Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Bread Prayer

Before the down of history, early Levantines domesticated wild cereal plants launching with that the Neolithic revolution and putting humanity on its long road to history itself and to civilization as we know it. The most important of these plants was the predecessor of our today’s wheat, the main ingredient of bread.

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Map of the Near East indicating the Fertile Crescent [according to Breasted (1916)]. Shaded areas indicate the approximate areas of domestication of pig, cattle, sheep, and goats with dates of initial domestication in calibrated years b.p. [after Zeder (2008)]. Lines enclose the wild ranges of einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, and barley [after Smith, (1995)]. Shaded area in southern Levant indicates the region where all 3 grains were first domesticated 12,000 years B.P.
Source: The National Academies Press

Syrians have always revered bread. Anyone walking the streets of Syria would notice a peculiar habit. People would bend, pick up a hardened bread crumb from the sidewalk, kiss it, lift it to touch their forehead and then place it on the nearby wall. This places bread with the hands of parents, and the Holly Book of Quran, both are kissed and then touched by forehead as a sign of appreciation and reverence of these blessings of god. As the most important staple in the Levantine diet, reverence for the golden loaf, in one variety or another is deep in our social norms. It was a reverence for the gift of the goddesses of fertility, and as destined, later became the flesh of a god, also revered by all Syrians in both his divine and human manifestations.

Twelve millennium later, thousands years after the launching of history, an anti-historic force, brutal as no barbarians have ever been, malicious more than humanely possible appears intent on ending history as its own demise appears inevitable. This subhuman force wages a war on bread. The first bakery bombed was in Al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo. This was followed by a string of bakeries being bombed during rush hours in the city and its countryside. The horror of hunger brought by the Assad caused shortage of bread, of water, fuel, and electricity are not enough to satisfy Assad’s lust for death and humiliation of Syrians. Yet, Syrians remain defiant of this criminal. Tremendous efforts are made every day by many to provide bread to their hunger stricken people. But these efforts are sometimes hindered by betrayal, manipulation, attempts at profiteering, and by plain carelessness of others. They are also efforts full of heroism from volunteers, bakers, and from ordinary people waiting in very long lines at bakeries for the day’s loaf. All betrayal and greed, however, do pale in comparison with the malice and vicious malevolence of the sub-human Bashar al-Assad, whose iron birds of death continued to wage a war on the livelihood of Syrians. Yesterday it was the massacre at Helfaya, with more than 140 confirmed dead children, women, and men, killed for no other reason than defying the murderer’s lust for their humiliation by standing in line for bread after three weeks of hunger. Today, this subhuman struck again and fourteen people, including ten children, are no longer among us for the same reason. They dared defy this sectarian bastard.

The carnage was real, as real as the slave minded supporters of the regime. A misguided fool wanted to stage a dramatic picture by dipping a loaf of bread in the blood of Assad victims, and with that, the fool murdered the humanity of assad’s victims once more a few minutes after assad’s pack of hyenas aimed  the barrel of death at the gathering bread line. The sub-human wanted to send message to the world before Syrians. A message nodding his understanding of the world’s cynical silence about his crime, and affirming his intention to murder all Syrians who dare defy him and to  benefit to the maximum possible extent from the treacherous deal making among regional and global powers.

It cost Syrians billions of dollars to acquire Russian military jets. It also cost them hundreds of millions to train pilots for these sub-standard jets. Now they are realizing the pay-back from the assadist ideological army built by Hafez Assad as a personal sectarian militia. Air force pilots, once respected and considered a symbol of Syrian pride have become not only complicit with the criminal bashar assad in his genocide against Syrians, but the most despised of executioners of this genocide.

