Stories from Hama: Memories of Painter Khaled Al-Khani. Part 2

Introduction to Part 2.

We continue with the memories of renowned Syrian painter from Hama, Khaled Al-Khani. In this segment, Khaled mixes his memories of events he witnessed, as a six-year-old child, with those he heard during the great escape from the massacre of 1982 and in subsequent years.

Khaled tells horrific tales of images, feelings, sounds, smells that have remained with him and with most survivors of the Hama massacre until today. But above all, these are also stories of both those who perished in the bombardments and mass executions as well of those who survived to share the pain and the long-lasting scars that can only be left by excessive brutality and deliberate savagery.  The material is not for the weak heart or sensitive reader.

Today, Thursday, 2 February, 2012, and at 9:00 PM Damascus time, Orient TV is airing a 30 minute film by Journalist Emma Sulieman “Why do I paint Um-Ibrahim” “لماذا ارسم أم ابراهيم”. The promo for the film can be viewed here. Orient TV has a direct online broadcast as well.(

Part 1 of Stories from Hama, Memories of Painter Khaled Al-Khani.

Part 1 (French) Histoire de Hama : souvenirs du peintre Khaled Al-Khani (Thanks to wonderful annie)

Stories from Hama: Memories of Painter Khaled Al-Khani. Part 2.

After our great escape from the massacre of Hama; a human history event resembling no other massacre but itself, and after fleeing from the images, the sounds, the smell of blood, the taste of stale bread, and the voices of women being raped and men and children grappling with death having been shot, and  after the destruction of our city as if an earthquake had befallen it, we reached the point of no return, and we headed to the countryside,  barefoot and half naked. They displaced us from our homes, killed whomever they wanted killed, and launched us on a journey even more painful than what has preceded it.

In the village, we were received with the utmost hospitality and  honor, which goes to show the fact that all of the Syrian people knew of the corrupt regime’s lies. We remained as refugees in that village, where we finished the second school semester.  My father was martyred. His properties were either stolen or destroyed. We stayed there until the start of the following school year when we returned to Hama and lived with one of my maternal aunts through an act of nurturing and pain sharing. Later, one of our relatives managed to find my lost paternal aunt, about whom we had no information whatsoever, in the countryside. I remember that I did not expect to ever see her like that. She was a queen, but all had changed. I hugged her for hours, while my siblings and our mother (all of us) sobbed hysterically. My aunt later told of the arrest of my father in the shelter we passed by and that she never saw him alive after that but had learned of his death from some people. We sobbed and sobbed. Sobbing first, before even greeting each others, became the norm in Hama when people met face to face as they exchanged visits. For years, the house we stayed at was a home for many displaced because of the complete destruction of several neighborhoods such as Al-Baroudyyeh, Al-Kilanyyia, Al-Zanbaqa and Shimali, (الباروديه، الكيلانية، الزنبقة، شمالي ) and many more. There was barely a house in Hama which did not have martyrs and detainees, and this at the least.

We went back to our schools after tremendous suffering, humiliation, oppression, and hunger. I swear to you that in my grade (second grade), there were only two kids who were not orphaned. So, just imagine how much we suffered in order to overcome our internal crisis, and we still have not done that to date.

Then the regime (and it does not even deserve being called a regime), inflicted new torments. It never stopped arresting people. Many of the generation slightly older than mine were arrested and many remain disappeared until now. Their names are well-known to the people of Hama.  To further torment the people of Hama, and to prove that we were humiliated, broken, and stepped all over, the ruling gang started releasing some of the prisoners who were not liquidated in Tadmor only on their self-proclaimed national holidays that had no connection whatsoever to their actual deeds; days like the “corrective movement” and the “birth of the party” and so on.

Over the years, the people of Hama became used to that. On each of these occasions, they flocked to the southern entrance of the city (i.e., Homs highway، طريق حمص) and the scene would go as follows:

Women, children and men, or for that matter, all of the people of the city , stop buses and cars coming from Homs’s direction  and search  while shouting, each, the name of their own disappeared with nonstop crying. The scene lasts throughout the day in a chaotic and crushed state with the search for the disappeared continuing in mind-boggling and logic defying ways. Sometimes the people may find their disappeared; may be three or four only, and the entire city would return demoralized with their voices too subdued to even express their inner pain. Those who find their prisoners are not more fortunate than those who do not, for most of the surviving prisoners are very weak and powerless, and I swear that they brake the heart more than those who perished.

We know a man who was released from prison and we went to greet him. Praise to God, he was in a good mental state because they had taken him out of Tadmor prison into Sydnaya prison for recuperation six months before his release. I swear that his skeleton was clearly visible and his color was inhumanly white because he had not seen the sun for years. He told me everything about their imprisonment in Tadmor, and one of strangest stories was about a prisoner in his cell who started displaying symptoms of ruptured appendix and suffered great pain for days. They knew that  they could not ask for help from the warden who used to monitor them from a hole in the ceiling because if they asked for help and informed the warden of their friend’s pain, the jailers’ solution would have been to liquidate him with the utmost expediency. The prisoners therefore decided to operate on their friend in the dormitory in complete silence. Imagine that! the prisoner’s abdomen was cut open using a piece of tin while some prisoners held him to prevent him from moving and others closed his mouth with a piece of cloth. The surgery was carried out by a doctor who made the surgical needle from the same tin, and I am not sure what kind of threads he used to sew the wound. The operation was performed without making a single sound. This was a reality of fear and repression and a clarity of  fate inside the prisons of the corrupt regime.


