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mahmoud al bashaInterview with Mahmoud al-Basha by Francesco Petronella, previously published in the print version of Sedici Pagine Magazine

Q: A year ago, around Christmastime, the city of Aleppo was besieged, bombed and then evacuated. What are your memories of those days?

A: I still perfectly remember everything that happened. The insane bombardment of the Assad regime and the Russians struck the city with weapons, even ones that are internationally prohibited. I still remember when the Russians started to use thermobaric missiles and bunker busters. At that time, I was doing whatever I could to allow the international media to understand what was going on in the city. I worked a great deal with them to show and document how the Russians and the Assad regime were killing innocent civilians. They took aim at all the hospitals and water tanks, without allowing any humanitarian aid to enter into the city under siege. In this desperate situation, the Russian air raids struck my neighbourhood, causing the death of 31 civilians. One of the was my brother Anas.

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Anas al-Basha, the “clown” of Aleppo

Anas refused to leave the city before the siege started. I still remember his answer when I begged him to leave as soon as he could: “I’m not going to leave the city, I don’t want the children of Aleppo to feel so sad, I want to do something for them so that they smile and I want to help the poor civilians who are still living here.”

Only three days before he was killed, Anas was recording a voice message for me through WhatsApp to explain to me what the situation was like and how he was helping the people. “Now, I’m going to the bakery – he said – we’re going to distribute bread to the people who haven’t got anything to eat.” Then, all of a sudden, there was the terrible noise of an explosion that was just steps away from him. “Can you hear what an awful life we are living?” he asked me. “The Russian raids are striking everything, every single day.”

When he died, my family and I were unable to even give him our final goodbyes. My friends buried him in Aleppo with other innocent people, killed like he was.

Q: How has life in Aleppo changed a year since then?

Life hasn’t changed since last year. The only difference is that there are no longer the bombing raids, which ceased once the Assad forces controlled the entire city. The majority of the urban fabric is destroyed, simply rubble. The regime was unable to guarantee a better life, or even a normal life, to the people. In Aleppo, before the war, there were around 5 million people. Today, there are only 2 million. The majority of the civilian population has become homeless or has sought refuge in other parts of Syria or abroad. The persons who live in the city today have  returned under the control of regime intelligence, without freedom or rights. Most of the young people have fled Syria in order to avoid forced recruitment in the regime army. Today, Aleppo is swarming with militias that come from various countries. Everywhere you look you see Russian, Iranian and Iraqi flags. The Assad regime no longer has any decisional power, Russia and Iran are the ones who hold the reins, especially in the military and political sphere.

Q: After what took place in Aleppo a year ago, how has the relationship between Christians and Muslims changed in the city and in the entire country?

A: The relationship between Christians and Muslims has changed. As I said before, around 3 million people had left the city from the start of the war, among them, many Christians. They weren’t really involved in the war because it was very easy for them to get visas for the EU or the USA. The strategy of the Assad regime, since the start of the Syrian revolution, was that of taking advantage of the minorities and using them as a pawn, where they would pretend for the Western countries that they were the only ones protecting them. There are many Christians against the Assad regime, but they left Syria. Many of them play an active role in the political Syrian opposition.

Q: What do you think life will be like in Aleppo and in Syria a year from now?

A: I think it will be exactly the same as it is right now. Aleppo will remain a ghost town and a place of destruction. There is no water, no electricity. There is no hope and no future in the eyes of the civilians. Very many families of Aleppo have become refugees in different countries. Hundreds of extended families are no longer together because of this war.

The city of Aleppo will return to be full of life only when the war ends. When the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of persons will answer before the international courts of justice. When 500 thousand detainees are freed from the military prisons. When the international community will finally judge Bashar al-Assad for having used chemical weapons against innocent civilians. Aleppo will once again be a beautiful place only when those who have killed my brother Anas are facing Justice and are no longer able to kill persons, to kill children.

Mahmoud al-Basha is a Syrian journalist, fixer and activist. Hailing from Aleppo, Mahmoud currently lives in Turkey where he continues his work to raise awareness of the suffering and the terrible situation of his country.

Translation by Mary Rizzo
Original: https://levocidellaliberta.com/2018/01/27/natale-ad-aleppo-un-anno-dopo-la-tragedia/

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Ahmad Mola Nissi, Ahwazi activist in exile, shot dead by a masked gunman.

Iranian Regime Launches Terrorist Campaign of Assassinations Against Ahwazi Activists in Exile

By: Abdulrahman Hetteh (Specialist in the Field of International Law and Human Rights)

On Wednesday November 8 2017, Ahmad Mola Nissi, one of the founders of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz, was shot dead by a masked gunman in front of his house in The Hague, Netherlands. Despite the arrival of emergency services to the location providing CPR and medical attention, Mola died on scene from multiple injuries to his chest and head.

Mola’s family told the media that he had been threatened with death on multiple occasions by the Iranian regime in order prevent him from speaking up for the forgotten people of the occupied Al-Ahwaz region in Iran. Mola, 54, fled Iran with his wife and five children in 2005 due to incessant regime death threats. Despite exile, Mola continued his political activities, and as such, the regime finally decided to assassinate him.

The physical elimination of political dissidents is a tactic carried out by Iranian regime in order to terrorise activists having support and followers among the minority peoples in Iran. It could be argued that the political assassinations of freedom fighters by the regime are carried out, not only to directly harm the activists and their families, but also to instill fear-based control among non-Persian peoples who oppose the regime’s brutal reign.

New agencies The Independent and Reuters have both reported that “Ahwazi Arabs are a minority in mainly ethnic Persian Iran, and some see themselves as under Persian occupation and want independence or autonomy. They say they are deprived of decent living standards and civil rights.” Yousef Azizi Benitorof, an Ahwazi Arab activist, argued that the killing of Ahmad Mola is likely to have been carried out by forces affiliated with the Iranian Intelligence Service. Benitorof believes the fight against autocratic regimes has always been accompanied by such casualties.

It is worth noting that after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Intelligence Service assassinated more than three hundred of its opponents in Europe. With the start of President Khatami’s era ruling Iran, such assassination missions almost ended. However, the killing of Ahwazi Arab activists has continued to this day.

Inside the occupied Ahwazi region, Arab poets and activists are often killed by poisoning and other suspicious methods. The Iranian regime kills Ahwazi activists abroad in a similar fashion, however, now more direct assassination methods have become more common. Benitorof noted that due to the important geopolitical position of Al-Ahwaz, the Ahwazi National Movement has become increasingly worrisome to the dominance of the Iranian state.

The Azerbaijan National Resistance Organization (ANRO) condemned the assassination of Ahwazi leader Ahmad Mola, and stated that “assassination has long been a standard method of the Iranian regime to silence dissent, especially when dissidents or opposition figures demand political transparency, free speech or human rights for deprived minorities.”

