Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

101677e1441761633o6071WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

Therefore, it is essential to know three things:

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

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

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

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

Instances of discussions:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also in Italian in Le Voci Della Liberta

CONL74vUAAAJUI-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Required field

Full name*

Email address*

City*

Profession, role or organisation you belong to

Comments

Send

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

 

Il sangue di Parigi è sulle mani di Assad

Posted: 11/20/2015 by editormary in Iran, Middle East, Politics, Syria, War
Tags: ,

putin-assad-ready-share-power1Il dittatore siriano non è il nemico di ISIS – è il suo abilitatore

SCRITTO DA ROBERT COLVILLE tradotto da Mary Rizzo

Gli attentati di Parigi sono nauseanti, scandalosi e sconvolgenti. E uno dei momenti più scandalosi è giunto quando il presidente siriano Bashar al-Assad ha deciso di attribuire la colpa degli atentati alla politica estera francese. Ciò che i parigini stanno affrontando, ha detto, è esattamente ciò che i siriani hanno affrontato negli ultimi cinque anni. Se solo la Francia lo avesse aiutato contro gli islamisti, invece di mantenere le distanze!

Ovviamente, la maggior parte della colpa per la tragedia di questa settimana è di ISIS e della sua dottrina di terrore e atrocità. Ma l’individuo più direttamente responsabile dell’ascesa di ISIS, e del suo consolidamento, è Bashar al-Assad.

Non solo perché, trascinando la Siria in una guerra civile, ha creato i presupposti per lo sviluppo di ISIS, ma anche perché ha fatto tutto quanto in suo potere per rafforzarlo. La verità è che Assad e ISIS non sono nemici: sono alleati.

Per capire cosa intendo, dobbiamo tornare al 2012/13, quando i ribelli – guidati dal Free Syrian Army – erano alle porte di Damasco. Al fine di salvare se stesso, Assad ha fatto due cose.

an Iranian opposition group understands the actual situation in this "election poster"

un gruppo iraniano d’opposizione ha capito che comanda in Siria

In primo luogo, ha accettato quello che era essenzialmente un cambio di gestione della campagna militare in chiave iraniana: come Dexter Filkins ha scritto sul New Yorker, Qassem Suleimani – il capo della di Teheran Quds Force – è volato a Damasco per assumere il controllo delle operazioni personalmente, inondando il conflitto con denaro iraniano, armi iraniane e combattenti provenienti sia da Teheran che dal suo alleato libanese Hezbollah.

Ma l’altro polo della strategia di Assad è stato più insidioso. Dall’inizio della guerra aveva etichettato i suoi nemici come terroristi islamici e nel corso degli anni ha fatto di tutto per far sì che questa etichetta diventasse una realtà.

Pericolosi jihadisti sono stati rilasciati da Sednaya, la mega-prigione del regime, e sostituiti in carcere da blogger e attivisti dei diritti umani. Bombe e fucili del regime sono stati rivolte ai moderati, mentre agli islamisti radicali (molti dei quali avevano dato prova di sè nella rivolta contro gli Stati Uniti in Iraq) è stata data carta bianca nel nord. A maggio hanno ricevuto persino supporto aereo da Assad, durante la loro avanzata su Aleppo [ndt: 31/05/2015 a Mare’a, nord di Aleppo, quando i ribelli subirono simultaneamente un offensiva di terra da parte di ISIS e attacchi aerei da parte di Assad].

Mideast Syria Alternatives to AssadQuesto, tuttavia, era solo l’inizio. ISIS ha catturato giacimenti petroliferi – ma non aveva mercato per il petrolio. Ecco che entra in scena il presidente Assad. Non solo ha comprato il petrolio dei militanti dell’ISIS, ma gli ha garantito accesso al cibo e persino riparazione per le loro torri di telefonia mobile. E i suoi amici in ISIS hanno restituito il favore, non marciando su Damasco, ma su Baghdad. Così inizia il panico nell’occidente e gli attacchi aerei – contro ISIS, non contro Assad.

