Olives, Ironies, and civil war

On Jan, 5, 2011, Subhi Hadidi, a journalist termed by many in the opposition, including myself, as a moral compass for being fiercely independent in his criticism of the Syrian regime, published an article in the London based Pan Arab newspaper Alquds Alarabi about the cornerstone of the Syrian regime and its evolution during the past 10 month. The article’s introduction describes the intent of Adanan Alsukhbi, the regime’s governor of the Raqqa governorate of Syria to uproot the 15 years old olive trees planted on the private farm of activist lawyer Abduallah Al-Khalil after Assad’s militias destruction of the the lawyer’s house.  One of two trees mentioned in the Quran (fig and olive), and a universal symbol of peace, olive trees are both mystical and semi-sacred.  And uprooting olive trees, next to home demolition, has been a constant presence in Arab memory ever since it has been practiced by Israeli settlers and IDF soldiers be it as collective and individual punishment of Palestinians, pre-confiscation action, or part of the controversial and illegal price-tag policy exacted by extremist settlers against both the Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

It was an epic irony that, in his forth speech since the uprising started, and while the issue of uprooting olive trees in Raqqa, being fresh, and with Bashar Al-Assad being dubbed by many Syrians as having presided over the killing of more Syrians than double the number of Lebanese and Palestinians killed through the two most recent actions of Israel’s forces, and right after berating “certain” Arab countries and the Arab League as betrayers of Arabism (Urooba), chose, with pride, Syria’s rank as the fifth country in producing olives and olive-oil as one of the fundamental strengths of Syria that he hoped will get Syria through the isolation his regime has put the country through. It goes without saying that farmers and refugees from Jabal Alzzaweyah and Idlib region, have also described Assad’s forces scorched earth policy of uprooting and burning ancient olive trees in this region, which is responsible for a majority of Syria’s high quality olives and olive oil. Needless to say, Syrians have been talking loudly about the fact that the number of victims of the Assads’ forty one year reign of terror already exceeds the numbers of Syrians who lost their lives in the multiple wars with the enemy the regime is supposed to protect Syria from.

Keen observers of blogs and journals where open discussions of Syrian affairs take place would notice that regime loyalists are more or less oblivious to Ironies.  And yesterday, in his speech, the subject of adoration and worship not only re-affirmed such observation, but took it into new lows. While a number of gaffs, some of which were related to the man’s well-known lisping, which was on and off quite, indicating his extreme stress. More, however, were related to the content of the speech, to his detachment from reality, to his sophistry and lecturing style, to his bizarre concepts of governance, constitutional reforms and to the mere fact that he said nothing new in the speech, which caused some to say “the man has swallowed his previous speeches and threw them all up together”, or so we thought.

The speech, as described above, started with a contemptuous brouhaha about the Arab League, about countries, who, as opposed to Syria, have no history and tradition with Arabism. Those countries, according to Assad, now have money and think that their money allows them to buy “geography!” and establish pretentious claim to Arabism. This was followed by a boring rehash of reform talk, mixed with conspiracy—conspiracy—conspiracy segment. In this segment Assad clearly indicated that he does not intend to leave power, unless asked by his people!, and with an obvious repeating of Qaddafi’s mantra regarding utter lack of interest in position. The final segment was the most significant, in it, Assad revived his fathers’ speech in 1980s, bringing back terms such as the “Satanic Brotherhood” as he referred to the Muslim Brothers, also reviving and declaring his intent to arm and mobilize “popular militia”. He also alluded to “secret dialog” with some opposition figure and drafter a list of conditions for what he termed “patriotic opposition” that is consistent the conspiracy theory, and would lead to nothing more than parties that are mirror image of his own, and of the pathetic parties currently engaged in the dead-wood National progressive front.