Today is Christmas eve, I will follow the good example set by Syrians in the town of Saraqeb, who put up  a Christmas tree in defiance of all thugs who want sectarian war in my Syria. I will go with my family to meet some Syrian friends. We have become brothers and sisters through this long ordeal. We will eat bread with more reverence than ever. It will not be a jovial evening, there will be no bells, no Christmas Carroll, not even the Grinch. I will pray:

… dear lord, I have become one with you through your flesh, I have become one with you through your blood, and I pray to you,… don’t come back now, for the monster of Damascus lies awaiting you to crucify you again, while humanity looks, as it did before, with cynicism. A cynicism brought about by fear of monsters that aren’t there, which makes them turn their faces and blind themselves to the crimes of the most despicable monster and of his goons and dastardly loyalist.

Thy lord, forgive me for I will sin, forgive me for the monsters that are have left hate in my heart. Forgive me for I am asking you never to forgive them. Never to forgive anyone who still supports them, lie on their behalf, and use your name with sinful disregard for your beloved, the children, who are murdered daily by this monster and by the words of his defenders. May your curse befall them all as mine will, for eternity.

Eat your bread, cherish it as it gives you life, for it has become death where it was born.

Bashar Is bombing us.

I am not good at that. I mean, I don’t know how to collate news round-ups despite of  all helpful modern blogging tools  that make such task easier. May be I don’t like to do so, or perhaps, it has become  harder as my main source of news ceased being news-papers and blogs and became fast tweets, rapid shots of RSS-feeds, and Facebook posts coming from all over Syria telling me and a cynical world where a mortar shell has just fallen and where the most recent massacre-by-barrel has taken place decimating a neighborhood block and absurdly ending many potentials of greatness, mediocrity, and just plain normal living.

It is also harder to be opinionated nowadays, especially regarding the rapidly unfolding events in Syria. Although they occure in rapid succession, these events nonetheless betray a slow steadily flowing lava-like wall of brutality, suffering, and unimaginable misery. Friends are wounded with no well-organized medical relief to take care of them, and when relief is available, it is mostly controlled by a single group with a viciously selfish and opportunistic political agenda whereby aid is dispensed only to those who belong in their allegiance to the group or to its battalions. In many cases, these battalions  consist of fighters and leaders who are neither indoctrinated, nor deeply religious, but are pragmatic in meeting the needs of the moment, be it a case of ammunition, a few gallons of fuel, or some food to sustain their fighters.

Aleppo-Destruction

Destruction in Aleppo due to Assad regime criminal bombardment of civilian areas

What permeate the atmosphere in Aleppo are the genetic prints of the culture of despotism, nurtured and fed through corruption and terror by two generations of Assads. Despotism is evident among some armed groups, more evidently in the north than elsewhere around the country. In Aleppo, stories of abuse, theft, corruption, lack of coordination, greed, vengeance, betrayal, and selfishness continue to surface every day. A majority of these stories can be attributed to the hordes of Shabeeha (regime thugs). Abandoned by Assad when they could not hold off FSA progress in some of the older neighborhoods, they decided to form their own armed groups or to join other groups under the banner of the free Syrian Army. But other stories can be attributed to young men, now carrying weapons, and are entrusted with maintaining peace and order in liberated areas. The young men   fail to remember that this revolution is all about ending abuse and behave the only way they have seen men with arms and authority behave, which is being abusive with a sense of entitlement. As expected, the regime, continues its deliberate and vengeful “burn the country” madness as its forces bomb infrastructure including power stations, bakeries, hospitals as well as civilian neighborhoods, being high on its check list of mayhem. Power outages, water cuts, and full deterioration of basic services have made life unbearable in a city used to abundance, and during forty years, was  devoid through premeditated malice by the Assads and their goons of civil society institutions with the capacity to maintain social cohesion in times of disasters. Aleppo is a city plagued, like all of Syria, with a state that is indistinguishable from the brutal regime,  described by Yassin Haj-Salih, as having used the state to cement its brutal sectarian rule, and gradually eradicated it and turned it into a mere extension of itself. Clearly, the regime  shed the state at the moment the it became a liability to the small gang of bloody Assads and their sectarian criminal circle.

Naval-Mine

Naval mines dropped as highly destructive cheap killing and destruction instruments In Damascus country side, where Assad has been bombarding civilians for the past few days in hope to slow down the revolutionary forces’ progress toward Damascus.