Ahwazi civil and political activists are urging authorities in the Netherlands to make public their latest findings related to the assassination. They are also asking that further protection be provided for Ahwazis in Europe and elsewhere due to this event. It’s imperative that the international community and international human rights organizations take tangible measures to stop any future killings of Ahwazi dissidents by Iranian forces.

 

 

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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Hamid Mansour: We should address the West to correct the stereotypical image it has of Arabs

Saad al-Din Ibrahim:  Iranian regime uses minorities to foment discord among Arabs

Zafer Mohammed al-Ajmi: The best defense is a good offense; move the battle inside Iran

Fatima Abdullah Khalil: Liberating Ahwaz will be a severe blow to Iran

Ayoub Said: The occupation benefited from both internal and external factors

Ismail Khalafullah: We have six solutions to the Ahwazi situation, including a popular revolution

Hassan Radhi: The occupation is trying to obliterate the identity of the people of Ahwaz

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The Arab European Foundation for International Relations (EISO) on Saturday held a symposium entitled “The Implications of the Arab-Iranian Conflict on the Ahwazi Issue” on August 26, in light of the Arab-Persian conflict.

The seminar included several sessions that began with a morning session on “the Arab-Iranian conflict in light of the transformations of the Middle East”, followed by the first lecture by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Dr. Barbara Ibrahim, on “Methods of Conflict Management in the Middle East.”

In the second lecture, Fatima Khalil spoke about the “nature of the Arab-Iranian conflict: the geopolitical axis of the conflict.” The third lecture, in which Dr. Zafer al-Ajmi spoke, broached on “the role of the Ahwazi question in the Arab-Iranian conflict.” In the evening, the symposium was divided into three lectures. The first, entitled “The Right to Self-Determination, was given by Dr. Ismael Khalafallah. And the second lecture by Ayoub Said entitled “Occupying the Ahwaz: Reassessment of the Status quo” and the third lecture Presented by Hassan Radhi and focused on the policies of the center towards the people of Ahwaz over the past two decades.”

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Hamid Mansour, the member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has given the opening speech of the symposium, where he proclaimed the launch of the Arab-European Foundation for International Relations “AEFIR. It will be of significant role in media, politics, and culture. A host of Ahwazi youth who is interested in the Ahwazi plight witnessed AEFIR’s launch. In his speech, he pointed to the weak Arab influence in the Western society, which has the upper hand in the world today, noting that this allowed the opponents to be alone in the arena of influential work.  They managed to create a distorted stereotype in the minds of Western public opinion due to their strong political and media presence, to be the sole basis for interpreting the reality of the political conflict in the Arab region, which in the end results in shaping an unfair Western opinion of the just Arab causes. He stressed the important role played by NGOs and public relations centers in rectifying the way through which civil and official institutions in the West look on just Arab causes, as well as building inter-relations and developing them among peoples to achieve common interests. Mansur pointed out that the AEFIR will pay great attention to filling the vacuum and building relations in order to mobilize for international cooperation on the Ahwazi question and the other just Arab causes. He called for developing and renewing the discourse, especially that the contemporary world does not tackle such issues in terms of values of justice and ideals. Interest is the foremost criterion. For it, armies are mobilized, positions are adopted, and leaders are unseated. He indicated that the most important objective of the institution is to correct the image of Arabs without begging. He pointed out that Arab issues are indivisible, and the Ahwazi plight is an integral part thereof. He stressed that the Arab interest necessitates broadening the scope of the issue’s perspective in order to make it stronger by avoiding partial solutions that only emphasize weakness and powerlessness. He said that the foundation seeks to present the Ahwazi issue as a just Arab and humanitarian cause. It seeks to manifest its national dimension, not only the political and historical aspects. AEFIR yet plans to render clear the strategic importance of the Ahwazi plight for the other Arab questions. Also, the newborn Foundation aims to explain to the whole world how settling the Ahwazi issue will be of significant importance for stability in the region and enhancing global peace and security.  According to the lecturers, the foundation shall reiterate that ditching the Ahwazi cause will show the world how Arabs are ready to concede their rights.

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, in his lecture entitled “Methods of Conflict Management in the Middle East” said that the Iran is a challenge to the Arab region. He indicated that it is not a threat. According to him, a threat is a thing that comes from outside such as Israel. The Iranian threat is part of the region. He noted that Iran acted as the policeman of the Gulf since its last monarch Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, with the blessing of the US. He pointed out Jimmy Carter said from Tehran that Washington welcomes Iran’s role as a policeman to maintain the security of the Gulf.

He considered that justice as a value is one of the main demands of all peoples of the world, stressing that the demands of the people of Ahwaz are an integral part of all the demands and slogans that united the whole world, such as values of freedom and democracy. He explained that Ahwaz had been isolated from its Arab sphere and given to the shah in return for an agreement that would enable Britain to search for oil on the eastern shore of the Gulf. This was part of the Sykes-Picot agreement and others. He said that this ambition could be stopped by awareness, coordination, and solidarity among all local factions to face up to the expansionist Persian hegemony. He argued that this expansionist desire will not be halted by changing the regime there, history tells us so. It is a deep-rooted orientation in the Persian mindset. He noted that the absence of the Egyptian role over the past two decades enabled Iran to spill over its influence into at least five Arab countries. It began to exploit the rampant poverty in some African countries to infiltrate the east coast of Africa in an attempt to besiege the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) and Egypt. He pointed out that the Persians are the inventors of chess, a game through which you can defeat your rival using his papers, and this is what is happening now that the Iran exploits any popular base in the Arab countries as a launch pad for spillover. He pointed out that Iran has started to play on the heartstrings of those who have a love for Ahlul Bait, Prophet Mohammed’s family. This issue attracts many sympathizers in Egypt. For those people, Iran offers money and other forms of aid. It helps them build their institutions. These establishments promote Shiism in its essence. Ibrahim called for the need to cooperate to create rational public awareness without hostility or hatred against anyone, including the Iranians themselves, as the Persians Iranians make up only 40%, of the Iranian people and the rest are groups of different ethnicities, pointing out that the Persians are the strongest group and they managed to prevail over the rest of the people. Yet he called on all those marginalized in Iran to stick to solidarity, stressing that Ahwazis are entitled to spread brotherhood and solidarity with all oppressed groups on the basis of equality and justice for all, and cooperate with all liberal groups in the region, to seek to acquire an observer status at the Arab League and United Nations.