I will tell some harrowing images that can only reflect the logic of the barbarians who violated my city in 1982.

While inside the washing room in Omar Ibn-Alkhattab mosque, the door opened and five adolescent girls were let in, and what a scene….. The lower halves of their clothes were full of blood, and while we the children did not pay attention to this sign, which was beyond our comprehension, some of the women, seeing this, fell down in seizures. We did not understand the rising crescendo of Surat-Yassin (سورة يسين), the Takbeer (تكبير), and the increasingly louder crying, but we joined everyone crying in a way I have never encountered again in my life because nothing like this could have happened any where else, and god willing, never will such happen anywhere else again.

The adolescent girls were taken to a small back part of the washing room after the scene of their blood filled our hearts. The older women tried to help the bleeding that was staining the place (how indecent are you as you demonstrated and confirmed your savagery, O’ barbarians). Then, and in a scene that causes the soul a great disturbance and horribly breaches serenity with  pain shared until today, some women began to take off their underwear and hand them to the girls. Us children were shell-shocked, as we could not understand what was happening in front of our eyes, why were women taking off their underwear to cover our violated virtues? The women, who joined forces even managed to stop the horrible bleeding. At first, some women asked for assistance from the soldiers, but the soldiers refused, laughed, and mocked us with excessive vulgarity as if they were not born to mothers but sprang out of cold stones and as if they have never known God, but only bullying coercion. The women tried to embrace the wounded girls to ease their panic, and only after long hours, our minds achieved the contentment of the restless and tired soul, mainly as one form of survival instinct. We, the children, began to playfully approach the wounded girls to alleviate their pain. I  still remember their faces, they looked horrified as if they came out of a barn full of rabid wolves

The girls told the women what happened to them. They refused to respond to the wolves’ demand, and the wolves hit them with brutality far beneath human imagination. Beating them, verbally assaulting and stripping them by tearing their clothes, they violated the young girls’ hymens with most inhuman barbaric means.  Sex was not their only motive, they were sick with infinite sadism that violated the girls’ souls before their bodies, these were the monstrous beasts who yoked our necks.


In the same place, one woman told about her elderly handicapped grandmother, who had sent them off in hope that they will survive this dark blood bath and stayed behind with her wheel-less walker.

They were in the Al’aseeda (العصيدة) neighborhood right after the army had bombed it with artillery and had entered it as killers immediately executing many men and horribly mutilating their bodies in the worst possible means. Never hesitant to murder even children, the soldiers arrested those left alive. I swear, I know a man who was a child then, and I saw and spoke with him s few weeks ago, and he told me of the state of the bodies of his maternal uncles, and that when they fled, they had to step over the bodies of their loved ones to get out. What a way to say good-by, and what a horrible death. He has been carrying his pain with him to the day, and he told me “I’m afraid of their might, and I can’t resist my fear. Forever they raped my peace of mind”. He naively asked me, “we will be victorious over them, won’t we?” I laughed, me who hasn’t laughed in months and confirmed our victory while hesitantly smiling. But I know that we will be celebrating our victory.

Grandmother (um Ibrahim) decided to get everyone from the neighborhood out, and herein, everyone means only children and women. She walked with them supported by her walker under snipers’ bullets and artillery shells, climbing uphill until they reached the beginning of the “Hadher, حاضر” neighborhood.  Um Ibrahim became tired and she could not walk anymore so she stayed in the house of one of my paternal aunts and her husband after she sent them to their unknown destiny like a flock of swallows among beasts. Grandmother Um Ibrahim had no other choice, and she was well aware that these killers are not human and that everyone must escape the blood bath that threatened them every moment. In the wash room,  when the women talked about Um Ibrahim and how she shouted at them sending them off to their escape, every one read Al-Fatiha, “الفاتحة” for her soul thinking that she was wiped by the barbarism she decided to confront.  But Um Ibrahim was stronger than the canon, and as my aunt and her husband decided to escape from the ever rising death, she released them and stayed in their home decidedly defiant.

For a week, Um-Ibrahim remained in my aunt’s house with all doors wide open. The soldiers entered the house, went out, stole and demolished its contents, all the while Um-Ibrahim screamed in their faces scaring them and shaking their fake sense of bravery.  She did not bow to the killers. Instead, she defended the house with her courage as a symbol of righteous defense of the entire violated city. Her steadfastness humiliated them and their leaders, and they started obeying her dictates and discovered that she was the victor with her walker. They decided to blow up the houses of the entire neighborhood intending for her to witness the level of their inhumanity. So they took her out of the house to the middle of the street, and she sat on a chair in the middle of the bloodied street for three days throughout which, Um Ibrahim, in this wilderness, never negotiated or even maneuvered. She announced her presence like a palm tree, a flagpole and a flag, never asking for help from anyone. Some soldiers, taken by her glory, started to help her in her physical needs. Um Ibrahim swore that she never feared them because they were too small for her vision to a point where they became invisible to her. She insisted that God sent her all what she needed while she stayed to tell the killers that we will return, exact justice, honor our martyrs with individual headstones refusing to leave them to a mass grave, and that “contrary to your belief, you will never be victorious”. In the end, it was by God’s mercy that some people, also on their own escape journey, found her and carried her; she who refused to be carried, to the villages with the other dispossessed.

