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)
OBSERVER, one of my favorite commenters on SC posted a link to an article in the Atlantic blog titled Syria is Not Iraq by Shadi Hamid. Observer asked for feedback from fellow commenters. I have not commented on the site for a long time, but I still read SC (with more frequent disgusts than ever) and I have a few words to say about the article.
I do agree with much of what Shadi Hamid wrote. would add that from national security perspective Obama bungled it. Two critical observations made by Shadi that are worth considering. The first is the number of strategic mistakes that the US has committed since the debacle in Iraq, which as expressed by Shadi will come back to haunt us later.
Four years ago, I would have been,and likely I was, supportive of Obama’s calculating approach to foreign policy as a welcomed contrast to Bush’s dogmatic approach. But even before the Arab spring, the writings on the wall was becoming clear about Iran’s belligerence in Iraq and its usurpation of the country as a protectorate run with the same backward corrupt approach that afflicts Iran. This should have caused Obama and his administration to send a real strong message to Iran regarding Iraq instead of allowing Iran even a stronger hand in the country’s affairs. The haste to get out of Iraq and to get Bush debacle behind us and as soon as possible resulted in dismissing more strategic calculations regarding the region as a whole.
The other observation, which should be modified is his observation that Assad is a rational decision makers with incredibly high tolerance for brutality. The author ascribes the gradual increase in violence to Assad’s rational behavior as he kept testing the red-lines and finding that non really existed. This is only partially true. But it does not make Assad a rational decision maker. The rational decision (morality does not get in the picture here) would have made him maximize his benefit, which would have happened had the he embarked on real reform and not chosen the suicidal security option. As for the gradual increase in violence, it is really strange that an article analytically sound as this one neglected to recognize that the Assad his henchmen are not the only actors on the scene in the sense that FSA has made it very hard for him, if not impossible, to commit massacres at the scale of Hama (in short period of time) and that the increased level of violence is proportional to the weakness of the regime in key points. Of course, that may disappoint to some of the repulsive voices I have been reading on SC, but it should not have escaped the writer, nonetheless.
That said, what remain is a real challenge for the US and other democratic countries in the world. It is the moral challenge posed by their role in encouraging democratic values, but failing to act when the values they encourage are threatened by murderous thugs like Assad and his henchmen. I am afraid this moral dilemma may end up being resolved with a couple of candle-light vigils attended by celebrities, a few mea-culpa (we should have intervened) rehash of Rwanda interviews on Operah’s Third Chapter years hence. This is from the national psych point of view. But from the point of view of people living under dictatorships, Obama’s reluctance may have just made a few thuggish dictators very happy, and prolonged the life of the club of thugs, including the Iranian regime. Seeing what happened to Syria and Syrians at the hand of the Assad criminal gang, and the world’s tolerance of Assad’s crimes, Iranian will be far more reluctant now to resume their green uprising, which is probably the worst blow-back to Obama’s inaction.
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
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.
Word from OFF THE WALL
This post by SYRIAN HAMSTER also appeared as a comment titled “Complicated Syria” response to an article on Syria Comment titled “in Defense of Asma al-Assad,” by an Anonymous Syrian writing under the name Cicero with S.H’s intent to also publish it on 7ee6an if I agreed to cross posting. There are only a few editorial corrections including a slight change of the title by SYRIAN HAMSTER in this post.
Regime promoters always attach a paragraph about Syria being a complicated country with rich heritage …. and so on. Take for example the first segment of this paragraph from the above “defense of Asma”
Syria is a complicated country, with a rich cultural heritage that is the result of the intermingling of the many religions and ethnicities, customs, beliefs, habits, ideas and values left behind by all the civilizations that have passed through and made Syria their home over thousands of years.
Further reading, shows the real objective of this paragraph which follows
It is at the nexus of the most heated schism our world faces today, between Iran, and Saudi Arabia, between Christianity and Islam, between East and West, and between Arabs and Israelis.
A logical link between the first and second segments is possible if one argues that 1. Syria is culturally diverse, 2. Syrians are connected, then it may follow that Syria is place where regional and global powers and cultures face each others through Syrians. This of course assumes good intention on the writer’s side. But when such argument is put forth by a regime loyalist in defense of Asma Al-Assad, it is used as an attempt to de-legitimize the revolution and to insinuate that what we see is merely the result of external forces using Syrians as if Syrians themselves have no choice or hand in their uprising and as if those dying are merely agents of external schism. The untold conclusion–premise of defense would then become: “Bashar is defending the country against these powers, and by extension, Asma is.”
