves to the entrepreneurs of fear and ignorance, all will be lost.

Original: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-prima-vittima-fanatismo-lislam/1322511/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1397298_611763265539907_779226832_oWRITTEN BY ASMAE DACHAN, translated by Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dear daughters Greta and Vanessa,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your uncle, Dr. Mohamed Nour Dachan

Italy's major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it's not what they claim...

Italy’s major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it’s not what they claim…

BY THE EDITORS OF SIRIALIBANO, translated and integrated with hyperlink exerpt translations by Mary Rizzo

They were not Christians, they were Muslims. They were not killed by means of crucifixion, but their already lifeless bodies were exhibited in that barbarian manner.  The crime is ghastly, no matter what religious denomination the victims belong to.  And yet it “news” of “Christians crucified in Syria” went viral in the western media, in particular in the major Italian news media.

The two major Italian newspapers Il Corriere della Sera (above) and La Repubblica (below) dedicated a great amount of space to it, bring attention to the “news” on the first page accompanied by photographs of “a man crucified in Maalula”, the small Christian small town near Damascus.

To push the directors and the heads writers towards a similar editorial choice has no doubt been the statement of Pope Francis in the official Vatican site:   “I cried when i saw the news“.

The Holy Father said, “I cried when I saw on the mass media the news of Christians being crucified in a certain non-Christian nation. Even today,” he stressed, “there are people who, in the name of God, kill and persecute. And even today we see that like the apostles they are happy to have been considered to have been worthy to undergo suffering for the name of Jesus. This is the third icon of today. The joy of the testimony.”

As you know, the assertions of the Pope are always newsworthy. And a crucified Christian in a Country infested from by al Qaida is too tasty a morsel to not take full advantage of.

The fake news did not appear only for on the pro-Assad websites, the usual Islamophobic ones or the reactionary and “anti-imperialist” (but only in one direction) sites “of the left”, but in Italy’s most important mainstream newspapers. And then it  to numerous other media outlets on radio, television and online.

Those who believe in conspiracies would even be led to think that it is a pro-Assad campaign in time to legitimise his election farce on 3 June.   It’s not quite like that.  So the question remains, “Why?”.  Is it only a matter of ignorance in good faith, then? Is it only bad journalism, incapable of verifying the information and the sources?

The facts: among the seven people killed in Raqqa there were no Christians, were all Muslims and in fact two of the crucified persons seemed to be supporters or fighters belonging to other rebel factions, the accusation against them was to have thrown some explosive devices and to have tried to kill some leaders of the al Qaeda group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

To Raqqa, a town on the Euphrates controlled by ISIS, there is underway by the general population a resistance that is trying to oppose the imposition of what the al Qaedists call Islamic law. ISIS itself, accused by various sources to be highly infiltrated by foreign secret services as well as those of the regime of Damascus, has been active since the beginning of the year in daily clashes with the other rebel groups reunited under different names (Syrian Free Army, Islamic Front, Jabhat al Nusra, etc…), defined as takfiri and therefore, wicked.

Italy's second largest newspaper highlights the "crucifixions" and again, the tears of the Pope.

Italy’s second largest newspaper highlights the “crucifixions” and again, the tears of the Pope.

None of this matters. Any “news” that can present president Bashar al Assad to us as if he is the saviour of the nation (“it’s either him or al Qaida) is good enough and is going to be considered as authentic. In this sense, a Catholic site defined the killers of Raqqa as “anti-Assad militants”, attributing others as being engaged in disinformation: “In vain you will find in the Italian newspapers articles on the terrible event: some line or two buried in some article, nothing more. It is that in this war the needs of propaganda hinder the accounting of the crimes of the anti-Assad rebels, while emphasised, if not actually invented, are those of Assad…”

The same site citing another source goes as far as to even give a name to tone of the deceased: the Christian Antoine Hanna, a name that one sees over and over in this story.

But on the Jihadist forums of ISIS and in various tweets by ISIS fighters, it is possible to read the reply of these people to the tears of the Pope for the crucified Christians:  “Dear Pope Francis, the people of Raqqa were not crucified because they are Christians but for the application of the Koranic verse 5:33″. The sura in question recites: Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land…”. This was done according to the strict application – according to ISIS – of the sharia, the Islamic law.

If the application of the sharia by ISIS e dell’ Isis was truly consistent with the literal Koranic text, the “infidels” must not be punished as such since in verse 2:62 it is in fact is written: “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” Already in the month of March, ISIS had killed and then bound a man to a wooden cross, with the accusation of having robbed and then killed another Muslim.

But let’s go back to “Antoine Hanna”. The news is that “a person was killed and then bound to a cross in the village of Meskene”, in the countryside of Aleppo. Strange: various Christian sources of Aleppo questioned in these days remember that in the countryside of the northern Syrian metropolis there have never been Christians.

None of this matters. The pro-Assad sites headline:  “A Syrian named Antoine Hanna in the rural zone of the town of Aleppo, was killed before the eyes of his children with the accusation of blasphemy. He refused to renounce his religion and they crucified him.” Or: “Young Christian named Antoine Hanna, crucified by the takfiri terrorists sponsored by the United States and the West, in the Maskana area… accused of anti-religious sentiment.”

This time the news had not yet been picked up by the Catholic sites.  We hope they don’t do it because the presumed Christian killed in Meskene has – coincidentally – the same name and surname of the presumed Christian killed in Raqqa. Evidently, this time the disinformation machine has a hitch.  See the ISIS press release on the crime committed in Meskene.

The photograph of the crucified man in Meskene appeared for the first time in a tweet by Dylan@ProSyriana, apparently a Syrian Christian supporter of President Assad, with the following wording: “one of three killed and crucified in Meskene (Aleppo) after having been accused of being an infidel by the rebels”.

There are no references to the fact that the man was Christian, perhaps what led to confusion in the Italian Assad supporters was the word “infidel”, which however is used by ISIS also towards other Muslim rebels, those they consider takfiri and infidels.

A source present in Meskene just contacted confirmed that the murder happened in the locality of Aneza, but denies that it involved a Christian. He insists that he was a native of Akraba, near Sfera; a refugee of Meskene is said to have recognised him as the person who manned the checkpoints of Khanaser, therefore he was a soldier or a person that worked for the regime. It is said that he was crucified by ISIS to frighten the rebel fighters stationed in the zone of Meskene so as to induce them to leave the area.

The story of the Christians persecuted in the Arabic East during wartime has been a constant throughout history by those who seek to maintain the control of the area  – political, economic but also cultural – serving to entrust the keys of power to the ruling regime.  It is not therefore anything new.

The perseverance of the Italian pro-Assad sites on this theme is noteworthy.  On these platforms the fake news spreads, as well as fake photographs that are passed off as the truth. One of the most clamorous ones was a photograph of a group of veiled and chained women next to a bearded man with a sword.

According to what these sites were spreading, it was about women of Aleppo sold as by the Salafiti in the markets. Those who were even more precise described them as Shi’a women sold as slaves after they had been raped.  What a pity that the photograph dates back to 2007 and showed some Shi’a women immortalised in a representation of the (Shi’a) holiday of Ashura in the village of Nabatiyeh in Lebanon.

In September of 2013 the Catholic news agency Fides had been forced to deny that the news concerned the killing of 130 Christians in Aleppo: “The news of a massacre of 130 Christians in Aleppo is entirely false, said to have been carried out by groups of the Syrian opposition, as reported in the past days by the Lebanese mass media and some websites.”

A priest questioned by Fides noted: Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war. They would also want to persuade Christians to arm themselves, making the conflict assume a character that is even more sectarian, taking a dangerous turn, close to the war of Lebanon. Furthermore, they seem to prepare the terrain for a division of the Syrian territory itself on a factious and sectarian basis.  This goes against the history, the culture and the real face of Syrian society, which has always been characterised by pluralism and the variety of its forms, in co-existence.”