…. to be continued 

Online gallery of Khaled Al-Khani where the echos of  Hama  resonate in his creative work.


  1. Akbar
    Hold it a little, Idaf did not accuse the media of being purposeful, but all of us know that media usually shy’s from complexities. They have to simplify things, otherwise, no one will read the articles. Take it easy.. NPR at least tries to address some of these complexities. Charlie rose has given some of the best interviews with conservative icons and many would come out with far better understanding of any issue following his program than following the shouting matches on both liberal and conservative media.


  2. Hold it a little


    Me, hold it? Nope. It’s the ignorant media that needs to reform.

    Now the news. Whereas the Obama Administration doesn’t want to provide aid and weapons to true “freedom fighters”, Senator, Zionist, and Jew (who I am proud of) DOES:

    The U.S. and its allies are “bringing pressure to bear” on Syria’s government, but will not provide weapons to Syrian rebels trying to get rid of the government led by despotic leader Bashar Assad, President Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday.

    “The last thing that is needed in Syria now is more violence,” Jacob Lew told “Fox News Sunday.”

    Instead, Lew said the U.S. is working with the Arab League and other partners to bring “serious financial pressure” on Syria. He said Assad’s government is “feeling it.”

    “The transition from tyranny to democracy is very hard. the Syrian people have to handle this in a way that works in Syria. There is no question that this regime will come to an end. The only question is when,” he added.

    But Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Assad has become emboldened since China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at creating a peace plan for Syria that would include Assad’s removal.

    Lieberman said arming the Syrian rebels would not only help them get a leg up on Assad, whose army is being aided by Iran and Russia, but would lead to a defeat, which would be “a great moral and democratic victory for the people of Syria and a great strategic defeat for the fanatical regime in Iran.”

    “This is a moment when every option with regard to Syria should be on the table except for doing nothing,” he said, adding that the Syrian rebels “are fighting valiantly against this tyrant, but they need our help.”

    With a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday, Lieberman said he hoped the group, along with the United States and European nations would provide Syrian rebels medical help, communications equipment, intelligence and more.

    “I would say it’s time to give weapons to the Syrian freedom fighters against Assad. … It’s not a fair fight now, the rest of the world has to give arms to the Syrians, the people so they can fight this dictator and get rid of (him).”

    Read more:


  3. Letter from the President of the General Assembly of the United Nation (Nasser Abdul=Aziz Al Nasser -Qatar) inviting members to the meeting today. and indicating that he has invited Mrs. Navi Pillay to brief the General Assembly on the latest developments in Syria on Monday, February 13 at 10:00 a.m. (New York time)

    To watch live webcast: and select channel 6.

    Document A/66/53/Add2, which will be introduced today (there is a corrigendum, but I have not found it yet).

    Same document, in Arabic


  4. Hearing Aljaafari’s speech at the UN, i just figured it all,

    Damn Google, it is behind the whole thing.

    Who the “four letters word” .. advises these guys on IT, have they ever heard of something called “OPEN SOURCE” “Community Collaboration” and


  5. I’d like to start this 3178-word Mega-comment by refuting everything said by True about sentiments towards Palestinians in Damascus, with no offense to True intended; I’m not in the messenger-shooting business.
    I have never, ever heard a single anti-Palestinian slogan at any of the protests I have attended, nor have I heard any anti-Palestinian slogans in any of the videos on the web, and I will extend this statement to clearly sectarian slogans in the same vein. Relations with the Palestinian community have to some extent been affected by the revolution, with the pro-regime groups such as the General Command and AlSaaeqa being pitted against everybody else. Yes, the regime finally succeeded in unifying the Palestinians. After the attacks on the Palestinian protest by GC in Yarmouk camp that happened soon after the attempts to enter the Golan, I have heard Palestinians aligned with Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and various others swear up and down that they will do a multitude of unspeakable things to Ahmed Jibreel, none of which I will detail here. The Palestinians are generally with the revolution, and the revolution (at least that is the sentiment here, in the Damascus area) is with the Palestinians.

