Monthly Archives: March 2012

Asma and Complicated Syria (by SYRIAN HAMSTER)

Word from OFF THE WALL

This post by SYRIAN HAMSTER also appeared as a comment titled “Complicated Syria” response to an article on Syria Comment titled “in Defense of Asma al-Assad,” by an Anonymous Syrian writing under the name Cicero with S.H’s intent to also publish it on 7ee6an if I agreed to  cross posting.  There are only a few editorial corrections including a slight change of the title by SYRIAN HAMSTER in this post.

Complicated Syria

Regime promoters always attach a paragraph about Syria being a complicated country with rich heritage …. and so on. Take for example the first segment of this paragraph from the above “defense of Asma”

Syria is a complicated country, with a rich cultural heritage that is the result of the intermingling of the many religions and ethnicities, customs, beliefs, habits, ideas and values left behind by all the civilizations that have passed through and made Syria their home over thousands of years.

Further reading, shows the real objective of this paragraph which follows

It is at the nexus of the most heated schism our world faces today, between Iran, and Saudi Arabia, between Christianity and Islam, between East and West, and between Arabs and Israelis.

A logical link between the first and second segments is possible if one argues that 1. Syria is culturally diverse, 2. Syrians are connected, then it may follow that Syria is place where regional and global powers and cultures face each others through Syrians. This of course assumes good intention on the writer’s side. But when such argument is put forth by a regime loyalist in defense of Asma Al-Assad, it is used as an attempt to de-legitimize the revolution and to insinuate that what we see is merely the result of external forces using Syrians as if Syrians themselves have no choice or hand in their uprising and as if those dying are merely agents of external schism. The untold conclusion–premise of defense would then become: “Bashar is defending the country against these powers, and by extension, Asma is.”

Asma’s past deeds, some of which may be laudable had they reflected anything other than a PR campaign, are irrelevant to her current and recent actions. Furthermore, it is natural and common to say that she “embarked” on this or that project, but giving her the credit for the projects is a neither fair, nor accurate and it reflects a grave misunderstanding of how NGOs work. NGO activists are the real ones who design these projects, they manage them, they implement them, but to promote these projects, it is part if their work to find a “celebrity patron” to give the project visibility, and in the case of a brutal, money grabbing regime such as the Assad Mafia, some opbtain protection from the little mafiosi and some “oiling” of the machinery of the security apparatus to reduce the obstructive rejectionism so permeates the psych of the machinery. Asma Al-Assad received her rewards for playing along: a propagation of a false image of her husband and his brutal regime as a reform-minded regime, and an acceptance, and I may add, a rationalization of dealing with the regime while ignoring its continuing, but slightly lower-intensity brutality against opposition and against any attempt to establish a real powerful civil society. Not only that, she received a prime seat in the regime as its “civilized and modern” facade.

It is also well known that NGO’s approach wealthy people to serve as patrons for their projects. Some of these wealthy people are true philanthropists, and some play along for PR purposes, but in both cases, they donate money along with their celebrity status. NGOs are not shy about this, and why should they be, it is one way to provide benefit and some return to society. We are yet to find the level of Asma’s own financial contributions to her “wide network of” NGOs, knowing that her family gained significantly financially and in influence as well.

Asma’s “rose of the desert” veneer was relatively thin. It did not survive the heat produced by the first bullet her husband thugs fired at protesters. All what the email scandal did was to finish peeling off the last few specks of paint, which were more like tabloid play on speculations about whether she supports her husband or not and whether she is tormented by what he has been ordering his thugs to do. What we see is a careless woman, a woman who is fully behind her husband, and a woman fully out of touch with the multiple layers of misery her partner is causing to the people of Syria. A woman who has no qualm saying “i am the real dictator”, which reflects both bad taste and cold heart, even if said jokingly.

Her media rise as a “reform minded” “western educated” woman should in reality rile those who protest “orientalism”. Conditioning the progress of Syria on her “western” outlook (i would argue appearance) reduces Syrians to mere recipients of the “goodwill” of their “western-oriented” rulers and plays into the hand of the autocrats themselves. Not surprisingly, an anonymous regime loyalist, playing a hyper-nationalist tone, rushed to attack the anonymous Turk, who objected to one more attempt to rehabilitate an unworthy image and showed real respect for Syrians. The insult to Syrians posed by the west’s celebration of this fake image does not register on their radar despite of their constant stream of attacks on the west and “its evil plans” against Syria.