It is natural, therefore, that some residents of the liberated areas in Aleppo’s would complain about the presence FSA in their midst. Lack of basic services, severe bread crisis, weeks’ long black-outs,  and water outages, all under constant bombardment will eventually get to you. But is that a sign that FSA is losing public support? Or that the regime is gaining more supporters? Frankly, I believe that only a fool, who is completely detached from the facts on the ground would think that the regime can gain any public support at this stage. Same fool, of course, may even think that this criminal gang of thugs care about gaining public support.  The Assads and their henchmen have combined brutality, corruption, despotism, fatalism, and sectarianism to create a witch’s brew of absurdity of  an inhuman scale and qualities. Within such severely deformed prism, facts don’t matter, and it is irrelevant whether one believes his own lies or not for suspension of disbelief is no longer a requirement. What matters is only fear and spiteful vengeance. And both are hallmarks of the inhuman horde that had ruled my Syria for most of my lifetime.

In the midst of suffering and in contrast to the lack of coordination among FSA groups in the north emerge groups of highly disciplined fighters. The origins of these Jihadist groups is  unclear, but they are now coalescing under the banner of Jabhat Alnusra (Support Front). I have argued in the past that Alnusra is highly suspect of being a regime’s creation. But recenty, the front and its smaller sisters seem to have taken an increasingly more visible role as the most effective of the anti-regime armed groups. Moreover, there are visible campaigns to bestow a legendary stature on the front as its fighters seem to be present in almost all recent victories of the the FSA against the regime. With each victory, the group gains control over much of the spoils of captured weapons and ammunition. Other groups, not directly affiliated with the front, but wanting to get access to the same source of support the front has, are starting to copy-cat the front’s behavior, contrary to what a majority of Syrians expect and want from this revolution. This is exemplified by those fools who declared the establishment of the virtue brigades calling for  cleansing  Syria of Alawite as well as the small band battalion leaders war-lords wannabe who declared an Islamic Emirate in the north in a desperate effort to oppose the newly formed political coalition, which they feared will centralize funds and leave them out to dry if they don’t shape up.

Arguably, the presence and ascendancy of Jihadi groups has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they have made it easier to wipe out the regime’s brutal security apparatus in the upcoming post-assad era as they have managed to close many of its branches, scare its informants into hiding, and intimidate its collaborators, sometimes through outright execution style assassinations especially at the local level. At the same time, they have made defection of much-needed officer corps harder than it would have been without their rigid “I am a Jihadist” attitude and their arrogant calls to force a Taliban model state  of future Syria. In fact, and as expected, the have pushed their luck too far and have now scared the US and some other nations to the edge of declaring them terrorist organizations. Such declaration, even if right, further complicates the ongoing liberation of Syria. It hinders much-needed relief efforts and  jeopardizes the immediate post-assad political process.

I have not commented on the forming of the new Coalition. Many have argued that the coalition suffers the same ailments of its largest component (SNC), which is controlled by the  opportunistic and cynical Muslim Brothers. In my opinion, the coalition, for now at least, presents a reasonable platform. It seems to be successfully led by a charismatic and respected leader, who still needs to do much more to stem the monopoly the Muslim Brothers have over much of the aid resources available. This monopoly continues to place honest people, who are willing to work within SNC in bad situations. Today, the Kurdish National Council decided to join the coalition, which is bound to reduce the influence of the MBs. Hopefully, with more opposition groups joining as a result of the coalition becoming recognized as the legitimate interim representative of the Syrian people, there may be a chance for some marked improvements on the political front. Power plays are bound to affect it, like any ad hoc political coalition formed in response to external pressure while facing a brutal regime that has succeeded, through this brutality in making relief work the primary measure of performance for the opposition instead of their political or even military successes.

Likewise, militarily, also under external pressure, there seem to be a trend for coordination. A meeting was held recently in Antalya, Turkey between representatives of many of the armed revolutionary groups. Once more a new central command was announced, albeit in complete isolation from the political coalition, at least for the time being.

