Category Archives: Crimes Against Humanity
I hope that you receive this letter in good health. I also hope that you receive it while in a state of non-partisanship you promised during your election campaign and with the clarity of mind, determination to serve, and the zeal for the interest of our country and its values that we expect from you as a member of one of the two chambers of this August Body.
I am writing to you to concerning the upcoming vote on the authorization for President Obama to use military force in response to the abominable use of chemical weapons against women and children by the Assad regime of Syria. I will not tell you how to vote, because the moment you were elected by your constituents was a moment when a heavy historical burden was thrown on your shoulders. It is your job to weigh in the evidence, and it is your job to define what constitutes our national interests and to provide the executive branch with the means to assure that these interests are realized and not jeopardized by friends or foes. All I can do, Honorable, is to tell you a few things that I, as an American of Syrian roots what I believe and know.
I will not go at length on evidence concerning the regime’s unique capacity or its use of SARIN, I am sure that what you have probably far exceeds what is available to me from non-classified releases or to an activist on the ground in Ghouta or elsewhere in Syria. One piece of information, which disturbed me, was a report that came out yesterday concerning an intercepted radio communication between regional commanders of Assad’s army and an artillery captain who expressed initial reluctance to launch a chemical weapon attack, but yielded after having been threatened with execution. The outcome of that diabolical exchange was 27 chemical warheads launched within the span of 14 minutes leading to the death of more than 1400 civilians, with one third of those murdered being children. Syrians knew this was coming, so did the world months ago. But no one took action, and this is why we now face an emboldened habitual war-crime regime. The last two and a half years are full of stories in which Syrian soldiers and officers who tried to adhere to their oath to protect their nation and were executed on the spot by thugs loyal to Assad and willing to participate in his murderous plans to burn Syria for the survival of this thuggish and corrupt rule of the 23 million Syrians, of for that matter, those who may be left after he accomplishes his “Assad or we burn the country” genocidal plan against Syrians and their homeland. This captain has failed the moral and human test, and he should, like his superiors be held liable for committing war crimes. But the main murderers remain Assad (in Arabic) and his inner circle of thugs and no one else.
You will be debating war. A war in which our nation will be using missiles and bombs to punish the regime of a war criminal and to deter the war criminal from ever thinking of using chemical weapons again. I confess that the thought of one cruise or tomahawk missile missing its target and hitting a civilian area horrifies me. Likewise, I am also horrified by the thought of our soldiers placing themselves at grave risk, only to fire missiles at installations that were emptied of regime thugs and hardware and filled with innocent Syrians, moved from the numerous torture chambers in Assad’s dungeons of horror and murder, and placed in various chemical weapon production and storage facilities to become target of the free world’s strike. I am horrified by the word collateral damage, which I believe shouldn’t even exist in our dictionaries, other than as an archaic word. Like you, like any soldier, father, mother, sister, or child, war terrifies me.
I am also horrified and abhorred by all kinds of torture. My horror is real, for even though I have not been subjected to such torture, I have, however, met and talked to many wonderful Syrians who have been subjected to horrific torture at the hands of Assad thugs, and have barely avoided death by torture, unlike some of my other brilliant, wonderful, and civilized friends, who have lost their life at the hand of Assad torturers in one or another of the countless number of torture chambers perfected by the Assads over forty years of their murderous rule of my home of origin.
Our nation is now finding an ever increased interest in our Natural Heritage as well as our historical heritage. Yet, part of our history and heritage as humanity, lies in Syria, where some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and others are being demolished by the vicious and unending bombardment of missiles, barrels of death, and now mas murder internationally banned chemical weapons. The regime of Bashar Al-Assad is the culpable, we know it, and you too. These crimes against Syrians and their land resulted not only in murdering more than 100,000 Syrians, but also in the shameful destruction of Syria’s precious heritage of humanity with unparalleled levels of hate and vengeance. Thousands of years of history have been destroyed by Assad and his thugs in these cities. In most of these cities, more than 70% of the historical districts were destroyed by Assad bombs and rockets with the rest remaining under constant threat. Unfortunately UNESCO stands horrified and unable to stop such destruction despite of repeated calls to stop the carnage. This is a regime that stands against all what humanity holds dear, including our shared heritage. Its head and enforcers find it necessary to destroy the cultural and historical heritage of the place that gave birth to our alphabet and that shaped our earliest attempts to domesticate wild grains. It has bombed people standing in breadlines, one should not be surprised if it bombed and looted museums and cultural icons in its custody. There is no redeeming qualities in them, and especially in the head of the regime, his thuggish clan, and his henchmen in the web of “security-agencies” horrific organizations that form the core of this genocidal regime.
What Peace Movement?!!!
From your window you can probably see a group of people who just decided to get their “anti-war” attire out of dusty closets, and summoned the long dormant depths of their “anti-imperialist” hearts to decry the potential death Syrian children, presumably to be killed by a Free World’s punishment of Assad and his gang of thugs. They will try to convince and lobby you; “their eternal imperialist enemy”, and “lobbyists slave”; to vote as they tell you. If I may be informal with you, I am going to ask you to please look closely and to tell me whether you can see them marching next to those carrying the photos of thug Bashar Al-Assad with his smug smile and shouting his name as the “leader for eternity” and the hero of “anti imperialism”. These are no fools, useful idiots, may be, traitors; definitely not, but lying hypocrites would be applicable but insufficient adjective to describe them. I am of course proud of friends who stood with the Syrian People from the first day of their ordeal, but now do not agree that a military action is useful or helpful not out of fear for or attempts to protect Assad, his control over the army and security agencies and his lasting rule, but out of genuine fear for the Syrian People. As for the others, especially those beholden to fascist ideologies of the Baath and its like-minded atrophied but destructive parties, I can only reiterate the question most free Syrians ask: Where were they when the barrels of death from Assad’s Russian made, Iranian supplied, and North Korean upgraded airplanes rained on the neighborhoods and villages of Syria? Where were they, when the best minds of Syria, and the hope of civil society emergence were tortured and murdered in Assad’s dungeons? And where were they when Assad thugs were forcing millions of Syrians into refuge, only to bombard them again in open air, or send thug-agents to poison the water supplies of their refugee camps erected like cities of misery in neighboring countries? I have not seen a single protest from these hypocrites for two and a half years of daily ongoing slaughter of Syrians and destruction of their country at the hand of Assad and his regime. As for Assad supporters, who are now protesting, i can only be disgusted at them because these pathetic characters continue to enjoy all the fruits of democracy and protection of law the free world offers. Yet, they continue to deny Syrians the least of these fruits, which is the right to say no to a thuggish, criminal and terrorist regime without being murdered, turned into refugees in their own country and beyond, and be traumatized by the continuous death, under most horrific torture of their best, most civilized, young men and women. Worst yet, these dictator’s loyalists have been constantly drumming the mantra of American conspiracy against the eternal leader and the dwindling list of like-minded tyrannical regimes. Whatever your decision is, their points of view is irrelevant, if not criminally culpable.
The killing of Syrians themselves as well as the vicious murder of their hopes of rejoining civilization after half a century of despotism is the punishment the Assad regime and its friends dealt and continue to deal to those who dared to say yes to civility and no to perpetual murderous despotism. For the pretentious hypocrites marching and writing in defense of tyranny, the act of defying a tyranny causes them grave concern, for as tyrannies disappear and the world’s opportunity to become a safer and better place increases, they lose fame, exposure, and chances for self-righteous sophistry.
Me or my Chaos
Some, even if well-meaning analysts will warn of impending chaos upon the fall of this tyrant and his regime. This, can also be disingenuous in the context of eliminating such a vicious hateful tyranny. Stability that comes at the expense of the human rights of citizenry was soundly rejected by our founding fathers who found it abhorring and unnatural. I do understand your grave concerns about the spread of terrorism, and In fact I share much of these concerns. I have a heightened sense of anxiety concerning terrorist gangs such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Al-Nusra, and other Al-Qaida offshoots, which were brought in and nurtured by the Assad regime. I and most freedom yearning Syrians are very concerned should these terrorists be allowed to maintain a foothold in Syria, especially in economically viable areas in the north where they can continue to control both Syrian oil and the bread basket region of the country. This would not be in the interest of Syrians nor in the interest of the United States or the free world.
I share with some analysts and bloggers, including some of those who were against the US intervention in Iraq, the belief that ridding the world of the Assad regime should be one of our priorities because such is in our national interest. I will even go further to state that it was the Assad regime that funded and funneled terrorists, with their car bombs into Iraq killing our soldiers as well as innocent Iraqis. These terrorists are the same ones the regime has facilitated back in Syria to threaten the world with “me or chaos“. Let me assure you that even in their strongest of dens, these terrorists are facing daily challenges from normal Syrians in the liberated Areas. Syrians have rejected them, their weapons, their tactics as well as their ideological adventure into an era that never in reality existed in our history. The problem lies with the regime, which while claiming to fight terrorism, kept bombarding civilian areas with vengeance, but left its handmade terrorists unmolested. In many cases in the north of Syria, the regime even-handed the terrorists swaths of land to do the regime’s bidding. These regime-made terrorists are now focusing their terror campaigns of arrest, torture, murder, and intimidation against the same activists who were the primary targets of the regime. Members of these gangs are suspects of being regime informers and agents who simply grew a beard, changed to black attire, wore a mask, and imported terror-tourists from other countries for help. But they remain beholden to the regime as it is clear from their lack of interest in participating in real military activities against its forces that are shelling the cities and from their focus on replacing the regime hated security apparatus with their own draconian version of the “emirate of fears” serving by that the interests of the Assad regime and giving it, in the eyes of unknowing world an image of a regime fighting terrorism rather than the criminal terrorist regime it really is.
