Saturday, 27 June 2015
Sam Charles Hamad: "Pro-Assad Druze pulled this fellow out of an ambulance and murdered him as the IDF watched on. He was slandered by Israeli Jews and Israeli Druze, for absolutely no good reason, as being a member of Jabhat an-Nusra, yet his name is Munther Khalil and he was a fighter with the Free Syrian Army. In fact, right-wing Israelis are still slandering him and justifying his murder because some injured Syrian fighter being treated in Israel made sectarian statements in an interview with some Israeli TV channel, which apparently means that murdering any Syrian fighter is perfectly understandable."
The fall of Daraa city in the hands of rebels makes it the third Syrian city that is completely free of Assad forces after Raqqa (held by ISIS) and Idlib (held by Syrian rebels).
'Abounaddara—the name translates to “the man with the glasses,” which is to say the man who, through his lenses, can see clearly—has been able to maintain a steady stream of production since April 2011, when the regime of Bashar al-Assad upped their wanton killing of protesters. Since then, Abounaddara has released a new short film on Vimeoevery Friday. And as the Syrian uprising turned into a revolution and then morphed into a gruesome civil war, the film collective—the majority of whose members are women—has managed to capture the social and human dimensions of war with an intimacy that is almost never seen in any conflict, let alone in Syria today.
This is no small feat. Merely getting images from Syria is treacherous. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 journalists were killed in Syria in 2014, making it thedeadliest place for journalists for three years running, and more journalists have been forced into exile since 2010 from Syria than any other country. The result is that we see very little of what’s really happening in Syria, enabling ISIS to promote its high-gloss terror pornography and the Assad regime to hide its crimes from view.'
'Ideally, those under arms who oppose the Assad regime would not take the poisoned bait of collective punishment and sectarian targeting spread promiscuously by the regime over the past four years. But some have, thereby imposing on their external supporters and suppliers an obligation to secure immediate corrective action. ISIL, of course, is beyond the pale and is not in any event part of the Syrian Revolution. Yet those seeking to draw Nusra away from its murderous al-Qaeda origins might concentrate first on stopping its war crimes.
It is, however, the Assad regime that runs circles around “anti-Government armed groups” in terms of gross criminality. Consider some of the Commission’s more striking passages:
- “ . . . the Government continues to direct attacks towards locations where civilians are likely to congregate, among them, bus stations, marketplaces, and bakeries.”
- “In particular, the continuing use of barrel bombs in aerial campaigns against whole areas, rather than specific targets, is in violation of international humanitarian law and, as previously documented, amounts to the war crime of targeting civilians.”
- “The larger strategy [of the regime] appears to be one of making life unbearable for civilians who remain inside armed-group controlled areas.”
- “The previously documented pattern of attacks indicating that Government forces have deliberately targeted hospitals, medical units, and ambulances remains an entrenched feature of the conflict.”
- “Government sieges are imposed in a coordinated manner . . . [I]n particular, Government forces have refused to allow aid deliveries of essential medicines and surgical supplies . . . [G]overnment authorities act in direct breach of binding international humanitarian law obligations to ensure that wounded and sick persons are collected and cared for, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.”
- “Everyday decisions—whether to go visit a neighbor, to send your child to school, to step out to buy bread—have become, potentially, decisions about life and death. Large numbers of children have been killed in bombardments of their homes, schools, and playgrounds.”
The Obama administration is operationally indifferent to all of this. This is not to say it is at a loss for words when describing the depredations of Bashar al-Assad, a person it stubbornly continues to recognize as the President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Yet its strategy for degrading and destroying ISIL—notwithstanding effective military-humanitarian interventions at Mount Sinjar in Iraq and Kobane in Syria—is operationally silent on protecting Syrian civilians from the regime. This despite its intellectual acceptance that Assad’s program of mass homicide produces recruits for ISIL from around the world and convinces increasing numbers of Syrians that ISIL may be their best bet for protection against regime atrocities.'
"I must save my life and not risk my family’s safety!”: Untold Stories of Syrian Women Surviving War (Part 1)
"Karima (40) is not the type of Syrian heroine that the mainstream media would like to interview. She did not participate in the Syrian Uprising. She did not lead a demonstration."
I don't think this is the case. The media is not looking for revolutionaries, it is looking for people who will blame the rebels as much as Assad, to reflect the same sort of balance it imagines it can impose on the conflict. That Assad's has been a war against civilians, not just or even mainly a war against those actively resisting, has been an unfamiliar theme in most press and TV, when they talk about the rest of Syria at all and not only about ISIS.