In the net of propaganda also was captured the news of “a woman stoned to death by fundamentalists in Raqqa”. Of the victim only the surname is known: al Jasim. However, the photograph a still from the film “The Stoning of Soraya” in which the Iranian actress Mozhan Marno undergoes lapidation.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as "a child from Kassab", whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as “a child from Kassab”, whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen, according to several Yemenites who have commented that it is a well-known picture there.

More recently and the day after the attack of the Armenian village (therefore Christian) of Kassab northeast of Latakia by fundamentalist militiamen, in the web a photograph circulated with the caption, “A Christian child executed by rebels in Kassab”.

The image showed a child just a few months old with a woolen hat surrounded by men that were pointing old guns at him.  It was an old photograph that had nothing to do with Syria, but instead was in Yemen.  On some sites the caption of the photograph was the following: “This child was captured by the terrorists because he is a child of another religion, therefore an infidel child, but above all he is a child of a Syrian Pro government family.”  As if by miracle, this passed from a pro-Assad site to a Catholic news site and it was used as an example of the damage caused by the “Western-supported fundamentalists against Syria and the Syrians.”

For more of a year, Syrian activists who support the revolution but oppose ISIS have been denouncing its violations against the population, in the almost total silence of the media, of the pro-Assad sites and the Catholic sites that are very attentive to news regarding Christians or gruesome news stories, as if the constant bombardment of the regime’s aeroplanes on the civilian population wasn’t brutal enough.

Now the ISIS that is being fought against by the other rebels, becomes the paradigm to represent the revolution, therefore guarantor of the safety of the Christians can only be the regime. But as the priest interviewed by Agenzia Fides, “Such news Fides “Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war.”

ORIGINAL: http://www.sirialibano.com/short-news/quando-morire-i-cristiani.html

WRITTEN BY NICOLE MAGNOONA GERVITZ

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

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

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

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

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

Palestinian soldiers in Lebanon, 1976

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

Sending Palestinians directly into the line of fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You can take your neutrality and hang yourself with it. 

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

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

 

 

The Third Way march, with their Icons in "yes we can" Shepard Fairey style!

The Third Way march, with their Icons in “yes we can” Shepard Fairey style!

WRITTEN BY HISAM ASHKAR, translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak

News of the visits of fascist and far-right groups to Syria, to show solidarity with the regime, have recently started to emerge, especially with the beginning of the revolutionary process in the Arab region. It seems that the Syrian issue ranks highly on the agenda of the European far-right. So, is it axiomatic to say that the majority of the European far-right supports Assad’s regime and stands against the revolution in Syria?

Nearly two decades ago, several parties and far-right groups started to weave relations with the Syrian regime. For example, communications began between some of the French right in France and the Syrian regime, since the nineties. Many visits then followed. Most notable was that of “Frederic Chatillon“, the president of the extreme student group (Groupe Union Défense), who is very close now to “Marine Le Pen”, the current President of the French party «National Front» (Front National). During his visit in 1994, he met the Syrian Defense Minister at the time “Mustafa Tlass”.

In the first decade of this century, especially since 2006, the visits increased. Most of them took place in Lebanon, the usual place to hold meetings between visitors and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party which is an ally of the Syrian regime. Frederic Chatillon with Alain Sorel were some of the most prominent visitors. This relation was not limited to the official visits and political discussions, it extended to business. For example, the company (Riwal) which is owned by Chatillon, founded the company (Riwal-Syria) to develop economic relations between Syrian and French companies in 2009.

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

Chatillon, Tlass, Dieudonnè, oh those happy days!

By the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, the far-right began to support the Syrian regime in various ways. Frederic Chatillon was the first to support Assad. Since the early days of the revolution, Chatillon accused all those who took part in the demonstrations of the opposition of being partners to the Zionist lobby, which wants to destabilize Syria. Chatillon went even further to organise a demonstration in Paris to support Assad in October of the same year. Chatillon’s company «Riwal» still perseveres to support the news website (InfoSyrie) which is campaigning for the Assad regime.

With time, far-right demonstrations supporting the regime were organised in many European cities, from Rome to Warsaw and Geneva. At the same time, several visits to show support were organized, notably the «fact-finding mission» in June 2013. Several European far-right personalities took part in this visit like Nick Griffin “MP in the House of Commons”, Philip Dewinter “deputy in the Flemish parliament in Belgium”. This extent of the support reached the level of going to Syria to fight along side Assad forces in some cases, as the New-Nazi Greek organization «black tulip» (Mavros Krinos) declared. There were also many meetings held by the far-right which aimed to discuss the Syrian situation and how to support Assad’s regime. The most notable was the Boreal Festival which was held in Kanto in Italy on the 12th of September 2013 in the presence of a large number of European fascists. Paradoxically, the Mayor of Kanto, who was hosting that event, began his speech with words by Rosa Luxemburg!

Why does the European far-right back the Syrian regime?

In her thorough article, “Who are Assad’s fascist supporters?” Leila Shrooms attributes this support to:

“Anti-imperialist/anti-globalism sentiment with a strong focus on national states (they believe the Assad regime protects the Syrian state against US imperialism), Islamophobia (they believe the Assad regime fights Islamic extremists), anti-semitism (they believe Assad’s regime acts as resistance to Israel).”

3 way

As for Serge Ayoub, leader of the far-right organization Third way, Troisieme Voie, banned since the summer of 2013, he organized on the 2nd of February 2013 a march in support of the Syrian Assad regime. The reason for his support becomes clear in his answer to the following question, “why are Syrian supporters of the Assad regime participating in this demonstration?” Ayoub replies, “Why are the Syrians with us? Of course, it is our duty to support their cause! Syria is a nation, a homeland, a socialist country with national supremacy. They are fighting for secularism, and they are subject to an attack by imperialist America, globalization and its salafist servants and Qatari and Saudi mercenaries. The purpose is to destroy the state.”

We find in Ayoub’s narrative all the reasons presented by Leila Shrooms, except for Israeli resistance. The far-right does not hide its aversion to Israel, as we have seen in Chatillon. Paradoxically, Ayoub’s supporters who describe themselves as French revolutionary nationalists, and who gained the support of many French and European Fascist organizations, brandished the photographs of five personalities in the demonstration: Bashar Al Assad’s, next to it that of the Russian president Putin, the Belarusian president Lukashenko, the Venezuelan Ex-president Chavez and the national Serb Draga Mihailovič. Many flags were also lifted, among them the Syrian, French, Russian, Venezuelan and Cuban flags.

The grounds for this support presented by all the far-right organizations on the one hand and the organizations who criticize them on the other, stir many questions such as, “Why didn’t this right ally itself with Syria against Israel before the decade of the nineties? Why did this right stand against the Syrian revolution since its beginnings before the rise of the armed extremist Islamic movements? And what is the truth of this anti-imperialist anti-globalization stance of the right?

To demonstrate the background and logic of the right’s position with regards to what is happening in Syria, we have to go back in time 25 years, to a new historical phase that started with the fall of the Berlin wall.

Redefining the enemy: from the communist threat to the threat of the American model.