    I’m Going to do something controversial here, and explain one view on the existence of the ‘veto’ concept within the UNSC. Please don’t be too harsh on me.
    A long, long time ago, the world was a bloody place. Much more bloodier than it is today.
    We all recall tales of the great empires of old, and the greater empires of not-so-old. All these great empires had a penchant for going at each other. The Persians and the Romans, the English and the French, the Ottomans and the Safavids, and countless others.
    Often, we would see wars break out at the slightest provocation. Granted, killing a Serbian prince in itself isn’t going to cause a war to end all wars, but sometimes, many times, it can be a sufficient fuse.
    What is different in our modern world is the lack of great wars. We haven’t seen super-powers duke it out, not since the Second World War. This is, I think because of two reasons:
    1. We talk. Imagine the Cuban Missile Crisis without communications between the US and the USSR, or without a forum like the UN.
    2. Superpowers can bugger with each other without going to war.
    The second point is basically Veto rights. The legal structure of the UN, and the rules and restrictions placed on war-making within the structure mean that nation-states need to go through various acrobatic acts before they can proactively go to war.
    Imagine if Syria was a major strategic asset for Russia, one that the Russians would be willing to go to war over. Imagine Russia not having veto power in such a situation.
    To understand veto rights, one must think outside the ‘favoritism’ mentality. The nations that were given these rights at the formation of the UN have been the largest military powers since the late 1940s. A veto is a diplomatic tool that allows one of these nations to defend its interests, rightly or wrongly so, in a way that does not involve military action. This is one of the main reasons the world hasn’t seen two superpowers colliding in a military conflict. The (relatively) little things they used to go to war over are now vetoed into lower intensity.
    With that said, Veto powers never were a good idea, and I disagree with the concept.

    On the subject of the Russian, and to a lesser extent Chinese position… It is one that brings up many conspiracy theories. One thing that has been clear is that the Russians are intelligent about their foreign policy, and have a tendency to support their allies (even the wacky Genocidal ones) to the hilt. Once things go past the hilt though, and all that support is gone. Two examples come to mind here: the aforementioned Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended with an under the table deal between the USSR and the USA that left Cuba out in the cold and Castro swearing with the ferocious rage of someone who just learnt about the realities of Superpower diplomacy, and the Serbian example everybody is talking about.
    It isn’t clear though what the Russians see in Syria. True, there is a small naval base in Tartous, but it isn’t one that can be considered of any use in any conflicts it might be needed in other than as a weak retardent, at least for the next few years. Expanded, it might play a role in defending Russia’s assets and allies throughout the wider region, including The Mediterranean region, the Black Sea, the Gulf and the east coast of Africa, but that will take many years to happen.
    There is also the Russian fear of similar ‘intervention’ happening on its grounds or much closer to home, but the Libya situation should show them that such action will happen regardless of what the Russians want when the Europeans and Americans put their minds to it, and the Russians do realize that the US is very hesitant in engaging directly in the Russian sphere of influence, as was clear in Georgia, when the Russians Decimated a relatively important NATO ally without any real western resistance.
    What seems to me to be the dominant factor in Russian thinking now is the domino effect. The revolution is part of a long line of dominoes around the world, which include demonstrations in the west such as the Spain demonstrations last year, and the greater Occupy movement, as well as the other Arab revolutions. It is conceivable that these revolutions will spread to more regions considered pro-Russian. Prime locations, other than Iran would be the Caucus and Balkans regions, the Asian Soviet Republics such as Kazakhstan, and to Russia itself. It is also clear that once, and if, Revolts spread to these regions some if not most will be supported directly by a large body of Arab revolutionaries, and directly and indirectly by Powers That Care (PTCs). Historically, this has happened as is evident in the Arab Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Arab support in the various Yugoslav conflicts, and the Arabs in Chechnya. Really, we’re more international than the Americans in our conflicts.