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Dr. Dhafer Mohammed Al Ajmi, Executive Director of Gulf Watch Group, in his lecture entitled “Positions of Gulf States on Ahwaz: Reality and Hope”, pointed out that the international relations are administered by two types of personalities, either a diplomat or a soldier. He sees that ambiguous positions are over in the Gulf.  “Saudi Arabia stands firmly in the face of Iran’s expansionism,” said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “Saudi Arabia is well aware of the fact that it is a target of the Iranian regime, and that the Kingdom will not wait until the battle rages on the Saudi soil, but it will work to move the battle inside Iran ” He stressed that the solution to the Iranian meddling in the Gulf countries is to shift the theater of the battle into the Arabian territories of Ahwaz, stressing that working in this spot shall be very painful for Iran. He cited a statement of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, where he said: “Iran lives by Khuzestan.” He concluded by calling for the unification of speech and efforts for the Ahwazis to obtain their right to self-determination.

Fatima Abdullah Khalil, a writer and researcher on the Arabian Gulf’s affairs, in her lecture entitled “Iranian expansion from Ahwaz to Yemen”, concluded GCC states should be the Launchpad for resisting the Iranian schemes since they are more stable, richer and more independent compared to neighboring Arab countries. She pointed out that the GCC countries began recently to try to bring back the Arab Shiites to the Arab and Gulf sphere, through the Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement. She pointed to the need to promote Yemeni containment from within through integrating the Yemeni people into the Gulf, and supporting groups opposed to Iran, particularly Ahwazis. Yet she stressed that retaking Ahwaz is an Arab national necessity, and a geostrategic necessity, which will pave the way for Ahwaz to be independent and join the GCC. The lecturer noted that clawing back Ahwaz will be a deadly blow to Iran.

In a lecture entitled “The occupation of Ahwaz, reassessment of the status quo, Ayoub Said, writer and researcher on Ahwaz, addressed the era relating to the annexation of Al-Ahwaz in 1925 and the subsequent obliterating of its historical sovereignty in light of interlocked regional and international conditions that pushed in this direction.

He also focused on the internal factors that combined with the external factors, which led to losing control over Ahwaz. Foremost of these factors was the lack of incubators for the policies of Prince Khazal, which indifference and somewhat satisfaction at the overthrow of the Prince and the occupation of Ahwaz.

Dr. Ismail Khalafallah, a lawyer and researcher on international law and director of the Association of Rights and Freedoms in France, discussed the Ahwazi issue in a lecture entitled “The right of the Arab people of Ahwaz to determine their own destiny and the legitimacy of their resistance” In several points as follows:

1 – What was taken by force, can only be restored by force which requires a sweeping and comprehensive revolution against the Iranian occupiers.

2 – Unifying and gathering all the political and military forces of Ahwazi in one front inclusive of all the factions, to end the Iranian occupation of Ahwaz.

3 – Raise the awareness of Arab people Ahwaz concerning the need to muster within a unified body organized politically, militarily, socially and culturally, to counter Iranian colonialism.

4 – Intensifying efforts aimed at raising awareness within the Arab and Islamic society and the international community, that this issue is part of the decolonization efforts and asserting that the Arab region of Ahwaz is a pure Arab land that was seized by the Iranian colonizer in complicity with the US.

5 – Promoting the idea of the right of the Arab people of Ahwaz to gain independence from Iran at national, regional and international levels.

6 – Working to remove all political and intellectual differences between all factions of the Arab people Ahwaz both at home and abroad.

In a lecture titled ‘policies of the center towards the Ahwazi people’ over the past two decades, Hassan Radhi, director of the Ahwaz Center for Media and Strategic Studies, focused on woes experienced by the Ahwazis under the occupation in the social, economic and political aspects in light of the repressive policies aimed at wiping out the identity of the Ahwazi people.

http://ahwazna.net/en-540_Hague_Seminar_Focuses_on_Ahwaz_in_Context_of_Arab_Iranian_Conflict_.html

By Nouri Hamza

The unity required to oust the current brutal theocratic regime in Tehran and to replace it with a modern, genuinely democratic, forward-looking system can only come from finally abandoning the regressive supremacist thinking which shapes this regime’s totalitarian mindset as it did the mindset of its predecessors.  The PMOI has struggled for radical change in Iran for over half a century; as Ahwazi activists and supporters of justice for all peoples, we urge the party to acknowledge the failure of the current, outmoded,  brutally enforced nation-state model which has failed  for many decades to recognize all citizens’ rights to autonomy, liberty, and equality. 

Leaders and members of the Iranian opposition party, the People’s Mujahideen Organization (PMOI) also known as Mujahedin e-Khalq or MEK, have reacted angrily to criticism of the organization’s discriminatory policies towards Iranians of non-Persian ethnicity after some Arabs and Ahwazis condemned the organization’s policies towards already oppressed minorities in Iran, who make up over half the country’s population.

In a number of articles published in recent days on news websites and in statements on social media, PMOI representatives have referred to Ahwazi Arab activists and supporters of Ahwazi freedom – among the people most brutally oppressed and subjected to racist persecution by the Tehran regime – as being agents of the Tehran regime.  One example of this is an article published on the Madaen website by  PMOI member Ali Qaimi in which he accuses  Ahwazi freedom activists of being regime agents, claiming that their objective is to slander the ‘genuine opposition’ to the regime.  Such grotesque and defamatory accusations against Ahwazi activists were made without any evidence, since none exists, adding insult to injury for Ahwazi people already routinely persecuted by the regime for their Arab ethnicity.

While the Iranian regime routinely subjects Ahwazis and other ethnic minorities in Iran, including Kurds, Turkmen, and Baluchis, to brutal racist discrimination and persecution, in addition to its standard oppression and crushing of all dissent,  the PMOI claims to oppose this systematic injustice and to represent the voice of freedom, justice and  dignity for all citizens of Iran; unfortunately it fails to live up to this lofty aspiration,  with some of its members instead repeating the same anti-Arab prejudice towards Ahwazis. This failure is causing many among the country’s Arab population to question the party’s commitment to replacing the current brutal regime with genuine representative democracy in which Ahwazis have equal rights and freedoms.

Many Ahwazis, already aggrieved and alienated by such inflammatory and insulting statements from the PMOI,  are also frustrated that the party is routinely represented in media as being the sole opposition to the Iranian regime while other opposition groups which represent the country’s ethnic minorities, as well as those of Persian ethnicity and which are involved in far more extensive opposition activities, are disregarded.   A number of Ahwazi parties, as well as others representing Kurds such as the PJAK, Turkish parties such as the Azerbaijan Independence Party, and Balochi parties such as the Baluchistan Party, which work tirelessly for freedom and human rights, at great risk to their members in Iran, to help people in their own areas and in coordination with one another, have been flatly ignored, both by the PMOI and by its international supporters.

So long as the PMOI continues to mirror the ethnic supremacism of the current regime and its predecessors towards minorities in Iran and to disregard their legitimate calls for autonomy and self-determination, it will continue to be viewed as simply replicating their  policies of oppression;  Ahwazis, Kurds and other minorities who rose up once before in 1979 to win freedom from earlier oppressors have no desire to once again go through such upheavals simply in order to again replace one more oppressive, unjust and racist regime with another.

