Archive for the ‘War’ Category

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.

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

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

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

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

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

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

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

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


10961890_1407719049528535_223506516_n (1)

WRITTEN BY RAHIM HAMID

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exile:

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

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

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

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

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

War:     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Thank you, from Nour, an artist in Syria.

Dearest daughters, dear Vanessa and Greta,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Dachan Mohamed Nour

Syrian National Council

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

Written by Stefano Pasta, translated by Samantha Falciatori 

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

Where did you meet them?

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

What struck you about the two girls?

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

Then came the proposal of the trip to Syria…

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

slide_396732_4873160_freeWhat was the project of Vanessa and Greta about?

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

But then you did not leave with them…

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

Were they naïve and inexperienced?

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

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

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.

Written by Mariano Manuel Bartiromo for Osservatorio Italo-Siriano, translated by Mary Rizzo

There was a time when it was normal to feel the fear and worry for those in danger. Welcome to an age when normality is to attack the victims relentlessly, to bind them tightly so that you can hit them and enjoy a perverse pleasure in watching the terror in their eyes. Welcome to the age where selfishness, greed, envy and frustration are now so entrenched that what frightens society is no longer disease or war, but it is love.

vane-greta1 (1)

The “other” who terrorises you for being different from you is branded as crazy and exposed to ridicule and abuse

Dear Vanessa, I have shared this space with you (the blog of the Osservatorio Italo-Siriano) and now I shudder at the thought of writing “about” you.

Your articles, indeed, as you always called them, “stuff I write,” – because you did not want to call yourself a journalist – are here, but none of the journalists – because they instead cling dearly to their title – who have taken advantage of you and Greta so that they could have a scoop in the form of a sideshow and vent their lust for popularity and fame, has taken the trouble to read them.

It would have been enough to read just three lines to understand who you are, your love, your courage, your ideas that have come to become your life, because you have not taken time from your life, because your life is in giving to others. But two girls who leave everything just because they cannot live knowing that in one part of the world there are people dying of hunger and bombs, they simply can’t accept something like that. It is ‘unimaginable in the realm of business and the stock market, of ambition and self-aggrandisement, reality TV and discos.

Those who are not part of the system feel repulsion by the system. Love is not tolerated. We are so used to competing and being suspicious, that when we see selflessness, we simply cannot believe it’s true.

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Italy has become a luminary of the culture of hidden agendas.

“Have the courage to sign a surety to the families of the two idiots to pay the ransom”; “Demented girls. Make them pay!”; “A nice excuse to finance the jihadists”; “Leave them there, those two cretin girls”; “They went to take selfies with the rebels”; “Surely they have some screw loose”, “Samaritans who love the Kalashnikov”; “Leave them there, they went there so they could bring peace and found eternal peace, what the hell have they got to complain about?”; “Leave them where they are, please”; “I wonder whether it is reasonable that all Italians somehow must pay to repatriate these two demented fanatics”; “But enough of these two stupid girls, who are taking us for a ride. Leave them to their fate, that is what they want”; “They are infiltrates to support the terrorists.”

It goes on and on. Comments are scattered here and there all over the web, from the more refined pseudo-political manipulation to the most vulgar outburst from like stadium chants from hoodlums who hide behind nicknames and photo of cartoon characters.

The most squalid Italy, the Italy that from the fullness of their rounded bellies sets up kangaroo courts in the bored refinement  of their “gentlemen’s clubs”, is no  longer able to remember what humanity is: it judges, decides and condemns, then, satisfied, goes back to its alluring pastimes by clicking on another site.

The Syrian uprising began as a spontaneous motion of protest against a dictator, a butcher, a murderer, because the continuous massacres of Assad, sometimes condemned by the too tolerant international community, have made it easy for jihadist infiltration. The “laissez-faire” attitude has stifled the revolution and made Syria a land of chaos that is a perfect stage for terrorism.

You made the cause of an innocent, tortured people, bombed and children herded into mass graves your own. But this terrorises. It makes those who never would have this kind of courage uncomfortable. And they have respect for no one, not even for the families who have been anxiously suffering in worry for months.

No humanitarian corridor has ever been opened, international politics has not offered any mediation between the parties and the violence has continued, in an exponentially increasingly manner, to become the main protagonist in the general indifference.