    The FSA.
    What we must understand is that the defectors are, at the same level, are reacting in a manner consistent with what we all saw in Egypt most recently, and in places such as Romania and to a lesser extent Tunisia previously. The only difference is that while the decision to defect was taken by the highest echelons of military command in the aforementioned cases, here in Syria we have a complacent and criminal high command that is in the end, part of the cult-leadership. This in turn caused people much lower in the chain of command to take personal initiatives based on their moral ideals.
    Initially, the FSA focused on defending protests. The reason that large-scale protests such as the ones we see in Homs before the invasion, and the Suburbs of Damascus is because off camera, there are FSA soldiers on the rooftops defending the protesters from any Assadist attack. Later on, the FSA grew in confidence, to a point where it started engaging the military in offensive action. Sometimes, these attacks have had an adverse effect on the FSA in the short or long term, such as the recent offensive on the eastern Ghouta, which has unearthed a lot of inefficiencies in the FSA, and a lot of things that need to be sorted out.
    In short, these guys have acted as a military force with some sense of professionalism. They have acted as a sponge for any civilians who might feel the need to bear arms, which is an important function as it forces these civilians who will inevitably appear in any such situation to act within a framework that isn’t a local-militia framework. They have isolated themselves from political action on all levels, which is in all ways a good sign. They have refrained from engaging in fights over petty disputes, regardless of the tensions that do exist on the ground between commanders, and at the higher levels, especially with Colonel Riad Al-Ass’ad or however it is supposed to be spelt. They have not isolated themselves from the populace in most instances, which is also a good sign.
    There have been difficulties. The inability to use heavy weapons, and lack of effective counters to these weapons (which Khalid Tlass in his third incarnation isn’t so vocally lobbying for for some reason). The near impossibility of getting weapons in from across the borders, especially with the Jordanian gov’t trying to put a stranglehold on all weapons going through its borders, Hezbullah’s effective cornering of the arms market in Lebanon early in the revolution, and the shoring up of the Iraqi border by the Malki Government. I’d also like to call out the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been going on a membership drive, forcing activists and FSA members to swear allegiance to the MB before receiving a penny of support from the Brotherhood. Yeah, this is gonna be interesting in the long term.
    My point is, and this is mainly addressed to Zenoubia, your plan won’t work, under current circumstances. The Regime hasn’t shied away from assassinating any leaders who might be a threat to it, in fact, they’ve been doing it from the start, starting with Alewite military leaders back when Hafez took over, up to people who look like they might be leading the chants on the ground, such as happened in Midan during Rammadan. This has been one of their cornerstone policies, to kill anybody who might have any semblance of leadership skills or charisma. Tell me, do you know any ‘leaders’ of the Alewite sect whose sur-name isn’t Assad? They existed before 1982. Do you know any labor or union leaders who are in any way prominent? Parliamentarians? Heck, even government officials who might be slightly non-Baathist. I could think of Dardari who was always critical of the government, at least economically. Look where he is now. In Syria, prominence is a death sentence. Become too prominent, and you have sentenced your whole family, nay, your whole community to disfavor, if not annihilation.
    But then, you are asking of Syrians something that has been refused by all other peoples who have been put under similar situations. Look at Egypt, Hosni only wanted to stay until the September elections in the end, and the protesters refused. Give these people time to pack their bags, and they will use that time to rob the country of everything that isn’t nailed down, then go for the stuff with the weakest nails. Believe me when I say this, in Zabadani, the Assadist forces have looted villas even of their door frames. Yes, door frames. This is how kleptomaniacal the regime is. In Egypt, the situation was a lot easier and simple than it is here. It was clear that Hosni was not going to be allowed to stay by the military, and there wasn’t as much violence, nor as much blood. Please note, a lot of people have much at stake here. It is clear that if the regime is given any breathing space, in any form, it will go on a cleansing campaign against all FSA members, all the people in the LCCs, anybody who as much as raised a finger to help a wounded protester.
    And then you have the whole post-election. What then? We went the whole nine yards, proven our pre-proven thesis true, and the regime has not handed over power because it is clear, that whatever happens, the name of the game is Don’t Hand Over Power To The Masses. Is the international community going to come and save our souls, like it didn’t in Iran, and like it resoundingly didn’t in Burma? Are we going to protest peacefully, maybe do a sit-in like the one that happened in Clock Tower Square, or Tiananmen? Or are we going to bear arms against a regime military that will be much, much more prepared? What comes after the elections?

    Please note, that the FSA has the most legitimacy out of any opposition group in the eyes of the people on the ground. This is because they are the epitome of counter-Assadist-culture… Let me explain:
    This will sound sexist, I apologize. I’ve previously mentioned that the regime isn’t the window dressing called the cabinet, headed by the prime-minister. It’s the extended family and cronies who control the Mukhabarat and to a lesser extent the army. To understand the administrative/bureaucratic environment this group has nurtured, grown, and grown from, one has to run the gauntlet only Syrian males with brothers, and a few unfortunate women do.
    It is called dealing with the army.
    For most men, their first encounter with the army is when they go to create their army book. One does not truly know how debilitating, stupid, backwards, solidified, idiotic, neurotic, resentful, corrupt, nepotic, authoritarian, dictatorial, stupid, ignorant, stupid, bureaucratic, banal, inefficient, careless, dirty, uncreative, kleptomanic, sectarian and stupid the regime can be until you have created your army book. If you’ve tried to pay the Badal, it is an even better learning experience.
    Imagine a system where each person you have to deal with declares their price before servicing you, or even has their price written down on a chart to simplify the process, and EVERYBODY has a price you must pay. Imagine a system where you can be trapped in a requirement-circle that has you going from desk, to desk, to desk with each person referring you to someone else for reasons you can’t ask, lest you know about the arcane secrets of the military’s conscription offices. Imagine mistakes made by office clerks that could ruin your life, put you in jail, or have you paying huge fines, and these mistakes happen all the time! Imagine going through a process with no known end. Imagine getting to that end, only to find out that there is some minor detail that is wrong, and you have to do everything all over again. Imagine trying to tell an officer with the brain of a goose, the skull of a moose and the psyche of a rat that he might have made a tiny mistake in processing your documents, only for him to slap you and tell you he’ll shoot you the next time he sees you in his office. Imagine being told you haven’t processed your documents, or that yes, they know they processed your documents and that everything is good in them, but they lost them because some rat of fate had to choose your file in the archives to make its nest, and thusly, the rat has pressed you into conscription even though you’ve done ta’ajeel dirasi. Yes this has happened.
    Now imagine the people at the head of such an apparatus. Imagine how they think, how they managed to create such a monstrosity, how they may have fought to keep the cleansing acids of reforms away from their growing hell-beast, how they grew it and in turn grew from it. These are the people we are dealing with. And these are the people who the FSA have turned away from. They have taken everything these devils have built, and refused to indulge or be complicit in it. They are the embodiment of the opposite of dealing with the army. They are the only white knights most anti-regime young Syrian men see in a sea of uncertain and gloomy darkness, where the world stood silent with its trillions of dollars of arms, they came with their AKs and RPGs to defend them from the military behemoth of despair. I hope you now understand why people see the FSA as central to this revolution, regardless of its many flaws.