In his book “The anatomy of Fascism”, Paxton says that Fascist movements are always in need of an enemy that symbolises the overwhelming crises that’s taking society by storm, and who pushes the mass to unite under the flag of the saviour leader. Towards the end of the cold war, most far-right movements in northern Europe considered The Soviet Union to be that enemy-symbol, to the extent that Jean Marie le Pen, the leader of the far-right French party, The National Front, alleged that he carried the legacies of Winston Churchill, Douglas McArthur and Ronald Regan[1], not just in the political arena, but also in the field of Economy. For until the end of the eighties, the National Front was glorifying and defending liberal Economy.[2]

In this context, the fall of communism did not just cause a crisis in the left, rather it went beyond it to reach the far-right, who lost over night its main enemy and one of the basis of its politics. The reconsideration done by some of the members of the right led to adopting ideas of ideological groups such as GRECE, which started since the sixties developing the theory of cultural difference, which opposes racial mixing because it represents a danger for the identity of nations. Hence the United States became the enemy – the new symbol, for various reasons:

1-      Cultural and political American dominance represents a threat to national identities.

2-      The American model reflects a presence and mix between various races and cultures, regardless of the racism and inequality that are rooted in this model.

Redefining the enemy has forced these right wing forces to reconsider many of their political and economic stances to fit with their new ideological position. It is worth remembering here that far-right and main fascist parties are pragmatic parties which don’t hesitate in redefining their main positions (especially concerning the economy, because they do not rely on a fixed line or position in this field, rather they fluctuate according to the political variables.)[3] In order to achieve their goal: success and power.[4] Hence this Right raised the bar of its animosity towards the USA and the new political order, such as economic neo-liberalism and globalization, and establishing relations with those they consider as enemies of this political order. For example, Jean Marie le Pen is the ally of the Lebanese far-right Phalange party since the mid-seventies, and on his visit to Beirut in 2002, he tried to no avail to meet with Ayatullah Fadlallah, who has close relations with Hezbollah. This redefinition of the enemy is what explains the rapprochement between Hizbollah and the Syrian regime, which started in a shy way in the nineties to become more solid and entrenched in the last ten years.

The new far right: “left wing in its work, right wing in its values”!?…

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio,  Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

European delegation in support of Assad, containing members of the extreme right, Zenit, Casa Pound, Stato e Potenza, Fascisti del III Milennio, Partito dei Comunisti Italiani. When Black and Red go to Bed together.

The transformation undergone by the Right because of the redefinition of the enemy on one hand and reprioritization on the other, has led to adopting and overtaking some of the leftist ideas in order to empower this new intellectual orientation. For example, we see that the campaign of Marine le Pen in the French presidential elections of 2012 was based on social and economic issues, to the extent that it almost failed to mention some of the favourite topics of the far-right such as banning migrants. The far-right’s adoption of some of the leftist and Marxist rhetoric is not new; this was clear since the birth of fascism as Mussolini used to address the proletariat and fascists alike with his radical, nationalistic, anti-capitalist speeches. Of course, this was to a great extent a selective and manipulative manoeuvre, because the enemy was foreign capitalism and not the national one, and some of the aims of these speeches were the conciliation between the work force and the nationalistic business owners. [5]

In this context, the reliance of the new right on leftist ideas is nothing but that populist national communism, in other words, a return to the classical Fascist speech like in the twenties, and in one of the most important European capitalist crisis at the time. This return is apparent in the National Front’s adoption of the slogan “No Right and no Left” in a clear reiteration of the saying of the founder of the fascist Spanish Phalange Party (Falange Española de las JONS), Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera), that his movement was neither of the right nor the left.

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others...

National Front event, all together now! Zenith, December 2006: A. Soral, JM Dubois, B. Gollnish, D. Joly, Jany Le Pen, F. Chatillon, G. Mahé, Dieudonné and others…

However the current rhetoric and orientation of this Right differs from its 80 year old predecessor in many details. This right does not stop at adopting leftist slogans and headings, it also partially takes from its ideology to add it to its heritage.  We see Marine le Pen in her book “For France to live” (Pour que vive la France)[6], relying on sayings by many thinkers, politicians, writers and others from the Left, from George Aurel, to Bertlot Brecht and even Karl Marx himself, praising the beginnings of this Left that she considers to have later on betrayed its principles, insisting that it is now the National Front that carries these objectives. Some far-right thinkers such as Alain Soral have even gone a step further, rather than repudiating the left and the right, they try to bring them together. Soral, the ex member of the French communist party and then the National Front looks at the union of the ethical right with the economic social left against the unethical left that compliments the economic right. In form, on his online political group Egalite et Reconciliation, Soral puts together the photos of Che Guevara, Gaddafi, Mahmood Ahmadi Najad, Vladimir Putin and the far-right French icon Jeanne d’Arc. Alain Soral attacks the global political system represented by the USA and Israel and talks about social justice, and the exploitation of the social classes. He denounces imperialism and demands a real left.

In context, he does not suggest anything new apart from the reconciliation between workers and business owners, with full emphasis on the conservative principles and values which lead to the salvation of the French nation.

ayoub 3

Soral might seem like an entertainer mixing economy theology and the conspiracy theory, but his page attracts many visitors and followers, especially youth. The ideas people like Soral promote are translated in the streets, such as members from the Third Way brandishing pictures of personalities and flags as mentioned above. That could sometimes be understood as a communication and coalition between the right and some extreme nationalist left movements, such as the Polish fascist organization (Falanga) which is establishing connections with the Mauis and nationalist Bolsheviks.

 

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

The extreme right Italian movement Casa Pound mixes Right, Left and Nationalism all in this poster, Fatherland, Socialism or Death. Honour to Hugo Chavez

This ideological change, even if directed solely at the national internal interest of these parties, carries in its folds the support of this right for the Syrian regime. Theorists such as Soral, consider Bashar Al-Assad to be one of the characters standing in the face of the global system. Moreover, the Syrian regime is the example, even if not ideal, for their slogan, “left wing in terms of work, Right wing in terms of values”. Emphasising that this system is not applicable in Europe rather suitable for “the political idiosyncrasies of the Middle East, where it is important to have a strong leader to control the ethnic sectarian cohesion with a firm hand, and that is usually acceptable by all clans… As was the case in the past [in Europe]”

The limits of the hatred of the far-right for the “Foreigner”

In addition to the excuse of the “pressing foreign danger”, the far-right parties also need and internal enemy that can be a factor in the demise of the mass, and that prevents the achievement of a more comprehensive and stronger society. [7] Among the internal enemies of this Right is the “foreigner”, and in Europe the two main “foreigners” in the eyes of the far-right are the Jews and recently the Muslims. However the anti-Semitism of this Right does not always translate into animosity towards Israel. In the era of the cold war, most of the far-right considered Israel as the fortress of the west in the face of the Soviet Union. However this rapprochement was always hindered by the position of the far-right with regards to the holocaust. With the end of the cold war, and the redefining of the enemy, Israel moved from the impervious fortress in the face of the communist danger to the strongest ally of the new American enemy. This development was accompanied by a change in the perception of some of this right and their rapprochement to some of the European groups, in a step some researchers attribute to the appearance of a new danger for this Right in Europe, namely the Muslims.

This comparison remains somehow simplistic, for Islamophobia can represent an incentive for this rapprochement, however it does not explain the radical change in the perception of the far-right towards the foreigner. A few decade ago, we find that some of the prominent faces of the far-right were either Jewish or of Jewish origins, one of the most eminent examples is the vice-president of the National Front and life partner of Marine Le Pen, Louis Aliot, who has Jewish Algerian roots. Moreover, in the French parliamentary elections of 2012, the national front nominated the Jewish Michel Toris for one of the seats in Paris. Also, Far-right Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Defence League, were always close to the far-right, first to the (Bloc identitaire) then to the National Front. If we go back in time to the early nineteen twenties, we find that Mussolini’s fascist party included many Jews.[8] Hence we see that the far-right antagonizes the “foreigner” who tries to hold on to his idiosyncrasies and characteristics, while accepting the “foreigner” who adopts the values and principles of this Right – or in other words, who fuses nationally, according to the fascist expressions – then this foreigner becomes a part of that right, in that case he can assume leading positions such as Serge Ayoub who is from Lebanese origins. Therefore it will be no surprise to find Muslims among the electoral list of some of the far-right parties in Europe, and that’s in the near future.