Another example of the casual racism shown by the PMOI to Ahwazi Arabs in the aforementioned article by senior party member Qaimi was his insulting effort at cultural appropriation, dressing in traditional Ahwazi Arab garb – outlawed by the regime – for his byline photo in an effort to make himself “look Ahwazi” so that his offensive claims about Ahwazi activists might carry more weight; Ahwazi Arabs are routinely arrested for wearing their traditional Arab attire.   Mr. Qaimi, a Persian Iranian, even described himself as a “writer of Ahwaz”, in an attempt to suggest that he is himself an Ahwazi Arab. This is akin to the famous white American woman Rachel Dolezal pretending to be African-American in order to pose as a black activist and to write from a first-person perspective about racism; at least in Dolezal’s case, however, she was not  further insulting African-American civil rights activists by claiming that they were working in league with white supremacists; in Mr. Qaimi’s case, he used Ahwazi attire in support of an article slandering  actual Ahwazi Arabs who are targeted by the regime for their ethnicity and cultural heritage.

This contemptible action by this writer and the grotesque slanders about Ahwazi activists contained in his article were crass, exploitative and wholly unethical and should be disowned by the PMOI if it wishes to restore its already battered credibility with the Ahwazi people.

Similarly to the egregious accusations made by Ali Qaimi, the head of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization, Dr. Snabrq Zahedi, issued a problematic statement addressing some aspects of suffering endured by ethnic minorities since the 1979 revolution.   In his statement, he readily showed approval for Kurdish self-governance in Iran while ignoring Iranian regime atrocities committed against Arabs, such as the Black Wednesday Massacre in the Ahwazi city of Muhammarah. The PMOI has yet to publicly take a position on, let alone condemn, the horrors enacted upon Ahwazi Arabs by the Iranian regime. The PMOI has also taken no sure stance regarding the regime’s diversion of Ahwazi Rivers to Persian provinces that subsequently instigates demographic change when Arabs are forced to leave the depleted Ahwazi lands. The PMOI, like the regime, has also not addressed the April 15, 2005, Arab uprising in any real way, save in small mentions buried deep within their media releases.

 Zahedi asserted in this speech, seemingly without any clear understanding of the Ahwazi issue, that “the project to establish self-governance in Kurdistan, Iran should be a general framework for all non-Persian peoples.” He was even praised for this statement by the National Council on Kurdistan in particular. So it is therefore pertinent to ask: What does it mean to say that the framework of the self-rule used for the Kurdistan Region in Iran could be applicable to all non-Persian regions and ethnic peoples? What is this framework and how does it apply to Arabs, Baluchs, Turks, Turkmen, and other ethnic minorities?

Is the objective of the Resistance Council, the political wing of the PMOI, to work on establishing a self-governing model for all peoples such as Arabs, Baluchs, Turks, Turkmen, and other ethnic minorities as was approved for the Kurds? If this is the intention, why has the PMOI not made any public announcement to that effect as of yet? Why has the PMOI not sought contributions to such initiatives towards other non-Persian peoples as they did with the Kurds?  There is a  saying that “doubt naturally comes before assurance” as based on the lengthy experiences of oppression and betrayal, the Ahwazi people cannot be assured of anything until concrete actions are taken to back up PMOI’s statements.

Previously, some members of the Ahwazi Party had attended a meeting with leaders from the People’s Mujahideen Organization. During said meeting, PMOI members stated bluntly that they will not accept autonomy for Ahwazi Arabs, as the circumstances of Kurdish autonomy are completely different. It would seem that the PMOI have taken a tolerant stance towards the Kurdish issue, perhaps in part to the preponderance of Kurdish people within their own forces during the Iran-Iraq war.  This alliance seems to have facilitated a bridge for cooperation between the Kurds and PMOI. Another factor may be that the PMOI believes that Kurdish people belong to the Aryan race, which seems to have made it easier to accept their desire for autonomy above other ethnic minorities. Other than the aforementioned factors, there seem to be no other sensible reasons why the PMOI would support only Kurdish autonomy in Iran, which is still seen as “fragile and unreliable” according to Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou who was the iconic leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran until his assassination in 1989 by individuals suspected of being agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The unity required to oust the current brutal theocratic regime in Tehran and to replace it with a modern, genuinely democratic, forward-looking system can only come from finally abandoning the regressive supremacist thinking which shapes this regime’s totalitarian mindset as it did the mindset of its predecessors.  The PMOI has struggled for radical change in Iran for over half a century; as Ahwazi activists and supporters of justice for all peoples, we urge the party to acknowledge the failure of the current, outmoded,  brutally enforced nation-state model which has failed  for many decades to recognize all citizens’ rights to autonomy, liberty, and equality.  We are seeing the results of this systematically unjust and outmoded externally-imposed political model playing out tragically across the region as long-oppressed peoples, subjected for decades to injustice and oppression on the basis of sect, ethnicity, and faith, rise up for freedom and dignity, with assorted dictators and totalitarian regimes responding with further murderous oppression.  The monstrous Iranian regime is central to efforts to ensure continuing tyranny regionally, as domestically.  In order to succeed, the PMOI must incorporate the voices of all of the oppressed peoples in Iran, working as equals with Ahwazis and all other minorities to forge a new, mutually respectful political model, leaving the current, brutal and outmoded one in the dustbin of history where it belongs.

By Nouri Hamza, Ahwazi journalist and follower of Iranian affairs, you can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NouriAlhamzawi

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

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

The current Syrian flag

WRITTEN BY SHIBLI ZAMAN
All kinds of scum are defending Bashar al-Assad following his attack upon the people of Idlib with chemical weapons. I’ve had to respond to many of these heartless people who prefer their vacuous Alex Jones based conspiracy theories over human life but…seriously…at least 10 kids under the age of 11 died an excruciating death so I am just way too PISSED OFF to carry on. But I want to address this Russian LIE that they supposedly bombed a munitions depot where the rebels were storing Sarin gas.

Sarin gas is highly unstable and is easily rendered inert.

“Decomposes thermally to form a variety of phosphorus containing products as well as propylene. The rate of decomposition increases with increase in temperature, and in the presence of acids. At the boiling point of GB, under atmospheric conditions, decomposition is fairly rapid.”
[PubChem: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sarin…]

The Russian account of having bombed a Sarin containing depot is scientifically impossible. If you bomb Sarin with incendiaries, it will be rendered INERT by the exceedingly high temperature of any blast. It just takes 150 °C to decompose Sarin into various forms of phosphorous. The average missle emits 2,480 °C (4,500 °F) which is way beyond what it would take to completely erase any Sarin.