Asma’s past deeds, some of which may be laudable had they reflected anything other than a PR campaign, are irrelevant to her current and recent actions. Furthermore, it is natural and common to say that she “embarked” on this or that project, but giving her the credit for the projects is a neither fair, nor accurate and it reflects a grave misunderstanding of how NGOs work. NGO activists are the real ones who design these projects, they manage them, they implement them, but to promote these projects, it is part if their work to find a “celebrity patron” to give the project visibility, and in the case of a brutal, money grabbing regime such as the Assad Mafia, some opbtain protection from the little mafiosi and some “oiling” of the machinery of the security apparatus to reduce the obstructive rejectionism so permeates the psych of the machinery. Asma Al-Assad received her rewards for playing along: a propagation of a false image of her husband and his brutal regime as a reform-minded regime, and an acceptance, and I may add, a rationalization of dealing with the regime while ignoring its continuing, but slightly lower-intensity brutality against opposition and against any attempt to establish a real powerful civil society. Not only that, she received a prime seat in the regime as its “civilized and modern” facade.
It is also well known that NGO’s approach wealthy people to serve as patrons for their projects. Some of these wealthy people are true philanthropists, and some play along for PR purposes, but in both cases, they donate money along with their celebrity status. NGOs are not shy about this, and why should they be, it is one way to provide benefit and some return to society. We are yet to find the level of Asma’s own financial contributions to her “wide network of” NGOs, knowing that her family gained significantly financially and in influence as well.
Asma’s “rose of the desert” veneer was relatively thin. It did not survive the heat produced by the first bullet her husband thugs fired at protesters. All what the email scandal did was to finish peeling off the last few specks of paint, which were more like tabloid play on speculations about whether she supports her husband or not and whether she is tormented by what he has been ordering his thugs to do. What we see is a careless woman, a woman who is fully behind her husband, and a woman fully out of touch with the multiple layers of misery her partner is causing to the people of Syria. A woman who has no qualm saying “i am the real dictator”, which reflects both bad taste and cold heart, even if said jokingly.
Her media rise as a “reform minded” “western educated” woman should in reality rile those who protest “orientalism”. Conditioning the progress of Syria on her “western” outlook (i would argue appearance) reduces Syrians to mere recipients of the “goodwill” of their “western-oriented” rulers and plays into the hand of the autocrats themselves. Not surprisingly, an anonymous regime loyalist, playing a hyper-nationalist tone, rushed to attack the anonymous Turk, who objected to one more attempt to rehabilitate an unworthy image and showed real respect for Syrians. The insult to Syrians posed by the west’s celebration of this fake image does not register on their radar despite of their constant stream of attacks on the west and “its evil plans” against Syria.
It would have been more appropriate to blast the EU for the ineffectiveness of these sanctions as real support to freedom and dignity seeking Syrians as far as the Syrian Revolution goes. The sanctions are worst than being symbolic. They are primarily at attempt to whitewash the “play along” policy over the past decade, and the propagation of the fraudulent image of the Assad mafia chieftain in hope of wooing him not cause further problem in the region. It is the west compensating itself for not challenging her and her husband to put their money where their mouths were. For that, these sanction may be condemned but never for the goodness of her heart.
The worst offense of the article is not the defense of Asma, but it is in its last few words, which attempted to tie the fate of poor women in Syria to Asma’s inability to shop. That was bad taste, a really really bad taste.
I have been having hard time writing. The scale of massacre, the increasingly accelerating brutality of the regime, and the confusion and missteps on the side of “organized” opposition has made it very hard to follow without being angry and confused, .
The outpouring of sentiments after the tragic death of Anthony Shadid tells as much about our own need for balanced and intelligent reporting on Syria as it tells about the extraordinary character of the man whose loss we bemoan.
In the meantime, many good articles have come out recently. Jadaliyya continues to emerge as a powerhouse of thoughtful in-depth commentaries and articles on Syria. The international community continues to work very hard into convincing itself that it should not interfere in Syria. And Syrians continue to be murdered by a brutal regime. Questions about the future of Syria and the region in case the brutal regime succeeded in silencing the revolution are starting to circulate, as the regime increasingly deploys its sectarian strategy in search for survival even if it has to rule over heaps of dead Syrian children, women, and men.