    It looks like everybody left the SWOT analysis post, so I’m going to post my two cents here:
    After some thinking, a crude suggestion has formulated itself. First of all, we might be better off doing multiple SWOTs, one for each player. Defining each player will be the difficult part, as in multiple cases it isn’t clear where lines should be drawn for each group, among other things.
    Each SWOT analysis should be curated by one person who is tasked with the management and verification of the information going into their SWOT, as well as understanding the actual process itself.
    The comment section of a blog post isn’t really the best place for such discussions, as it lacks many tools to make things easier. I would suggest something like Crabgrass (made by the Riseup collective) or Asana, as well as other software, maybe a CMS or a wiki? I’m sure that specialized software for this stuff exists.
    Participation in most SWOTs should be open, and the main person responsible for the management of each one is the curator of that SWOT.
    SNC site is up, and they seem to have a project in the works called ‘One Thousand Years for Syria’. The idea is for volunteers to sign up one year of work for Syria in their respective fields of expertise after the revolution is finished, and it is an applause-worthy program. This is the sort of stuff the SNC, in my opinion, should be focusing on. Not trying to cuddle up to the west, and isolate Iran, Russia, Hezbullah and Hamas. Optimally, the Swot analysis should be hosted by the SNC, and so far the only good thing I’ve seen coming out of its activities alone is a severe mistrust and dislike now ingrained into every Syrian’s mind towards all politicians, post revolution.
    Since I’ve gone into SNC-Bashing mode again (It’s addictive), I’d like to point them towards the Libya Rebuilding Taskforce, which was a seventy strong team of Libyan experts in various fields based in Dubai that was tasked with formulating what the LTC should do after capturing all of Libya. Rebuilding, infrastructure, policing, electricity and water supplies, stuff like that. Mr. Bourhan: I know the deep deep corridors of politicking are a trap for any politician with good intentions, but you are not a politician, you are an opposition figurehead for all of Syria. More of this stuff will show us that the post-Bashar political scene will be less like Lebanon, which the SNC is emulating within itself right now and more like the UK, where politics is (mostly) about policy, nation development is debated by people who care and decisions (mostly) are made based on facts (mostly), studies, research, and inquiries not by bigoted politicians on testosterone fueled vendettas and criminal enterprises. And you know what, initiatives like that, if crowdsourced, can really make Syrians feel like tomorrow’s Syria will be a different place, as if their intellect, creativity, knowledge and patriotic feelings will be felt by those on top, having a positive effect on the decision making process, and the country as a whole. Market that, not foreign intervention.


  6. “Ferocious attack…” were the words used in the bbc bulletin I heard describing Navi Pillay’s speech at the UN yesterday. Good job Navi! Thank you!

    The new initiative by the AL should have come way back as the very first step before that stupid monitor plan that got us nowhere. At that stage I wrote that 500 observers wouldn’t be enough, they’d have to be in the thousands for them to really observe anything. I think this latest plan calls for 3000 observers Arab and international.

    Lavrov is saying that violence must stop (there has to be peace on the ground” before Russia would agree to the new plan; read: the Assadist Mafia and Associates must be allowed to finish the job of subduing the revolutionaries before we send in “peacekeeping” forces/observers.

    Time to ditch the Russians and the Chinee and to go it without them.


  7. @ Hazrid,
    very good read, thank you.

    I am guessing you have read at some point – Kafka’s “The Trial”..or “The Castle”??? I think you should write the arabic equivalent…. maybe called “The Army Book”…. It would be a huge hit! ( i am not joking)

    My “plan”… was actually an idea – was spoken not because I was under any illusion that Assad and the regime as whole would actually abide by the results of an honest election. My notion is that – right now- there is a large part of the population that is still rationalizing (fence sitting) that the presidente and his gov’t has said that it would proceed towards an election – that it has approved of political / electoral reforms to allow for an opposition candidate to oppose him. Of course, I know that they would have no intention of actually willingly allowing a fair competition or challenge- or be willing to concede to loss.
    However, a lot of people are still denying this reality to themselves. They are still brainwashed and use these fake concessions to justify their belief that the rebels are taking an unnecessary reckless route to change – that reform was still possible.
    Therefore – I still felt that a real disobedience movement could organize around the fake concession – proceed with building an electoral process that is monitored and prepared for. Build a coalition around a candidate that is so public and so known – that to assassinate him/her would be for the regime to expose itself completely (think of in the movie Gladiator – where the emperor can’t just outright kill – Maximus (Russel Crowe) because the people will see him as weak and turn on him)…. Or similarly – if after saying that they are allowing an opposition and reform of the political/electoral system – the regime then went back on this and thwarted the whole thing- they also would be exposed further as having lied completely around the one issue that has any meaning. I think the result would – be still conflict, yes, but at least I believe that many hundreds of thousand more people would be forced to recognize this as a betrayal- and would leave the fence – and turn to the opposition side.