Then these imbeciles are claiming that pictures of the White Helmets wearing only gas masks and no HAZMAT suits means there couldn’t have been a Sarin attack. Make up your minds! Either there was a gas attack or there wasn’t. Russia ADMITTED that Sarin was released upon the population because even they weren’t stupid enough to deny the overwhelmingly obvious! And to debunk this nonsense about the White Helmets not wearing Hazmat suits, by the time they and other personnel would have arrived in the area the Sarin would have dissipated. This is from the Center for Disease Control: “Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate, but short-lived, threat.” [https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp]

Finally, as Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the British Armed Forces Joint Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, said:

“Axiomatically, if you blow up Sarin, you destroy it…It’s very clear it’s a Sarin attack…The view that it’s an al-Qaeda or rebel stockpile of Sarin that’s been blown up in an explosion, I think is completely unsustainable and completely untrue.” [BBC]

So, the bottom line is that there are two versions of events here:

1) Tons of eye witnesses on the ground testify to the Russian/Syrian aerial bombardment of chemical weapons. There are PICTURES of the spent casings and tanks on the ground. The entire world knows Bashar and the Russians did it, and the SAA, Russia and Iran are the only people ON EARTH saying otherwise.

2) The SAA first released a statement saying they did nothing. That was a lie that Russia themselves ratted out when they admitted that they bombed Idlib. The first question is: Why were they bombing a residential area in Idlib? They claim that they were targeting a munitions depot that contained chemical weapons.

The SAA/Russian explanation is 100% a lie that can easily be proven by SCIENCE in that if they bombed a stockpile of Sarin gas, it would not release and kill everyone. It would be rendered completely inert and USELESS.

In the end you can’t argue with basic CHEMISTRY AND SCIENCE.

And there are a bunch of kids who choked to death on their own bodily fluids, and the fact that people are defending Bashar after that pisses me off immeasurably. So be warned: My tolerance level for nonsense when it comes to this tragic and painful subject is ZERO.

Saeed al-Bahrani died in the hospital of Mahshor (Mahshahr) city

Saeed al-Bahrani, 39 year old community activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi freelance journalist and human rights activist based in the USA

An Iranian regime militia shot an unarmed wheelchair-bound disabled Ahwazi activist dead in front of his wife and children in their home, apparently “revenge” for his civil rights activism.

The armed group belonging to the Basiji (also known as Sāzmān-e Basij-e Mostaz’afin), one of the five forces of the ‘Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution’, stormed into 39-year-old Saeed al-Bahrani’s house in the town of Koura in southern Ahwaz capital on Sunday evening, April 2, 2017, shooting him dead in front of his horrified wife and three children.  The regime militiamen gave no reason for their actions, with al-Bahrani’s wife and family having no legal recourse despite this brutal murder.

Saeed, aged 39, was a tireless community activist, a Sunni cleric and a widely admired and respected local figure in the poverty-stricken town, who spent much of his life engaged in campaigning for civil rights and freedom for the marginalised Ahwazi people.

Koura county is one of the most populated and deprived areas affiliated to Mahshahr port city, this port is the capital of petrochemical industry of Iran, however, its Arab locals denied any basic rights and employment in oil and gas petrochemical complexes  have been driven to live  in medieval poverty.

According to Ahwazi rights groups and activists, such cold-blooded murders of activists by the regime’s troops and militias are routine.  Ahwazi activists say that the continuing silence of UN and other international human rights organizations on the Iranian regime’s rule by terror, in which grotesque human rights abuses are just another tool of governance, effectively gives the regime carte blanche to continue.

Ahwazi Arab activists on 26 February 2017 has circulated an amateur video on social networking sites showing an Ahwazi citizen lying on the ground, having been shot at by an Iranian police officer in the Zaafaraniya district, west of the capital of Ahwaz.

The police shot at the young Ahwazi man ‘in cold blood’, hitting him in the right leg, when he refused to be searched by them.

The video shows the young man unconscious and soaked in blood, with a crowd of concerned and angry people around him, while the police sit in their patrol car nearby.

Sources confirmed that the police did not call an ambulance to take the injured man to hospital until some of the locals from the Zaafaraniya district intervened and took him to a hospital in Ahwaz City Centre themselves. There were conflicting reports about the injured man’s latest condition, with some saying he has died of his injuries.

This is the fourth time within the last few months that there has been an incident of this kind.  On 9 February of 2017, a random shooting by Iranian soldiers killed a young Ahwazi man in Falahiyeh City and another citizen was wounded in the city of Shush on Wednesday 22 February by Iranian intelligence.

Raghad Abbas, three-year-old victim.

Also, Ahwazi human rights activists have reported on October 27 2016 the murder of a three-year-old girl, Raghad Abbas (pictured), who died instantly on being shot through the heart as she sat in the back of her parents’ car when Iranian security forces opened fire indiscriminately on the vehicle on Monday October 24th.  Her father, Abbas Hassan Mashal Al-Sari, aged 41, who was driving the car, and her mother, Zahor Abdul-Sada Al-Sari, were also critically wounded in the shooting, which took place in the Alawi neighbourhood, a western suburb of the regional capital, Ahwaz. Neither of her parents were armed or involved in any illegal activities, and no reason has yet been given for the attack, nor has any apology been issued for the murder of the little girl.   Immediately after the brutal slaying, the security officers responsible dragged the injured, newly bereaved father, Abbas Hassan, from the vehicle and arrested him as his traumatized, also injured wife looked on, and as their daughter’s dead body sat in the back seat, before taking him to an undisclosed location.

The attack on the family’s vehicle was apparently part of another ongoing brutal crackdown by regime security forces on Ahwazi Arabs.

These random acts of violence are typical of the way the Iranian regime forces act in the Al-Ahwaz territories – taking pleasure in every opportunity to flaunt their complete control over every aspect of the civilians’ lives.

For years, the Ahwazi Arabs have been killed, shot, attacked, beaten, insulted and humiliated on a daily basis by the thugs of the Iranian regime, who act with impunity, secure in their knowledge that they have a carte blanche to act as they please.

As long as oil continues to flow from Ahwaz, many in the world seem quite prepared to turn a blind eye to the spilling of blood and shedding of tears of the dispossessed Ahwazi Arabs.

This is unacceptable. We pledge to continue to draw attention to the injustices being suffered by the Ahwazi Arab population until such time that justice and humanity will prevail.

For too long, Ahwazi Arabs have suffered in silence, the ultimate invisible victims. It is hard to understand just how isolated and betrayed the Ahwazi people feel, savagely persecuted by Iran for almost a century with the silent, treacherous complicity of the international community.  Compounding this problem is the media blackout surrounding events in  Ahwaz,  with the current regime’s effective hermetic sealing off of the region assisted by the collusion of the world which is either wholly indifferent or swallows the Iranian regime’s obscene lie of ‘resistance to occupation’ wholesale.