Assad saved his worst to the part in which he demonstrated that he continues to live in his own reality. It was to the wide-spread opposition in the streets where he directed his most contemptuous language.  He accused them of causing the acute fuel and power shortages, of closing thousands of schools and of being anti-education and of committing all kinds of heinous murders. As for the wide-spread brutality of his regime forces, Assad claimed that there is not much evidence of that and only few murder cases were investigated within his own forces because of the lack of evidence, ignoring the law his father signed and he cntinues to renew, which exempts members of security forces from being held to account in law. He kept asking would revolutionaries do so and so in an increasing crescendo reaching the infamous promise of hitting with Iron Fist, which he claimed is not an execution of the demands he has received from honest Syrians for all-out war. Strangely enough, there was no power shortage anywhere in the country during the speech and for a period after the speech sufficient for regime- media to provide the usual post-speech glorification of the unique-leader”.

It is noteworthy that Assad chose to point out that “honest and patriotic citizens” have been urging him to “finish it” and to clamp down hard on the “terrorists”. This links the fascist campaign, which was initiated by a letter from one of the most vocal anti-revolution reactionaries “Bassam  Alkadi”, who accused every protester of treason, and few others urging the “president” and the armed forces to defend Syria with all of their power. Alkadi’s letter was the first in a series of face-book status updates by a series of “regime-poets, by the wife of the newly appointed director of the Syrian radio and TV, apparently closed her facebook profile but not before her comment, in which she berated the army for not hitting the terrorist hard enough and asked soldiers to shoot any “suspect” straight in the head, went viral. I and few others have noticed the coordinated campaign as the messages, while differently worded, have had the same set of murderous suggestions and demands of increasing brutality, along with the usual demonization of the revolution Alkadi and his supporters have excelled at. Few intellectuals were repulsed and hit back, but their outrage was personal, and not sufficient to expose the coordinated campaign, which is a hallmark of the regime’s propaganda machination.

The irony does not stop here, Assad’s incoherent attempt to brand the demonstrators as terrorists included accusation of halting the education of Syrians. One has to recall the methods the regime uses to “herd” students of all ages as well public sector employees into regime’s festivals of loyalty and to imagine the number of school hours wasted in the personality cult rituals. To add insult to injury, today one of these feasts was held under the banner “The president between his children” in which students were herded in buses to meet the “great father” and his biological family. I said it, these thugs are oblivious to ironies, talking about this thug as a father just a day after his henchmen delivered the body of a four months (yes Four MONTHS) old baby murdered under torture while maintaining her parents under arrest. The baby was arrested with her parents hours earlier.  Today, the tyrant encouraged the forcibly herded kids as well as his loyalists to “forge ahead” ” الى الأمام “, words uttered by Qaddafi in his Zenga Zenga famous and moronic speech. Activists are taking this as a sign of the impending end. The spokesman of the local coordination committees affirmed the summary dismissal members of university faculty for their refusal  to join today’s worship rituals. Just a day after Assad berated the protesters for their effect on the “educational process”.

Assad’s talk of reform too late and rings hollow. As discussed above, the sol-called national unity government, will only be a cover for continuing repression and brutality. I would not be surprised if he included a fascist reactionary figure, who calls for “surgical strikes” and for “execution of protesters” as a minister of “human rights”.  His emphasis that security is the priority and that it will be brought about with iron fist, coupled with his insistence (same as the opposition) that reforms can not happen while people are being killed,  and with his declared intention of proceeding with reforms-related referendum on the “re-customized” constitution, which is likely to exclude term-limt articles, sometimes in March indicates that he expects the iron fist policy to finish off the protest movement by March. SNC, i believe, read the speech appropriately as indicated during the press conference it held, and by the statements of its different blocks as well as of that of its president. An interesting phenomenon was the disappearance of honorific names (i.e., Doctor, President) from Haytham Manna’a references to Assad after the speech, and the declaration from the CNB that they are not and have never been a party to the secret discussions with the regime, and that they will not enter in any discussion or negotiation with the regime as long as its brutality continues. Manna’a said “if Bashar al-Assad asked me to become a Prime Minister, I would ask him to resign first“. Interesting! he is considering the premiership, isn’t he?