The regime’s constitution “tailored” for Bashar al-Assad is another part of the play. The retention of articles pertinent to the religion of the state and president are not meant to assuage the protesters, who are hell-bent of removing the mafia gang and its boy-king don. However, one can hardly pas it without observing the short-lived righteous indignation among regime supporters as reflected in some of the emails received by Joshua Landis [here], especially those that went on incredible mental and moral acrobatic hoops in support of the “reform accomplishments” of Bashar Al-Assad
Another friends responds:[From Syria Comment]
I am surprised you are not acknowledging and celebrating these two accomplishments, and are instead nitpicking on the mechanism of how a president is nominated…. Every country has specific rules. Look at the electoral college in the US…..”
The constitution fiasco is both a distraction and a new link in the chain of cynical insults to Syrians the Assad mafia has been subjecting the country to over 40 years. I have said a while back that Bashar will be sure to empty any new constitution of real reform and to ensure that it is customized for him. For months, many regime friendly comentators went into discussing how “a strong” prime minister will emerge as a balance to the “presidency”. Even now, a cynical comment on SC boasts of the emergence of 6 political parties in Syria while ignoring that the fraud constitution makes these parties ineffective, useless, and mere dressing for continuing totalitarian state with unquestionable authority to the presidents, who presumably will be a long line of Assads. On facebook, and in other platforms, the seculars in the opposition, with few exception, went busy, also for a short time, arguing the contentious point of selecting the president-nominee while ignoring the most important parts of any constitution, “separation of powers”, which is completely absent. The president is the source of all powers. He can not be held accountable in front of the Parliament. The executive branch is a single person, who at the same time is the highest judicial authority. The parliament is a mere figurehead albeit with little or no chance of any real challenge to the Baath/Assad domination (Note/Q: anyone knows if the Baath party or any of its dog-tails in the national progressive front have submitted applications for recognition yet?). I am curious about some of those who preached Bashar Al-Assad the reformist and promised a strong prime minister years ago, which, given their absent if not obfuscating position, seems to indicate that their stance then, is as it is now aimed at the retention of the tyrant Assad at all costs. Their failure to voice any meaningful response to the regime’s middle finger strategy only shows them as nothing more than cult members in the Assad cult.
Then comes another odd question, summarized again on Syria Comment [here] about the leadership of next Syria and whether such will emerge from FSA or SNC. The reason I find this question as being odd is that it came at the heels of the post by Idaf [here], who argued that the revolution is neither SNC nor FSA and that it is organic and growing. Idaf’s points make such question of leadership mute at best, and renders SNC and other visible group as mere transient external connections and not the real thing. Idaf’s post is receiving wide attention, especially among activists in exile but who are well connected to secular activists on the ground in the inside. It has been translated to Arabic, and made it through several FB pages. They found in it a validation of their role in the revolution and of their justifiable concerns about what seems to be a strong arm tactics by some battalions of the FSA and a justification of their earlier fears, abandoned only for a short time, of the militarization of the revolution.
This is a critical issue. In the aftermath of the regime’s brutal massacres in Homs, Hama, Idlib and its apparent success in punishing hot-spots of civil protest, especially those where FSA had established presence, many now question whether FSA is really successful in protecting civilians. A legitimate question that is being amplified by the emergence of “power struggle” for claiming leadership of the military wing of the revolution, and by the publicity of the yet to be proven claims that “Al Qaida in Iraq” has already infiltrated some of the FSA battalions and initiated some actions on the ground in Syria. The increasingly sectarian face of the regime’s action in Homs is also a source of fear among activists. However, an activist, with strong connections to the ground told me when we were discussing how the FSA has not been able to prevent the onslaught:
Everyday there are operations that are inflicting heavy losses on the regime’s paramilitary. These operations are not publicized by the regime for obvious reason and not publicized by the FSA so that people like you (he meant me OTW in real personality) don’t go shouting that FSA is conducting “offensive” operations, which has been declared a taboo by activists who want to guard the non-violent element of the revolution.