Ahwazis face vast challenges in bringing attention to the plight of the people in a world constantly preoccupied with “more pressing concerns” and a region awash in systemic violence, much of it directly or indirectly courtesy of the same regime responsible for their suffering.

Need to mention that the core attention of the majority of Iranian rights groups has broadly been devoted to spotlighting the violations that are committed against persons that live in Tehran capital and central Persian regions. These organizations in their written goals claim that they are seeking democracy, civil freedom and putting an end to racial oppression and discriminations but such stated objects have never been put into action when they deal with the human rights issues linked to Ahwazi Arabs as well as other ethnic groups. Until about two years ago, there has not been even a simple statement or action by Iranian human rights organizations denouncing the execution and persecution perpetrated against the Arab people of Ahwaz. Only after many actions carried by Ahwazi activists only two or three organizations, among dozens of Iranian human rights organizations, took action by revealing the human rights violations in Ahwaz. The other organizations engaged in ultra-racist duplicity to evade highlighting the Ahwazi plight.

Despite living in the region which holds over 95 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran – the reason for the British backing of Iran’s  1925 annexation of Ahwaz in exchange for oil contracts – Ahwazi Arabs live in medieval poverty under an effective apartheid system, being viewed as inferiors due to their Arab ethnicity; most of the population exists below the poverty line, with limited or no access to jobs, education, healthcare, or even basic utilities such as electricity and gas or running water.

Presentation by the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz

WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID*
A delegation from the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz confirmed “that the Ahwazi cause is the real weakness of Iran, if it were recognized as a state that is occupied by Iran, it would be a fatal blow to the Iranian regime’s back and all Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the region. They explained that “the Persians’ own space is less than half of Iran, and the rest belongs to a variety of components of Arabs of Ahwaz,  Turks of  Azerbaijan, Baluch of Baluchistan and Kurds of Kurdistan, and this is yet further proof of the weakness of Iran.  During the seminar that is entitled “Mechanisms for recognition of the state of Ahwaz”, which was held yesterday in the presence of a number of Bahraini deputies, the  delegation of  the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz said,  “Arab states  realize the weakness of Iran, we do not know  why they do not want  to take advantage of these points, the Council of the Bahraini House of Representatives has made a great proposal that is to recognize  Ahwaz as an independent state, and we hope that  the rest of the parliaments of the Arab States follow this step  to recognize our cause of Ahwaz, and we will explore ways of implementing the initiative launched by the Council of Representatives of Bahrain. ”

According to sources, the deputies will discuss in the coming days with a delegation of Ahwaz a variety of mechanisms to implement the former parliamentary proposal to recognize the State of Ahwaz, and how to reintroduce it in the House of Representatives again.”

The Bahraini deputies, in their proposal, stressed that Bahrain is the first to support the right of Ahwaz and support the right of this people to defend itself, they stressed the just cause of Ahwazi freedom and announced upcoming initiatives to internationalize it.  Raising the proposal by the House of Representatives to demand recognition of Ahwaz as an occupied  Arab state has been attacked  by the Iranian media,  accusing the Kingdom of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia  of attempts to destabilise the national security of the country following the memorandum submitted by the Bahraini House of Representatives  to  the Parliament in order to recognize it as an occupied Arab state and should support it by every legal means in all levels, not only politically but also in the human rights area and through the media.

MP Issa Turki said the issue of Ahwaz is an Arab cause that has been forgotten, and this term will change after the mobility of Ahwazis,  it is a human rights issue par excellence, and requires us to provide support and assistance to this just cause, especially in the international circles, so that we can be the voice of this issue calling on  the Arab League to adopt the cause of Ahwaz  based on the principles of justice and humanity that is consistent with the legal principles enshrined in international law.

For his part, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee MP Mohammed Almarafi said, addressing himself to Ahwazis, “Your cause is the cause of all the Arabs, we will support you to give this issue all the legitimate channels through Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, and the United Nations Council”, and he emphasized the granting of the Ahwazi Arab people of their rights and rejecting what is practiced on them as unspeakable abuses. “We call on the international community to take notice of Ahwazi human rights, this situation affects international peace, and the Kingdom of Bahrain is a forerunner in taking into account all rights of peoples, and Ahwaz was, in fact, a state and we support them in order so that their state is returned, and every human being  who has the power to support it should  exercise all kinds of pressure on the Iranian regime,  making the Ahwazi case a core issue.

As former MP Nasser Al Fadhala said, “It is beautiful to see the House of Representatives of Bahrain welcoming  the case of Ahwazi Arabs  in an unprecedented way. We spent years in support of the Ahwazi, and it has been our wish to hold a conference for Ahwazis in Bahrain, and the House of Representatives  can provide high moral support to the political elite of Ahwaz.”

Two  members of the Executive Committee of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, during the seminar said that  approximately one-third of Iran’s waters and more than 95% of the oil and gas claimed by  Iran is located in Ahwaz, also  Ahwaz includes agricultural wealth in the palm dates, wheat, barley, corn, sugarcane, citrus and vegetables, mineral iron, mercury resources. He explained that the Ahwazi oil is the lightest oil in the world and is used in many industries. The independence of Ahwaz will transform Iran into a weak state. They added that the Ahwaz population ranges between 10 and 12 million and is rising. There have been 12 popular uprisings since 1925 against the Iranian occupation and they have given many martyrs for the return of Arab sovereignty of Ahwaz, showing the world, despite all media blackout and global lack of attention, that the Arab people did not kneel to the occupation.

Bringing the Ahwazi cause to greater public awareness

They added that Iranian violations in Ahwaz are countless, most notably the executions in the streets and that is not limited to men but includes women and children, as well as mass arrests,  unfair courts, and dissemination of drug. There is denial of employment to  Ahwazis, as well as the Ahwazi environment being destroyed by  building dams on the rivers Ahwazi,  diverting its waters into the depth of the Persian  provinces, and this criminality against Ahwazi people, has resulted in the draining of the marshes.  The regime not only confiscates Ahwazi  lands, but they began to demolish Ahwazi homes, preventing the people from learning the Arabic language and imposing the Persian language. There has been a ban placed on the wearing of traditional clothing in regime institutions, preventing the naming of children with Arab names and the changing of the names of all Ahwazi Arab places into Persian. Towns have been built for settlers with full support for them, giving them the jobs denied to Arabs. This is to bring about demographic change to the Ahwazi areas. There are also common criminal activities against the people, such as shooting at civilians and many other crimes that need seminars to shed light on them.

The members of the Executive Committee of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, during the seminar, displayed clips of the torture of children and prisoners practiced by the Iranian regime against Ahwazis, surprising the attendees at how the Iranian regime advocates human rights in Bahrain, which commits all these crimes in Ahwaz.