Perché Assad lo ha fatto? Semplice: per convincere sia il suo popolo che le potenze straniere che lui è l’unica alternativa ai fanatici. La sua strategia è sempre stata, come David Blair (una delle più sagge voci britanniche in materia di politica estera) ha scritto sul Telegraph lo scorso anno, di agire prima come piromane, poi come vigile del fuoco.

Assad ora afferma di essere l’unico in grado di contenere ISIS. Ma la verità è che non ha fatto quasi nulla per contenerlo. Anche ora, i suoi alleati russi non bombardano ISIS, come dicono, ma i pochi moderati assediati che rimangono.

Il risultato è una macabra simbiosi. Assad bombarda, mutila e uccide, spingendo la gente nelle braccia degli estremisti. Poi può additare alla crescita dello Stato islamico e dire, come ha fatto riguardo Parigi: “Guarda questi fanatici barbari. Come posso io essere una minaccia più grande di loro?”

Ma, come quanto detto finora dimostra, Assad non è il minore dei due mali qui: dei due mali è il maggiore. Dal 2011, dice Emile Hokayem dell’International Institute for Strategic Studies, “il regime di Assad è stata la principale fonte di morte e distruzione in Siria”. Anche ora, non solo sta uccidendo più cittadini siriani dello Stato islamico, ma anche in quantità enormemente maggiori.

Quindi no, i morti di Parigi non sono il risultato della politica del governo francese. Sono il risultato di un’azione deliberata di Assad: prendere una piccola cellula tumorale chiamata ISIS e darle tutti i nutrienti di cui ha bisogno per crescere in qualcosa di vasto e maligno.

Dal 2011, infatti, tutto ciò che ha peggiorato questa guerra può essere fatto risalire al dittatore siriano e nulla di quello che ha fatto l’ha mai resa meno dura.

L’uso di armi chimiche e bombe a barile contro i suoi stessi cittadini? Pesa su Assad.

La morte di migliaia di persone e lo sfollamento di milioni? Pesano su Assad.

La distruzione di Palmyra (forse il posto più bello che abbia mai visto) e di gran parte del resto del patrimonio e della cultura della Siria? Anche questo pesa su Assad.

E le morti di Parigi e dell’aereo di linea russo e di Beirut? Di nuovo, Assad.

Sì, ISIS è la più grande minaccia immediata per l’Occidente. E sì, non ci sono praticamente buone opzioni per porre fine a questo orribile, brutale conflitto.

Ma ogni scenario in cui noi diventiamo gli alleati di Assad per combattere gli islamisti, qualsiasi scenario che lo lasci al potere piuttosto che in prigione, sarebbe disgustosamente immorale. Non solo perché incoraggerebbe i dittatori in tutto il mondo a seguire la stessa linea, ma anche perché rappresenterebbe una vittoria per la sua strategia diplomatica della barbarie calcolata.

I morti di Parigi meritano di più.

L’autore è l’ex editore dei commenti del Telegraph e delle notizie presso BuzzFeed UK.

ORIGINALE:  https://medium.com/@rcolvile/the-blood-of-paris-is-on-assad-s-hands-93f3b5a40cdc#.tevbhsqj4

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

Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement is divided into seven points.

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

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

The third: condemnation of fundamentalist forces.

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

The fifth: denunciation of the policies of Fortress Europe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRMATO:

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

Rt. Hon Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP, UK

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

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

Peter Tatchell (Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation)

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

Abdulaziz Almashi (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

The Syrian Community of the South West UK

Hussam Ayloush (National Chair, Syrian American Council)

Faisal Alazem, Director, Syrian Canadian Council

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

Planet Syria (Organization, UK)

Laila Alodaat (Lawyer, UK)

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

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

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

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

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

Rana Issa (University of Oslo, Norway)

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

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

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

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

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (University of Stirling, Scotland)

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

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

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

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

Peter Clifford (Middle East Blogger, UK)

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

Saleh, Syrian, network engineer, KSA

Qusai Zakarya (Syrian Activist)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Sadri (The Syria Campaign, UK)

Robin Yassin-Kassab (Writer, Scotland)

Leila Al Shami (Activist and Writer, Jordan)