It would have been more appropriate to blast the EU for the ineffectiveness of these sanctions as real support to freedom and dignity seeking Syrians as far as the Syrian Revolution goes. The sanctions are worst than being symbolic. They are primarily at attempt to whitewash the “play along” policy over the past decade, and the propagation of the fraudulent image of the Assad mafia chieftain in hope of wooing him not cause further problem in the region. It is the west compensating itself for not challenging her and her husband to put their money where their mouths were. For that, these sanction may be condemned but never for the goodness of her heart.

The worst offense of the article is not the defense of Asma, but it is in its  last few words, which attempted to tie the fate of poor women in Syria to Asma’s inability to shop. That was bad taste, a really really bad taste.

A year on (by SYRIAN HAMSTER)

What has been accomplished in a year?

I would say a miracle on the civilian front, mild successes on the political and diplomatic front, and a setback on the military front if viewed. In all cases, successes and failures were the results of choices and decisions made by members of a fragmented society that has internalized a set of intersecting complex layers of myths and faulty images of itself and its surrounding after fifty years of intense propaganda and suppression by a most murderous regime equipped with the most evil instruments of murder, oppression, and propaganda.  It is now difficult to call the people who participate in regime activities human, for they have displayed levels of physical and mental brutalities unknown in recent human history.

We are all traumatized by the continuing murders of Syrians, as well as by the endless vulgarity of the regime’s propaganda and propagandists. We are also traumatized by the apparent ability of the regime to prevent the recurrence of the legendary scenes of Hama and Homs and by the obvious apathy of countries and world leaders to the rivers of Syrian bloods and caravans of martyr’s coffins as those carrying their friends and relatives’ coffins join them in death before the funerals reach their destinations.  Few amongst us who do not now have a relative who has spent time being tortured by this regime, or is currently  held for the offence of seeking dignity and exercising a minimum level of free choice. We are continuously assaulted mentally and verbally by a mindless machinery that keeps repeating the most vulgar words uttered “You want freedom?”.  We keep our heads high as we get bombarded with a barrage of endless and vile diatribes by the same bitterly sectarian people, who continue to support a terrorist regime, and dare to call us terrorists as they constantly try to wash this regime’s crimes with defunct claims of resistance and a completely obliterated claim to secularism, rationalism, and even humanity.

We are also very concerned, and perhaps are afraid that these sectarian thugs may succeed in implanting the evil seeds of sectarianism in our midst. It is their only defense against the wave of dignity that will wash them like the dirt they are.

Those who put their entire hope in the armed component of the revolution are traumatized after the massacres in Homs and Idleb and what seems to be a repeat of massacres in  Dier-Ezzor and Raqqa. Those who put their faith fully in the civilian arm of this revolution are also disappointed and traumatized by the lack of imagery of massive demonstrations. And those who have put faith in what seems then a viable political structure are as disappointed if not more by the failure of SNC and the lack of viable, principled leadership in tone with the streets.

So where do we stand.  We stand at the most important and natural juncture of a revolution unlike others confronting evil unlike others. All what has happened so far will soon result in breaking with “traditional” modes of thinking, and that is a good thing. Here is how I see it from my tree top.

On the civilian side, the regime’s brutality attempted to make civil protest almost impossible from day one. The regime dished all it can: cutting cities into pieces, assassination of civil protest leaders by snipers, torture of tens of thousands of detainees, machine guns blasting protesters en-mass, and intentionally vile and barbaric raids on neighborhoods and towns. And yet the Assad mafia failed in stamping out protest, which is increasing every day in geographic extent. Naturally, you would have those who shamelessly proclaim that the regime has used only 15% of its reliable army as they try to convince us that the fact that the regime is capable and willing to burn Syria for one person is a sufficient justification for us to return and join them as obedient animals in the stables they continue to enjoy living in cowardly accepting their drug of myths and conspiracy theories. The failure of the regime to stamp out civil protests so far shows that the regime’s strongest weapon in the end is useless, and the emphasis on this laughable claim is nothing more than a failed attempt at intimidating what seems to be an indomitable spirit of integrity many Syrians have found in themselves that defies the imagination of the pathetic, fear motivated, self enslaved weak and confuses the arrogance of those who cling to this historical abomination mafia-regime on any other ground.