The chains of bifurcations when discussing the Syrian revolution make focusing very hard, especially when with respect to sectarian incidents. An activist hailing from a minority sect sat me down for a long conversation about this issue. The activist told me
“Look at all the video clips that supposedly are being sold by members of the Shabeeha and regime’s forces in which obvious severe abuses were committed by men with very clear coastal mountain accent. Only a naïve person would think that such tapes can be sold without the person being easily identified and punished as happened to the brave engineer who exposed the post-speech rally for what it was. It is a regime’s strategy to show and emphasize that the abusers are all from one sect. And the regime is solely responsible for the initial leaking of these clips. It aims to accelerate and intensify instinctive sectarian responses from the widest possible segment of the opposition, preferably at the street level and on social media and in a response to the response, heighten the fear among the minorities and intensify their belief that, having seen the obscene sectarian hatred against them, they will be massacred en-mass upon the fall of the regime. The regime will argue that that the abuse intentionally publicized incidents are only isolated incidents and that there is a sectarian undertone to everything the revolution does. An added bonus is the manipulation of the “guilt-by association” fears that the regime wants to encourage among conscientious members of the minorities relying on the fact that while they represent the wide majority of these groups, fear of mass retribution will trump disgust at these actions especially when some in the opposition start shouting “silence equals complicity” and call on various groups to declare their distance from the regime loudly even at risk of severe punishment from the regime .
The activist also told me of yet one more tactic used by the regime to increase sectarian tension and accelerate sectarian war. This tactic has been used on many activists, especially those with religious leaning, and it goes as follows. During interrogation, the worst torture, including verbal torture is intentionally applied by soldiers who belong to minorities. Local dialect is heavily overemphasized. But at some point through the detention, the activist is made to have a calm session with a “sunni” high ranking officer, who would then complain to the activists that “as sunni his own hands are tied” and that alawite are in full control of the situation and there is nothing that can be done now about them short of an all out sectarian civil war, which he (the officer) tries to prevent, but thinks is coming because of these “sect scums” who are even tying the hands of the “good” president, who is more “sunni” than anything else.
I find it nearly impossible for an intelligence officer to say such things if not given a green light based on a planned manipulative strategy to do so. Another activist who has worked on the ground until a couple of months ago confirmed elements of both Idaf and hazrid posts and affirmed the role of women activists in the revolution, particularly in providing relief and support to the families of the victims of the regime be them martyrs or hostages-detainees. The activist, also hailing from a minority group, told me that in many a neighborhood, especially those with conservative leaning populations, only women can provide effective support and comfort to widows and their families. Grass-root support networks are flourishing in some areas, through which activists from all ideological shades work hand in hand to deliver relief and comfort. However, and as hazrid mentioned, the MBs, who have little or no real connection to these largely sufi areas, have been using these mostly secular networks to gain entrance, then, and through manipulative language attempt to gain party loyalty to enhance their ground presence in anticipation of post-revolution politics. In other word, they are opportunistically gaining footing. This is also consistent with what I heard from members of the SNC who complained about the insistence of the MBs to maintain control of the SNC led relief operations and their tactics of distributing the relief in their own name whilst it should be distributed in the name of the diverse opposition.
On the Eve of the UN vote, I met an old friend of my parents who is visiting is son, now a dear friend of mine. He knew me when I was a child, but was later transferred with his family to another town before being forced into an early retirement after having been deemed not loyal enough to Hafez and his Brother. I came in to greet him, he held my hand with a strong confident handshake and with his left, he patted the seat next to him signaling for me to sit down. I did, and we started talking.
The UN vote had just been announced and like most of us in this “revolutionary hang out”, he was elated with the results. But I sensed that his response was a bit more complex than the moral validation most of us felt then. And it was. His first assessment was that Russia and China have literally “screwed up” their prestige. “Two super powers, who usually enjoy the support of almost every single developing country in the UN could only muster the votes of only 12 countries, most of which are either satellite states, despotic regimes, or heading backward in that direction”. He reiterated: from day one of the Security Council fiasco, it was known that the Chinese are taking a stand half principled and half motivated by their interest not in the Syrian regime, but mostly in Iran. The Russians , on the other hand were dealing and wheeling. It was like they were in the bazaar, where Syria was only their “causes belli” for dumping off many other bargain items and extracting every single possible concession from many countries whose interest in the primary matter was not that high to bargain on such strategic issues only to get a decision that they themselves were not ready to take. China would have abstained had it not been for Russia’s veto. But now, they UN GA vote has dealt their prestige a great blow, morally and politically. We agreed that the veto was anything but a victory for Russian Diplomacy, to the contrary, it was an abysmal failure and a signal that the Soviet empire is finally over.