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

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

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

Paul Woodward (War in Context, USA)

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

Roxanne Abbas (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Ian Keith (Public School Teacher, Minnesota, USA)

Andrew Berman (Veterans for Peace, USA)

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

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

Omar Qureshi (Teacher, New York)

Michael Karadjis (Teacher, Sydney, Australia)

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

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

Mark Boothroyd (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

Clara Connolly (Immigration and Human Rights Lawyer, UK)

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

Bronwen Griffiths (Activist, UK)

Adina Mutar (Journalist, Romania)

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

Ed Potts (Socialist, UK)

Nina van Krimpen (Human Rights Activist, The Netherlands)

Alfonso Vázquez (Human Rights Activist, Spain)

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

Therese Rickman Bull (Human Rights Activist, USA)

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

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

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

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

Mazen Halabi (Activist, Minnesota, USA)

Barry Rubin (Independent Scientist, UK)

Subhi Hadidi (Writer, Syria/France)

Farouk Mardam Bey (Publisher, Paris, France)

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

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

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

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

Adnan Almahameed (Syrian Citizen, Community Organizer, Canada)

Pierluigi Blasioli (Student, University of Pescara, Italy)

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

Samantha Falciatori (Humanitarian Volunteer and Solidarity Activist, Italy)

Terry Glavin (Author/Journalist/Columnist, Canada)

Nancy Lindisfarne (Anthropologist, Author, UK)

Grant Padgham (Solidarity Activist, UK)

Harry Shotton (Student and Campaigner, UK)

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

Jonathan Neale (Writer, UK)

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

Kenan Rahmani (Syrian American Activist, Washington DC)

Harald Etzbach (Translator/Journalist, Germany)

Ken Hiebert (Activist, Ladysmtih, BC, Canada)

Andrew Pollack (MENA Solidarity Network-US, Brooklyn)

Richard Dawson (Concerned Citizen, Los Angeles, California)

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas F Barton (Military Resistance Newsletter)

Ricardo Salabert (Political Activist, Portugal)

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

Jason Schulman (Editorial Board, New Politics, USA)

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

Associazione Rose di Damasco (Como, Italy)

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

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

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

Fiore Haneen Sarti (Human Rights Activist, Italy)

Jane Kelly (Activist, UK)

Jamie Milne (Labour Friends of Ukraine, UK)

Lara Bartocci (Freethinker and Graphic Designer, Italy)

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

Comitato Permanente per la Rivoluzione Siriana, Italy

Luke Staunton (Syria Solidarity Movement, UK)

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

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

Anthony Saidy (Author, Los Angeles, USA)

Ralph Apel (Engineer, Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

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

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

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

Mohamad Khouli (Activist, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Jennifer Kaiser (Researcher, Turkey)

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

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

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

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

Annalisa Roveroni (CIVIC Cooperativa Sociale, Italy)

Enzio Zuffo (Istituto Sviluppo Olistico, Italy)

Fred Mecklenburg (News & Letters, Chicago, USA)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Victims of the chemical attack.

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

Credit, BBC

Credit, BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

Credit to: Human Rights Watch

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

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

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

_69784568_chemical_weapon_624_v4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articolo tratto dal Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria

Via: Shahba Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Palestinian Working Group in Syria
Via: Shahba Press

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

p paolo 2WRITTEN AND TRANSLATED By Samantha Falciatori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why Raqqa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Radio Free Syria 

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

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

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

In the face of atrocities, silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

moMona Oudeh, an Ahwazi activist based in London, said in an interview with Al-Sharq Newspaper that she has always carried the burden of the Ahwazi cause like every other Ahwazi Arab woman who rejects and repudiates the Persian occupation of Al-Ahwaz that has forced her to leave her homeland.

Mona, who devotes all of her time to the Ahwazi cause, has spoken about some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Persian occupation against her Arab compatriots, and in particular, against women, affirming the fact that due to decades of Iranian occupation, Ahwazi Arab women have been subjected to human rights violations such as being deprived of their inalienable right to education in Arabic, their native language.

Al-Sharq: How do Ahwazi women consider the Persian occupation of their homeland Ahwaz?