On the military or armed front, the FSA has received a much needed lesson, and it remains to be seen if its leadership has understood the lesson. It now realizes, after painful experience that it is not out there to hold territory and that their primary responsibility is the protection of soldiers and officers who split from the regime’s army and in protecting, if possible, peaceful demonstrators and as a result, encouraging more people to defect. Granted, recent events may indicate that such lesson is yet to be fully grappled with, but even with the regime’s massacres, FSA continues to enjoy a level of trust and support, which now has become conditional as it should be. FSA now faces a critical shortage of weapons and ammunitions and the strategy of suffocating its resources may be partially successful, but that will force it to adapt to the reality of confronting a much better equipped sadist criminal opponent, who is more than willing to burn Syria for the demented harry-potter fan adolescent sitting in the president’s chair. For now evil outguns the good and the good has to have a change of paradigm and to rely on its far superior ethics to confront the evil of the regime as well as the potential evil of blind collective revenge the regime  has been desperately trying to incite with very anemic success.

To further expand on the last point, the regime continues to play its dirty card more aggressively than ever and more obviously than before, same as its representatives in cyber-space who now appear to be nothing more than followers of an intern as called by OTW. I am in agreement with Joshua Landis that the inner circle of the regime has been exposed as extremely sectarian. But I fully disagree with him that the revolution has to turn sectarian in order to confront this regime. Success of civil leaders (despite of the regime) in containing, but not eliminating the sectarian response to the massacres of Homs, and the ability of wise elders in the south to contain the regime’s dirty incitement between Dara’a and Souwaida continue to frustrate the criminal Assads and their cohorts. As a result, the number of disgruntled real intellectuals who hail from minority groups is increasing, and they are becoming more vocal first in condemning the regime and second in refusing sectarian labeling and guilt by association libels thrown at entire communities. I do not expect the pathetic advocates of the regime to be aware of or to be welcomed into such dialog since their primary sources of information are discredited hate spewing outfits like arabi-press and syriatruth and the pages of the demented Syrian electronic Army and a host of Iranian and russian semi-official sites along with a bought and sold Lebanese yellow journals, journalists, and political tails. The dialog I am talking about is occurring on face book pages, in gatherings and over dinner tables that bring the best of what Syria has to offer together to discuss issues that were taboos for long and to replace accusations by heated, yet honest and sincere dialog or more frankly, exactly the antithesis of what the regime propagandists have been doing in cyberspace, printed, and audiovisual media. The level of openness in addressing these issues is increasing, and painful as it is, dialog suppressed by the Assads, who have destroyed the foundation of the social fabric of all Syrian communities, is surfacing again. Hostility and recriminations are out in the open, counter points are debated, and intellectual alliances are forming across the globe between Syrians from all sects and ethnicities for the end, the results are positive in manners the narrow sectarians on either side will never be capable of understanding. Those whose sectarianism was hiding under a thin veneer of secular code-words have been exposed and are forced into the open. The honest ones, far more of them are on the revolution side than on the regime’s side are revisiting their paradigm, and the dishonest, scared ones, who are predominantly on the regime’s side, pathetic as they are, will only entrench in their mindset, as exemplified by some personalities we all have become familiar with.

These efforts will not necessarily result in avoiding low intensity sectarian flare ups here and there, or even massacres, but a consensus is building to counterweight the effects of such conflicts. The wide outlines of this consensus are necessarily anti-reactionary in the sense that these intellectuals are in agreement that the hyper-reactive meaningless arguments displayed by so many in the “we are not pro regime but against YOUR revolution” pretentious camp is to be avoided by all means since It has been exposed as a mask to hide sectarian attitude that permeates its holders to their core and put them squarely in the regime’s camp no matter how far they try t deny.