We then talked about middle class and about how both Assads decimated the middle class and how Bashar’s economic reforms were designed only to enrich the Mafia gang leaving the middle class with no prospect for survival and the poor with no prospect for making it upward through education, which according to him, was what took him and his wife as well as my parents from being on the edge of rural poverty to the ranks of reasonably secure middle class” back in the fifties of the past century. He pointed that even Lenin, cognizant of economic and intellectual weight of the middle class, had insisted before Russian revolution turned totalitarian on including the small bourgeois in the revolution’s ranks as opposed to his adversaries who wanted to cleanse the nascent state of what they thought as being a class with no loyalty.
He said, referring to the Assads: they were mafia, they are mafia, and they will remain so. They can not and will not reform themselves, let alone the layers of corruption through which they bought or forced loyalty. It has been 40 years since a real officer has made it above Brigadier General, or a single real thinker or leader made it into the upper echelon of the bureaucracy machine. Ignorance and mediocrity are their main friends, whether it is on their side or on the side of their opponents, and the knowledge and competence are their enemies.
His conclusion was interesting: all we need is to achieve a 51% ratio of enlightened citizenry. It doesn’t matter whether they are religious or not, it only matters that they are logical and secular. In Iran, we know that they are not there yet, as indicated by the inability to sustain the green revolution , In Syria, we have no real clue yet whether we have that since the regime has been successful first in forcing the armed option and seems to be heading towards success in forcing a sectarian civil war. I don’t think we have 51% yet, but we’ll never know until the regime falls, which is only a matter of time and blood.
A friend, who just arrived from Aleppo describes a ghost town. Business is almost non existent. Shabeeha have full control of fuel supplies once they arrive at the pump. While parked in the 2 hours long line, it is common for a shabbeeh to knock on the window asking if you want gasoline, which then is sold at incredibly high price. Price of food has more than doubled and even upper middle class families who now survive on their saving have to think whether to have fried eggs for lunch. The city, along with Damascus are increasingly restless, despite of the regime’s attempt to “reward” Aleppo for the apparent loyalty with the rewards ending squarely in the pockets of the greedy shabeeha.
After i finished the post, and went on to view twitter, i was in for a surprise, a blog called The Sweet Maker’s Wife, written by Evelyn Aissa a young Syrian Woman who holds a Masters in International Law. The current post on the blog is titled Deconstructing the Narrative on The Syrian Revolution (Jan 26, 2012). It is a more than worth reading for the excellent brief description of the various components of the opposition, if not for the plenty of other well presented information.
As expected, the Syrian regime has rejected the new Arab League decision, which was announced in a press conference led by the foreign minister of Qatar and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States. The press conference followed a meeting of the Council of the AL, during which a decision was made, partially in response to the report of the controversial AL monitors mission to Syria but more so as a last ditch attempt to allow a face-saving and reasonably short time exit to the regime. The full text of the decision is available on several web-sites along with summaries in English and Arabic. I have taken the liberty of removing the introductory part of that decision, which generally contains the “legislative mandate” and a great deal of references to previous decisions and sequence of communications. In the end, the following items were agreed on, with Algeria expressing reservation regarding the security council issue, and Lebanon distancing itself from any decision that may “impact Syria” while Iraq abstaining with no comment.
Below is the decision component of the document, first in Arabic and then translated to English to reflect the spirit of the decision as it was transmitted (To the best of my abilities). I had it ready on the night of the decision but I was unable to post it for personal reasons that have distracted me from 7ee6an for nearly three days and will likely continue for a while. I urge everyone to read it carefully, because I expect it to be the underlining “solution map” to be adopted by the Security Council. Events are hearing in that direction and this decision is likely to be with us for a while.
1-ضرورة وقف كافة أعمال العنف والقتل من أي مصدر كان حماية للمواطنين السوريين.
مطالبة الحكومة السورية بما يلي:
2-الإفراج عن المعتقلين، وإخلاء المدن والأحياء السكنية من جميع المظاهر المسلحة، وفتح المجال أمام منظمات الجامعة المعنية ووسائل الإعلام العربية والدولية للتنقل بحرية في جميع أنحاء سورية للاطلاع على حقيقة الأوضاع ورصد ما يدور فيها من أحداث.