While analysts, including psycho-analysts continue to debate whether Assad is confident, stressed, or whatever, the speech was a threat. It demonstrated that he will hang on to power to the last possible drop of Syrian blood. It was clear that all real political solutions are of no interest to this regime, who has locked itself and Syria in a downward spiral towards civil war. Some have argued that the speech was a declaration of civil war. I tend to agree.


Posted on January 11, 2012, in Arab Spring, Bashar Al-Assad, Palestine, Syria, Syrian Regime Crimes Against Humanity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 181 Comments.

  1. Son Of Damascus,

    When Maher Arar returned to Canada after 374 days in a Syrian jail, in a far-off land of torture. Together with his wife Dr. Monia Mazigh beside him, held a news conference detailing the horrors he had been through, she sat beside him.

    “If it were not for her, I believe I’d still be in prison.”

    Despite her high visibility, though, there has been little said or written about Mazigh herself.

    “She has inspired Canadians with her unrelenting efforts to raise awareness of what happens when the rights of citizens are trampled in the name of so-called national security. We are all deeply indebted to Monia Mazigh,” McDonough said. “We pay tribute to this remarkable woman.”

    “Monia is a communicator’s dream: she’s highly intelligent and focused. She has an intensity about her. She has a sense of humor. She’s humble and unassuming. She’s extremely articulate” — in French, English and Arabic.

    “At a meeting when we were discussing the Arar case, a lawyer in the room said, `This woman belongs on the Supreme Court of Canada. She has a wisdom beyond her years, and an impeccable sense of justice and how it is supposed to work.”

    Never an activist, she was a private person until she got a phone call, while holidaying in her native Tunisia, from her mother in Ottawa that Arar had been detained in New York.

    “I was shocked and surprised,” she said in a phone interview. “But I thought it would be a matter of days — it might be related to the new immigration laws.”

    “Very few people would listen to my story.”

    But, “I called my MP every day. They don’t call me back. But I call. I write letters.

    “I decided I was going to do that all my life” — if she had to.

    Two more things kept her going: her children and her faith.

    “My children. I was upset seeing them growing up without their father. And I worried about their future, that they were going to be treated in the same manner as their father.

    “I did not want them to be treated like second-class citizens. I did not want them to be accused or suspected of being a terrorist because of their origin, because they are Muslim and they bear a name that has an Arabic sound.”

    The Arar family members are happily living together serving their adopted homeland, a land were institutions protects citizens.

    His torturers are well and alive. The pen Shabeeha on SC are well and alive. They should be disgusted, they live in a web of lies, they have no conscience whatsoever.

    Finally, she was asked, how is Arar doing?

    “Alhamd-o-lillah, every day is a new day.”

    She was born and raised in Tunisia and emigrated to Canada in 1991, at the age of 21. She was denied university for wearing a headscarf. Mazigh has a Ph.D. in financial economics from McGill University and speaks Arabic, English and French fluently.

    Published on Sunday, November 23, 2003 by the Toronto Star
    New Canadian Heroine Emerges from Arar Case
    by Haroon Siddiqui http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1123-04.htm

  2. Son of Damascus

    Dear N.Z,

    Thank you for that post on Mr. Arar’s wife, when I expressed that his marital status should not be important when it came to his story, if I in anyway I came across as sidelining his wife importance,I apologize sincerely I did not intend on belittling Dr. Mazigh. She is a true heroin that fought for her husband and family through thick and thin, and without her he would have most probably be forgotten in jail; and I truly don’t believe he left her for a 20 year old as someone on SC claimed without any corroboration. I just felt that his marital status currently does not and should not eclipse any of the horrors this man so unjustifiably endured.

  3. Son of Damascus

    Ok now I feel like a complete ass, I just called Dr. Mazigh a highly addictive drug substance that has brought ruin to so many families. I meant to call her a heroine, not heroin.

    Excuse the major typo

  4. Son of Damascus

    Dear Annie,

    you don’t need to embed a video on Walls blog, just copy paste the link and the video will embed locally.