This is with regards of the internal foreigner so what about the external one? From the unstable relationship between the Far-right and the Jews and Israel, and despite the recent antagonism with Israel, some of this right such as the National Front is trying to restore what was severed for internal electoral reasons. In this context, Marine Le Pen has declared to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2011 that “The National Front was a constant supporter of the Zionist movement and a constant defender of Israel’s right to exist.”

However, we would be mistaken to think of this speech just as an electoral campaign, it has to be considered carefully and seriously. Defending Israel’s right to exist does not necessarily mean supporting it, the support is for the Zionist movement, i.e. for another far-right nationalist ideology, that decided to create an entity outside the European Nationalistic movements. The far-right parties while denying foreigners the right to be within its national and geographical borders, do not deny it the right to exist within its own geographical borders, as long as it does not clash with its own sphere. This explains the cooperation and communication between the far-right parties internationally.

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

Hezbollah, what a group salute that is!

This clarifies the original seeming paradox. There is no contradiction in the support of the Far-right for the Syrian regime, and their animosity towards the Syrian refugees in their countries even if they were pro-regime. Moreover, animosity towards Islam becomes a secondary reason to back Assad. We mustn’t forget that this Right supports, even boasts about fighting side to side with an Islamic party, Hizbollah, as declared by the organization “Black Tulip”. One can also see clearly the pivotal role of the far-right parties that are Assad’s regime’s allies, in forming and strengthening this relationship and what that entails. This explains the regular visits of this European right to Beirut to meet parties such as the Syrian National Social party. The role of this party in particular and its network with the European Far-right deserves deeper consideration, to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Conclusion

This article has attempted to look at the Far-right in general, while in reality this right has various ideologies. This difference takes many forms according to the type and volume of these groups, from the bigger more pragmatic parties to the intellectual circles and the more radical paramilitary groups. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same, even if the difference in form seems radical, this remains particular and not essential. As we have seen in this article, any reading or analysis of the Right’s position has to take into consideration that the ideology that this right portrays is moving and constantly changing. One of the important tools for analysis and rapprochement is the basis that Paxton deduced such as to feel the crushing burden of a crisis that cannot be solved in a traditional way, priority of the group over the individual, considering the mass as victim and fearing for its demise. There is a need for a closer-knitted purer society, etc…

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

the Far Left sure looks like the Far Right, Good thing there is the hammer and sickle to remind us!

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

Hands off Syria, Love to Assad

As for why does the far-right support the Syrian regime? The main reason is that the ideological crossing between the right and what it represents and what the Syrian regime represents has happened at this historical moment. For this Right, this represents one of the aspects of its advertising campaign with the enemy – the new symbol. This support also represents its difference from the other European political parties and movements, which he accuses of being a toy in the hand of this enemy. Although this Right knows that it is not possible to exploit this support internally, because of the bad reputation and violence of the Syrian regime, the development of events in Syria allows it to exploit European public opinion through sympathizing with the situation of the Christians in the east for example, or through the topic of European Jihadists in Syria. This matter requires further investigation to reveal the extent and ramification of these relations.

Most importantly, one of the main incentives behind these reasons is the inherent opportunism of the Far-right’s ideology that will not hesitate in taking whatever stance or doing whatever it takes to get even a little closer to power.

[1]                      Ariane Chebel d’Appolonia, L’Extrême droite en France. De Maurras à Le Pen, Bruxelles: Editions Complexe et PUF, 1987.

[2]                      Sylvain Crépon, La nouvelle extrême droite: Enquête sur les jeunes militants du front National, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006.

[3]                      Local examples for this: the rapprochement of the National Social Syrian Party in Lebanon to the Marxist propositions in the sixties, after a failed coup on New Year’s Eve 1962.

[4]                      Robert Paxton, the Anatomy of Fascism, New York: Knopf, 2004.

[5]                      Paxton, 2004

[6]                      Marine Le Pen, Pour que vive la Farnce, Paris: Grancher, 2012

[7]                      Paxton, 2004

[8]                      Paxton, 2004

Translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak from Arabic ORIGINAL http://al-manshour.org/node/4904&usg=ALkJrhjqYVOhwg5JmixoJ5kn2QJQJfWlMA 

 

supporters of the "secular" Assad bow down to kiss his mega poster.

supporters of the “secular” Assad bow down to kiss his mega poster.

WRITTEN BY JEAN -PIERRE FILIU, translated by Mary Rizzo

Among the arguments put forward constantly by proponents of the Syrian dictatorship , standing out is the presumed  ” secularism” of the Assad regime. It is striking that “secularism” is associated with the illusory protection of minorities (while the percentage of Christians in the Syrian population has halved since the advent of Hafez Assad in 1970) and the promotion of women’s rights.

Yet these two concepts have nothing to do with secularism, which expresses the neutrality of the State towards all faiths, whether they can be labelled as religious or not. The French Republic had built its secularism during the crisis with the Catholic Church and the events that emerged thereof.

The separation of church and state in 1905, in France came 40 years before the right to vote for women. And the French Revolution had, according to the famous formula of one of its members, recognised establishment of the rights of religious minorities as rights due to citizens, and not to a community.

This has not prevented the Arab dictators to enhance the idea of their “commitment” to the emancipation of women (Ben Ali in Tunisia) or for the protection of minorities (Copts in Egypt by Mubarak). This has brought about a paternalistic strategy of their propaganda towards the population (“without me, poor subjects, there exists only the greatest threat), and their seemingly “progressive” appearance on the international scene (I’m the only bulwark against the forces of darkness, Islamism, or Al Qaeda).

Yet, never has been such a lie been brought to the level that the Assad regime has taken it.

Hafez al-Assad, the founder of the dynasty, took power in 1970 against those who drafted – the year before – the only constitution in the history of Syria that could actually be described as “secular “. Assad the father “regulated” his manoeuver with a masquerade election, in 1971, attributing 99.2% of the votes to its sole candidate.

It amended the Constitution in 1973 to guarantee the explicit belonging of the Head of State to the Muslim religion.

The term “secularism” is absent from the official propaganda, which celebrates its successes with the words “socialist” and “nationalist” of the Assad regime. In 1979, the Syrian Baath Party, officially “Arab” and “socialist”, had allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Iraqi Baath Party. This alliance, sealed by the war launched by Tehran against Baghdad in 1980, remains the same until this day.

20131015-125818Assad father and son support a Ministry of Religious Affairs (known as “Waqf”) and a Mufti of the Republic to establish an Islamic bureaucracy. The management of a body of religious officials is the exact opposite of the secular separation of religion and state. In Syria, the Imams are expected every Friday to celebrate the glory of the Head of State and his achievements.

In addition to this ministry integrated with the machine politics of the dictatorship, Assad has co-opted Sunni personalities, responsible for consolidating the presidential legitimacy in the ranks of the majority community in Syria. We should remember that, in the absence of official statistics, the percentage of Sunnis in Syria is estimated at four-fifths (mainly Arabs, with a Kurdish minority) and 12% are Alawites (all ethnically Arabs).

Among these public figures, the most notable were Kaftaro Sheikh Ahmad, who died in 2004, and Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a bombing in 2013. Both were known for their unconditional support to the Assad regime, and their vigorous attacks against the principle of secularism, which was considered as godlessness.

In February 2006, it was in Damascus where there were the most violent protests against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the press of the West: the Syrian secret police organised events that led to the attack of the French Embassy and the destruction of the embassies of Denmark and Norway.