3-سحب الجيش السوري وأية قوات مسلحة من مختلف التشكيلات إلى ثكناتها ومواقعها الأصلية.
4-ضمان حرية التظاهر السلمي بمختلف أشكاله وعدم التعرض للمتظاهرين.
5-دعوة الحكومة السورية إلى تسهيل مهمة بعثة المراقبين والسماح بإدخال كافة المعدات خاصةً أجهزة الاتصالات.
6-الاستمرار في دعم وزيادة عدد بعثة مراقبي جامعة الدول العربية وتوفير ما يلزم لهم من الدعم الفني والمالي والإداري، والتعاون مع الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة لدعم البعثة.
7-دعوة الحكومة السورية وكافة أطياف المعارضة السورية إلى بدء حوار سياسي جاد تحت رعاية جامعة الدول العربية في أجلٍ لا يتجاوز أسبوعين من هذه الدعوة وذلك لتحقيق المبادرة التالية:
أ-تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية خلال شهرين من تاريخه تشارك فيها السلطة والمعارضة برئاسة شخصية متفق عليها تكون مهمتها تطبيق بنود خطة الجامعة العربية، والإعداد لانتخاباتٍ برلمانية ورئاسية تعددية حرة بموجب قانون ينص على إجراءاتها، بإشراف عربي ودولي.
ب-تفويض رئيس الجمهورية نائبه الأول بصلاحيات كاملة للقيام بالتعاون التام مع حكومة الوحدة الوطنية لتمكينها من أداء واجباتها في المرحلة الانتقالية.
ت-إعلان حكومة الوحدة الوطنية حال تشكيلها بأن هدفها هو إقامة نظام سياسي ديمقراطي تعددي يتساوى فيه المواطنون بغض النظر عن انتماءاتهم وطوائفهم ومذاهبهم ويتم تداول السلطة فيه بشكلٍ سلمى.
ث-قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية على إعادة الأمن والاستقرار في البلاد وإعادة تنظيم أجهزة الشرطة لحفظ النظام وتعزيزه من خلال تولي المهام الأمنية ذات الطابع المدني، وتتعهد الدول العربية بتمويل هذا الجهد بالتنسيق مع جامعة الدول العربية.
ج-إنشاء هيئة مستقلة مفوضة للتحقيق في الانتهاكات التي تعرض لها المواطنون والبت فيها وإنصاف الضحايا.
ح-قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية بالإعداد لإجراء انتخاباتٍ لجمعية تأسيسية على أن تكون شفافة ونزيهة برقابة عربية ودولية، وذلك خلال ثلاثة أشهر من قيام حكومة الوحدة الوطنية وتتولى هذه الجمعية إعداد مشروع دستور جديد للبلاد يتم إقراره عبر استفتاء شعبي، وكذلك إعداد قانون انتخابات على أساس هذا الدستور.
8-تكليف الأمين العام لجامعة الدول العربية بتعيين مبعوث خاص لمتابعة العملية السياسية.
9-دعوة المجتمع الدولي إلى تقديم الدعم لحكومة الوحدة الوطنية لتمكينها من تنفيذ مهامها.
10-الطلب من رئيس اللجنة والأمين العام إبلاغ مجلس الأمن لدعم هذه الخطة طبقاً لقرارات مجلس الجامعة.
The Ministerial council decides
1 – to recognize the need to halt all acts of violence and murder from any source in order to protect the Syrian citizens.
Demands the following from the Syrian Government:
2 – The release of detainees, and the removal of all forms of arms from the cities and residential districts, allowing the League’s relevant (concerned) organizations and the Arab and international media to move freely in all parts of Syria to assess the reality of the situation and to monitor the ongoing events.
3 – The withdrawal of the Syrian army and armed forces of any of the various divisions to their barracks and their original locations.
4 – To guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully in all its forms and to not confront protesters.
5 – Call on the Syrian government to facilitate the mission of observers and to allow the introduction of all of their equipment, especially communications equipment.
6 – To continue to support and increase the number of Observer Mission of the Arab League and to provide them with technical, financial and administrative support, and to cooperate with the Secretary General of the United Nations to support the mission.