The Real War
Free Syrians, including both non-violent activists and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are now fighting on two fronts. The first front is against the criminal Assad regime, and the other against the regime’s handmade branches of Al-Qaida. Both represent regressive societal and political traits. While it is nearly certain that the terrorists will be dealt a major blow with their benefactor regime gone, it is more than certain that things will not be easy when this regime collapses and its hand-made Al-Qaida branches are left without it. There will be car bombs (a trade mark of both the Assad regime and Al-Qaida terrorist operation), of assassination of their opponents, and plenty of counter-revolutionary anti-democratic violent groups. I believe that the Syrian people will find their way to kick these terrorists out and to reduce their threats to Syria, to the region and the World. They need help now, and they will need it in the future. But that help will not come from the liar regime, or its defenders who created these terrorist groups in the first place.
A terrorist regime can not be trusted with combating terrorism or with establishing stability. Thinking otherwise will be unwise, suicidal, and detrimental to our national interests. The battle in Syria is not between the regime and Islamist terrorists, it is between freedom seeking Syrians on the one hand, and the regime and its hand-made, customized Jihadi terrorist groups, on the other hand. Any other depiction, such as the one being perpetuated by some academics is misleading at best, and purposely so, at worst. These academics would go at great length in describing the origin of these terrorist groups, but they would not venture into exploring the similarities between the regime and these terrorists, the intersection of their tactics, and their mutual avoidance of confronting one another. All of these issues, ignored by such academics, are now rather obvious to all freedom seeking Syrians, who speak loudly and clearly about the obvious connection between these terrorists and the criminal regime. Today, I read the story of a Kurdish father whose defecting son was murdered by the masked thugs of the Islamic State or Iraq and the Levant on his way to safety. Syrian rebels, affiliated with any of the FSA multitude of groups would have welcomed the young man’s bravery and ensured that he reached safety. Likewise, only regime agents have an interest in the disappearance of the much revered and iconic figure of the revolution father Paolo dall’oglio.
The threat of these regime-made and/or facilitated terrorist organizations should not be considered independently of their founder. Its demise is the beginning of theirs. Fear from their actions should not inhibit our actions. If it does, Bashar Al-Asad, who expressed, in no uncertain terms in his interview in with the French LeFigaro magazine yesterday that the only way to deal with the opposition to his rule is to annihilate them, would have accomplished his goals. The fact that liar Assad claims that 80% to 90% of his enemies are Al-Qaida is sufficient for many Syrians to believe the opposite. Realities on the ground support the assertion that the terrorists are not his enemies, they are his agents, and their job is not merely to provide propaganda fodder and to tarnish the revolution, but to also exact his vengeful horrors on those who dared defy his sick rule.
Throughout its history of oppression, the Assad regime tried to appear as the mediator holding magic keys to many problems in the region. Whenever an American was kidnapped, the chief thugs of the regime tried to present themselves as “diplomats” resolving the issue. The reality has always been that they were behind these terrorist crimes. Many at time, our country had to pay dearly in precious blood and treasure to “cope” with the cheaply orchestrated terrorist acts of this regime and its appendages. It is a benefactor of terrorism, one of its principle planners and trainers. This regime is a threat to peace and stability and it will not reform, whether the next heir spends a year or a decade in the west. Annihilating all who protest their despotic rule is a family business as we have all witnessed in Hama, in 1982, in Lebanon, through 30 years of occupation, and over two and a half years of increasingly brutal crimes against humanity in Syria.
Needless to say, over decades of obstructionism, this regime has played its cards well. Hiding behind sovereignty that itself violated countless time, not the least of which during the theater of the absurd that led to the coronation of a spoiled, unethical child of privilege. That child of privilege is now known as Syria’s mass murderer and the head of the corrupt despotic clan. Attempts by the free world to “contain’ the “western educated doctor” failed miserably. The experience of the thirteen years of his reign shows that criminal thugs like Bashar Al-Assad can’t be rehabilitated and that they will turn out to be worse than their fathers.
Before I conclude this long letter, I must highlight that the Free Syrian Army is not a terrorist group and it does not belong to the same category of regime-made branches of Al-Qaida. Rather it has fought against those on many occasions. FSA is composed of Syrians from every walk of life. Some of whom believe in a plural democratic Syria, others hope to see a Syria with an emphasized Islamic identity that has nothing to do with the brutal image of an Islamic state nurtured by Al-Qaida and its affiliates. Syrians, much like most Americans do have faith. As Senator McCain stated earlier, like an American soldier does, an FSA fighter is likely to thank god, to pray, and to say “Allahu Akbar”, which means God is Great. Watch some of the You-Tube clips of real FSA fighters and you will find them doing that when they shoot, or when they succeed in capturing a regime point. In this case It is a sign of gratitude as well as an affirmation of the righteousness of their cause (which should be true in the case of those fighting tyranny) . Watch another clip of people gathering around the wreckage of a building just demolished by one of Assad’s scuds or barrels of death, and you will hear the same phrase, it is in this case an appeal to God to exact punishment on those who intentionally ordered and executed such a cowardly act against civilians.
Leaderless, and in much need of honest and appropriate representation, the grass-root Syrian revolution is nonetheless alive and well and is creating its own leaders at local levels. It is not led nor dominated by terrorists as some academics and “regime-made” opposition have been trying desperately to hype it. Nor it is all armed. Non-violent and civil groups continue to emerge despite of the constant threats, assassination, kidnapping, and murder by the Assad regime and by its clients in the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and their offshoots. A much longed for cadre of honest and effective civil servants is emerging in some liberated areas despite of the bullies. The Free Syrian Army is making progress, despite of the regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the regime is losing ground every day, again despite of the continuous supplies of weapons from Russia and the non-stoppable supplies of men and arms from Iran, Hezbollah and Iran’s agents in Iraq. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture, but the regime and its chaos can and should go to hell for Syria to have any chance of reconciliation and for the blood-letting to end. The administration of president Obama is right in stating that there should be no place for the Assads in future Syria. The longer they last in its present, the darker Syria’s future will be.
Vote your conscious, not mine. I trust that you will try your best to do the right thing.
Introduction by OTW
A few weeks back, I posted a medical report from Yassin Al Haj Saleh, the Syrian intellectual and winner of Prince Claus Award for 2012, in which he described the chemical weapon attack by the forces of war criminal Bashar al-Assad in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus country side. For a few months, Yassin lived there among the people of the Eastern Ghouta, and he recently summed up his experiences there to cast light on what is happening, and at the same time to issue a last call, or better yet, a plea for decency and humanity to western intellectuals and public opinion makers admonishing them to actively take the only humane and progressive act, which is to support the overthrow of the Assad criminal clan and crime partners and to force the stoppage of importing killers from the regime’s allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere. Yesterday, Yassin’s letter was published in the French newspaper Le Monde under the title “Intellectuels, aidez les Syriens !” after being translated from Arabic to French by the Lebanese intellectual and supporter of the Syrian Revolution, Professor Ziad Majed and his colleague Nadia Aissaoui. The letter, written on June, 28, 2013, appeared earlier today in its Arabic original in the Republic for Syrian Revolution Studies as well as in the Lebanese newspaper النهار . I tried to find English translation and failed, so I translated the letter from Arabic to English. I do apologize for the rough edges of the translation, and would be more than happy to replace the text with better translation if someone is kind enough to edit it.
Rabi Tawil (AKA Abu Kareem) has kindly offered to edit the translation. The version posted on (8 July, 2013) is the result of his kind and generous help. It definitely reads much better.
Update: on 10, July, 2013, an official Spanish version of the letter appeared under the title “Carta sobre Siria a los intelectuales y líderes de opinión en Occidente” in the Spanish newspaper ELMUNDO.
Intellectuals, Help Syrians!
By Yassin Al Haj Saleh
A letter from Syrian writer Yassin Al Haj Saleh to Western Intellectuals and Opinion Makers.
About three months ago, I headed to the “liberated” Eastern Ghouta region, leaving behind the capital city of Damascus where life has become suffocating. My clandestine departure necessitated weeks of prior-arrangements in a city , which had been dismembered by hundreds of security barricades, and which Bashar al-Assad is determined to keep as the center of the rule he inherited from his father thirteen years ago.
The Eastern Ghouta region is now inhabited by nearly half of out of the two million who lived there before the revolution. It has been transformed during the past three months from a bastion where the armed revolution was first launched in the capital into an area besieged from all sides. This reversal is largely due to the military and logistical support of the regime has received from Russia and Iran and from Lebanese and Iraqi Militia that are connected to the latter state. During that time, I myself witnessed the cruel lack of weapons, ammunition and even adequate food supply on the side of the rebel fighters. Many of the fighters on the fronts barely receive two meals a day. If they weren’t mostly local residents defending their towns and their families and living off what also sustains their families, the situation would have been immeasurably worse
The towns and villages which I visited and lived in during the past months are subjected to daily random shelling from airplanes, artillery and rocket launchers. Every day, victims, a majority of whom are civilians, succumb to the violence. I spent a month at a civil defense authority site, and there, I saw all of those who were killed. Some of them, including children, were blown into unrecognizable pieces. Among the victims was a fetus of six months whose mother suffered a miscarriage from the the terror she suffered during the shelling near her house. Not a day went during that month without civilians getting killed. Usually it is two or three, but on one day it was 9, 28 on another, and 11 on a third. The numbers killed continue to rise and they are rarely less than half a dozen a day, again including a small fully formed fetus. It was said that he was also six month old, also miscarried by yet another terrorized mother.
In addition to civilians, many young fighters die every day to the weapons of a brutal and more powerful military force that receives far superior support than they do.