"On March 12, 2012, Karima’s life would change forever. Around noon she heard that a mission from the Syrian Army is searching the houses in her neighborhood for armed men. She prayed that they would not take her boys and husband because they were not involved in any military activities. Around 2.00 p.m. the mission entered their apartment asking them to surrender their weapons. Her husband declared that they had no weapons. The officer ordered his fellows to take her husband out. Another officer took her eldest son Mahmmod (18) and he forced him to prostrate himself to Bashar al-Assad photograph in front of his mother and siblings. Then, they commanded Karima and her smaller children (a girl and two boys) to stay inside while they took the father and the son Mahmmod with them. In few minutes, Karima and her children heard gunshots. Karima held herself together because she was worry about the safety of her younger children.
Her husband’s dead body was left next to their flat door, and her son was left dying on the stairs after they shot him in the head. Karima remembered how his flesh and blood had dispersed and adhered to the walls around him. Her daughter Lama (15) tried to give Mahmmod water before he died because he was muttering “water,” but he could not drink it. Karima told me this with a big sigh that even her son last wishes did not come true: “My daughter came back inside, her hands were covered with Mahmmod’s blood. I kissed her hands and I smelled my son scent.” When the army mission finished investigating the building, they came again to Karima’s apartment. She locked the door. They unlocked it by shooting it.
It was winter and dark, and Karima, who has no experience in public spaces, felt scared and decided to stay the night at one of her neighbor’s houses. When they entered her neighbor’s house, they saw another dead body of a stranger. Karima learned that the regime forces killed all men in her neighborhood, and they randomly threw all the dead bodies into neighbor’s houses. They do so to ensure that the rest of the families are terrorized and humiliated and other anti-regime regions would look at this example of consequences for rebelling against the regime. Once again Lama covered the dead body with a sheet, so the small children would stop looking at the body exploded by bullets. Karima continued her story:
At 6:30 in the morning we left the neighbor’s houses, the regime forces were shooting toward our feet and screaming at us to go back. I gestured with my hand that it is impossible to go back. We kept running through the shooting, and sometimes we hid in some buildings, but there were dead bodies in every building. When we passed our neighborhood, we met armed rebels. I expressed my disappointment with the rebels because they did not confront and fight the regime troops. But the rebel leader told me to thank my god because no one touched my daughter or me and we had escaped with our honor. He said in the nearby neighborhood most women were raped."
' "We're the gang of girls. [Assad] would kill us, but he can't find us," Waleed says. The "gang of girls" she refers to are her colleagues at Enab Baladi; a little more than half the staff are women. Many of them are now refugees, in Turkey and Lebanon, and the rest are in hiding in Syria—reporting over sporadic Internet connections, giving new and urgent meaning to the phrase working remotely.
Of the 24 founding staff members, three top editors have been killed in separate attacks. Eight reporters have been detained and tortured, and 12 have fled the country.
Waleed and her girlfriends joined the crowds of hundreds of thousands forming across Syria, singing the anthem of the revolution, the title of which translates as "Come On, Bashar, Leave." They used Twitter and Facebook to coordinate more rallies, calling for democratic re- forms and expecting that the government—which over the past 40 years had built up one of the world's worst human rights records, crushing dissent, torturing prisoners, detaining and spying on critics, fostering endemic corruption, and creating widespread poverty—would fall or make concessions under pressure from the international community.
But their calculations were wrong, and backing from the United States was weak. The Assad regime immediately cast the protesters as dangerous Islamists and foreign terrorists. Within weeks of the first demonstrations, government tanks rolled into city centers, opening fire on the people. Journalists and artists were detained or killed. The man rumored to have written "Come On, Bashar, Leave" was found dead in a river, his vocal cords ripped out. Assad controlled the airwaves, which spouted only propaganda.
One morning in late August, she was having breakfast at her family's apartment in Darayya when the house shook. She rushed to the balcony to see her neighbors pouring into the alley. Minutes later, in almost the same location, there was another explosion. Waleed had grown accustomed to the occasional sound of rockets or mortars landing, as the rebels were hiding close by, on farms in the outskirts of the city. This was different. The shelling intensified, and the next morning the Waleed family fled to a relative's apartment, but as they arrived, a mortar hit the building, sending them all sprawling. The city was under attack. They ran for their cars, driving to the home of a family friend outside of town.
For the next three days, one of the worst massacres of the Syrian war took place inside Darayya. According to reporting from Enab Baladi, which still had staffers there, the regime's soldiers sealed off all roads entering and exiting the city shortly before mortars landed.
Then, according to first-person accounts reported by Enab Baladi, soldiers went door to door, lining up men in mosques and shooting them execution style and burning homes and schools. In one particularly gruesome example, neighbors told Waleed that they'd found an entire family dead in their basement, where they had presumably been hiding. During the rampage, Waleed stayed out in the country, along with 100 others sleeping side by side in a crowded house. With no electricity or Internet access, she had no idea of the whereabouts of her team. This was the only time Enab Baladi missed an edition.'