7 – Invite the Syrian government and all elements of the spectrum of the Syrian opposition to start a serious political dialogue under the auspices of the League of Arab States within a period not exceeding two weeks from this initiative, to achieve the following:
A – A national unity government within two months from this date with the participation of government and the opposition and that is led by an agreeable person the task of implementing the provisions of the Arab League plan, and preparing for pluralistic parliamentary and presidential elections under the in accordance with law specifying the electoral procedures and Arab and international supervision.
B – The delegation by the president of the republic to the first Vice-President of the full authority to carry out a full cooperation with the national unity government to enable them to perform their duties in the transitional period.
C – Declaration by the so formed national unity government that its goal is to establish a democratic, pluralistic political system in which all citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations and sects and denominations and whereby power is transferred peacefully.
D – The national unity government is to restore security and stability in the country and to reorganize (restructure) the police force to maintain order through taking over all civilian security matters. The Arab States undertake to fund this effort in coordination with the League of Arab States.
E – the establishment of an independent body mandated to investigate and decide on the abuses suffered by the citizens and to compensate the victims.
F – The national unity government is to prepare for Arab and internationally monitored transparent and fair elections of a constituent assembly within three months of the formation of the national unity government. The assembly is to prepare a draft new constitution to be adopted through a referendum, as well as to preparation of an election law on the basis of the Constitution.
8 – To request the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to appoint a special envoy to follow up the political process.
9 – to invite the international community to provide support to the national unity government and to enable it to carry out its functions.
10 – To request the Chairman of the Council and the Secretary-General to inform the Security Council in order to support this plan in accordance with the resolutions of the League’s Council.
I believe that the road map renders the monitors’ report to secondary importance. If summarized, The decision calls for the withdrawal of all armed forces and their return to their barracks, for guaranteeing freedom of demonstration and facilitating and supporting the mission of the AL monitors and ensuring free and unhindered access to Arab and International press access to the country. However, article 7, with its six points makes a sharp turn against the Syrian regime. The six points do present a new AL plan (roadmap), that will take Syria into a pluralistic parliamentarian system within a timeframe far shorter than what the regime has in mind and some bloggers have called for (i.e., 2021, which is the end of Bashar Al-Assad’s third term). The AL new plan consists of starting a “serious” dialog between the regime and all factions of the opposition within two weeks, to be followed by the formation of a national unity government from both sides within two months that is headed by an agreeable personality. The national unity government will be responsible within a short period of time for calling an election of a constitutional assembly, drafting new constitution, establishing peace, guaranteeing, the rights of citizens to protest peacefully, and most importantly restructuring the “police” force to bear the sole responsibility for civil peace. The national unity government is to also form an independent committee to investigate complaints of abuse and to coordinate the compensation of victims albeit with no mention of punishing perpetrators, which indicates that the AL envisions a committee styled more as a national reconciliation committee than a criminal investigation panel or court.
Thanks to annie, we have a copy of what the steadfast, always polite Revlon wrote especially on some of the key aspects of the AL new roadmap, But in international crisis-resolution initiatives there is no substitute for the full text. Sometimes ambiguities speak more than clear text and I think in this case, ambiguities were intended to allow both the regime and opposition margin of negotiation instead of outright rejection of the decision. The reactionary regime of course could not but reject the roadmap claiming that it first violates Syrian sovereignty and that it falls short of the “reforms” the great leader has already initiated where none of the decision’s signatories have undertaken similar initiatives. The opposition, especially the SNC remain cautious regarding rejection, and have considered the decision to be a recognition from the Arab states of the legitimacy of the revolution, and the first practical step towards internationalization of the issue through the security council.
A customized version of the GCC’s Yemen initiative, the AL decision could have been easily used by the regime to its advantage and to guarantee a semblance of acceptance to its intended joke of a national unity government albeit with a lot of negotiation towards the forming of this government. Several regime-made opposition personalities (no leaders) are already scrambling to position themselves to play leading role in that national unity government, some in hopes to influence what they believe is going to be the next stage of Syria’s evolution towards pluralistic politics under the leadership of the “great leader”. The regime could have also interpreted the text in item 7-B calling for delegation of authority to state that only those authorities required to facilitate the national unity government need to be delegated and that does not mean departure of the despised “great leader”. There are several similar examples where the regime could have found ample margin for maneuver and I expect that it will at some point in time request that this decision be undusted and revived as it enters into some sort of negotiation only to find that like the protestors and having been rebuffed and lied to constantly, AL members would by then raise the ceiling of demands in response to the regime’s continuing brutality.