The whole region has been without electricity for 8 months. This has caused a reliance on frequently malfunctioning generators with excessive consumption of fuel, which in itself is becoming increasingly scarce commodity due to the tight blockade. Consequently, cooling and storage of food, vitally necessary in the scorching summers of the region, must be dispensed with. Cellular and landline connections are cut-off;and in recent weeks, flour has become scarce. Two weeks have now passed during which we had barely ate any bread,getting by with crushed wheat or rice instead, or by purchasing our meals from the few restaurants that remain.
For my part, I was content with two meals a day, at least temporarily, as it helped reduce my weight by around 10 Kilos (nearly 21 pounds)
We manage communications via Satellite Internet equipment, smuggled in with great difficulty. We use the equipment to deliver news and information to other Syrians and to the world. Such communication equipment is, however, available to only a small percentage of the population. A shell landed nearby few days ago and disrupted the internet connection for some time. It could have been much worse had the shell landed on our roof and destroyed two month worth of efforts to secure the equipment. But the ultimate tragedy happens every day to an increasing number of inhabitants. Hastily buried, their funeral processions are joined by few hasty mourners, terrorized by the prospect of another shell falling upon their heads. Such has happened more than once; and in one case, which I witnessed, the martyr was buried within less than an hour of his death without his wife and children taking a final look at him. His body was mutilated and some of his limbs were missing, prompting the elders to decide that this should not be the last sight of him to remain in his wife’s and childrens’ memory.
We, I and a number of friends, both men and women, are still alive. In Damascus we were threatened with arrest and horrific torture which we may not survive. Here we are safe from that, but not from a shell falling on our heads at any time.
Here, we are partners with nearly a million people having lost complete control of our own destiny, and constantly at the edge of the abyss of the worst possibilities. Each time I reach the threshold of the house returning from the outside, I feel that I have barely survived death by a shell or a shrapnel. And yet death remains a probability entering randomly through the window or the door.
Today, Friday, June 28, three mortars fell between twelve noon and twelve thirty on a place not far from where we are staying. The timing is too close to the Friday prayer time observed by faithful Muslims, to be a coincidence. I was most struck in my early days here that calls for Friday prayers in one mosque started about nine thirty in the morning, three hours earlier than the usual time, and this were followed by calls from other mosques each within a half an hour of the next. When I inquired about it, I received a surprising explanation: “The purpose is to avoid gathering large numbers of worshipers in the city’s mosques at any specific time to deprive the regime of the opportunity to kill maximum number of people as it usually desires”. The regime has done this before, in the city where I stayed, there are five destroyed mosques.
More painful is that more than two-thirds of the children here do not attend school, their parents fearing for their safety or because of the the lack of schools nearby. The few functioning schools operate in underground cellars to avoid bombardment. But this also prevents the children from playing and running in the open air.
All of the hospitals are also underground.
People engage in this struggle with a sense of desperation because of they realize that a terrible massacre awaits them if the regime succeeds in regaining control. Those not murdered immediately will face arrest and torture that is extreme in its brutality. Their choices are limited to death while resisting the fascist aggression of the criminal regime or death, in the ugliest of manners, at the hands of this same regime if they stop resisting. The souls of people shiver, as my own soul shivers from its depth at the mere thought of being ruled by the same regime once again, should the people stop their resistance.
During this long stretch in the life of the Syrian revolution, which has gone through a peaceful phase lasting for more than six months, the outcome of the policies of the influential powers of the world were to let Syrians be murdered at an escalating rate, and to reassure the regime that it can do anything with complete impunity. This is reminiscent of the Western Democracies’ behavior regarding Hitler before the Second World War. The current situation is a direct consequence of the failure of those influential powers to support the Syrian rebels, whilst failing to stop the support for the regime from the powers that provide it with weapons, money and men, even as they continue to step up their support by intervening more openly and directly. Finally, after it became known to the whole world that the Assad clan regime used chemical weapons, which I myself documented two months ago, as did other friends on the basis of personal experience, and after the regime was assured that its use of air power and long-range missiles against cities and neighborhoods will result in nothing but faint and timid protest; after all of this, Western powers decided to support the Syrian rebels with weapons. However, the objective of this support is to restore balance, a balance that they helped tip in the regime’s favor in the first place. Restoring balance means prolonging the Syrian conflict so that both sides lose in ways that have known precedents in the history of Western Democracies, while what is needed is support that guarantees the overthrow of the regime, or at least force its allies to back-off from supporting its openly criminal war.
Restoring balance is not just a short-sighted policy leading not only to prolonging the conflict, but it is utterly inhumane as well. There are no two equal evils in Syria, as it is unfortunately portrayed in the Western media, and contrary to what United Nations and international organizations reports, notwithstanding that the Syrian conflict is not one between demons and angels. There is a tyrannical fascist regime, which has murdered approximately 100,000 of its subjects, and there is a varying spectrum of those rebelling against it. The prolonging and increasing cruelty of the conflict has radicalized some of the rebel groups, whilst weakening the resilience of the Syrian society to extremism. The longer the Syrians are left to their fate, the more likely extremists gain strength and the moderating logic and rationality among Syrians weakens. From both field and personal experience, this is what is actually happening. At the Civil Defense Authority, and whenever new martyrs fell, especially children, I am met with reproachful looks. These looks are from people who are skeptical about the value of the calm and “rational” words I usually utter and about their utility in such circumstances.
There is only one correct approach that is in the general interest of Syria and from a humanitarian point of view, and that is to help Syrians get rid of the rule of the Assad dynasty that is acting as if it owns the country and as if Syrians are merely its serfs. Everything will be difficult in post-Assad Syria, but ridding the country of the public criminal incites more moderate interactions within the Syrian society, and allows Syrians to stand in the face of the extremists among them. It is immeasurably worse to prolong the conflict and extend its human and material costs. Even worse is to watch Syrians being murdered with Russia’s weapons, at the hands of local thugs, as well as Lebanese and Iranian militias. Worse also is to impose a settlement that does not punish the criminals, and that doesn’t seriously address any of Syria’s problems.
I hear American and Western politicians sometimes say that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. But where is the political solution? And when did Bashar al-Assad , after about 28 months of the revolution, and after the murder of about 100,000 people, state that he was actually ready for serious negotiations with the opposition and to share power? When did he refrain, even for a single day, from committing murder in the past 850 days? The truth is that there is no political solution without forcing the slaughterer to step down, now and immediately, and along with the leaders of the slaughter in his regime. While this may give rebellious Syrians something important, which is what they have demanded from the outset by peaceful means, it strengthens the position of moderates in their ranks, making it possible to isolate the extremists, leading to a fair Syrian settlement, something that is badly needed in the region, the world, and by Syrians before anyone else.
We would not have called upon you if it wasn’t for the fact that the Syrian issue is one of the major and most dangerous issues of the world in recent decades. It has caused the uprooting and internal and external displacement of about a third of the population. There are hundreds of thousands of wounded and disabled, and up to quarter of a million prisoners are subjected to horrific torture, including the raping of women and children as documented in the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and by the more reliable of Syrian organizations. The Assad forces have committed numerous massacres, some of which were documented in United Nations reports. All of this so that a ruler, who inherited power without right and without merit from a father who seized power by force and ruled the country with blood,can remain.
Today, we look to you as leaders of public opinion in your countries to pressure your governments to take a strong stand against the killer, a stand that supports the overthrowing the regime of the Assad dynasty. This is the only humanitarian and progressive thing to do. There is nothing more reactionary and fascist in today’s world than a regime that kills its own people, brings in killers from its allied countries and organizations, and incites a sectarian war, which while easy to incite, may be impossible to halt before it it leads to the death of hundreds of thousands of people.
We look forward to your support today. Tomorrow may be too late.
Yassin Al Haj Saleh
June 28, 2013
Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria
translation by OTW and Rabi Tawil (Abu Kareem)
Lest we forget-31 years (Introduction by OTW)
Nearly a year ago, I posted my translation of several segments of the memoir of Khaled Al-Khani, a Syrian painter who lived as a six-year old child the horrors of Hama. Then, I hoped to post all of Khaled’s memoirs, which were originally written by him as eight letters sent to his friends in the early days of the Syrian Revolution, on three installments on 7ee6ab. Until today, i could not finish translating the third installment because pain, sorrow, and grief, always struck me hard in nearly every sentence. Khaled and I have become good friends, and every time I started working on the last four letters of his, I could not stop weeping as I thought of my friend, living the massacre as a child and hearing the horror stories from his neighbors as he grew up, so I stopped.
Today, we enter the thirty-first anniversary of the Assads’ massacre of Hama. It was on this day, thirty-one years, when an abominable group of barbarians invaded a beautiful city on the Orontes river. What happened next became suppressed in the memory of millions. It was suppressed in the memories of those who knew of the massacre, but remained silent for fear that the Assads may do to them what they have done to the city of Hama, to Khaled’s friends, to his larger than life father, and to our identity as Syrians. Others were merely ashamed of our own complicity in the crimes, whether that was in believing the lies and distortions of Hafez Al-Assad, or in failing to rise up in aid of our sister city, raped as she was.
In less than two months from now, we mark the beginning of the third year of the Syrian Revolution. Much has happened since I posted the second part of Khaled’s memoir. The horrors khaled describes are now common place, for what was done in 1983 in the secrecy of siege has been happening in the open, by the son of the murderous hafez, a foolish entity, that proved to many the existence of filthy genes.
Bashar’s barbarians are not far from his fathers’ and uncle’s. Their crimes are no less horrific as they have demonstrated through countless “leaked tapes”. Residents of the Baroudeyeh district of Hama, who fled to the undulation room in a destroyed mosque, are now joined by their children and relatives from countless Syrian cities and villages. Photos of murdered detainees, tortured to death, starved, burned, mutilated, are now part of our daily lives.