MO: First I would like to express my gratitude to the venerable Al-Sharq newspaper for allowing me this opportunity to talk about Al-Ahwaz case.

Also, let me take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the Saudi people, brothers, and all observers, and to all those interested in news and developments in the matter of Al-Ahwaz.  To answer your question, Ahwazi women, as an integral part of their society, believe that the occupation has to be overthrown, even militarily, if necessary, and the area returned to Ahwazi Arab rule.

The occupation is entirely illegal, and there is no doubt that sooner or later it is bound to disappear. The occupation is the root cause of my people’s suffering, and Ahwazi women endure additional repression and exclusion, such as losing their right to live in dignity in their homeland.

In fact, since the start of Iranian occupation and domination of Al-Ahwaz, the ultra-national Persian institutions have systematically implemented policies of racial discrimination against the entire Ahwazi population, and in particular, of Ahwazi women, who have been excluded from all rights and privileges including educational opportunities, employment, intellectual, literary and artistic participation, as well as the denial of exercising their indigenous cultural activities.

Mona continued, saying that crimes of the occupation are incalculable, but the worst crime committed against the majority of Ahwazi women is through the policy of ethnic cleansing practiced in the cruelest manner, by preventing women of childbearing age to bring about demographic change in the areas of Al-Ahwaz.

The occupation authorities are forcing Ahwazi women to give birth through “Caesarean” procedure rather than natural birthing, and in many cases the authorities urge the doctors to carry out sterilization on birthing women without their knowledge or prior approval, through the process of tying the fallopian tubes.  This results in Ahwazi women no longer being able to have more than one child, and thus, it reduces population growth among the Arabs.

She pointed out the suffering of the Ahwazi women as a consequence of the apartheid policies of Iranian occupation.  Women are subjected to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, physical harassment, psychological and physical torture as well as the death penalty like all Ahwazi activists.  The Arab and international stance regarding our plight is still weak, and our cause must be activated and placed on the table of international forums.

Al-Sharq: What else do the Ahwazi women suffer because of the occupation?  

MO:  If we want to describe and analyze the nature of oppression and suffering of Ahwazi women under the grip of Iranian Occupation, then it would require us to write books about it.

This is because of a racist, anti-Arab mentality and ideology of the Iranian occupation against Arab people generally, and particularly against Ahwazis.   As a matter of fact, the intensity of the regime’s racial oppression and segregation falls primarily on the Ahwazis in comparison to other ethnic and indigenous peoples in Iran, which is reflected in all aspects of their social, economic, and political lives and many other areas.

In this case, because the Iranian occupation harbors hatred towards Arabs, the Ahwazi women suffer and endure the most vicious types of harassment, arrest, imprisonment, physical and psychological torture because of three major factors, the first one is their female gender and, the second is their Arab ethnicity and the third is because they are Ahwazi women freedom fighters.

Ahwazi women, as Ahwazi men, face the death penalty because of their struggle against the Iranian occupation, and while sometimes the Ahwazi woman activist has undergone such heavy and cruel punishment, the most prominent Ahwazi woman imprisoned in an Iranian jail is Ms. Faheme Esmaili Badawi. She is an elementary school teacher and political activist who was arrested in 2005 and is currently serving 15 year’s imprisonment in exile from her homeland.

In December 2006, the Iranian occupation regime executed her husband Ali Matouri Zadeh, the Ahwazi activist and founding member of the moderate Hizbal-Wifaq (Reconciliation Party).

The suffering of Faheme Esmaili Badawi cannot be easily summarized through her arrest and the injustice of her husband’s execution, during imprisonment she was forced to give birth to her daughter Salma without receiving adequate medical assistance and in the most unsanitary conditions.  Her daughter Salma is now seven years old, and she lives without her mother and her father, who was unjustly hanged by the regime.

faheme

Al-Sharq: What is your view of the stance of Arabs and Muslims toward your issue?