They said, “Resistance of Ahwazis, after 3 months of occupation, started and continued through several methods such as  of adherence to  Arabic  language and holding seminars and organizing demonstrations and protests in Ahwaz, and demonstrations in the Diaspora, there are many revolutions that broke out on Ahwazi land, but with great regret, the media blackout dealt a painful blow to our struggle and that is why people have heard little about the Ahwazi plight that is a human rights cause deserving of all the world’s support and solidarity.

The delegation  said Iran has an expansionist project, as the region will not see peace and security, but should create a deterrent  project to  Iranian expansionism, which was started from the days of the Shah, but now it is wearing the clothes of religion, starting from the rule of Khomeini,  so with the Liberation of Ahwaz, Iran would lose the current means  for the success of its expansion,  all its oil from Ahwaz to destabilize the Arab countries. The Ahwazi people, for 91 years under oppression, had to move to European countries to hold demonstrations , seminars, fund human rights organizations and start political movements and media outlets in Europe with the aim of moving the Western media.”

The Bahraini deputies stated they know the history of Al-Ahwaz and violations that the people are suffering and their stolen nation, their human rights denied, and this increases their belief in justice, as Ahwaz is a continuation of the Elam civilization period that lasted for 7000 years,  stretching  from Iraqi Basra to the Strait of Hormuz, an area of 375,000 km, which includes many Arab cities, the most important are Abadan and Mohammerah, Ahwaz and Bushehr.

*Ahwazi Human Rights activist and freelance journalist based in the United States

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abdulla AlShamataan
Abdullah M
Adam Akkad
Adnan Abd Alrahman
Ahmad Al-Sholi
Ahmad Kaki
Ahmad N
Ahmed A
Ala K
Ala’a Salem
Alex T
Ali A. Omar
Amal Ayesh
Amanda Michelle
Amani Alkowni
Ameen Q.
Amena Elmashni
Amira S
Andrew Kadi
Areej
Bashar Subeh
Bayan Abusneineh
Budour Hassan
Butheina Hamdah
Dana Itayem
Dana M
Dania Mukahhal
Dania Mukahhal
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Fatima El-ghazali
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Haitham Omar
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Heba Nimr
Helal Jwayyed
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Ibraheem Sumaira
Imran Salha
Jackie Husary
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Jehad Abusalim
Jihad Ashkar
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Laith H
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Maisa Morrar
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Manal El Haj
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Mariam Barghouti
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Randa MKW
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Rasha A.
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Reem S
Reema A
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Ryah A
Sabreen Ettaher
Salim Salamah
Samar Batrawi
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marcell

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how Syrian organisations are portrayed in the article.

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

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

Until today I regret that feeling of luxury.

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

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

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

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

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

Because hospitals are underground. Because schools are now underground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Rahim Hamid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

_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?

civ 1Written By Rahim Hamid

Iran’s number one desertification specialist Professor Kurdwani addressed the Iranian government: “I don’t know why they don’t understand that the water is gone. Every time the authorities invite me to attend a conference on the subject I do not attend because it is all over and there is no use holding conferences and seminars anymore. The water table level has decreased to non-replenish-able levels. For example, in the province of Faris, the annual precipitation levels have fallen to 570 cubic millimeters and 450 in the Rafsenjan province and 300 in Tehran. “

In the case of Lake Urmia’s drying out, he said that the lake’s waters will no longer be replenished as the water is diverted by manmade channels to other areas, making it impossible to restore it to its former state. With large amounts of water already being diverted from Ahwazi waterways to other areas in Iran, he warned that the ecosystem should not be further damaged by more redistribution of the scarce waters there.

Lake Urmia is known as the 'biggest lake of the Middle East region

Lake Urmia is known as the ‘biggest lake of the Middle East region

Kurdwani further warned of the threat of civil war saying that the real war in Iran is the war over water. It is a war that has been ongoing for years in a clandestine manner, but it will become an all-out open war which will destroy Iran, tearing it to pieces and eventually annihilating Iran in the years to come. Professor Kurdwani added: “The essence of the struggle is over water, the war with Saudi Arabia and the US, and even nuclear challenges are not actual threats. The real threat to Iran is water scarcity and not America or Israel!”

About the nature of the current war for water in Iran Professor Kurdwani said that there is, in fact, a cold war over water in Iran covered up by the media with great efforts and downplayed within the shadow of the haughty nuclear issue. Nevertheless this water war will widen and will come out of the closet to the open in the coming five years. And it is the real threat to Iranian national security and sovereignty. However, the politicians in charge in Iran will try to keep it under control and ensure that their benefits remain in place by sucking up the water resources of all the drought-stricken provinces such as the Abu Shahr province.

This is the horrible fate of the Karoon River, which was once Ahwaz' busiest waterway, teeming with marine life, as well as being the only navigable river in the region.

This is the horrible fate of the Karoon River, which was once Ahwaz’ busiest waterway, teeming with marine life, as well as being the only navigable river in the region.

It is worth noting that NASA stated in a report that Iran is 8 years  into a drought that will last for the coming thirty years which will lead to Iran’s complete desertification and that Iran will cease to exist due to water and starvation within the next ten  years. The average surface precipitation rate worldwide is 800 cubic millimeters whereas in Iran the average is 250 cubic millimeters. As for the rate of water evaporation, NASA stated that Iran has a rate of surface water evaporation four times greater than the world average.

This comes at a time when the Iranian regime supported by Persian groups in the provinces of Isfahan, Kerman (Rafsanjani’s hometown) and Yazd (Khatami and Ahmadi Najad and Rouhani’s hometown) also supported by the Wilayat al Faqih Supreme Leader of Iran’s institutions have stolen the waters of the longest rivers in AL Ahwaz  region namely the rivers Karoon and Al Karkheh by diverting their waters from Al-Ahwaz to the Persian provinces of Fars, Isfahan and Kerman thus drying the largest wetlands in the Middle East and completely annihilating 95% of Ahwazi marshlands between Al-Ahwaz and Iraq and thus transforming Al-Ahwaz into the number one polluted region in the world.

civ 3The stealing of the waters of Ahwaz and the drying of its marshes has led to a drastic increase in temperatures in Al-Ahwaz where according to official sources a record high of 67 degrees Celsius was registered just a few  months ago in the city of Mahshor just 80KM from Ahwaz city. This is a grave alarming indicator for the Arab population of Al-Ahwaz for it signals the beginning of a mass exodus of Arab Ahwazis from their land towards the Persian Farsi provinces where the water of Al-Ahwaz has been diverted and where the Arabs of Al-Ahwaz will gradually lose their identity and Ahwaz itself will be depopulated.

In addition, oil exploration activities in the last ten years in Hor Al-Azim wetland in Al-Ahwaz has transformed it into a complete desert.  Hor Al-Azim is one of the most important wetlands in the Middle East and among few the surviving wetlands of Mesopotamia. However with the starting of drilling, oil prospecting projects, construction of oil facilities as well as building roads at the heart of the wetland which separated it into several disconnected areas, the wetland has been entirely dried up. Hor Al-Azim wetland was a paradise that was taken away from Ahwazis.The Ahwazi Arabs for thousands of years used to depend on the wetland resources including fishing and farming to make their livelihood, but the oil companies in less than ten years have turned it into a big desert. 