Criticism of the FSA is coming from several sides. I will of course dismiss that emanating from loyalists and regime propagandists. But I will not discount any criticism voiced from revolutionary quarters. Some of the criticism is fair and some is not, but in all, it is a very healthy sign that has thrown some of the personnel and leaders of FSA off balance and has caused them to try to ameliorate some of the problems, albeit through Sharia Courts, and vice and virtue brigade, which on many occasions have add fuel to the fire instead of calming things down. I would further argue that once the regime air force and artillery are silenced, hopefully soon, civil society will emerge and will thrive in short order. It is the regime’s murderous campaign of destruction  that continues to hinder the establishment of effective local councils. The evidence of the inherent and capacity to produce healthy community governance was well articulated earlier on NPR

Overall, the picture is grim. Syrians are now recalling what their great grandparents have once told their parents about the great years of famine and misery. That  was the time of Safar Barlek when the Ottomans forcibly drafted most  men of all ages for then war efforts and confiscated most agricultural products. This left the women, the children, and the elderly to fend for themselves during one of the harshest cold spells in the elders’ memory. The Syrian tragedy resembles no other, for never in recent and past history have rulers shown such contempt to their own people. The misery of Syrians have spread throughout the region. Children have died in the cold of most inhumane refugee camps in Jordan. I was recently told that the Jordanian authorities tax every single aid shipment intended for the camps or for wounded Syrians in Jordanian hospitals by confiscating a third of the shipment. This is notwithstanding that on several occasions, what was left after confiscation, never really made it to the camps or to those who need it. There is no worst story to tell of the horror than that of children’s horror. Even the lucky ones, who made it through the help of family members into the safety of homes in Egypt or in one of the gulf states continue to suffer.  A Facebook post illustrated this most vividly by telling the story of a little girl,  who was brought to safety in the United Arab Emirates by her uncle. The girl went for an outing with her family during the celebrations of the UAE national day.  When she heard the sound of celebratory fireworks, the little girl pressed her small hands over her ears and started shouting hysterically, Bashar is bombing us, Bahsar is bombing us.

It is for this child, it is for Hamza’s memory, for Qashoush, for nearly fifty thousand Syrians young and old, murdered in cold blood by Assad gangs, with fanfare from ugly and cruel herds of mindless loyalists accompanying the slaughter, it is for the victims, for Syria, and above all for humanity that Syrians can’t lose hope. We can’t afford to lose it, even knowing that this regime might and can easily resort to the weapons of mass murder in its arsenal. There is nothing that the regime has done to demonstrate that it amassed the arsenals of weapons  for anything but for its survival even if that meant the utter destruction of a beautiful country, and the death of all of its inhabitants. Anyone who thinks that there is a shred of humanity or of rationalism in the Assad gang is a fool who has blinded himself to forty years of history leading to two years of anti-historical nightmare. No one is responsible but the regime, and anyone claiming otherwise is complicit in the great Syrian Genocide. The list of regime crimes include, in addition to the evil murder of tens of thousands of Syrians, the torture of hundreds of thousands. But the most evil of this contemptible gang’s crimes is the attempted murder of the souls of Syrians and of their humanity.  To the scared child I say, sweet child, they have been bombarding us for forty-two years. Little by little, they destroyed our heritage of civility. But my sweet child, we will get that back. Granted, we may lose some of our innocence, but from you dear child, we will learn it again.

Revised- Saturday: December 15, 2012

Note: Dear 7ee6anis. I think by now, most of you already know of SYRIA DEEPLY. It is an outstanding new site on Syria that combines smart commentary, intelligent design, and for the tech-freak mundass some incredible tools such as defection tracker, regime relation mapping, and an updated map of incident on the ground. The site also feather Syrian Stories, with two so far written by the wonderful Amal Hanano.  You may want to read this article about Syria Deeply describing how the site Outsmarts The News, Redefines Conflict Coverage.

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