MO:  Honestly, the position of the Arab and Islamic countries toward the issue of Ahwaz is very weak and timid.  It cannot in anyway be considered a significant stance, neither can it be called advocacy or support for it. So far, however, hopeful and positive indicators have recently occurred in one or two of the Arab Gulf countries.  However, we can say that there is no Arab state with a clear and explicit stand in support for the Ahwazi issue. In reality, the promises made regarding supporting Ahwazi people were only words spoken, no actions have been taken.  There are Arab countries allied with Iran, and these countries, especially the Syrian regime, have handed over political Ahwazi activists to Iran to be sentenced to death and executed.

As for the European position, through the work of human rights and civic organizations, it has resulted in the right of assembly and demonstration for Ahwazi communities in European countries. European governments have met with Ahwazi organizations in order to learn about and understand their cause.

Al-Sharq: What is the stance of the United Nations and international organizations toward the plight of the Ahwazi people?

MO:  All that the United Nations and human rights organizations have done is to condemn and denounce the crimes committed by the Iranian occupation authorities in Al-Ahwaz, despite the fact that the Iranian crimes against Ahwazis have reached the level of ethnic cleansing and genocide.  The international community has to do its duty to prosecute those responsible for these heinous crimes.

The secret letter leaked from the office of “Abtahi” during the tenure of the President Mohammad Khatami clearly indicated a policy of ethnic cleansing, a policy that is still ongoing and expanding.  The letter stipulates orders and certain conditions for conducting systematic ethnic cleansing of Ahwazis within 10 years, such as the banishment of influential and educated Ahwazis such as teachers, university professors and governmental employers to remote Persian areas. This is facilitated through different enticements, particularly by making them promises of providing better living conditions, promotions and increased salaries and then replacing them with Persian settlers who implement the orders of the occupation government in Al-Ahwaz.

Al-Sharq: How do you see the future of the Al-Ahwaz cause and Middle East?

MO:  I think that all Ahwazi activists believe that the demise of the occupation and the establishment of the state of Ahwaz is a fact that will come into being and what separates us from our goal is just a matter of time and the need to improve Ahwazi capabilities and facilities that will ensure the development of tools for the Ahwazi struggle to defeat the Persian occupation.  Ahwazis fully believe in the future of their cause and work on this basis.

We know the rule says that the revolutionary struggle for liberation from the clutches of colonialism and oppression requires manpower, in fact, we have the manpower that is willing to sacrifice in order to regain the legitimate rights of Al-Ahwaz.

But, we also need foreign support and backing at all levels for our struggle against the Iranian occupation. We need the international human rights and law agencies to decry the human rights abuses practiced against Ahwazi Arab people.

Additionally as Al-Ahwaz has been occupied military and the enemy only understands force,  there has to be a regional strategy to supply us with arms and training, as well as the implementation and full force of international law, to recognize us as an occupied and oppressed people.  It is the responsibility of the global media and regional media to expose our suffering to the world.

Lack of attention to our just cause is only in the interest of the Iranian occupation to perpetuate its illegal existence and crimes and expansionist aspirations which know no boundaries not only in Al-Ahwaz but all the neighboring Arab countries, as today it is more evident than any other time, when we see Iran’s occupation of Syria, Iraq, Yemen destroying our people’s revolutions through their mercenaries.  The only tool that can foil the regime’s devastating colonial advancement in the region is by supporting Ahwazis and other non-Persian ethnic groups such as Turks, Kurds and Baluchs in Iran.

In my point of view, this is the only way we can trample the regime, because as long as the regime exists and there is the absence of a comprehensive national Arabic project to deal with Iran, nowhere in the Middle East will there be peace and stability. Thus, the absence of the Ahwazi cause in the international and regional arena only serves the regime, as the Iranian regime’s major strength has originated from its domination of Al-Ahwaz’s sea oil and gas, albeit, the Ahwazi indigenous people have gained nothing from their vast resources, which have become a curse against them solely.

We ask the international community to support our cause in accordance with the norms and the international conventions because we are a suffering and oppressed people undergoing countless policies of racial discrimination.

The Iranian regime is attempting to melt us down in the crucible of Persian culture, eliminating our Arabic origins. As earlier mentioned, the regime has exercised such brutal racial discrimination policies that have amounted to ethnic cleansing through forcible displacement, reverse migration, and settlement construction for installing Persian settlers in Al-Ahwaz in order to impose a new demographic reality on us and the future of Al-Ahwaz.