Those who still believe in the “secularism” of Bashar al-Assad could, for example, see this press release by Government Information (SANA) relative to the preaching at the end of Ramadan 2012 (Eid al-Fitr): “The sheikh leading the ceremony praised the struggle of the Head of State at the service of Islam against “conspiracy and terrorism.”

http://sana.sy/fra/51/2012/08/19/437134.htm

But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear …

* Jean -Pierre Filiu is a university lecturer at Sciences Po (Paris).

Arabist and historian, specialist in contemporary Islam.

After a long diplomatic career, he devoted himself to academic research, and has held various positions at prestigious American universities. He is the author of several important books on the Middle East and his essays have been published in a dozen languages ​​.

One of his latest books is dedicated to Syria: “I am writing of Aleppo” (Denoël , 2013).

Original: http://syriemdl.net/2014/04/02/le-mythe-de-la-laicite-des-assad/

This is a transcript of a presentation given by Palestinian anarchist Budour Hassan on 17 November 2013 at a Teach in on Syria in New York organized by the MENA Solidarity Newtork US . There is a link to the video of the presentation below.

*******

In April of 2011 a famous megastar Egyptian blogger told Syrian revolutionaries that they needed to raise Palestinian flags during the demonstrations on Friday just to prove that they support the Palestinian resistance and to deny the narrative by the regime that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

Now I asked myself then, do Syrians have to do that? Do Syrians have to raise the Palestinian flag just to prove that they support Palestine? Do Syrians have to show their nationalist credentials so the world supports their cause? And the answer was clear to me then: No, Syrians do not have to do that. Now a Syrian friend told me at the start of the uprising that we avoided raising Palestinian flags and talking about Palestine not because we don’t support the Palestinian cause, but because this cause was exploited by the regime to a degree that turned it into just a political tool, and we love Palestine so much that we don’t agree to turn the cause into a political tool, and this is why we avoided using it. And I think that Syrians do not have to do this, Syrians do not have to wave a Palestinian flag to prove that they support us. Because Palestine is not a flag. Definitely Palestine is much more than that.

Palestine is the refugees in Yarmouk camp who supported the revolution from the first day, who aided displaced Syrians and who participated in protests, documented the uprising, and helped as much as they could. The revolution is also the Palestinian refugees in al Raml refugee camp in Latakia who took a hard beating by the regime and had to deal with a heavy crackdown starting from July 2011. And the revolution lives not in the palaces of the regime, nor in the speeches of a resistance leader who thinks that just because he leads a resistance movement this gives him the right to speak in the name of Palestinians, and to kill innocent people in Syria not just in the name of resistance but also in the name of Palestine. So this is why I think that Syrians do not have to prove anything to anyone.

Secondly, even though if we suppose that the Syrian regime does in fact support the Palestinian resistance, does it mean that this allows the Syrian regime to control Syria, to prevent people from expressing their opinions, to kill and torture hundreds of thousands of Syrians just because they dare say no to more than 40 years of oppression, to more than 40 years of injustice? Of course not. Even if Bashar al Assad was the only person capable of liberating Palestine I would not support him, and I’m sure that many Palestinians would not do so either. Because our liberation cannot be established on the enslavement of another people, particularly when this enslavement is an enslavement of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

And in fact the truth is that the Syrian regime has never truly supported Palestine; for the Syrian regime, Palestine has always been a fig leaf and always been a political tool. And it started from the 1970s when the Syrian regime helped other militias in Lebanon to crack down on the refugees in Tel al-Zaatar. The siege and massacre in Tel al-Zaatar cannot be forgotten. And the massacres that the regime helped the Amal party in Lebanon commit in the 1980s also against refugees in Lebanon and against the PLO cannot be forgotten either. And the siege the regime is imposing in Yarmouk refugee camp, preventing people from getting medical aid or baby milk, preventing people from going in and out of the refugee camp, cannot be tolerated and cannot be just ignored, as many are doing unfortunately just because they think that this regime is for resistance, and that this regime is for the human rights of Palestinians.

Now the thing is that me as a Palestinian, I don’t need to say this for many people just to convince them about the justice of the Syrian cause. Because in my opinion it is very clear that this revolution was a revolution for freedom and dignity. But unfortunately for many of us here in Palestine, because there is a polarization among Palestinians, as is the case in many other Arab countries, about the Syrian regime, we had to say it over and over again and to try to convince our comrades — or our former comrades – that they need to stop supporting the Syrian regime, that all we hear about the Syrian regime’s support of resistance is nothing but propaganda.

Now unfortunately it didn’t really help. People mostly stick to their opinions regarding the regime. If we want to talk about what the reaction of Palestinians toward the Syrian revolution is, it varies. Unfortunately the left, mostly the mainstream left, supports the Assad regime. And here lies the irony, because one of the most supportive parties of the regime is called the Israeli Communist Party, and it supports the regime because, it says, “Well, this regime is against imperialism.” But at the same time these people had absolutely no problem in participating in protests alongside Zionists in Tel Aviv, liberal Zionists for instance. So how can you say that you support the Syrian regime because it is against imperialism and on the other hand participate in protests with Zionists?

And also there are others who say that we supported the Syrian Revolution when it was nonviolent, but then after it got violent we couldn’t support it anymore, and it was hijacked. So yes, the Syrian Revolution was indeed hijacked, and we know that there are many Salafis, many jihadists and many other groups, and many pro-America and pro-imperialist groups that tried to hijack the Syrian Revolution. But that does not by any means tarnish the Syrian Revolution, and it also doesn’t mean that just because a revolutionary movement was hijacked that we should stand on the sidelines and stop supporting it.

Of course there are still so many revolutionaries working on the ground, many of them are nonviolent, and there are even many nonsectarian armed brigades that we cannot ignore. If the revolution was hijacked we don’t just go and start blaming the people for it being hijacked. We actually do everything to side with the people in order to get the revolution back on the right track. And this is what many leftists couldn’t understand.

Now on the other side of the spectrum you have the right wingers and the Islamists who support the Syrian Revolution but not truly because they believe in the right of freedom and dignity, but because they think that it is a Sunni uprising against an Alawite regime. Now this is why it was for me very hard to participate in protests organized by Islamists in support of the Revolution, because for me, although of course there are religious movements inside the Revolution, it still a Revolution for freedom, equality, social justice and dignity. And this is why I cannot agree with the line of the Islamists here in Palestine who support the Revolution just because they see it as Sunni versus Alawite.

Now there is a small section among the Palestinian left that supports the Syrian Revolution that doesn’t lecture Syrians about what they have to do, and how they failed. And we managed to organize a few protests, in Haifa for instance, in Jeruslaem, and in other places in Palestine. Although they were small protests I think it meant a lot for us to show the Syrian people that yes there are people in Palestine who stand with you, and there are people who don’t buy into the regime propaganda.

I mean it says a lot that in Syria right now there is an intelligence branch, one of the most notorious intelligence branches in Syria, it’s called “Palestine.” That means that there are people being tortured, including Palestinans, by the way, that are being tortured in the name of Palestine, in the name of our country, in the name of our cause, because we believe it is a cause for freedom.

Now to those Palestinians and to those people who believe that the Syrian regime is truly supportive of Palestine, and who do not support the Revolution, who stand on the side and say “no, we don’t want to support the Revolution, or who remain neutral: I say you have a Palestine and I have my own.

Your Palestine is an intelligence branch in Damascus that kills and tortures people, while my Palestine is Khaled Bakrawi, the martyr from the Yarmouk refugee camp, who was arrested and tortured to death. Your Palestine is a speech by Bashar al-Assad, while my Palestine is the chants of Syrian freedom fighters in Hama. Your Palestine is just empty rhetoric, while my Palestine is people in Bustan al-Qasr raising the picture of Samer Assawi, the hunger-striking prisoner.