  5. Son of Damascus

    Dear SGID,

    Hopefully someday soon we can share a Shawarma plate at Siddiq, in a Syria that we can truly call our home, without the fear of Big Brother.

    Stay safe,

  6. Thank you dear Son of Damascus

    See how it works

  7. Dear Annie
    I fixed the other two clips, they are embedded. The “watch” argument was missing. I will now watch them.

  8. Dear N.Z.
    Women, not the SNC, the NCB, or even the FSA are the real backbone of this revolution. Many people are in for a great shock when we will write the real stories of the revolution. I believe that if it wasn’t for them, no one would have been able to sustain this for 10 month and on..

  9. Speaking of women in the revolution, an excellent article by Rime Allaf.


  10. The essence of Menhebbakjis’ argument

  11. From Facebook

    Rasha Omran

    شباب من شباب طرطوس ، بمثاب ابن لي ، سألته عن وضع الجيش الحر أجابني بالتالي :

    خالتو رح قلك معلومات أكيدة
    أنا من الناس اللي عم تاخدلن أكل للجيش الحر وعم نظبط معن بالمظاهرات
    لما يعرفو اني علوي لا تتخيلي فرحتن وثقتن
    بتتخيلي إنو غالبيتن مابيعرف انو في علوي معارض ومع هيك بيقلك لاللطائفية
    ناس بسيطة فقيرة وعفوية
    هدول هنن
    رح قلك حادثة مؤكدة
    بخان شيخون كان في ناس حاملة سلاح بس مدنيين وعاملين حالن جيش حر وبدن يدفعو الناس أتاوات بالاجباري مقابل حمايتن وبيمنعو الولاد يروحو عالمدارس
    بيفوت الجيش الحر النظامي عالمدينة وبيلقطن لهدول وبيرفعن فلق بنص المدينة وبيرجع الولاد عالمدرسة وبيدفعو مصاري لمدير المدرسة منشان يستمر بشغلو
    هدول هنن الجيش الحر
    كتير بسطا
    خالتو مو ذنبن إذا ما سمعو حدا غير سني معارض ولا حدا غير علوي موالي
    لا تتخيلي ما أبسطن
    حكى واحد منن معي منشان طلعلن أكل وكنت عم اتغدى وشي راجع من الشغل وطالع عمظاهرة
    سألني شو متعمل قلتلو عم اتغدى وطالع لعندكن سألني شو عم تتغدى قلتلو زيت وملح وبصلة
    قلي يا عرص
    عندك زيت
    خالتو صدقا ما معن ياكلو
    طلعتلن ابريقين زيت
    أوادم كتير عنجد


    Where is Najati Tayyara?
    Looks like he is finally at home. Welcome home Najati.

  13. OTW, right on.

    Women ” are the real backbone of this revolution.” Without diminishing the role of Syrian women in this revolution, our men and women are in it together, to end oppression. I did not think for once that Syrian women are not at the forefront of this noble cause, they’ve always been. The West’s obsession with ” freeing ” Muslim women is a Western fixation, that has no basis among the majority of women in the Arab world, when the whole society is oppressed it makes no difference whether you are a man or woman, a boy or a girl.