All of this does not belittle the pain that is Hama. And while we mourn her sisters joining her in tragedy at the hand of the murderous sons and nephews of the senior assad thugs, we must also continue to remember Hama. As I wrote in the previous post, what we see today was foretold thirty-one years ago. It is also a warning that this clan must not remain in Syria, should have no future or connection to Syria, and that its heads, its bullies, their partners, and loyalists a swell as their propagandists and publicity prostitutes must face up for their crimes.
Today, while Syrians die or become refugees on hourly basis, many of the perpetrator of Hama’s massacre remain free. Rifaat Al-Assad enjoys his billions all over Europe, Abdel-Halim Khaddam lives safely in the most expensive area of Paris, and many of the junior thugs, are now generals in the barbarian army, not counting the soldiers and petty-officers who have since them retired. For Hama, then, and for what is happening now in Syria to pass without just punishment is a dishonor not only to Syria, but to humanity as well.
Again, I could not finish translating all of Khaled’s Memoir. It is still very hard to do. There will be one more. But that is OK, for in having a task like this going incomplete, i continue to remember our dept to Hama, and the fact that it can never be paid.
Stories from Hama: Memories of Painter Khaled Al-Khani. Part 3
When my father slapped me and sent me to join my mother and my brothers and the rest of the residents of the Baroudeyeh neighborhood, it was like he knew that I would never forget the details of the tragedy for as long as I lived. I tell you now, and I swear; I see him today in every martyr among the detainees. I beg your forgiveness. You may find some confusion to this part of my testimony, and you have to excuse me, he is my father.
O’ father, how could you send us to the unknown? What a pain. What went through your heart and mind then? when your sufferings began to grow.
He was captured in the shelter he went into with my aunt after the army, delayed by some brave young men, later arrived. I know one of these men very well, and he told me how much they suffered from bombardment, and how were they able to delay the savages’ invasion for few days.
My father was arrested with all of the men in the shelter and sent to the ceramic factory. Some of those who were with him told me later that after days of having been with no food and with only rain water to ease their thirst, a few soldiers would come once or twice and throw some bread around asking the people, at gunpoint, to race for the bread in order to amplify our disgrace. There were sheds and cellars in the factory, and as customary, the detainees shared the pain. The cellars were warmer than the sheds, which protected them from the wind, but in the factory yard, a place which became outside universe of humanity, laid killing, maiming, dragging, brutality, teeth pulling, ear and tongue cutting, eyes gouging, and breaking of limbs. Despite all of this, people shared the roles and the pain.
After days of existence in the detention camp, some people began calling my father “Doctor” as a sign of respect and to ease his pain having eased theirs many a time in the past. He repeatedly told them: ”Don’t call me Doctor” because as one of signatories to the city’s intellectuals’ statement sent to the regime calling for democracy and respect for freedom and other human rights, he knew that the regime would not allow any intellectual from our city to survive. Today, we are calling for our rights again, and we will get them, god willing. One witness told me that my father once chided him for toasting a piece of bread on a makeshift stove and told him to eat it as it is. To date, I could not understand why. Was he concerned about the loss of nutritional value with toasting? or was it the smell, in consideration for the hunger of all of the detainees.
The presence of a physician among the detainees, of whom there were five thousands in this particular detention camp, leaked to the officer. So, he gathered the detainees in the yard. Then, this senior officer said that they needed a physician, suggesting there was a medical emergency. My father and another doctor adhered to the Hippocratic Oath and answered the call of duty. Little they knew of the planned treachery. My father and the other doctor were both dragged alive and tortured. They gouged one of my father’s eyes in the midst of his suffering and one of those who were present told me that my father was on the ground writhing in pain when the soldiers were beating him with their weapons as if they were playing and before he died, the soldiers ganged up him as a pack of wolves. His tribulation and pain lasted for hours. Oh father, what did you feel…? After that, his body, which looked like mine, his face, resembling mine, and his soul, similar those of our today martyrs, was thrown in the yard and later handed to the national hospital, where he remained, with the other martyrs’ , laying at the hospital door. My father’s torture did not end then, for in there, they gouged his other eye, took his identity card and stapled it to his clothes.
One of our relatives was able to retrieve my father’s body. He was buried eyeless.
Today, I swear I never stopped asking for our full rights and for the murderers to receive just punishment. I never stopped, and will never stop until you return to me my father’s eyes to lay them to rest where he is.
I wrote the first few parts of my testimonial while under fear and anxiety from everything and I sent them to you to expose the crimes of this corrupt regime. God knows, as I was writing, letters of the alphabet abandoned me, and my language did not save me. Sometimes I would search for a letter or a sentence and try to write it down but it would escape as a fugitive does from this tyrannical regime. You have no idea how many a prose I erased out of fear for the safety of people, and how many times I hesitated, stuttered, and cried until I fell down. I swear my crying never stops when I write, and what I write is always forcefully extracted from my memories, which constantly tries to escape into the far and deep corners of my brain.
My father’s corpse was dumped for days among other corpses at the door of the national hospital. Earlier, my father, a non-Baathist, was appointed as a director of the hospital and president of the city’s syndicate of physicians. This was an earlier attempt to signal the regime’s responsiveness to the intellectuals statement and to initiate a dialogue with members of the city’s civil society in the same treacherous tricks being used to out such people by the regime nowadays. We must exercise caution and read the regime’s movements well.
A nurse, who worked with my father when he was the director of the hospital told me that wounded people arrived to the hospital in an non-slowing acceleration. An incident occurred when a wounded man was brought in loudly crying out of pain. His cries were so loud to the point where everyone in the hospital heard. He was not the only one crying out of pain, but his voice was the loudest. People who brought him believed, as we all now do, that the cries of pain were the signal to the soldiers who camped at the hospital to finish off the wounded and to assure our complete annihilation. It was not the treatment to ease the pain that was proportional the the pain of the wounded but the severity of torture awaiting them. The nurse told that the soldiers, accompanied by another nurse who adopted murder with them, opened up the man’s chest while he was writhing and shouting with pain, took out his heart, his blood covering their faces and their military uniforms; until they finally silenced him, forever, as they had thought then. But by god, I am his voice, his pain, and his body, until we honor him as befitting a human. They killed in a celebration of victory over humanity. This is their eternal war. The teller swore that the nurse who identified with the soldiers took out the man’s liver and chewed and spat pieces of it as if god didn’t exist in that place. The woman who told the story remained silent for years about it. Till today, she remains frozen in that place, unable to leave it as she relives repeatedly in her memories the scene. She said that they never asked for the man’s name. They don’t track names. The barbarians don’t know the language of children and women; our language. They know only the language of killing.
Bodies were defaced and disfigured in that hospital. On the walls, they drew with blood and wrote phrases such as “no god but nation and no prophet but the ba’ath”. The decapitated heads to express their fear of our mind, or may be so that people remain uncertain about the death of their disappeared beloved, or whether they are among the detainees in the gang’s jails. This is merely a picture of our psychological torture, which they strove to make chronic up to the present. Until now, doubts remain, and people, heart broken, still yearn for the return of those who went to that place.
It was as if the barbarians were abstracting the Human on a painting dominated by red and adding from the darkness of their hearts to balance their inhuman art. This was their art of painting, sculpting, of cinema and theater, and perhaps of poetry and music, but the task for narrating was left to me. They excelled over all of those who made contemporary art then, but they forgot that they were killing the human because these are the arts of killing among barbarians. They even performed their own scientific experiments: intravenous introduction of water and alcohol into the blood of the wounded while they observed what happened. What scientists? They have surpassed the ages. They punctured eardrums, slashed veins and cut productive organs, fingers, and ears. They gouged eyes, and penetrated every orifice with their guns. They used Cyanide on us (I will tell more about it later). They desired god to create us with no ears and no hearts. They desired that god never created us to begin with.
A wounded woman meant more pleasure for them because they can practice more of their arts including the rape of a woman while she is dying or bleeding, or sometimes, being merciful, killing her and then raping her. If she had any jewelry on her, they would extract the jewelry in the most vicious way such as by cutting her hand, or slashing her ear, and more. As they are doing today, then and in that area of my city, they instructed all hospitals not to admit anyone but wounded soldiers, and when no one listened to them, the destroyed all private hospitals. No one escaped their savagery as they looted, ransacked, and destroyed all of the pharmacies in our area.
Perhaps all of the survivors from the Boaroudeyeh neighborhood know Hameedo, a mentally disabled young man, who surpassed the murders in intelligence and humanity. Hameedo was there when the massacre of Hama started, and he would never hesitate to declare himself defender of his sacked city. Everyone in the neighborhood knew Hameedo because like a clock, he would release his flocks of pigeons to the sky at sunrise. His voice transcendent, Hameedo would wake everyone while sending his pigeons off. At sunset, he would sing the sun farewell with his loud voice calling on his flocks to return. A part of the homes and of the place, Hameedo would not stop doing that, even if everyone left. After the barbarians’ night attack on our city, and I don’t really know where he stayed at, but on that morning, while we were in our house, and when bullets flew from all direction, Hameedo went up to his roof and released his flock and his voice to the sky. His voice mixed with the sound of bullets and the sound of his pigeons was not the usual. It was more like our own sounds. Hameedo’s birds were scared of the bullets as they circled the sky desperately trying to land. Some of them got lost. But not Hameedo, who defied the bullets as his mother was calling him, with his voice being the only voice heard at that moment. We may never understand his feelings, and I think that he did not realize what he felt, but he stood with his sacked city and may have released his birds to make the barbarian understand his message. What a man? He grew grand in our eyes, freeing himself, and facing the murderers. Ever since that day, I have been trying to reach Hameedo’s heights and to tell you about his struggle, which is unlike any. The soldiers saw Hameedo’s birds and they started sniping them one after the other, but he kept shouting to tell us with his shouts that the barbarians would not refrain from any evil. He did not surrender, and would never allow his pigeons to land on the roof of his house. Some birds landed on other roofs, the rest were killed, but even then, Hameedo did not stop, he went looking for his birds from one roof to the other, enticing them to fly again. He faced the barbarians, and he didn’t hide or surrender to the sound of bullets for he kept that sound out until he was shot by the soldiers, who never understood what emotions are, and never knew what does humanity mean, and never favored it for other creatures.