My Palestine is people from the north to the south chanting in solidarity with Gaza during the recent war on Gaza last year and saying “Oh Gaza, we are with you ‘til death.” They did it when they were bombarded by the Assad regime and they were shelled. My Palestine is that of the Syrian Revolutionary Youth in Damascus who raised a pamphlet in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Nakab and said “Prawer shall not pass!”

So Syrian revolutionaries, even when they face the most terrible cases of torture, of persecution, and of crackdown, they still remember their sisters and brothers in Palestine, they still chant in solidarity with them and do not forget about the prisoners.

So I think it is very important to remember that, and to remember the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian prisoners who still languish in regime jails, for example Ali Shihabi, the communist Palestinian who has been detained in Syrian regime jails for almost a year, and Maher al-Jajeh also, another youth activist from Yarmouk refugee camp, who has been detained by the Syrian regime for more than a year and no one knows what is going on with his case now.

Also we will not forget the martyr Anas Amara, who was murdered simply because he was trying to get aid into Yarmouk refugee camp and trying to break the siege. And my Palestine is that also of Jihad Asad Muhammad, the Syrian journalist who even prior to the Syrian Revolution was always writing in solidarity with Palestine, and who like many others did not believe that this Palestine is Bashar al-Assad’s Palestine, but this is a cause that interests all Arabs.

So I just ask one last thing: I ask people who think that Bashar al-Assad supports Palestine or still believe his propaganda, just go over history a little bit, read more about what he and his father did to Palestine and to the Palestinian camps. And even if you are not convinced, don’t let this fact, don’t let political gains affect your support of the Syrian revolution. Because it is obviously not about geopolitics. We do not know whether if the revolution wins in Syria how will that affect the Palestinian cause. It might indeed damage us, I do not know. But I do not care on the other hand. Because my support of the Syrian Revolution is unconditional.

And I do believe that even though it is getting more and more complicated, and despite all the terrible groups that are trying to hijack the Syrian Revolution, especially the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, which we obviously oppose like so many Syrians, the same Syrians who started protest against the regime and are also protesting against the Islamic State, so I have faith in these people. I have faith in a woman like Souad Nofal, I have faith in those who are so resilient and steadfast in Damascus and in Daraa, birthplace of the Revolution, and in Aleppo and in Salamieh, the fantastic city that has been protesting since the first days of the uprising.

So I have faith in these people, that even though things are getting more and more complicated, that they can manage to keep the uprising going, and even if this means bad things for my cause I really do not care. What I care about is the freedom and dignity of my Syrian sisters and brothers, and to reject that my name or my country or my cause be used or coopted by the Syrian regime to kill and persecute my sisters and brothers in Syria.

agnes (1) (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.

Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to “withdraw” from the conference and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric’s participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.

Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam’s inclusion in an anti-war event to be a “red line” for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to—rather than a neutral observer of—the war in Syria.

Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad’s 21 August 2013 sarin-gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”

According to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes “has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime”.

Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. The also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”

Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are non-existent.  No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.

Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine.

Signatories:

  1. Prof. Gilbert Achcar, SOAS
  2. Assaad al-Achi, Local Coordination Committees in Syria
  3. Rime Allaf, Syrian writer
  4. Omar al-Assil, Syrian Non-Violence Movement
  5. Hussam Ayloush, Chairman, Syrian American Council
  6. Noor Barotchi, Bradford Syria Solidarity
  7. Mark Boothroyd, International Socialist Network
  8. Kat Burdon-Manley, International Socialist Network
  9. Clara Connolly, Human Rights lawyer
  10. Paul Conroy, photojournalist
  11. Donnacha DeLong, National Union of Journalists
  12. Hannah Elsisi, Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist
    Raed Fares, Head of Kafranabel Media Centre
  13. Naomi Foyle, writer and co-ordinator of British Writers in Support of Palestine
  14. Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist
  15. Christine Gilmore,  Leeds Friends of Syria
  16. Golan Haji, poet and translator
  17. Marcus Halaby, staff writer, Workers Power
  18. Sam Charles Hamad, activist
  19. Nebal Istanbouly, Office Manager of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
  20. Tehmina Kazi, human rights activist
  21. Ghalia Kabbani, Syrian journalist and writer
  22. Khaled Khalifa, Syrian writer
  23. Malik Little, blogger
  24. Amer Scott Masri, Scotland4Syria
  25. Margaret McAdam, Unite Casa Branch NW567 (pc)
  26. Yassir Munif, sociologist and activist
  27. Tom Mycock, Unite shop steward (pc)
  28. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
  29. Tim Nelson, Unison Shop Steward (pc)
  30. Louis Proyect, Counterpunch contributor
  31. Martin Ralph, VP Liverpool TUC (pc)
  32. Ruth Riegler, co-founder of Radio Free Syria, Syrian International Media Alliance
  33. Mary Rizzo, activist, translator and blogger
  34. Christopher Roche and Dima Albadra, Bath Solidarity
  35. Walid Saffour, Representative of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
  36. Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
  37. David St Vincent, contributing writer and editor, National Geographic Books
  38. Reem Salahi, civil rights lawyer
  39. Salim Salamah, Palestinian blogger
  40. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer
  41. Richard Seymour, author
  42. Bina Shah, author and contributor to the International New York Times
  43. Leila Shrooms, founding member of Tahrir-ICN
  44. Luke Staunton, International Socialist Network
  45. KD Tait, National Secretary, Workers Power
  46. Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
  47. Paris Thompson, International Socialist Network
  48. Hassan Walid, Anas el-Khani and Abdulwahab Sayyed Omar, British Solidarity for Syria
  49. Robin Yassin-Kassab, author and co-editor of Critical Muslim
  50. Qusai Zakariya, activist from Moadamiyeh, Syria
  51. Nisreen al-Zaraee and Wisam al-Hamoui. Freedom Days
  52. Tasneem al-Zeer, activist
  53. Razan Zeitouneh, human rights lawyer

    originally published on: http://pulsemedia.org/2013/11/20/open-letter-to-the-stop-the-war-coalition/

Syria: Getting out of the abyss that Assad has created, before it is too late

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio

Father Paolo Dall’Oglio

Interview with Father Paolo Dall’Oglio by Antonella Vicini, 9 January 2013 from Reset – Dialogues on Civilizations (translated by Mary Rizzo)

A discourse that in fact reaffirms the status quo and sixty thousand deaths that since 15 March 2011 (to January 2013, tr. note) have plunged Syria into a bloodbath: Bashar al-Assad and the Organisation of the United Nations have indicated the salient points of the current situation in the country. The former, speaking from the House of Culture in Damascus in front of his supporters, proposed a three-stage plan that substantially eliminates the revolutionary forces, labelled as “Western puppets” and the latter, in recent days, has published a series of disturbing numbers. From July to now, in correspondence with the increase of the military offensive, the dead are calculated at about 5 thousand per month, mostly civilians (approximately 76 percent). But this is only partial data: right from the title of the report the word is in fact of Preliminary Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in Syria. “This figure is far higher than we expected. And it’s really shocking,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Also higher than the 45 thousand victims counted so far by groups linked to the opposition.

Torture, attacks on protected sites, the use of banned weapons and in general the human rights violations are delineating – as can be read also in the last report dated 2012 of the Independent International Commission of Investigation on Syria led by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro – a conflict with an increasingly sectarian character that is now extended also to those minorities initially “inclined to be neutral and non-hostile” and that reveal the presence of foreign fighters “with their own agenda.” A conflict that brought “immeasurable destruction and human suffering to the civilian population” and that cannot foresee “any military victory.”