  14. Aleppo University, today!

  15. Rime’s article that Aboud posted above – is much appreciated. Clearly…. although perhaps it is a coincidence- she must be as annoyed as I was to read certain repeat offenders continuing to spout the supposition that revolutions will lead to ‘islamists’ further oppressing women. Maysaloon answered this item in one way- pointing out the fact that women were not living in a bastion of freedom already to be taken away. But I think there are many further arguments to be made why the original assertion is both offensive and wrong.
    I would add right now to NZ and OTW’s notes that there is more freedom to be attained all around – women and men. Being Muslim or Islamic is not the central issue but rather people should be judged on their conduct and treatment of others regardless of what religion they hold. Oppressed societies can work towards the lifting of oppression on all fronts at once – and what benefits the whole should naturally benefit the particular condition of women as well.
    However, women certainly don’t need to be “freed” by others from afar (as NZ noted) – western or eastern- or by the men right next to them. They are the agents of their own freeing ultimately, (otherwise it wouldn’t really be freely chosen, would it).
    I would argue that revolutions and the struggle for self determination – are precisely the occasions when women are often able to seize the moment to advance their own journey towards an expansion of freedom to have more roles in society, more options for self expression, more positions of power and responsibility and authority, more of voice to be heard and honored, more influence on the public sphere, and more opportunities to work in solidarity with men in ways that demand respect and a lived experience of equality of meaning to their lives. I think that no matter what setbacks and backlashes their are in the wake of revolutionary moments, the gains far outweigh the pain, suffering, and violence that women may be subjected to along that path towards liberation for the whole and for their selves.

  16. Najati Tayara has indeed been released. Several times the regime had released him only to have another security branch arrest him. Hopefully, this time his release will be permanent.

    Najati Taraya in jail was a freer man than the menhebaks living in the mental straight jacker of Besho worshiping. No matter how badly junior bungles things, the menhebaks cannot criticize him in any shape, way or form.

    “Syrian tribal leader: I praised Assad at gunpoint
    Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir has since fled to Turkey; wants overthrow of regime”


    I’m sure more than a few words of praise for the giggling child were said at gunpoint.

  17. Another 37 protesters were slaughtered today, the butcher is getting away with murder as the world is watching and his men are doing what they know best, oppression, humiliation, torture and mass murder.

    After 10 months of unbearable conditions in Homs, Hama, Idleb…they are those who are foolishly asking for dialogue! These people are no less crooks, than the crook himself.

    By construing the suffering of Syrians to their own agendas, inventing excuses and philosophical arguments, empty rhetoric, “pardon and excuse me”, all these explanations will not impregnate.. as they say in Arabic, ” kil-hal haki, ma bi-habbel”. They seem to be in a deep slumber, either stupidly or conveniently. The latter is more plausible.

    Those on ground zero, the noble revolutionists, care neither for the crook nor the crooks. Their goal is, to the end..till the regime is plucked, ass-a-dists gangsters, one by one. A Free Syria by God’s will, and the will of the brave men and women on the ground.

    The butcher and his conspirators will very soon become history.

  18. N.Z.

    Would you be willing to entertain a clean exit for the baath to save 5 years of civil war (and save 100k+ dead, more wounded) if it took 1 or 2 years with current system (with b.s. reform)?

    I understand you and especially the mothers of the fallen want justice, but at what point do you say make a settlement with the devil (if one is even possilbe) to save 1 million Syrians.

  19. I am not a devil, will never envision myself with one.

    The train has left the station, your suggestions/assumptions do not resonate with me, but most importantly, will not resonate with the activists on the ground. The revolution is spreading geographically and numerically. They, the Revolutionists, have the first and the last word. We are here to campaign for their cause without questioning their vision. They are the movers, we are the shakers.

    We have to, all, put our feet together and look forward to a future free of oppression.

    As Maysaloon said: ” I think a dawning realisation that nobody will come to help should not necessarily lead to self-despair, but to a stronger sense of self-determination and independence. No more father-leaders, no more saviours from other countries, wouldn’t it be amazing if Syria became a truly independent country that set its own standards for morality and expected the best from its people and for its people. There would be no need for foreign intervention, but rather our neighbours would look to us for help and for guidance – for a change.”

  20. Husam,

    There won’t be any clean exit for the Baath, no chance. Bashar is merely a puppet, he is controlled by hardline Alawites and by Iranian geopolitical interests. Bashar is merely a puppet, he will simply disappear if he were to concede even an inch to the opposition. Iran, Iraq and Hezballah look upon this as a matter of sectarian prestige and geopolitical survival.