The brutal oppression of the indigenous Ahwazi Arab people encompasses political, economic, social and cultural measures  has been going on for years, and the sheer injustice imposed on my Arab people has gone unreported for decades, never getting the attention that it deserves.  Our cause has been sanctioned due to regional plots related to bilateral economic and political interests.

The most unfair tool that is still used against our plight is the Media Blackout made of the spilled blood of my people who have dared to speak out against the Iranian occupation. Is their blood so cheap, without global condemnation?

The truth is that Ahwazis are sieged and restricted and unable to convey their voices out because the internal media is controlled by the regime and even the outside Persian opponent the media are bribed and supportive of the regime’s crimes against us and deliberately hide our news and events taking place on the ground, as such biased media stigmatizes Ahwazi Arab fighters by describing them as foreign stooges  scheming with Britain and Saudi Arabia who want to break up the country and bring corruption, terrorism and Wahhabism.

Likewise, the occupying judicial system presses the same charges against the Ahwazi prisoners and simply executes them.  This is because the racism and the anti-Arab sentiment has taken deep root into the minds of the entire Farsi-speaking community.  Furthermore, Arab and Western media also have not really put a spotlight on our issue because of the aforesaid reasons, turning our issue into a regional and global orphan.

The outcry of Ahwazi prisoners remains unheard behind bars, so our most basic and smallest demand is to receive help and solidarity from Media outlets to break the Iranian occupation blackout, to make known the reality of the Ahwazis and other ethnic groups, where our most basic conditions are so low in the framework of Iran’s petrified ideology.

We need the world to hear our voice and stand by our side against the Persianization policies and genocide campaign that look like a fatal cancer metastasizing to the whole Ahwazi Arab society as an attempt to erase the Arabic identity of Ahwazis.  For instance, as I mentioned earlier, this vicious occupation policy, through denying our native Arabic language, has caused the Ahwazi people to be stammering and uneducated in our own tongue, not able to speak Arabic or write in it.

My people have had enough of torture, prison, execution, poverty and illiteracy. We have had enough of the grief of mothers whose loved ones are executed or imprisoned for years. Let’s stop here because I am speechless. I have run out of words. I cannot depict the gravity of the nameless crimes exercised by the Iranian occupying authorities in Al-Ahwaz. I just look forward to seeing a better future for my Ahwazi oppressed people as they are free of any chains of oppression and living in safety and dignity.


Main Source: Al-Sharq newspaper  

Translated by Rahim Hamid

 

Ahwazi and Syrian freedom flags march together to demand the EU address their human rights.

Ahwazi and Syrian freedom flags march together to demand the EU address their human rights.

written by Ahwazna website

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Ahwazi mass demonstration in front of the European Parliament in BrusselsLiberation of Al-Ahwaz has organized a mass demonstration, under the title “We will never forget our Ahwazi people” in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, the Belgian Capital.

The Demonstration took place on Friday 6th of March to condemn the policies of Iranian occupation and the ongoing anti-human atrocities against the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Ahwazi community organized this massive demonstration as a message of solidarity with the enormous sacrifices of the Ahwazi Arab people in the path of preserving the Arab identity and liberation of the Al-Ahwaz land from Iranian domination which has brought nothing but destruction and murder to its indigenous Arab people. Also, it acts upon the belief in the feasibility of using all legal means in combating the unlawful Iranian occupation and its non-humanitarian practices in Al-Ahwaz.

This demonstration was a part of series of demonstrations and activities undertaken by the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Ahwaz as a bid to expose the obnoxious occupation policies of the Iranian regime. In addition, to make heard the oppressed voice of Ahwazi Arabs who are under extreme oppression from the occupation by Iran, the likes of which is not known to the world at large, despite the objective brutality of this occupation.

Hundreds of Ahwazis and Syrian took part in the mass demonstration, as there was a significant presence of Arab communities including Iraqis, Lebanon, Yemenis and Palestinians who came from various European countries as well as distinguished media figures and human rights advocates who came from Arab Gulf states and other countries for the purpose of supporting the Ahwazi cause.