    I still believe that there is a significant problem with the urban elite deluding themselves that – the gov’t would honestly institute reforms if they weren’t facing armed opposition. And I personally would like to call their bluff.
    In the meantime – people actually engage in a political activity and organize around something comparatively uncontroversial, as I put it before. Do it covertly at first – and then so publicly – again such that the gov’t cannot simply assassinate or kill off a large part of the population inside the capital – that the gov already said it was not disallowing.

    Very much would like to know what you think of Idaf’s post on SC that OTW excerpted from?? who/what do you think he is referring to? What do you make of it?


  8. On a side note, your account of the army induction reminded me of a description a new Syrian friend of mine who just arrived in the States recently told me about his military service experience.

    He said that – he said that when he went to military service training – they were physically taxed horribly- and told by the Sergeant or whatever – that it can be expected that even 5% of conscripts will die from the training and that this is permissible….
    Basically – they were telling the new arrivals that the training is allowed to kill them with exercise – potentially and that this is expected.
    My poor friend was a very un-athletic type – overweight and out of shape, and soon enough he was collapsing and could not keep up. but – the response was that the drill sergeants would push harder – knowing that he was suffering until they thought he is at a breaking point – at which point – they bring him aside and tell him -that if he wants to pay his way out of the torture- this can be arranged. -Which naturally – he accepted the offer- (thankfully his family had the money to pay… as it was not a small sum and not just once! but he kept being extorted on a regular basis) – since they had already told him and a few other poor out of shape fellows that they might die from this experience, if necessary, and it was perfectly ‘legal’ and expected.
    I had never heard of something quite so sick.
    I mean obviously sadism in the military training is well known everywhere, but the extortion and threat of death was pretty extraordinary.

    Same person told me another weird thing- I would love to know if true. He said that when you ask for a copy of your transcript or diploma (?) from the University – you are required to give blood! in order to receive it.
    this sounds completely bizarre to me…. positively Romanian….(pun intended).


  9. Re: 1000 Years for Syria –
    the National Consensus Movement is supporting this “SNC-sponsored” program. If anyone in the US is interested in this – you might consider – contacting NCM as well.

    Rafif Jouejati
    January 30, 2012

    Dear Fellow NCM-ers,

    The National Consensus Movement has developed formal committees and working groups. We seek member input and participation so that we can effectively communicate our vision of a democratic, civil Syria.

    The following are committees we are already working on, but need member support to move forward. We invite you to join these committees, suggest others as you see fit, and participate to the extent that you can. All suggestions for improvement are welcome. In the interest of efficiency, we suggest that committees be limited to no more than eight members, communicate details among one another, and share their findings periodically on our Facebook page.

    PBS News Hour Project (Team Lead: Murhaf Jouejati): NCM is helping this program in identifying Syrian-Americans who have been harassed, intimidated, or threatened by the Assad regime for speaking out or engaging in pro-Revolution activities. This is an ongoing program, and PBS would like to feature different stories each week. Additional NCM members are needed to support this effort.

    NCM Relief Services (Team Lead: Basil Saiedy): NCM will coordinate with activists on the ground in Syria, as well as with established and recognized relief agencies, to document needs in Syria, raise the funds to purchase materials and supplies, and send them to trustworthy contacts. Additional NCM members are needed to support this effort.

    Regime Corruption File (Team Lead and Committee Members: VACANT): We would like to undertake specific research projects in support of the Syrian Revolution. One project has to do with senior-level regime corruption that can be exposed. We are looking for members who can bring to light cases of corruption involving senior regime officials for later potential use in their prosecution. Members are requested to relay their stories and anecdotes to this committee.

    Expatriates’ Survey (Team Lead and Committee Members: VACANT): This will be a survey of professional Syrian expatriates, enabling a future democratic government in Syria to tap into this pool of human resources. Additional NCM members are needed to support this effort. Please nominate candidates for the Team Lead position.

    1,000 Years for Syria (Team Lead: Rafif Jouejati): This is an SNC-sponsored program that aims to register at least 1,000 Syrian expatriates from around the world to donate 1 year of their lives to rebuilding Syria in the post-Assad phase. The program is seeking volunteers in all professions across all sectors. In launching this program, we need volunteers to help coordinate logistics, develop funding proposals, and reach out to Syrians around the world. The overall program management of this effort is in place. Additional NCM members are needed to support this effort.

    In addition to the committees described above, we propose to hold the following events:
    • Periodic Roundtable Discussions: We invite any NCM members in the Washington, DC area to meet at our office in McLean, VA on Monday, February 13 at 7:00 pm EST as part of an informal community-building effort. As funds permit, we anticipate holding similar meetings in cities around the United States and abroad where we have a concentration of members.
    • Initial Membership Call: Monday, February 20 at 8:00 pm EST to launch our activities.
    • Monthly Membership Call: Monthly status update, the first Monday of every month (starting in March) to keep members apprised of new developments, committee progress, or new initiatives. This event enables members to voice any concerns or share feedback in a public forum.
    • Official Briefings: NCM will invite senior U.S. and foreign government officials to engage and dialogue with NCM members. This type of event will include a Q&A session. Our first guest will be Mr. Frederic C. Hof, the State Department’s point man on Syria.
    • Formal Events: As funds permit, NCM will sponsor formal events that are open to the public. Attendance will be free for paid NCM members, and we may charge a nominal fee to non-members. Events might include panel discussions, SNC status updates, “town hall” meetings, fundraisers, or others – all suggestions are welcome. To the extent possible, we will coordinate with other Syrian-American organizations. If this becomes a popular activity, we may need to establish a formal Events Committee.