“The only way to achieve an immediate cessation of violence is a negotiated political solution that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.” Thus was the conclusion of the updating of the Syrian situation relative to September and December, 2012, probably simplifying the complexity of the current situation on the ground.

The person who knows the Syrian context, in its areas of light and shadow, is no doubt someone like Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who has lived in the country for over thirty years. Founder of the monastic community of Deir Mar Musa, in the desert north of Damascus, Father Paolo has always been engaged in interfaith dialogue with the Islamic world and until last June, before being forced to leave by the regime, has spoken about the tragedy that he has witnessed daily in first person accounts.

The new UN report has just been released where a denouncement is made of 60 thousand deaths since the beginning of the conflict.

I cannot make an assessment of the number of deaths on a technical basis because it’s not my task to do that, and I note that often revolutionary movements tend to drive up the numbers for propaganda purposes. But the UN, bringing together different reasonably credible sources has arrived at an even greater number (15 thousand more compared to the 45 thousand already reported, ed. note). This does not surprise me, but I am afraid that once the dust has settled, when you can make a more accurate count, the numbers will be even higher. You cannot perpetrate months and months of aerial bombardments on civilian populations imagining to get balances of victims that look like surgical operations, which are also more than questionable on moral grounds. In Syria there is no action to hit the Resistance leaders but to kill the Syrians, en masse. The moral code of the Assad regime is one is with Assad or there will be destruction of the country.

How do you explain the substantial absence and delay of the international community on Syria?

Once defined by the regime, and by its friends, the “Islamist threat” in Syria, the international community has self-legitimised its maintaining a position of stalling and waiting: there will be no democracy in Syria, then there is no reason to take steps to activate for democracy of the Syrians. We are faced with a paradox, this position of wait-and-see has created the conditions for the expansion of radical Islamism.

The revolution, as a whole, has condemned the first actions of these groups as conspiracy actions conducted by the Syrian state. I never succumbed to this temptation, but remote-controlled manipulation is nothing new in the Syrian panorama, and there have been regime manipulations of extremist cells. Without simplifying, I say that the activity of Islamic extremism was part of the regime’s postulate since the very beginning, where they claimed the revolution was terrorism paid for by foreigners, then when this area branched, complex and effective, it has been able to take the initiative and the head of the revolution in military terms, these groups have provoked in the international community a self-justification to refrain from action. There was an incredible miscalculation and these same groups have exploded in the hands of the regime.

In the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, it is said that, given the situation on the ground, a military solution to the conflict is now impossible, and that it is instead desirable to begin negotiations. But at this moment a negotiated solution seems impractical.

The regime wants negotiations to the extent that it needs more time to continue the systematic destruction of Syria and thus enter into the third phase and try to take the country back in its own hands. I was expecting that the regime in Damascus would work to divide the country on the line of the Orontes, once acknowledged the fact of not being able to maintain control over everything. Faced with a general revolution the only thing possible would be a Syrian Kosovo, hedging their bets on Alawite solidarity and other minorities living in that area, such as, in fact, the Christians; this is a solution accepted by Iran (Shiite, ed. note) as a lesser evil. This has not happened so far and in revolutionary circles it is said that it cannot happen because the rebels have so deeply penetrated even in that area that the regime would no longer be able to have such a division.

Why had it not chosen the way of secession as long as it was possible?

I can give you two reasons. One is psychological. Bashar al-Assad has always said I am a man of Damascus and not of the Alawite mountains. His cultural and mental space is all of Syria. In this sense, paradoxically, Assad would be a “non-sectarian”. He uses his sect for his power, but a power that if it is not of the whole of Syria, it does not interest him. We see this as a disconnect between his own idea of ​​himself and reality.

The other hypothesis assumes that the regime is a complex matter, divided between Ba’ath ideology, which is obviously not for secession, and the logic of the Alawite family. These two souls have been separated in time but not enough to contemplate the geographical dislocation of the country.

You have spoken of the need to begin to govern at least the liberated zones.

I have written in Arabic just two days ago, on Facebook, asking the head of the coalition to immediately set up in the liberated territories the sole government of transition. It is an operation that should be done immediately because it would eliminate the impression that the Syrian revolution is now entirely in the hands of Muslim extremists who are subversive and clandestine and they can begin to restore the country to the Syrians. On the ground there are practical problems such as lack of water, electricity, labour, wages.

Do you believe it is still too early to talk about the future of the minorities?

It is not early, in fact you have to talk about it now, but it is very difficult to see the future because of the omission of international relief. There is hope that the revolution as a whole may have a capacity of self-discipline that allows them to form that unity of the country in the reconciliation desired by everyone in the democratic revolution in Syria. Only some extremist military groups seem to threaten the destiny of minorities, even if they have never attacked Christians as such.

In recent days, however, there was a complaint by Mother Agnes Mariam (Carmelite and superior of the Deir Mar Yocoub monastery of Qara, known to be very critical of the rebels, ed. note) in this regard.

Mother Agnes knows how to dose the words and she is only, I repeat and I emphasise, the (able) clerical expression of the deceitful manipulation action of the Syrian regime. Mother Agnes is a self-proclaimed leader of a movement that does not exist on the ground, Musalaha (Reconciliation, ed note), and it is a real problem because for her interpretation of the facts is always selective and one-sided: that the revolution is terrorism!

How do you see a possible Syria after Assad and after nearly two years of war?

I believe that the profound nature of democratic Syria will be a laboratory of civil evolution and policy making of the Islamist Arab area of great interest. Syria has a cultural dignity of Islam that is different from that of the Gulf.

This is my vow, my hope and also the space of my commitment. At the end of January I will participate in the commission of the Syrian revolution that deals with preventing the massacres in the moment of victory and I hope, in February, to be able to re-enter the country. Syria cannot win the revolution leaving a hundred thousand Alawites deaths in its wake. We must find a way, even ideological and theological, to say that there will be no revenge against the Alawites and that all criminals will be judged with fairness.

See http://www.resetdoc.org

Nun on Irish visit accused of peddling ‘regime lies’ about crisis in Syria

17/08/12

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent (The Irish Times)

AN ITALIAN Jesuit expelled from Syria in June due to his outspoken criticism of government violence has accused a controversial nun who visited Ireland last week of peddling “regime lies” about the crisis there.

Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, who lived in Syria for 30 years and has been heavily involved in interfaith work in the country, described Mother Agnes Mariam as “an instrument” of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “She has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona,” he told The Irish Times yesterday. “She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime.”

During her four-day visit to Ireland last week, Mother Agnes Mariam, who is superior at the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery in Syria, gave media interviews in which she claimed Christians in Syria were facing “extinction” and that rebels battling Assad were predominantly foreigners linked with al-Qaeda.

Fr Dall’Oglio, who has spent time with opposition activists in several restive parts of Syria, said these claims were “ridiculous” and constituted regime propaganda.

“I have been there, I know the people, including the youth, who are working for the revolution, and I know that what she is saying is insane. It corresponds with the regime version of the facts,” he said.

Mother Agnes Mariam, who visited Dublin and Belfast, had separate meetings with representatives of the Irish Bishops Conference justice and peace committee, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

One of her interlocutors here was taken aback when the nun claimed during their meeting that the Houla massacre, in which more than 100 civilians, more than half of them children, were killed, was an elaborate hoax concocted by rebels. This week a UN commission of inquiry concluded that Syrian government forces and the pro-Assad militia known as shabiha were responsible for the massacre.

In March, Mother Agnes Mariam was accused of running a “misinformation campaign” by a US-based Syrian opposition group called Syrian Christians for Democracy.

It said she maintains “close ties” to the Assad family and alleged she had fed selected visiting journalists “distorted facts and fake testimonies for the sole purpose of tarnishing the opposition’s image”.

The group referred to the role of a number of Christians in the Syrian uprising.