Non-Persian communities such as Turks from South Azerbaijan and Kurds from East Kurdistan and Baluchis attended this demonstration to denounce the Iranian regime over its  atrocious policies that are murdering their people in cold blood and in particular, against the ongoing machine of execution that is being used at an alarming rate against their activists.

brx 5Ahwazi women along with other non-Persian women including Kurds and Turks who came from different countries took part in this demonstration to protest against the violated women’s rights, for their fundamental rights to education in their mother language and for the right to freedom of expression, against sex discrimination and inequality that the totalitarian Iranian regime has been committing against them for decades.

During the demonstration, participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and the flags of the struggle movement and images of Ahwazi martyrs and prisoners and numerous banners in Arabic and English denouncing the continued policies of forced displacement and changing the demographic structure of Ahwazi Arab areas through construction of exclusive vast settlements for bringing Persian settlers. There were also banners whose theme was the dryness of Ahwazi rivers and marshlands via construction of excessive dams.

Many outspoken political figures emphasized the necessity of supporting the Ahwazi Arab cause in their long struggle against Iranian occupation and ongoing Iran oppression and to denounce the abuse of human rights of Arab people in occupied Ahwaz territory. Moreover, they stress the necessity of implementing an effective political and media strategy to highlight the Ahwazi Arab issue not only amid the Arab world but also on the international level.

brx 4As the Arabic region is on the verge of  mass domestic unrest and instability, important speeches were addressed to the  audience regarding Arab national security and the increasing threat of Iranian influence and its terrorism-driven campaign in Arab countries – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain and the necessity of Arab countries to build strong alliances to tackle the aggressive Iranian foreign policy which is extending serious repercussions outwards, as its expansionist ambitions to achieve more influence politically and economically in the Arab world countries, mainly Arab Gulf states, become more evident each day.

The partial list of names of veteran political and journalism figures who were present at the demonstration are Dr. Walid Tabtabai, the Former Kuwaiti MP, Mohammad Al-Emadi and Nasser Al-Fezalle the MPs in Bahrain’s parliament, Rashid al-Fayed, the veteran politician and representative of the Lebanese Future Movement, Anwar Malek, an Algerian human rights advocate, Behjet Al-kurdi, the Iraqi political activist, Ayed Al-Shemeri, the prominent Saudi journalist,  Delegation from PJAK party, Delegation from Baluchistan and  Democratic Party of South Azerbaijan.

The participants spoke about ways to support the struggle of the Arab people of Ahwaz in order to lift the injustice, oppression and racial discrimination which has been practiced against them and also viable solutions to reclaim their freedom and exercise the right to self-determination of Ahwazi Arab people who have sought to end Iranian occupation of their homeland for years.

The demonstration has witnessed notable coverage by Arabic and foreign newspapers as well as TV news channels such as Al-Arabiya, Orient, Alrafidain, Wesal and Lebanon Future Channel.

The Arab Struggle Movement, in a letter submitted to the European Union, called for urgent intervention to immediately stop the Iranian regime’s arbitrary arrests and executions of Ahwazis.

The Movement also appealed to the European Union and its institutions to visit Al-Ahwaz to uncover and document the Iran regime’s occupation practices that have polluted and destroyed the environment, leading to the large-scale spread of dangerous diseases in all parts of Al-Ahwaz.

The delegation of the Arab Struggle Movement met with a number of European Union officials in Brussels after the demonstration.

The delegation stressed the need for the European Union intervention and implementation of safeguards as provided for in international treaties and conventions to protect oppressed peoples under military occupation, in particular, the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Arab Struggle Movement also expressed its hopes that the EU’s relations with the occupying Iranian regime would not be at the expense of the right of peoples under Iranian occupation, and to be supportive of the demands of the peoples struggling for their freedom and the formation of their Independent States.

The final statement which came out with five recommendations was stated by Musa Mehdi Fakher, the Ahwazi political activist. The some of the notable recommendations are as follow:

– Stop ongoing violent persecution ranging from execution, torture and detainment of Ahwazi Arab people.