Hameedo went silent on the roof of his house, but has never been silent in my memories. It is as if he is sending into my soul again what he felt in the wide skies. By god, today, we all feel like Hameedo, who released his weapon of simple humanity to stop the murder. Foretelling before anyone could that the barbarian were here to exterminate all birds, he departed with his birds to where he desired and left me to carry to your what he wanted for all of you. Where are you now Hameedo? To declare freedom in your own way, you are now eternal in the memories of those surviving residents of the Baroudeyeh. Everyone knew then that Hameedo was flying with his birds towards the sky. He was one of the first martyrs of our neighborhood.
In the Baroudeyeh, we had horse stables within arabian-styled our homes. All families in our neighborhood had horses and these horses were part of our pride and honor. We never classified our horses as animals, for they carried our names, and in that there was and remains an infinitely clear expression of the nature of the relationship we had with our horses. During our great escape from the neighborhood, some people remained, but most left. Those who remained told us later what happened to our horses. Before leaving, some men released their horses wanting for them exactly what Hameedo wanted his birds, and that was to stay away from the place, or to fight weapons with his beautiful birds. Many of the fine Arabian bloodstock horses were forced out, in manners we have never done in hundreds of year, a manner that does not at all represent our feelings towards our horses.
Yet, many horses remained, and the barley stores were left opened for them in hope that they can survive. Some believed that they will see their horses again upon their return, but these people did not know that barbarians don’t leave anything behind, and they would not leave our cultural heritage, the habits of our grandfathers, and they knew the symbolism of horses to us.
They did not kill the horses because they knew of their cultural values, and they knew that the loss of our horses will be forever painful to us, which is what they want. None of the survivors tell that they have seen horses among the corpses, because the barbarians have carried the horses to another place. I swear that after the end of the massacre, and the return of those who survived it to the city, the people of my city went looking for their horses as if they were looking for their own children. If any one mentioned that a beautiful horse or mare was seen in another governorate, they would go to investigate whether it was one of our beautiful horses. We never saw any, and did not found an answer until the golden horseman showed up, and then the people of Hama knew to where the horses disappeared. His father was never a horseman, nor was his grandfather. While he may have learned riding with our horses, not everyone understands the language of horses, because it teaches ethics, and it only befits us. Bassel al-assad, you never were a horseman, and this is not how horsemanship is.
To be continued
Coherence of thoughts is illusive. It lies behind the scenery of death, now so common as to fade into the background of long-threatened destruction that has become us. The hearts of our cities, those precious sculptures, carefully crafted over millenniums, with layers spanning centuries next to those that only lived less than a decade, now lie torn by the mad man and his minions. And the madness just would not subside.
For more than forty years, the seeds of destruction were being planted with the zeal of the obsessed. It is a story of madness played one slap at a time, of insults compounded by the ignorance of the bullies, of thefts aggravated by the infinite depravity of the thieves soul, of rapes, of torture, murders, disappearances, and of a foretold signs of the coming catastrophe, ignored as the beautiful and ancient city of Nourias was laid to waste by the barbarians. The silence was deafening even as the bleeding continued for as long as the madman lived.
The barbarians raped the souls of our cities with their demented cheap tasteless portraits. First, it was the madman, then he was joined by his vicious brother, only for the brother to be replaced by the sons, including the fake hero, who was killed by the characteristic recklessness of arrogance, but was nonetheless, declared a martyr and a demi-god. A worst fraud then replaced the fake martyr, it was a pretender to humanity, and the nightmare we now are fighting. The sons may have been legitimate to their unholy parents, but by all means, are illegitimate in time and place.
Fools were those among us who feigned knowledge. The wise ones said the devil is dead. But its essence never died. The crowning of his successor should have been another sign of the impending catastrophe. The essence of the devil never died. It remained active and never dormant, but vibrant in every military post, in torture dungeons around our land, in the secret mass graves scattered in our ancient desert. And the barbarians became more vulgar and evermore greedy as they continued their insults for eleven more years on our civility, our senses, our culture, and our intellects, individually and collectively. Under the series of promises, never made to be kept, lied the constant hum of the catastrophe. Many among us heard it very clearly, but we pretended to believe, perhaps fearing the hum, that the vulgar music of the barbarians will one day become a bit more refined only if we listen longer.
We listened, and the vulgar music turned into blasts that destroyed our homes and killed many of us with deliberate malice when we asked that this half century assault be stopped. What they did to us from that point on will be told in the future for centuries to come. It will be a story of betrayal, of savagery, as well as of heroism that we never knew had existed in us. But the story of our heroic death will be worthy to hear only if told as the conclusion to the story of our cowardliness. Without that, there is no lesson learned, and our death, and the death of our children and grandchildren who are paying the price of our cowardliness will be pointless and in vain.
I stopped counting days. The post-massacre pain of anguish which started very acute ad sharp, then turned into a dull pain as our cities and villages turned into killing fields, had finally settled into a continuous throb of sharp, maddening pain as the massacres became daily and hourly happenstance. A short while ago, it was my University. The place which has more personal connection to my life than it does to most of its graduates. The mayhem outraged us, but our outrage became worst when the thugs tried to appropriate our martyrs. I don’t think they really cared to say that our side was the side who murdered our own children, but more to continue their assault and theft, even of our death at their hands.
Today, it was the river. Residents in in the liberated Bustan Al-Qaser area of Aleppo, pulled more than sixty bodies from the narrow, highly polluted River Quaiq . All were males between the age of 20-40, with a few children, and all were tied and shot in the head execution style. At first, as they did with the University, the thugs hyped that this is a liberated area and therefore, these are victims of the FSA. But early identification, in addition to the close-proximity of the area to regime territory point that at least some of the victims were reported to have been kidnapped by the notorious murderous air-force intelligence.
Others are probably more able to describe the scene of death. But to me, every time I see the photograph of victim, tied and shot, all I can think of is the horrors the barbarians have inflicted on their victims before killing them. You see, their smuggled tapes have finally paid off, but not in the way they thought for I am not horrified any longer, I am beyond that.
Like many Syrians, I am now beyond many other feelings. Nowadays, I no longer get angry at a relative or a former friend when they support the filth called Assad regime, I just accept the fact that they are part of the filth. What I don’t tell them is that anger used to build up and then subside, hate was accumulating in a crescendo parallel to the atrocities of the barbarians, but now, we are beyond both anger and hate, we are even beyond vengeance. We are now obsessed with swearing “Never Again”. Let the world know, Never again. I know it really threatens the barbarians, because it is even sweeter than revenge.
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.
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.
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.
The latest selections of posts by Professor Landis betray what seems to be an affinity to the privileged. We first have a post presenting one of the most privileged people within the regime and who is a zero entity among the fractious opposition circles as the uniquely qualified person to hold Syria together.
Then comes a classical “Assad-the-enigmatic” style apologist post. Combining the professor’s reading of a Syria-experts, and that of Nir Rosen who, like many well-connected Syria specialists and insiders, continue to play the old bad melody of Assad the a reluctant murderer doing what he does because his sect wants him to stay in power in fear of losing privilege. The post, of course, attempts to inform us, in no uncertain term that all will be hell if this murderer and his gang lose power, and that Assad is viewed as the “superior” alternative to chaos.
Notwithstanding the very bad taste and choice the word “superior”, both posts prominently feature a declaration by general Tlass Jr., which received near zero second of attention by any of the many circles forming the real opposition to the mafia militia and is being hyped as a declaration of road-map and assurances through the traditional “I know-Syria” analysts in the US academia and press.
Both posts attempt to engineer opinion and both posts do display a lack of understanding, intentional or otherwise, about the seemingly stagnant, yet evolving situation in Syria. They also expose a lack of understanding of human nature. This is not because of missing facts, but for the machination of the facts in the interest of preserving the privileged status of those who ruled Syria by blood and gore for nearly fifty years.
Most tellingly, what the latter post ignores, which seems also to be a common deficiency among most US based analyses, usually written in favor of presenting those supporting Assad as future victims, is that there are no more privileges to have. The foundation of regime supporters enjoying special status, independent of their sect, was not power itself, military or otherwise, but the fear induced by the threat of exercising such power. In that sense, a thug can enjoy his privilege only in docile times when the hostility of the bereaved and oppressed is suppressed by this fear. This was only possible given that measures of violence remain personal and where examples are made through a limited, albeit, relatively huge number of people being brutalized by worst of the violence. The rest of the population has to be given a sense of deformed normalcy where accepting corruption, suppression, and despotism seem to be the safer option. It helps to throw in a bone of a central, larger than individuals cause to present the petty thief and murderer as a strong charismatic leader. These conditions would provide a wide margin for the privileged to use fear in relative safety and protection with minimal cost to themselves.
Fear is no longer. It has been replaced with open and courageous hostility, deep contempt, outright rejection, and tit-for-tat, albeit asymmetric violence directed against the regime’s privileged and their symbols. The current asymmetric military power and the wanton destruction and murder by the “Assad or we burn the country” has not helped in returning the clocks backward. On the contrary, the inhuman scale of the catastrophe wreaked solely by the ugly sectarian Assad-gang and their defenders has done exactly the opposite. It has exposed the limitation of the mindless violence in intimidating the will of the people once they have risen against the cheap and foolish ignoramus and his militia.
“Khelset” (crisis is over), Assad worshippers shouted more than a year ago. Today, they murdered 343 Syrians, many of whom were murdered in cold blood massacres. Everyone who still support this regime is accountable for their death.