“Mother Agnes and those helping her are harming the Syrian people by disseminating negative pro-Assad propaganda and tearing at Syria’s social and religious fabrics,” it said. “The Christians in Syria, as well as the rest of the population, are in need of undivided support, backing, and funding. They do not need divisive rumours and the propagation of inaccurate information.”

Mother Agnes Mariam’s trip to Ireland was organised by Alan Lonergan, who acts as churches liaison officer with Sadaka, an Irish pro-Palestinian advocacy group, though he arranged the visit in a personal capacity.

“The impression people have of what is happening in Syria is very black and white,” he said. “We need to examine more of the grey area.”

Filed Under: Assad’s Regimedistorted factsItalian JesuitMother Agnes MariamPropaganda,Syria

http://syrianfreedom.org/nun-on-irish-visit-accused-of-peddling-regime-lies-about-crisis-in-syria

http://www.irishtimes.com/premium/loginpage?destination=http://www.irishtimes.com/news/nun-on-irish-visit-accused-of-peddling-regime-lies-about-crisis-in-syria-1.538877

thanks to Treasa

Still from the beheading video... Released by SyriaTruth, a proRegime "information" site, wonder how they got it, don't you?

Still from the beheading video… Released by SyriaTruth, a proRegime “information” site, wonder how they got it, don’t you?

By Lorenzo Trombetta, for Europa – Translated by Mary Rizzo

With a terrifying growl and a nasty sneer the self-styled “judge” of a group of fundamentalist Islamic criminals pronounce the sentence: condemned to death by beheading – indeed, having their throats slit – for having cooperated with the regime. One of the three condemned men, which, as we are shown in the amateur film, is slaughtered by a butcher with a beret like those used in Afghanistan, is according to the caption, Father François Murad, a Franciscan. But his killing, in north-eastern Syria, had been reported three days earlier by another Franciscan, who had said they had recovered the body of Murad but had not reported that the body was headless.

This is one of the first and most obvious inconsistencies of a news that has been shrieked by Radio France Internationale and immediately broadcast, in a more or less uncritical manner, by most of the Western media: “Three Franciscans were beheaded in Syria by armed militiamen.” The gruesome video had been released by the network SyriaTruth, which for at least two years has been working as a megaphone in the West to defend the cause of Bashar al Assad’s regime.

According to a Syrian source in the region of Idlib, heard by Europa, the three were not priests but instead are “collaborators” of the regime. About an hour after the publication of the video, even the denial of Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land arrived: “None of this is true as far as we know. The monks in the region are all alive.” And it is again Pizzaballa on 24 June who did not hesitate to confirm, however, the news of the killing of the ‘”hermit” François Murad in Ghassaniye. This is a place near Jisr ash Shughur, in the north-western region of Idlib and inhabited until 2012 by a Christian majority. About a year ago Ghassaniye was conquered by Syrian insurgent fringes, which were replaced shortly after by militiamen of the Jabhat an Nusra Front, labelled as Al Qaeda – and considered by the U.S. as well as by Assad a “terrorist group” – more and more composed of mujahidin foreigners.

By their own admission, the militia of the Nusra Front are fighting for a cause unrelated to that of the rebels and anti-Syrian regime activists: the removal of the regime is only the first step in a much more challenging path towards the creation of a state entity dominated their interpretation of Islamic law. The link between the alleged beheading of the Franciscans and the Nusra Front is immediately established by many media, including Italian ones, based on the caption – where the agency Fides is cites – and on the fact that the crime in the film took place in Ghassaniye.

The video shows a group of people, many of them with Central Asian, South-east Asian and North African somatic features, around at least three people kneeling on the ground, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. One can see two shady characters standing: the Executioner, wearing an Afghan paqul and speaking Arabic with a strong foreign accent (there are those who say he is a Chechen), and the “judge”, an older man who, for all appearances, seems to have just taken part, as the ogre, in the last film in the saga of the Lord of the Rings.

In the film there is no reference to the condemned parties as belonging to religious orders or as Christians. Neither does it state that they are executed as unbelievers – kuffar – but because they are “collaborators of the regime.” One of the reasons cited by the Executioner is that “in their mobile phones numbers of officers of the security services (of the regime) of Aleppo were found.” After the chanting of the classic Allahu Akbar (God is great) the execution begins.

There are many reasons to doubt the authenticity of the caption of the video, where a connection is made between the killing of Father Murad with the beheading of the three individuals who are as yet unidentified. And it is true that the denial of Pizzaballa, in itself, closes the discussion. But there are some confusing elements that recur – and that will continue to recur – in the context of a practice of disinformation aimed particularly at identifying these criminals as the rebels Syrians, with the all too evident  aim of pushing the news consumer to conclude that things were better when things were worse. That the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in the end, is the best guarantee for avoiding descent into this hell.

The first issue concerns the origin of these criminals: they are not Syrians. They do not speak as Syrians, do not dress as Syrians and do not follow accepted practices in Syria. The second point – as pointed out to Europa by Alberto Savioli, a scholar of tribes in Syria, granted some authority due to his many years in Syria – it is unlikely that these militants belong to the Nusra Front. “In the film you cannot see their militia insignia. While in all their videos their flags and their logo always are present.” Savioli also points out that “no one of the Nusra Front or some other similar group has claimed responsibility for the killing of father Murad or the beheadings of these three individuals. But the Nusra Front always claims its actions.”

Even Lorenzo Declich, a scholar of radical Islam, insists that “those of the Nusra Front do not have problems with Christians. At least at the rhetorical level, they have always claimed that their struggle is not directed against the Christians. These persons – continues Declich – seem more like Chechens.”

Amedeo Ricucci, Italian journalist who months ago, together with other colleagues, spent several days precisely in Ghassaniye as prisoner of members of the Nusra Front, expressed strong doubts about the fact that the authors of the crime recorded in the video the others present are “people present at Ghassaniye, which is a place presided over by Nusra Front and garrisoned by a brigade of the Free Syrian Army. In the Nusra Front nobody is dressed as those included in the clip,” Ricucci says, who well remembers Father Murad because he met him in person right in the village when it had a Christian majority: “I do not recognise absolutely that he is Father Murad – he says – and I would tend to exclude the possibility that he might be one of the two with their throats cut.”

For Father Paolo dall’Oglio, a Jesuit who has spent more than thirty years in Syria and who was expelled a year ago by the regime in Damascus, “it is clear that there are criminal groups that operate in Syria and that they are anti-Christian. But remember that these are the same groups that the Syrian regime has previously used in Iraq in a subversive sense.” Father Paolo, however, accuses some Italian and European media platforms for their activities in support of the Assad rhetoric: “There is an objective convergence between the work of disinformation of the regime and the receptors of information of Catholic identity that are always ready to take the bait of the hooks of the regime ,” says the Jesuit, who now lives in northern Iraq.

“The regime wants to show that the revolution is terrorism and persecution of Christians in order to obtain the paralysis of European democracies and the support of the Islamophobic Catholic identity areas.” Father Paolo calls for the creation of an “international court of justice for all these crimes. Because we cannot use these sectarian crimes committed by radical Islamist criminals to justify the crimes of the regime.”

And from Kfar Nabl, a town in central Syria known for the creativity of its activists who draw cartoons and invent slogans, came an answer – this one yes, entirely Syrian – to the “shock video” of the ” beheaded Franciscans”: “Those who help Assad to survive – reads the banner photographed and reproduced on the Facebook profile of the local coordination committee – produce slaughter videos that demonise our legitimate revolution, which denounces all brutal actions.”  (Europa Quotidiano, 28 June 2013)
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Original: http://www.sirialibano.com/siria-2/lorco-e-luomo-nero-imperversano-in-siria.html