– Unconditional release of all Ahwazi political and cultural prisoners.

– Granting the prisoners their legal rights of having access to lawyers and having an open, transparent and non-biased trial respecting human rights standards.

– Stop changing the main courses of Karoon, Jarahi, Karkheh Rivers, and stop damaging the environment in Ahwaz.

– Stop the forced displacement and construction settlement policies that are conducted in line with ethnic cleansing policies against Ahwazi Arab people.

– Support the protesters who are protesting against the Iranian occupying authorities in destroying the environment in Ahwaz.

– Demand for sending specialist envoys to Al-Ahwaz by the United Nations to stand up against the repeated cases of abuse suffered by the people of Ahwaz, where some of them reached the level of extermination and ethnic cleansing crimes, and demand the punishment of those individuals who must be held accountable for these offences.

– Refusal to make the Ahwazi, Kurdish, Baluchi and Turkish Azeri people issues and the violations of human rights of the occupying clerical regime as issues of compromise during  the ongoing negotiations between the West and the occupying Mullah regime over its nuclear program. As it is not permissible to compromise on the fundamental rights of these peoples supported by international law under any circumstances.

To conclude, we demand the free world, specifically the EU, to assume its full humanitarian responsibilities and to stand by the side of Ahwazi people and other non-Persian peoples in their legitimate struggle for their freedom and to maintain their dignity.

It is worth mentioning that this demonstration is the third of its kind this year, as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz has already organized a mass demonstration, entitled “We will never forget our Ahwazi oppressed people” in front of the Embassy of the State of Iranian occupation in the Danish capital, Copenhagen on 10 January 2015. Followed by another massive demonstration in front of the UN headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna on 20 February 2015, to support the Ahwazi people rising up at home against the Iranian occupation policies.

brx 3brx 2

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

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

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

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

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

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

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

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

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Dearest daughters, dear Vanessa and Greta,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Dachan Mohamed Nour

Syrian National Council

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

Written by Stefano Pasta, translated by Samantha Falciatori 

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

Where did you meet them?

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

What struck you about the two girls?

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

Then came the proposal of the trip to Syria…

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

slide_396732_4873160_freeWhat was the project of Vanessa and Greta about?

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

But then you did not leave with them…

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

Were they naïve and inexperienced?

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

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

la comune 2From La Comune, a “Humanist Socialist” organisation in Italy that has always been side by side with us in the struggle for Syrian Freedom.  WRITTEN BY RENATO SCAROLA, Translated by Mary Rizzo

We are happy that Greta and Vanessa are alive and free. We are disgusted by the comments and by the articles that are vulgar and chauvinist, cynical and with evident instrumental manipulation of the truth that has followed their liberation Greta and Vanessa are being attacked as women and as persons who are in solidarity with a population caught between the vice grip of the Assad dictatorship and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. The former Fascist Gasparri has distinguished himself in this flood of cynical sexist vulgarity.  Moreover, manipulating the truth, it has been insinuated that Greta and Vanessa have had ambiguous contacts with sectors connected to al Qaeda, that is, by those who had kept them imprisoned as hostages for months. From what the young women have declared and from what we know, their commitment and aid is devoted to the Syrian population and is against both the dictatorship of Assad as well as that of al Qaeda and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. Analogously, put under accusation is also Yasser, an exponent of the Syrian Arab Community in Italy (and friend of Greta and Vanessa) of Bologna and of the Committee of Solidarity with the Syrian Karama population, a person who has signed the appeal that La Comune has promoted for a day of national action in solidarity with the Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian populations against the Neo-Nazis of ISIS.

We denounce these cynical and ignoble attacks and we express our solidarity to Greta, Vanessa and Yasser, which for us cannot be renounced as a necessary part of the support alongside the Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi populations in the people’s resistance to the Neo-Nazis of ISIS and dictators like Al Assad.
Original: http://www.lacomuneonline.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=973%3Agreta-e-vanessa-solidarieta&lang=it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

van a casa greta a casa

Written by Mary Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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