Alas, the reactionary regime has decided on continuation of the brute force option. News of tightening the siege on Hama and increasing fortification of the regime’s positions inside the city along with complete communication black-outs are ominous signs of the brutality of the next phase of the Assad mafia clan plan to finish off this revolution in the midst of total melt down of the state authority and of the regime’s hold on many parts of Syria. With the exception of Aleppo, and the central core of Damascus, the presence of regime forces and thugs in any locality can no longer be equated with control of such locality notwithstanding the successful ejection of the regimes goons in few localities. There are signs of possible change in the Russian position, but I would not count much on that in the sense that any Russian plan would aim first to protect the structure of the regime apparatus even if it involves the departure of the Bashar Al-Assad.
As I wrote earlier, article 7 of the decision represents a road map. The opposition can also rely on it to shape the next step and in fact some of the elements listed in article 7 represent the minimum level of the demands from the opposition. The AL even addresses, rather diplomatically and again with a degree of ambiguity, the issue of restructuring civil security forces (Article 7-D) as well as the issue of forming an investigation panel (7-E). Overall, the plan could have formed a good start but the reactionary regime, thinking that it will be able to suppress history, thought otherwise.
Muallem’s Press Conference
As I write these words, Muallem is now giving a press conference berating Arab states for their “conspiracy” against Syria, It seems that he is trying to turn on the table to refocus attention on the “regime-friendly” monitors report, which now seems to have been written by the Syrian regime. He is claiming that the report validated the Syrian regime’s adherence to the AL earlier initiative. Muallem is still selling the “reform” package. He is now asking others to “learn from Syria” with extracurricular classes. It is telling that Muallem (the foreign minister) is saying that the request to extend the mission is being studied, and the moment they (him and his team) receive directives, they will go ahead with the necessary steps. My question is who is going to send the directive, and who is in the circle that “instructs” him as he seems to declare himself as a non entity with respect to policy, something every Syrian knew for long time. He is very persistent in talking about “armed groups”. Al-Alam TV is asked Muallem to take a decisive action against “armed groups” and to close the “Qatari” embassy. So now a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime is instructing the Syrian regime in what to do. Had any other foreign press representative asked questions with that tone, he would have been accused of violating the sovereignty of Syria. Muallem showered praise on the head of the observer mission General Al-Dabi. Al-Jadid TV also tried to advocate a “speedy” resolution of the “armed groups” issue to an enthusiastic Muallem. In response to the Chinese TV question about sanction, Muallem admitted that half of the current economic difficulties in Syria are due to the sanctions. In response to “Lebanese” NBN, Muallem declared the Arabs’ role dead, but at the same time seem to insist on the extension of the observers’ mission!. He threatened now to break the glass houses left by the colonialists in all Arab countries (naturally with the exception of Syria!)
Muallem’s use of the report to the advantage of the Syrian regime will be a death sentence of the observers’ mission and will discredit the mission and its leadership more than they are already discredited. A good step from the AL now would be to dismiss the head of the mission and re-constitute the mission with far more neutral leader. Al-Dabi has by all means removed himself from being a suitable head of the mission after recent declarations. It is also noteworthy that the SNC has asked the LCCs to stop cooperating with the extended observers’ mission.
The Secretary General of the League of Arab States met today with the Ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council. At the same time, the Chair of the AL council and the Secretary General made a formal request for a meeting with the Secretary General of the UN regarding the crisis in Syria. The internationalization machine has started, and I hope that the SNC will be careful, dynamic, and smart in the coming phase.
To say that the AL plan intended on helping Assad is a mistake, I think the Arabs have finally figured out how dumb and suicidal the Syrian regime is, every time a survival rope is extended, these bozos turn it into another knot in the noose. Figuring this out, Arab League will hopefully continue to extend them helping ropes and to make these ropes thicker and thicker in cynical hope that the regime will use these ropes in the same manner it used every single help. Aleppo has a little vulgar proverb that says “يللي بيجاكر طيزو بيعملها بلبيسو ” which translates into, “to spite his asshole he defecates in his underwear”, with the closest English proverb would be “cutting of the nose to spite the face”. The regime has always been a contemptuous gang. Expect it to continue to smell as stinky as it has made itself. Those carrying water for this regime, should look in their containers and probably smell their content before it is too late.