I CARE

Yes, Vanessa, you’re crazy, a terrorist. Your love is terrifying. Altruism is terror. Sacrifice is terror. Despite not having your courage, we think like you.

We would like to see all dictatorships reversed: the Syrian, the Korean, the Chinese ones, that of Islamic fundamentalism that abuse the Koran and kills, those of African warlords. Even and especially the dictatorship of the market.

And if all this means being lunatics and fanatics, then we are. Insult us as well, because we are all terrorists.

Welcome back home girls!

Original http://blog.you-ng.it/2015/01/16/vanessa-greta-terrore-dellamore/

GAZA MS 1WRITTEN BY FIDA SHURRAB, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOHAMMED HASSAN SHURRAB

Wars are always classified within historical eras with a start and end dates. However, do wars really have an end? Do wars end when bombings and strikes stop? Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, have witnessed three wars within six years, each war ended leaving a mass of destruction at all levels, and none of them has really ended. When the people in the Gaza Strip speak of the memories they have of the wars, all of a sudden, memories turn to be very alive scenes, as if the wars have taken a place in their hearts and souls.

Do we, in Gaza, overcome the trauma? Psychologists have to expand their theories in the post traumatic disorder interventions when it comes to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Living and surviving three wars is not an easy life story. Damages have occurred in our life system. In what way in the whole world can people get used to the sounds of bombs, because people in Gaza did? This needs to be brought to the attention of the whole world, the people in Gaza Strip lost their lives during the past three wars, they are alive but without souls, their humanity has been easily raped by the silence of the international world watching genocide taking place.

GAZA MS 2We gained nothing from wars! An old woman once said, as a survivor of three wars: “In the 2008 war, I lost my eyes, and in the 2014 war, I lost my home. Loss is all I’ve gained”. In wars, we harvest loss and pain. A child, 4 years old, keeps repeating: “Every time I go to sleep, I hear loud explosions, and I cover my face with a blanket to hide from the rockets. I am afraid of sleeping”. The war visits the people every night in their dreams. People, during the war, run under heavy shelling looking for a safe place, leaving their houses, people were displaced in the schools and the streets. Many of them lost their children when they were running. A young man, from Al Shejeaya, was holding his son in his hands while running looking for a shelter, when shrapnel hit his child, cutting him into pieces. This man has nothing to speak about except the moment of his biggest loss, he says: “Why live?! I lost my pregnant wife, and I could not protect my child, he died in my hands. All of my life was snatched away in a matter of seconds”.

We need to live without remembering the scenes of the massacres, we want to stop expecting wars at every second, is that a too much for a human being?

Having a tour of the massively destroyed neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip is not easy. The rubbles of thousands of houses are not only a pile of stones, those rubbles are huge amounts of stories, memories, dreams and hopes which all have been brutally scattered.

Meeting a mother who has lost a child in the war is like meeting a mountain dipped with anguish. All she can talk about is her child whom she lost, she does not speak of his/her death but rather of his/her life, hobbies, things they hated and things they loved, as if she denies the fact that she lost him/her forever; and telling her the truth is like committing a crime. Forgetting is impossible, but death has become a habit. Losing the souls of the beloved ones can take the lives of the survivors with them in the graves, this leads us to the fact that we are also buried in life.

GAZA MS3The war has done a hellish job in the Gaza Strip, the war did not end, people are still suffering its severe consequences, the only different thing is that the explosions have stopped; otherwise, the stories of pain and loss continue to be our antagonists in the Gaza Strip.

We Shall Not Forgive nor Forget!!!!

According to the UN reports:

  • 2,127 Palestinian citizens were killed during the 51 days of war. The number of deaths included 544 children and 302 women.
  • The number of wounded is 10,744, including 3,258 children and 2,089 women. About 3,000 wounded are expected to have lifelong disabilities.
  • About the Israeli attacks, the Israeli occupation carried out 60,664 attacks, including 8,210 airstrikes, 36,718 tank and artillery shells and 15,736 naval strikes.
  • The number of houses targeted by the occupation is 16,002, including 2,358 completely destroyed and 13,644 partially destroyed.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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