The ethical and human dimensions of this revolution, its foundation as a quest for dignity and freedom will always be threatened by the presence of a military wing. This is a clear and present danger that has been discussed very eloquently on 7ee6an especially by Zenobia. The trials and tribulations of Homs and other besieged and bombarded cities must be turned around into a reaffirmation of these ethical and human values. The real struggle inside Syria is between a regime striving with all its instruments of murder to maintain a malformed nation where ethics have been obliterated, where a fraudulent concept of citizenship and patriotism aims to maintain a single corrupt family and its servants for ever on the one side, and humanity, progress, and the opportunity to regain of Syria for Syrians, and of normalcy.

A wonderful Syrian I have the honor interacting with since the earliest days of our revolution wrote on his face book page:

The expansion of popular peaceful action into a new areas  of the homeland which are entering the revolution rather strongly, the return of peaceful protests into areas that have stopped for while under the relentless weight of the regime’s continuing oppression and murder during the first year of our revolution clearly demonstrate that that peaceful and civil action is the foundation of the revolution of dignity and freedom and that armed action, through the successive defection from the regime’s army and the joining of the Free Syrian Army is only complimentary to the popular revolution and not its leader. Whether the world interfered, or remained a spectator, or supported the murderous gang, that gang will undoubtedly fall.

I believe what he wrote is true.

Of Interns and the Boy-king

 I have not posted over the past four weeks. In the meantime, the Assad’s army entered Homs, and then Idlib.  As FSA withdrew from both cities, massacres have taken place in both cities aiming to flame sectarian tension. Car bombs have returned to the scene, just as Kofi Annan is expected to send a team of experts as happens with the Arab Observers. However, the recent car bombs have targeted areas with Christian majorities including today’s explosion in Aleppo’s Sleimanyeh quarter. This is consistent with warnings signs that came out last week regarding the regime’s intent to wrap up its perceived victory by increasingly forcing Syria’s Christians to take a sectarian side and with previous shady explosions during the Arab observers’ mission.

Here are a few comments on specific issues.

Batta

Batta (Duck), a befitting address by a “modern” wife and by an admiring young woman to a man whose army assisted by vile militia gangs is terrorizing and murdering Syrians ever since some of these Syrians declared that they have had enough of his family’s totalitarian control over their lives and are no longer willing to take it.

Oddly enough, absent (to-date) from the leaked emails are indications of Assad engaging senior government officials, business partners, religious figures, or even well known social climbers’ in his boy-king narrow circle. What we notice is the critical role of two intern-level women (Shehrazad Gaafari and Hadeel Al-Ali) along with the notorious Luna Al-Shible in proposing and carrying out media campaigns and in passing information and summaries to the boy-king who is occupying his busy time with state affairs in parallel with trivia such as downloading teens songs from I-tune and playing harry potter games among other life occupations.

The men in the emails are different. They are security oriented. One passes advises (or commands) from key Iranian and HA contacts, still through the interns. Another (Khaled Al-Ahmad) seems to be the personal envoy-spook of the boy-king traveling throughout the country’s hot-spots and making observations and recommendations, as well as major decision and plans on how to put the uprising, while connecting, when possible, with regime-friendly Lebanese tycoons. The father in law remains heavily engaged as well, putting to rest claims of his family’s distance from the murderous regime and placing himself at risk of being the first member of the regime to be successfully tried in the west for abetting and aiding crimes against humanity. He may be followed by his daughter, who may now be tried in the UK for violating sanctions, independent of what trivial, yet expensive items she seems obsessed with purchasing.

What comes out drives a dagger at the heart of the loyalists and regime-made opposition claims that they oppose the revolution because it threatens to destroy the institutions of the state. It also obliterates the loyalists frantic efforts to retain the fraudulent image of a “normal” president and state. Clearly, when a young, albeit seasoned diplomat such as Jihad Maqdisi has to rely on intern level advisors to pass his opinions to the head of state, one must wonder the extent at which the Assads believe in these institutions. Similarly, when journalists such as Nir Rosen and Barbara Walters have to make their contacts through these same inexperienced, and quite shallow interns, in order to receive audience with the boy king, one would question the respect the head of the regime has for his ministers and for the state.  Needless to say,  pro-freedom thinkers and intellectuals have argued from day one that under the Assads, there are no institutions or state, as all are simply overshadowed by a cancerous criminal-security apparatus and mafia family.