I was told in argument on SC that it is no longer pleasurable to read my posts. As if I care,… this is not a competition for the most pleasant piece of literature. It is a battle forced on Syrians by a regime being defended, hyped, and constantly propped up by a bunch of people with primitive fears trying to hide innate sectarianism, believe of entitlement, and a maddening cocktail of inferiority-insecurity-superiority complexes.
How dare those trying to play both sides claim that the people of Syria want to burn their country? None of the revolutionaries, the FSA, or even Jihadists who may have entered the line here and there is flying Migs aircraft, driving tanks, and positioning mid-range artillery guns to prepare areas for the hordes of Assad barbarians by bombarding Syria’s cities one after another. It is the criminal regime, empowered by the cowardice of the shifty “against the regime but not with the revolution”, by the subhuman ethics of its defenders, by a primitive fear-based cult, and a group of anti-something fools, who never managed to join the 21st century and still reach orgasm imagining yet one more totalitarian system’s victory against forces of progress and civility. Zakraria Tamer is right, it is a regime empowered by Ignorance, arrogance, audacity, pettiness, stupidity and foolishness. It is the Assad hyenas who keep saying Assad or we burn the country, and have been burning the country, and some people have the audacity to blame those whose homes and cities are being burned, those whose families are being murdered, and those whose brothers and sisters are being killed under torture for the catastrophe befalling the country, so that these cowards can feel superior to the masses and rest comfortable with a malformed conscious grown out of their elitism.
Anyone who points the finger at the citizen who takes up arm to defend his neighborhood from the hyena packs instead of pointing the finger at the head hyena is a participant in the murder, an enabler of the sub-human regime, and is a part of the problem.
The most common theme in the writing of this class of cowards is their disingenuous declaration of sadness for the people of the country being massacred because “some people” want the toppling of the regime at all costs. Now it is us who are being rigid, and not the bastards of Damascus and their packs of hyenas hell-bent on burning the country and their enablers in Syria and elsewhere who propagate false stories, perform intellectual prostitution through shady articles accusing everyone of being on the pay of someone, whilst they refuse to declare the names of their financial and academic backers. So let us look at some of the fatal logical flaws in their set of arguments. Take the above argument, for example. It is mostly directed at SNC. Here are some of the statements
SNC is causing the mayhem by tricking people into fighting the regime for their own political agenda (aiming to deny the people on the street the legitimacy of free will to fight back… they are tricked)….
SNC is incompetent, it has no legitimacy, nor the backing of Syrians, its members are greedy,…. And so on. .
Does anyone see the contradiction of the two statements, most of the time present within a single regime-propagandist (or indirect apologist) paragraph. I will not try to pontificate like the foolish assad, so you pick it yourself.
However, there is an important undertone of the first statement, not only as an attempt to deny the popular character of the revolution, but also as a disgusting cowardly attempt to normalize the regime’s criminal violence, by implicitly accepting such non-human violence as the only possible, expected, must live with response. This also takes a more sinister form by blaming Qatar, KSA, Israel, US, and others for the follies of the stupid Syrians, who brought on themselves the wrath of this regime, rather deservingly because they have collaborated, directly or indirectly with the west. How deceitful and sinister. These are the same people who instead of accusing the Assad hyena gangs of burning the country, look at those striving for dignity and freedom and blame them for destroying the country. Sadly, these same bunch of ethically and morally challenged characters would drive themselves and others into fits of indignation if anyone suggested that hizbullah had any responsibility in instigating the murderous Israeli campaign against Lebanon or Gaza. I believe that they are somehow angry that Israel was successful in neutralizing Hizbullah and Hamas, at least militarily after a significantly shorter period of murderous bombardment and with less damage and lives lost than the damage their regime has wrought and lives lost to protect their cult master, while on the other hand, their beloved fool still can’t do the same in Syria. It is also the same people who are now advertising the regime as the best protection Israel has against the “islamist” monster, but fail to reconcile with their own rhetoric, when cornered by the persistent, no prisoner taken style of someone like AIG. I refused Israel’s defenders logic then, and I refuse Assad’s apologists logic now.
What they miss, really miss, is that toppling this regime is no longer a political quest, it is now a human and civilization necessity. And Syrians are paying the price to join civilization and civility again. There is no question in my mind that when speaking of regime apologists, cover and overt, their humanity did not fail them, the failed and continue to fail humanity with every word they utter.
I happen to believe that the demise of the Syrian Regime and its bosom body in Iran would be the first condition for stability in this region. Sustainable peace will come after stability…. Any fool knows that. And if these liars try to accuse me of being an Israel friendly, all I have to do is to remind them that in their narrow sectarian mindset, it was them who tried to sell the regime to Israel as its guarantor starting with Rami Makhlouf and not ending with the characters on SC.
I am not bitter, … I am repulsed and disgusted.
Who are SNC:
I also encounter so much hype from both sides about SNC members and how they spend their time in five stars hotels. For many members of SNC, especially the younger, ground active members, this could not be further from the truth. A few have lost their jobs because of the demand of their work. Others barely have enough to survive and they are living in far worst conditions than those using the broadest of brushes to paint SNC in bad picture. As a political organization, SNC’s record is mixed, with more negative than positive. But please do not belittle the sacrifices of many of its members, who could have continued t o live comfortable lives, with reasonably paying professional jobs, but chose otherwise for the sake of Free Syria.
On Asef, Ikhtiar, and the rest of the Gang
I Don’t believe in hell and heaven, so my word is Good riddance.
On the West
Unlike the regime, who is has surrendered Syrian Sovereignty to Iran and Russia at the pleasure of a few Russian agents pretending to be journalists, researches, and commentators, the revolution is beholden to no one. We will bring down the regime, punish those who ordered and committed atrocities and crimes against humanity (even if they defect from this point on), and build a new Syria. Syrians may not have many friends willing to fight on their behalf, but they will have plenty of friend as they embark on rebuilding their country. Mark my words. We just have to think in long terms and recognize that it is not easy to deprogram an adult elephant of its thin rope. It may take the next generation for freely roaming elephants.
Someone Else’s FB Rambling
I leave you with a FB status written a while a go by one of my friends, It is written in Arabic and it is far more concise than my writing above.
القتل فرضه النظام وليس المجلس الوطني أو الجيش السوري الحر رغم مساويء كل منهما
توصيف وضع المعارضه الان واتهام أطرافها الرئيسة بالسعي نحو السلطه وبأنها شهود زور على حرق البلد وبان من وقف مع الثورة من المثقفين يريد التغيير فقط للتغيير يخدم دعاية النظام وشبيحته الذين يتهمون الثورة بأنها وراء خراب البلد محاولين التغطيه على الشعار المقيت “الاسد أو نحرق البلد” …
كفاكم تباكيا واستخفافا بعقولنا ولو كان ذلك عن حسن نيه … لاتريدون الانضمام الى الثورة لخوفكم من الطاغية .. أنتم أحرار.. ولكن لا تلعبوا دور الغربان في وقت حرج كهذا … نحن لا نحتاج تعففكم عن الدماء … فأنتم طاهرون ومثاليون … أما نحن الرعاع فقد فرض علينا الدم …
لا يا سادتي … لستم انسانيون أكثر منا .. ولستم حضاريون أكثر
تذكروا أن من فرض الدم هو النظام الذي لازلتم تتخوفون من فوضى زواله …
Murder and death were forced by the regime and not by the SNC or the FSA despite of their deficiencies. Over-analyzing the state of the opposition, and accusing its various components of running after power and of being false witnesses to the burning of the country and accusing intellectuals who side with the revolution of being after change for mere change only serves the regime’s propaganda and its thugs who are accusing the revolution of being behind the destruction of the country in their attempt to cover for the contemptible slogan “Assad or we Burn the Country” .
Stop decrying and stop your disregard and insult on our intelligence, even if you mean well. If you don’t want to join the revolution for fear of the tyrant, then don’t, you are Free. But don’t become craws at a critical time like this. We don’t need your prudery of blood for you are the pure idealists. As for us, the mob, blood was forced upon us.
No sirs, you are not more humane than us, nor are you more civilized. And remember, blood was forced on us by the regime, whose demise you are so afraid of .
Intro from OTW
On the day their murderous gangs of paramilitia and hijacked regular army murdered 55 Syrians to keep the thug in power, the thug Bashar Assad and his co-conspirator and partner in crimes Asma, played humanitarias. A clip Syrian TV shows the two criminals and their cohort seemingly packaging food supplies to the “victims of terrorism” in Homs. Of course, this has to be accompanied by one of the “Baathist” propaganda empty phrases, (see right corner of the image capture”. The phrase says لبينا النداء ، (we answered the call).
The repulsive cynicism of the Assad mafia gang knows no limit. Their forces routinely kill doctors and aid workers with all the telltale signs of an utter contempt for Syria and Syrians as demonstrated by the vengeful sniping of the best of Syrian youth who dare to defy this criminal gang’s intent on the murder and impoverishment of more and more Syrians . And yet, the two criminals go on a vogue photoshoot in a “releif centre” set in a stadium after they have turned most of Syria’s staduims and sport-centers into collective punishment, humiliation and torture facilities. Their shamelessness knows no limit.
I have argued in my previous post that the regime, with its murderous “burn the country” campaign has succeeded in occupying a large number of activists with humanitarian relief, which reduces their ability to participate in the political and even military aspects of this revolution. At the same time, the scale of mayhem, and the hate and contempt to Syria and Syrians shown by this mafia gang and their supporters has made even the slightest of humanitarian relief a heroic political and resistance act*.
I have asked my new friend, Souria Alkarama, who is heavily engaged in relief work in Syria to summarize the status of relief activities. My friend has kindly written the following post, which is being transmitted, un-edited, as I have received it. It is worth noting that many like my friend are working silently on this issue. You may not find them boasting about it, or writing with strong language as we do, but they are in fact among the real silent, gravely endangered heroes of Syria. The tugs are after them in every corner. I salute them, and ask those who pray to pray for their safety and well being.
Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People
(by Souria AlKarama)
When the Syrian uprising erupted some fifteen months ago, it was called the dignity revolution. Civilians marched to the streets in many parts of the country demanding freedom, dignity and reform. Unlike the other Arab countries that witnessed the so called “Arab Spring”, the Syrian revolution seems to be the bloodiest. The Syrian Regime showed, and still is showing, its ugliest face while cracking down on the protestors using unimaginable ways and tactics. These despicable tactics against the Syrian citizens led some activists to rename the revolution “The Bread Revolution”.
The one tactic this article is going to shed light on is what is called “collective punishment”. The Syrian Authority has continuously used this tactic against the Syrian civilians in those areas of revolts prohibiting medical supplies to many areas of the country such as in Daraa, Hama, Idleb and Homs. It was confirmed that the Syrian ministry of health offices in those cities have stopped distributing renal failure, diabetic, hypertension and asthma medications to those in need. They were turned away and told straight to their face, “let your freedom get your medication” referring to the number one demand of the activists in the street. In the same fashion the Syrian authority stopped supplying many cities and most villages with water, heating oil, cooking gas, and electricity. They went further in selected areas and stopped supplying the flour to make bread. Even garbage collection was put on halt in many areas which will deepen the humanitarian crisis especially in the heat of the summer season.
According to the International Red Cross statement issued last April, “more than 1.5 million Syrians are struggling to meet basic needs like food, water, and shelter. Tens of thousands of civilians are living in public buildings and the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is feeding about 100,000 so called “vulnerable Syrians”. Add to it more than five million unemployed Syrians. The worst of all this is the confirmed number of orphaned children. In the city of Homs alone after 6 months of military attacks and 6 weeks of random heavy shelling to various neighborhoods, at least 2000 children were confirmed orphaned. The reports coming out of Idleb in the north show that the number of orphaned children is even larger.
Under the ethical and moral pressure of all this suffering, many well-known international charities were able to help with limited capacities inside Syria. Due to the restricted regulations the Syrian Regime imposed on them, they turned to help the Syrian refugees who fled the country to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, few Syrian non-governmental organizations were established by expatriate Syrians. These newly formed charity foundations were able to build an underground network of brave and dedicated men and women inside the country to coordinate the smuggling and the distribution of the funds, medical supplies and the humanitarian supplies to those in need.
The cash smuggled is used in several different ways. Part of the money was used to buy the food supply to arrange for what is now called “the food basket”. The food basket contains non perishable items like rice, sugar, pasta, cooking oil, canned food….etc. A detailed list of those families in need is compiled by the activists and then just before dawn the baskets are distributed to the families, one by one. Distribution of such items (food) is very dangerous and can carry unimaginable consequences should the Syrian security forces find out. Many activists lost their lives distributing bread and other kinds of food. These heroes paid the ultimate price so their fellow Syrians could survive. One activist, who distributes food baskets in Duma just outside Damascus, once, said “it is by far much better for a person to be caught demonstrating in the street rather than getting caught distributing food to the people. They (referring to the Security forces) want to starve our people”. Many brave activists lost their lives to a sniper or a bomb shell while distributing humanitarian aids. A physician from the city of Aleppo was shot dead at a check point near the town of Rastan, just north of Homs, because he was caught smuggling medical supplies in his car. A young man from Homs whose job was to distribute bread bags to couple neighborhood was shot dead by the Syrian security as he was attempting to smuggle the bread bags.
They also use the cash smuggled to subsidize the families who lost their breadwinner and to the families of arrested fathers, husbands or brothers. Detailed tables that show the martyrs first and last name, the number of dependents and their ages was created. Also the list include any distant family that maybe living in the same household. In many instances the ID number is used to identify the individuals in each family. Cash is given monthly to the family through an underground and well trusted network.
In addition, cash is used to buy medical equipment which is usually bought from a vendor inside the country. This medical equipment is used to furnish the field hospitals, (another underground network that consist of medical personal who can’t treat the injured in hospitals fearing the death squad who are roaming all hospitals especially in the cities with tense fighting like Homs and Idleb). The violation of medical neutrality and the targeting of doctors, hospitals, medics and ambulances is well documented and verified by many independent organizations such as ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ and ‘Doctors without Borders’. The main question is how much those newly formed “NGO” can do to minimize the magnitude of the crisis and suffering? The answer cannot be answered by simply saying: they can help or they can’t!
The magnitude of the humanitarian catastrophe is tremendous and requires well-funded international organizations backed by the international community to make a measurable difference. At the same time it’s very easy for a beginner humanitarian worker to feel very pessimistic of the outcome. A person needs to put things in perspective. If some things are not done perfectly, that doesn’t mean that we should be discouraged from helping.
On June 5th, 2012 there has been a breakthrough. The Syrian government has said it will let the United Nations enter the country and deliver humanitarian aid to people in need, a U.N. official said Tuesday. “After a long time of very intense negotiations, we now have an agreement in writing with the Syrian government on the scale, scope and modality of humanitarian action in Syria,” John Ging, director of operations at the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in Geneva, Switzerland.
The sacrifice I witnessed in my brief time working with coordinating humanitarian aids to Syria is phenomenal. I bow with humility and pride to the brave Syrian men and women who dedicated their life to help their fellow citizens. These people cannot be defeated. I have witnessed courage equal only to that seen in movies and fairy tales.
By Souria AlKarama
Note from OTW: * Herein, I am reclaiming the word resistance from the Assad mafia and from their partners such as Hizbullah and other bankrupt defunct nationalist, communist, and fascist parties throughout the region. I am determined on doing so as part of rehabilitating our political language.
First, I would like to start this post by wishing all a serene Passover and Easter. May we all celebrate next year in a Syria liberated from tyrants.
OK, so it seems that we have two different points of views on 7ee6an, both expressed eloquently and with passion and both defended and criticized strongly. At risk of extreme over simplification, the first idea may be summarized as arguing that armed resistance only aggravates the regime and provides it with excuses to inflict more violence and horror, not to mention being a failure in comparison with the “more effective” national scale civil disobedience, which should be pursued at all costs towards bringing down the regime. The second argument, and again risking oversimplification, stresses the right of people for self defense, and highlights that the regime’s use of force is independent of the level of violence exerted by any armed faction in the revolution, which in turn if sufficiently armed, will exact punitive blows at the regime’s barbarity, especially in enhancing the odds for further defection from the ranks of forces under its control.
To me, such discussion justifies all the efforts that went into launching and maintaining 7ee6an and the hard work we all have done so far to ensure a quality of discussion that distinguishes the contributions to this blog from hysterical rants of absurdity. This discussion reflects the ongoing mental anguish many among those supporting the revolution are going through. I myself continue to have hard time making my mind regarding which option to support. But given both tracks of thinking it would seem that the advocacy for a full scale “non violent” civil disobedience, by its nature and intellectual grounding and legacy does exclude an armed resistance track of the revolution, especially if it calls for halting any plans to arm the FSA. On the other hand, the presence of armed factions, especially one borne, as the argument goes, to protect peaceful protest, does not exclude the preparation for and the carrying out of “non-violent” actions and strategies with increasing organization all the way to the desired nationwide civil disobedience. It does however complicate that strategy and makes pursuing it much harder.
The Assad regime has pursued the “violent” option with vengeance and brutality from day one. It may now tolerate a few non-violent demonstrations here and there primarily as a matter of setting priorities in terms of sequencing its wanton destruction of the country and scheduling its next bombardment target. Those arguing for full exclusion of armed opposition, and for starving the FSA should be mindful of the slogan “الأسد أو نحرق البلد ” (Assad or we scorch the country) painted by the regime thugs and soldiers in every place they scorched and advertized on the walls of their headquarters and even public busses. In this slogan, the regime loyalists, which are part and parcel of the regime, declare their adherence to the Assad’s cult. The adherent of this semi religious cult are now drunk with blood and smoke after a year of relentless efforts to remove all traces of scruples that may inhibit further brutality and barbarity on their side. They need no excuses to exact their violence, which has been proven time and again as an inherent part of their cult and of the fabric that binds the regime. The shelling continues throughout the country despite of the absence of any armed resistance in most areas being shelled. Snipers, who according to loyalists on other blogs are to be excluded from Annan plan since they don’t use heavy weapons, continue to terrorize innocent civilians in many Syrian streets and the list of their victims continues to increase. Terror in regime torture dungeons never stopped and will never stop, even with the presence of international monitors, and demonstrations in Aleppo and elsewhere continue to be suppressed with increasing brutality and use of live ammunition contrary to the earlier “appease Aleppo” approach. The number of victims of regime brutality has not gone down with many murders occurring in areas where FSA is either none present or has not been very active.
All of this should put to rest the notion that the presence of FSA as an impetuous for regime violence. Violence is the hallmark of this regime with or without FSA. Such violence has been extended beyond destruction into deliberate theft and looting of areas invaded by regime forces, as happened to many areas in homs including those with large presence of certain minorities. The regime propagandists and shrill shills persistently claims that these thefts and destructions are the work of FSA or “islamist”, “saudi” funded “mercenaries. But I have strong evidence that would put the hysterical defenders of the regime to shame, if they know any, which is unlikely based on their continuing mental and ethical degeneration. Fear for the safety of friends whose homes and businesses in Homs have been ransacked and looted by regime forces is the only reason I am not sharing these evidence, which I hope to be used in a court of law in the near future.