    Even in the regime, there is absolutely no chance of any internal reform, nor of a peaceful transfer of power. Every single intelligence thug knows he will come to a sorry end when if he surrenders. TOO MUCH BLOOD has been shed already for any peaceful surrender or peaceful transfer of power. Syrians are very touchy about issues of sharaf and mur’uah. They have been humilated and pillaged and killed beyond comparison for the last 10 months. 90 % of anti-regime people will never settle for a peaceful solution and will launch a Coup against anyone advociating so. That is why Ghalioun and Manna3 are hate figures on the ground. The people will settle for nothing short of proportional retaliation, not even blood money.

  21. ^^ Continuing on my comment above, the FSA will never agree to any “deal” with the Baathists in which killers are allowed to go scot-free. And you know what the FSA can do when it decides on something.

    Ultimately, the moderates like Manna3 will have to take the heat, in an ugly way. Never impose your scruples and principles over and above the popular will, the will of the shaab.

  22. Lets just hope that the “ceasefire” in Zabadani isn;t a regime ploy to put the FSA off their guard. That said, I think the FSA is going from strength-to-strength with each passing day, and along with the LCCs, it remains the few credible instituitons with popular support and capability to topple the regime.

  23. ” but at what point do you say make a settlement with the devil (if one is even possilbe) to save 1 million Syrians.”

    If the better part of that 1 million Syrians are regime thugs, mukahabarat, 4th Division, Peoples Council Members, etc. nobody will cry salt tears.

  24. Remember this little piece of sh*t? Well, there are reports that he was captured by the FSA. Gee, forgive and forget, or give him some “freedom”.

  25. Dear 7ee6anis
    For those interested. There is an excellent conversation between SON OF DAMASCUS and JAD going on SC. I will not interfere in it, but I urge you to read it. A good opportunity.

    Most of us are having similar conversations in bits and pieces over emails, facebook pages for those who have not purged their list of friends, or have not yet been purged , but not necessarily with such calm and curtness.

    Because the current post on SC is a rather lengthy one, i have extracted the links to the relevant comments. Here is the series:

    1. Jad-Comment
    2. SOD Response
    3. Jad Response
    4. SOD Setting the tone with a response
    5. Jad’s point by point reply
    6. SOD reply, again, point by point.

    I did not include intermediate comments in which both indicated that a response is forthcoming. but the conversation is likely to continue. Please note that since the current number of comments is huge (ANN and few others are still at it), it may take sometimes to load each of the above links. SO don’t try it on your mobile phone.

    I commend you for your efforts to reach out. And hope that you will hang around for post regime rebuilding. Cool heads like yours will be very much needed.

  26. Online database, containing the names of every victim of the regime’s crackdown


    Seeing these staggering numbers is shocking. This is the most depraved regime in the history of the Middle East, and its supporters are shameless, despicable enablers of murder and war crimes. A child in Baba Amr or Midan is worth ten of Asma and the chicken sh*t expat menhebaks. Wallak farjuna wijihkon bi Homs bas ya ekhwat el….

  27. Son of Damascus

    Dear Off The Wall,

    Thank you yet again for your kind and generous words, what I wrote was truly from the heart. I wish I could write as eloquent and concise as some commentators here, and most importantly no get too sensitive (my post to the person before Jad is a prime example of that).

    Expressing my own opinion about our beloved country is a relatively new experience for me, but one I found to be very satisfying. I will always strive to better our country, it is an oath I swore and intend on following through with it.

  28. Dear Son Of Damascus,

    As Maya Angelou said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. What comes from the heart goes to the heart. Your honesty and unconditional love to your people is apparent in every comment.

    With each passing day, our hidden gems are resurfacing. After 40 years we are witnessing the rebirth of the Syrian values.

    Our true heroes will never be forgotten. The bravery and determination that we’ve seen so far, seems to be just the beginning of a new dawn, a new era and a New Syria.

  29. Dear N.Z.,
    Wonderful words. I fully agree. I have been hearing stories that brought me tears. I am getting surprised every day by the reservoir of courage I find in people around me. The Syrian revolution is forging a new Syria, a Syria that will look in the mirror and say, looks good… keep it up.

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