Some curious people will get busy trying to decipher the interpersonal relationships of the boy-king now sarcastically known as Batta in attempts to demonstrate the increasingly isolated family. However, the presence of these intern-senior-advisers and their impacts on the actions taken by the regime can not and should not be trivialized by sarcasm. Information provided to the boy-king by these people were acted upon and may have resulted in deaths, including those of journalists in Homs. Curiously, one of these adoring interns focused on an issue that we have discussed here on 7ee6an regarding the boy-king’s separation from reality, which was evident during his meeting with some youth. Ms. Hadeel Ali, sent a copy of the narrator’s facebook page, in hope that the regime’s security will track down the real names of those who commented negatively about her “cute” president. If anything, the action taken after the intern’s advise indicate that the boy-king is in control and has directed actions either by transferring the information to his henchmen, or by directly ordering actions based on recommendations reflecting flawed judgement. These intern-senior advisers are not merely providing media advise, but far more sinister advises. Furthermore,  and even if the emails do not reveal direct orders from the boy-king to his high ranking officers and henchmen, the compartmentalization of connections only illustrates his lack of trust in the state and its institutions not to mention his derogative description of his own fraudulent reform laws. It is no wonder that regime apologists on Syria Comment are now blasting Joshua Landis for publishing the little he did of these emails. The little that was published of the leaked emails exposes their own moral degeneration and worries that the boy-king is stripping one more piece of his clothes every day.

 In the aftermath of the continuing leaks, Nir Rosen is now in a hot seat. On at least two occasions, he was described by both the intern and the in law as being “helpful” to the regime. Although it is more than possible that in both cases, the two “inner-circle” members have interpreted any critique of the opposition as favorable to the regime, and thus bestowed the “helpful” title on Rosen, critiques of Rosen seem to focus on the implication that he may have divulged information that was used to help the regime’s aggression against Homs. Rosen himself has written an post protesting his innocence. I will now from opinion on his response and would leave it to the readers to decide.

Where to:

It has been a year since the spark of the Syrian Popular Revolution. Regime propagandists are now arguing that the battle lines are now drawn in the regime’s favor.  Many have argued that this is due to the militarization of the revolution, which has given the regime the upper hand since it possesses the stronger force and the resources of the state behind it. The regime has relied on a strategy of isolating towns one after another and as seen from emails Khaled Al-Ahmad emails, it seems that the strategy and policy has been approved by Assad himself. However, it is fitting to remind those blaming FSA or other armed groups that the regime had already murdered more than 4000 Syrians  before any bullet was fired in return. It is also noteworthy that the regime continues to murder protesters in areas where FSA has not made any challenge or presence as is the case in Raqqa during the past three days.

Problems continue to plague the SNC, but the question is how relevant is the SNC nowadays with most of the world powers having decided to remain silent, and several GCC countries having decided to provide weapons support to armed groups directly and not through SNC? Any attempt to analyze the situation results in more questions than yielding answers

Dialogue seeking opposition was dealt two blows recently. The first was in Kofi Annan’s indicating his deep disappointment with the regime’s responses to his proposals. The second was in the regime’s attack on an the opposition rally organized by the NCB the moment the demonstrators uttered the first demand for the regime’s fall.

The seemingly stronger position of the regime is as deceptive as the strong position of the armed opposition during the first two weeks of the attack on Homs. While regime forces continue to raid villages and cities and to bombard neighborhoods in Homs and other towns, the revolution continues to spread geographically. Raqqa, the city chosen by Assad for special praise and a festival prayers is now in full scale revolt as the cycle witnessed in every city gets repeated. Demonstration leads to murders, then more murders during funerals and even mass massacres. News of a fist fight between the city mayor and the head of the local Baath party surface yesterday. In addition, an increasing number of Aleppo neighborhoods is now restive, along with continuing flash points throughout the country. The north-to-north east front is now connected through Raqqa and the number of villages and towns to subdue is far beyond the regime’s capacity, especially as Daraa seems to get back in action. Subduing Homs and Idlib seems to have been temporary as indicated by the regime’s shelling of Homsi neighborhood earlier today.