This is the massacre Robert Fisk lied about in the Independent, after riding into town with the very troops who had carried it out.*
This is the massacre Robert Fisk lied about in the Independent, after riding into town with the very troops who had carried it out.*
Friday, 26 June 2015
Thursday, 25 June 2015
'Shaam and Ibrahim fought with militias linked to Ahrar al Sham, which loosely translates as the “Islamic Movement of the Free Men”. The group is considered one of the largest official opposition forces fighting in Syria. Although it aims to implement an “Islamic government” in Syria, its members have largely considered getting rid of Assad their main priority.
In late 2012, Shaam joined an aid convoy in the Syrian town of Atmeh, where he helped deliver essentials to Syrian families displaced by the war. After seeing the aftermath of an attack by regime forces, he felt compelled to take up arms.
“I had witnessed an attack in a city about 20 miles away from Atmeh – we were eating on a porch of a local house at around midday on the second day I arrived,” he says. “Some barrel bombs went off nearby, and I remember seeing two little girls, dressed almost identically with blue ribbons in their hair, starting to cry, and an old man who could no longer stand up after his knees had gone cold with fear.”
Similar motivations led Ibrahim to travel to Syria. He recalls being “horrified by the attacks carried out by the regime” when he saw images of dead civilians and crying children broadcast on the news, and claims that it was his duty to go there to help, because “if you had the means to go and help the oppressed, then you should”.
“You have all these groups talking about why young people are becoming radicalised and joining groups like ISIS, and there’s no one who can really tell them why what they’re doing is wrong. The groups who are currently talking about deradicalisation have no credibility – you need someone with on the ground experience of the conflict, and people who also believe in the idea of proper jihad … so that you can tell young people what they’re doing isn’t Islamically authentic.” '
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
'The 31-year-old from from east London was detained in territory controlled by the al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria. She was freed after negotiations with al-Nusra, who agreed to let her go because of her history of mental illness, those involved with the negotiations said.
Tasnime Akunjee said the woman’s release was unlikely to offer hope to the families of Britons who have fled to Isis-controlled Syria: “Nusra are easier to deal with than Isis.” '
"The question arises as to whether a dramatic worsening in the economic situation might be the catalyst for the regime’s military collapse or for an externally imposed political settlement against Assad’s wishes; or whether further military setbacks might be the trigger for the government’s economic collapse."
Hard to say how accurate this is.
"The source, who declined to be identified, said that the international coalition has accurate information about the status of Assad's forces and the terrorists, adding that no extremist groups will be allowed to seize the Syrian capital."
Sunday, 21 June 2015
'When the Islamic State took control of her hometown of Minbaj in northern Syria she was just 17. Before then, she had organized and participated in scores of protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After the IS takeover Ms. Alif, a devout Muslim, was horrified by the group's approach to the faith, its draconian dictates, and its rules prohibiting girls from studying. Alif and a group of friends decided to take action, which was when her nightmare of beatings, stress positions and other forms of torture began.
“We formed this small team to fight IS,” recalls Alif, who works in a cramped, overheated tissue factory in southern Turkey. "We wanted to send the message that we are against them, that we don’t want them in our town. That they are disfiguring Islam.” Mostly they spray-painted anti-IS slogans around town. Alif is still haunted by the image of a 15-year-old boy crucified on a tree and left to rot for days.
On a crisp morning in May 2014 Alif unfolded the tricolor flag of the Syrian revolution in front of the Islamic State court as her friends documented the act and kept an eye out for IS militants. She tried to mask her identity — donning a black niqab, wearing high heels and speaking in a raspy voice. It all lasted a few seconds.'
'When the first attacks occurred in March, Mr. Kerry issued an angry statement declaring that “the international community cannot turn a blind eye to such barbarism.” But the Security Council, paralyzed by Russian obstructionism, has taken no action. And Mr. Kerry and his spokesman made it clear that the Obama administration has no plans to do anything other than remonstrate with Vladimir Putin’s powerless foreign minister.
It is well within the power of the United States to put a stop to the horrific attacks. It could impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria, where Idlib province lies, or simply shoot down the slow-moving Syrian helicopters carrying out the attacks. As former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testified to the House committee, a failure to act won’t affect only Syria: “The international consensus against CW use forged after the horrors of World War I is being eroded with each new chemical attack,” he said. “This is a risk to our own soldiers’ safety and our broader national security.”
No matter: “I don’t have any specific measures here that I can lay out for you” to stop the chlorine attacks, said State Department spokesman John Kirby. Tell that to the families of the children whose lungs are being burned away.'