    Again, we are seeking your input with regard to these ideas, and welcome others.

    Thank you in advance for your comments.
    Like · · Unfollow Post · January 30 at 8:58pm


  10. Dear Zenobia,
    Only one of my brothers did his military service. It was a horrific experience for our entire family and obviously more so for him. He is a doctor, so he ended up in the infantry school in Aleppo. My parents are well to do and influential, yet it was something out of this world. They would wake them up at 4:00AM for their morning exercise. Then they would proceed to breakfast. Most of the food was stolen by the workers and the officers. On each table they would have 12 cadets and 4 boiled eggs for them to eat and that is after they have exercised them to death. The chairs that they sat on were basically vertical metal tubes with a horizontal round piece of metal on top to serve as the seat. Some of these round pieces were gone, so they had to sit on the vertical metal pipe like being impaled. When they were ordered to sit, they had to sit period.
    The extortion was rampant. Every single one in that school who came from money was called into the head of the school’s office to “get to know him better“. Every day off was paid. Every bag of food smuggled into the school came at a high price.
    I remember one incident that really summarizes the entire experience. It was during a meeting with the head of the school, one of the cadets could not suppress a little chuckle for something his friend said. The head of the school picked up a good sized stone from the ground and throw it directly at that cadet. He ducked and the stone ended up hitting my brother in the head. He got a few stitches and nothing else. Not even an apology.
    I can go on and on, but you get the picture.
    Regarding the building up of a personality that is so popular that the regime can not touch it, like whom: Rafik Al Hariri? No one is too popular for our regime to be immune. If they can get someone from another country what do you think they can do to Syrians.
    I know how hard it is to imagine this, but think about how I live in the US and have been out of the country for a very long time, yet when I talk about the Syrian regime till this day I catch myself whispering.


  11. Thank you Hazrid and Sheila for your posts above, thank you so much, couldn’t have put it better myself. They took me back to times and memories I’d rather forget and which were the reason for my having chosen eternal exile (luckily the revolution has caused me to review that) and for having sworn, on a point of principle, never to set foot on Syrian soil for as long as the Assadist Mafiosi and Associates (or any other dictatorship) held sway there. There were times when the desire and emotion to see and hug and be hugged by my mother, to be with my brothers and sisters and their lovely children, to walk the alleys and souks of Damascus and Homs, to again pick the figs and pomegranates and apricots and loquats growing in our garden… there were times when these feelings got the better of me and weakened my resolve, but then memories of Assad Sr’s Syria such as you’ve described, plus the picture I managed to collage together of his son’s Syria put paid to any such emotions and feelings very quickly.

    Sadly, and this is the point that is going to hold Syria back for a long time, the culture of corruption, graft, favoritism and cronyism is so deeply entrenched and ingrained that it is going to take decades, and I mean tens and tens of years, to expel it, purge it out of our flesh. It is now second nature, if not totally natural, for the MAJORITY of Syrians to choose a corrupt way of doing something over the “proper” way, and I speak for most of the people I know, including members of my immediate and extended family. Weaning people off EASY MONEY and others off getting what they want quickly and before others is hard! Of course, having a democratic form of government is definitely helpful in changing people’s habits, but it ain’t going to happen quickly.

    Look at India, a vibrant democracy that, on the other hand, is riddled with corruption to the point of despair. Ditto Indonesia, (though not democractic for that long), ditto Malaysia, Thailand and a few other places. The problem also exists in western and “advanced” countries (Japan too) to some extent -we’ve heard the phrase “an old boys’ club” afterall, where it is done under the noses of all, in the face of outrage, investigations, royal commissions, etc, etc that come to naught in the end. The only difference there is the fact that people are allowed to talk about the matters freely and publicly, letting off steam while corruption goes on regardless and the powerful continue to get off scot-free.

    BUT, BUT, it IS still worth all the sacrifice and blood and sweat and tears just to get rid of this horrible cancer and most criminal of all mafias that the world has known. Not for me, but for the Syrians who are still inside Syria and those who spend every day longing to be back there living among their relatives and friends, just like normal people everywhere else do.


  12. I had never heard of something quite so sick.

    Zenobia, Sheila, MGB,

    Thank you for the stories about training in the Syrian military. Assuming this has been going on all during the Assad years, why hasn’t there been demonstration OUTSIDE of Syria protesting the Syrian government? Why did it take over 40 YEARS??

    Also, are there Arab-American periodicals where the arab community debates what is going on in the ME? I would like to read them. There are a number of regional Jewish-American periodicals that discuss international news with a focus on Israel that I’m sure you’re aware of.


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