While the NCB demonstration, which attracted few hundreds only, exposed the anemic support NCB enjoys on the streets of Syria, it also shows that a great deal of activities are now largely internal. To illustrate the point, no one in the SNC that I know of has predicted Raqqa’s joining in such large number. Yet, the successful mobilization in the city is indicative of a significant level of planning and organizing that has been undergoing for a while. Similar situation now exists in Aleppo, and while SNC and other external opposition forces seem dismayed at Aleppo, people in contact with internal opposition seem more optimistic about Aleppo as well as about Damascus, albeit requesting patience so that the groundwork for major demonstrations in the two cities is well prepared.  A friend of mine, who was recently in Aleppo and has participated in one demonstration and witnessed another described the situation as following,

The people of Aleppo are liberated, it is only now a matter of liberating the streets.

Describing the demonstration he witnessed in one of neighborhoods in Allepo, my friend said:

It was beyond strange. The demonstrators, numbering in a couple of thousands were besieged by security forces and shabee7a. There was a stalemate for few minutes, until the shabee7a decided to descend on the demonstrators. It was only then when an eerie silence prevailed for a few seconds, only to be broken by the sound of automatic locks on main gates of the neighborhoods buildings clicking opened one after another, click … click … click…. And so on in a rapid succession. Within a minute or two, the street was almost empty, and the shabee7a were confronting locked gates. Those who did not manage to get into the buildings snuck into side streets. Shabee7a found few people and beat them to pulp before getting them on the busses, which had to leave with far less than their capacity.

It was only few months ago when the same sounds of building gates would be signaling the residents locking their doors in the face of demonstrators and leaving these young people to their fate at the hands of the vicious, murdering regime shaاbee7a.

The events of Homs and Idlib had two effects. On the one hand, they satisfied regime proponents, who have asked the regime to hit hard and with no mercy. But at the same time, they have alienated many others on the silent side and forced them to reassess their image of the regime. As a result, those pre-disposed to fearing regime’s brutality have sunk deeper into their fears and started talking incoherently about a revolution that will destroy the country. As a result, they now project their fear of the regime against the revolution and parrot regime’s propaganda about terrorists. Another response has been for many to realize that this regime is not only brutal, but also careless and hell bent on survival even if they have to shred the country into bits and pieces. This was amplified by the recognition that regime supporters were behind the sectarian massacres in Homs and reinforced by the disgusting attempts of the regime propagandists to blame the revolutionary forces for this massacre.

Internally, there is now a balance in existence. The regime can’t end the revolution or turn the clock back to pre March 15, 2011. The revolution is also incapable of removing the regime or its key figures. But time is against the regime for the following reason:

1. Continuing economic collapse, the regime will not be able to provide relief, turn on the electrical power or recover anytime soon.

2. Even if the regime establishes precarious military presence in cities, such presence has not led to improving the situation for the residents, to the contrary it has amplified the suffering of most residents including those who have not yet returned to their homes, which have been looted by a combination of Shabbee7a, army thugs, and common criminals after the FSA forces left the area.

3. The streets are increasingly ambivalent to the external opposition. This has a positive effect in the sense that it deprives the regime of its primary propaganda weapon against the revolution (an externally funded and made chaos). With many becoming vocal against the political leadership of the opposition, including the MB’s leadership and attempts to control the SNC, new political forces and coalitions are emerging inside without the distraction of having to follow one or another current. A new more pragmatic leadership is emerging within local coordination committees, and even those affiliated with some “semi-oppositional” groups are becoming more active in LCCs. The popular nature of the revolution is becoming more obvious and the string of pathetic antagonistic remarks and name calling of SNC members from regime propagandists now look more irrelevant and sophomoric than ever.

In conclusion, there are reasons for worry. And chief among these reasons is possibility of heightening sectarian tension. Yet, there are more reasons to be optimistic, including some of those I have listed above. 

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