Supporters of the argument against arming FSA and/or other rebel forces also have their own strong case in Idlib’s country side to add to Baba Amr story book. Idlib’s country side has been turned into a wasteland by the regime’s “scorched country” policy presenting a serious refugee crisis internally as a slightly lesser one externally (yesterday more than 2500 refugees from Idlib’s country side crossed the border to Turkey). The presence of refugees, especially children from Homs and other areas is exacting its toll on the people, and at the same time is (also not addressed in Anan’s plan) will compound the situation
The slogan “Assad or we scorch the country” should not be taken lightly. It is a well known slogan of Assad forces from days of the dynasty founder. It has been demonstrated repeatedly and the fact that it continues to be ignored by regime propagandists (even those pretending to be intellectual peace loving) removes any pretense to ethical grounding on their side and shows clearly that they do concur with it despite of their claims that “they are not pro regime” and that they “have some criticism of the regime”. But more important is that it tells of the mentality of the hard core loyalists. While to the ignorant shabeeh or loyalist it may simply be the result of decades of brainwashing and propaganda aiming to replace the national identity with Assad cult, it is an existential reality to the real power centers behind the regime. Many of the wealthy elites of Syria owe their wealth and privileges to the Assad clan (which includes non family members across all sects). As a class, they may have members with conscious who now side with the revolution, yet as a class, their loyalty and interests will continue to be vested in the system of corruption and coercive terror that is founded on disregard and contempt for the masses (as argued by Yassin Haj Salih in the article linked by Zenobia). There is no point in pursuing their support for the revolution, for they are part of the problem and of the regime’s power structure. Members of this elite now hide sometimes behind secularism and others behind law and order in their opposition to the revolution in both its armed resistance and non-violent form, but they know that if the regime is gone, they are to follow even if national reconciliation is to commence. Their participation as partners in the economic crimes of the regime make many of them complicit in the civil right violations and graft and intimidation against honest members of the business community in Syria and such crimes are bound to be investigated and/or exposed during reconciliation. I am eager to hear the opinion of most esteemed Son of Damascus on this point and would love to be corrected if such is possible.
Getting back to topic, given that violence was the regime’s option and strategy, it could be argued that the question is not whether FSA has caused damage to the revolution in the sense of justifying the regime’s brutality and mayhem, but that whether the current starving of FSA can have adverse effects on the revolution, and whether a regime so attached to violence can be realistically overthrown by non-violent means such as civil disobedience.
To answer this question one has to recognize that even Sharp himself warns that civil means do not guarantee success. This is perhaps most clear in Syria, where for months, the revolution maintained a non violent character, and where such character remains to date the most obvious of the revolution that is being put down with a combination of physical brute force and hysterical media campaign by the regime and its unholy band of partners and supporters (internally and externally). Then, one must also consider that unlike other countries, the size of the “government” remains huge in Syria, which complicates civil disobedience efforts as the regime has used the “state” to its advantage and has mobilized its human resources into its campaign of terror against Syrians. It is well known that many workers in regime factories have been mobilized into the regime’s gang squads “populist phalanges” either because of the bonus and high salaries received by shabeeha or because of the utter reliance on state salaries by these workers and through coercion. The presence of the baath party and security informants in every juncture of the Syrian state will continue to greatly frustrate efforts towards wide-scale civil action in government structure unless the power of these security agencies is first weekend significantly and unless the baath party members and security informants involved in the suppression are made to fear for their own safety if they continue the practice. In all cases, their coercive capacity should not be underestimated and their ability to maintain the critical functions of the regime running will continue to be a problem as long as the regime has the financial means of supporting them. To that effect, we must also consider the rumors that the regime is negotiating billions of dollars worth of bonds with the Chinese and Russian governments and with the Iranian regime. It should be made loud and clear to all that all dept incurred by the regime as of March 2011 will be uncollectable in hopes that such continuing financial infusion will be stopped by rational policy makers who will eventually recognize that this regime has no viable horizon to lead a healthy Syrian recovery capable of paying such wasteful dept.
An added complexity is the tragic level of unemployment in the country, which when coupled with the deliberate destruction of ethos over forty years, will sustain the regime with a supply of willing militia, again as long as the regime is capable of providing financial means. Needless to say, the added bonus of looting and unrestrained power given to regime forces will probably reduce the regime’s financial by allowing the thugs to obtain directly from the people what they have not been receiving lately from their employer. Looting, ransom, and graft are now the primary compensation mechanism for shabeeha in areas where the regime continues to exercise some control. This is not only consistent with “Assad or we burn the country”, it is part and parcel of that policy.
In summary, the Assad regime, knowing well that national scale civil disobedience is a serious threat to its survival has opted from day one to convert the struggle into an armed warfare that could be dressed in sectarian language. It has made its fall a considerable security risk by forcing the people to take arms to defend themselves and thus create a fear of undisciplined armed insurgents trough a combination of false flag operations and media hysteria along with excessive brutality to further entice more young people into carrying arms. The results of this strategy include a preview of “Assad or we scorch the country” ideological underpinning of the regime and its supporters and the conversion of swaths of the country into ungovernable areas wastelands.
How does this play out with respect to civil disobedience? The following concept was presented in a recent off-line discussion with a journalist friend who is heavily engaged in non-violent movement in Syria: Let us consider those disaster zones where the regime has shelled the area forcing most if its people out, or where the regime has confronted both civil action and/or the presence of FSA with its standard barbaric brutality. In the end, these have become no-regime zones in the sense presented by Azmi Bishara who argued that the regime’s need to push its tanks into the streets of Syria is by no means a victory but a defeat. Areas with tanks, soldiers and regime thugs are areas where the regime is not functioning as the money and graft generating scheme it is designed to be and where the regime’s claims to equating itself with the state are shown as farcical joke. They have been turned, by regime’s action, into rebellious areas where normal life is no longer possible due to murderous snipers and raids by regime thugs. As a result, swaths of several cities have in fact turned into a situation resembling the effects of “civil disobedience” in terms of halting of productive life and making these areas increasingly ungovernable by the regime’s representatives. In essence, these areas are under control but ungovernable, which is similar to the practical result of civil disobedience, but with more distinguishing characteristic of resistance against a foreign occupation than those associated with combating a dictatorship or a repressive regime. After all, only foreign occupiers have used “scorched earth” policy on such a large scale.
The centrality of the Assad figure to the regime has caused many in the opposition to receive the Annan proposal with lukewarm suspicion if not outright rejection initially. The absence of a clause stipulating the departure of Bashar al Assad or the delegation of authority to a vice president have been the primary reason for such initial rejection. However, cooler heads are prevailing, especially after the strong language from the former Secretary General regarding the continuing violence and his ability to extract a time-table from Assad. Mohamad Al-Abdallah wrote on his FB page an outstanding short article in support of the Annan’s plan. His basic premise is that Annan is no Dabi, and the UN is not the AL. If the plan is to be implemented, then the regime will risk major demonstrations throughout the country. If the regime falters as everyone expect the pathological liar Assad to do, then the regime would have squandered the last opportunity for political solution to the crisis, a solution that was supported by both China and Russia. The regime’s failure will put the two countries in a very awkward situation in the Security Council when it will have to decide on further action against Assad and his gangs. Pessimist argue that the regime will resort to playing the “negotiation game” and will initiate, as expected, false flag operations and explosions, particularly in areas with sectarian tension in order to justify its continuing military operations. This may have already started with an unknown group threatening a large number of explosions in Aleppo. It is also expected that the careless and callous regime will redress its army and security forces in civilian clothes giving an impression of a “loyalist” demonstrations and continuing to conduct arrest and intimidation campaign at lower intensity.
It is incumbent on all armed-resistance groups to agree to the plan and to declare a halt to all operations as of April 10. However, it is also no wonder that shrill shills on SC are now propagating hairsplitting interpretation of what “heavy weapons mean” and whether the April 10 deadline is deadline for full withdrawal or for starting the withdrawal with open ended process. This in itself is a sign of things to come and it shows that the regime and its supporters continue to think that they can outsmart the world with their pathetic sophistry aiming to drag thing long enough for them to reestablish a pre March 2011 conditions.
The Annan plan also requires a huge effort on the civilian side of the liberation campaign. Names of all detainees and missing persons must be collected meticulously and the regime’s security apparatus must be exhausted with constant demands for their prompt release and for information on those missing. Furthermore, the anticipated negotiation must be viewed not as negotiation to end the liberation campaign, but as negotiation for the departure of the regime and its symbols and for transfer of power to a legitimate authority. Such would require mass mobilization of demonstrations, especially in Damascus. The negotiators must be very careful not to view the negotiation as a trial of the regime but primarily as a hostage negotiation with a well armed brute who has taken the entire country hostage and the primary objective is to separate the brute from his victims while at the same time maintaining bereaved parents of those who were executed by the brute thug under control so that they do not complicate the situation further. It is also important that no media frenzy against international observers be conducted by the opposition. They should be approached by the liberation movement with respect, honesty, and truth, and not with contempt and derision.
Of course, the above assumes that the regime will allow the plan implementation to reach that stage. According to the plan, negotiation is not the first step. The regime has to withdraw fully, release all political detainees and allow for demonstrations to take place unmolested. With these conditions, it is well understood why Mohammad Al-Abdallah wrote: “this is a very good plan, and the worst thing about it is that it will not be implemented”. How can it be when “Assad or we scorch the country” is the operative slogan of the regime and its supporters. In the end, if they try to keep this more fundamental and the only promise they seem intent on fulfilling, one would hope that the world, including the regime’s friends will take other actions.
Yassin Haj Salih, in a recent article wrote about the “Assad or we scorch the country“: “in reality presents two choices of destruction of Syria. The first is the destruction of the country through living under Assad with no dignity, freedom, and opportunity, and the latter is the physical destruction of the country. In both cases, they are choices of destruction. Regime shills should take note of what they are defending before they shout that the revolution is destroying the country. This is a revolution and a liberation movement to build a country and to take it back from those who shamelessly proclaim their intent to burn it.
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 (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.
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.