The oil companies are deliberately draining all the wetland and do not pay the slightest attention to the life of the wetland and its Ahwazi Arab people. All authorities and directors who are working in the fields of the oil companies are Persians; for this reason, it does not matter to them at all what happens to the Ahwazi local people.

civ 5Ahwazi people say that at first they thought that the oil companies that came here would bring great benefits to the area, and that they would see improvements and their villages and towns would be developed. We thought tourism would be encouraged and tourists would come from everywhere, but what resulted was the opposite of our expectations, and the Iranian oil companies destroyed all nature barbarically.

People of Baluchistan also have not survived from the water crisis following the drying up of Hamun Lake.  Hundreds of the local people had to leave the homeland to save their lives from the drought, dust storms, and epidemic disease that allegedly claimed the lives of many Baluchis. The Iranian regime had not taken any tangible measures to revive Hamun Lake in Sistan-Baluchestan. As a result, Hamun Lake dried up, leading to the death of fauna and flora in the area of Sistan-Baluchistan.

Iran suffers grave water shortage, very extreme that nearly throughout the country could be unlivable and millions driven to emigrate. The regime officials say, “Our central problem is [the water crisis] that endangers the national security as it is the issue of living in Iran.

Water experts say if Iran doesn’t thoroughly change its water usage policy, 50 million people – 70 percent of Iranians – will have no option than to abandon the country. Iran is facing a water shortage of significant proportions; however, so invisible steps were being taken by the regime to address the factors that have diminished the country’s water supply to emergency levels. Experts several times cautioned that the current water shortage is going to put the already arid country on the verge of becoming a huge barren desert. As regime fears more likely a popular unrest sweeping the country it has been attempting not to amplify the crisis and hide it.

In many areas in the country such as Ahwazi Arab areas and Sistan and Baluchistan province, areas have remained on water tankers for their daily water supply. This increasing water crisis in recent years have triggered protests in Ahwaz, and other provinces in Iran as people shown their displeasure at the worsening condition clashed with police security forces who aimed at dispersing the angry protesters. No doubt if the water crisis continues to persist it could lead to popular water riot as already happened in Ahwaz, when Ahwazi people protested against the regime policies in rerouting the courses of Karoon River that resulted in it to be nearly dried up.

civ 6Ahwazis suffer grave environmental challenges, including pollution, erosion, desertification, and most importantly, drought and water shortages, which have intensified poverty and starvation by decreasing agricultural crop and Ahwazi farmers’ incomes. Many of these difficulties have been provoked by the intentional regime policies in line with displacing Ahwazis.

As Iranian desertification accelerates due primarily to regime policies, regime officials continue to ignore the imminent natural catastrophe which endangers the entire country. The water crisis in Iran could end up causing a civil war which will backfire against the regime. This is a much greater challenge than the nuclear weapons issue. All regions of Iran will be affected as the water crisis gets worse and the already poor economic situation of the country will deteriorate. Economic sanctions can be lifted, but water scarcity will remain. This will also cause people to emigrate from Iran.

TEXTBOOK AHW 2WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

Iran’s Ministry of Education has distributed a new, deeply racist textbook for children in the Arab Ahwaz region depicting Arabs as savage, uncivilised idiots.

According to credible sources in Ahwaz, the latest textbook (cover shown at left) depicts various derogatory images of Arabs, with the cover showing an image of an Arab man on camel, wearing traditional dress in the desert, certainly intended as a racist caricature.

Such crude anti-Arab bigotry and offensive stereotypes are standard in Iranian media and culture. All such depictions, as well as anti-Arab video games, poetry and other cultural artefacts, are closely monitored and approved by the theocratic regime, which actively encourages anti-Arab racism.

The two pictures show how an Arab man wearing traditional clothes inappropriately, suggesting that Arabs are stupid and uncivilised, like the stereotype carried in the popular Persian whenever Arabs are shown.

Another textbook shows an Arabic man, again riding a camel in a desert with a dirty face, piglike nose and bare feet, eating something with his finger and only dreaming of arriving at a lush garden and a beautiful waterfall.

Ahwazi activists have condemned this latest expression of anti-Arab sentiment, particularly in the guise of an educational book for Arab children, adding that this is part of a systemic supremacist culture of hatred towards Arabs and all things related to Arab identity rooted in resentment amongst many Iranians dating back to the fall of the Persian Empire at the hands of Muslims and Arabs.

This resentment has been actively promoted and encouraged by successive Iranian rulers, up to and including the current regime, as a way of justifying their own brutal persecution of Ahwazi and other Arab peoples.

TEXTBOOK AHW 1The Ahwazi activists warned against the perpetuation of such racist policies against both Ahwazi Arabs and other non-Persian minorities in Iran, adding that it could lead to a backlash against not only the regime itself but against Persian peoples generally.

This latest incident of regime-sanctioned racism follows recent widespread regional anger over Iranian state TV broadcasts of racist slurs against the Turkmen people of Southern Azerbaijan, which led to large demonstrations in Azerbaijan and elsewhere.

The racism against Ahwazis runs rampant; we can feel that the anti-Arab sentiments tainted by a deep-rooted fascism are not confined to ordinary Persian citizens, but include a considerable portion of the Persian elite that is directly fueled by state politics.

These racist textbooks are seemingly encouraged by the nonexistence of a law that penalizes such pernicious acts in a country. Akbar Abdi, a well-known comedian, has lately engaged in more of this racist chauvinism during a live program on state television. He mentioned a trip with his family to Mecca in which he reacted to an Arab man who requested to get his son engaged to his daughter by saying: If I equaled my daughter with Gold, I would not equal Arabs, you or your son with Persian rubbish.” He described the Arab man with ugly and dirty epithets.  This was not the first time and will not be the last, when the state-sanctioned stream of bigotry against Arabs and Ahwazis is broadcast nationwide. Television programme and state-owned newspapers for years have been offending and attacking Arabs as Ahwazis are bearing the brunt.

What actually motivates racism among Persians against Arabs in general and Ahwazi Arabs in particular along with Kurds, Turks and Baluchis is the misplaced belief instilled into Persians minds that they come from the special superior Aryan race while the rest of other ethnic groups have some inferior racial traits that result in that group being detestable.

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

Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement is divided into seven points.

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

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

The third: condemnation of fundamentalist forces.

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

The fifth: denunciation of the policies of Fortress Europe.

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

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

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

ahwaz2Written by Rahim Hamid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articolo tratto dal Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria

Via: Shahba Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Palestinian Working Group in Syria
Via: Shahba Press

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