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Stories from Hama: Memories of Painter Khaled Al-Khani. Part 3

Lest we forget-31 years (Introduction by OTW)

HAMA-31-MemoriumNearly 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

Part 1,  Part 2

11. Life under shelling 150x150.acrylic on canvas

One of Khaled Al-Khani’s 2012 paintings titled: Life under shelling.

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.

Hameedo-Pigeons

Commemorating Hameedo’s pigeons. For 31 years, Hameedo and hi pigeons remained part of the artists’ memories of resisting the culture of death of the regime. Hameedo’s insistence on making sure that his pigeons never land in defiance of the soldiers’ bullets was one of the few inspiring things to a six-year old boy living the horrors of the massacre.

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.

Horses-of-Hama

The residents of Hama’s Baroudeyeh district adored their Arabian Horses. Bestowing their own names on their horses to signify the unique relationship with their Noble horses. The above painting by the artist illustrates the centrality of these horses in their lives.

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

Part 1

Part 2

Bashar Is bombing us.

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

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

Aleppo-Destruction

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

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

Naval-Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revised- Saturday: December 15, 2012

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

Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People (By Souria AlKarama)

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).

April 18, 2012, the repulsive criminal couple playing humanitarians on the day their gangs murdered 55 Syrians .

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
June,  2012

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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.

Of Interns and the Boy-king

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

Here are a few comments on specific issues.

Batta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics from the Syrian Revolution. By hazrid

I’d like to start this 3178-word Mega-comment by refuting everything said by True about sentiments towards Palestinians in Damascus, with no offense to True intended; I’m not in the messenger-shooting business.

Jibril (Pro-Assad General Command) depicted in a wanted poster on Facebook

I have never, ever heard a single anti-Palestinian slogan at any of the protests I have attended, nor have I heard any anti-Palestinian slogans in any of the videos on the web,  and I extend this statement to  clearly sectarian slogans in the same vein. To some extent, relations with the Palestinian community have been affected by the revolution, with the pro-regime groups such as the General Command (القيادة العامة : أحمد جبريل) and Al-Sa’aeqa (الصاعقة) being pitted against everybody else. Yes, the regime finally succeeded in unifying the Palestinians. After the attacks on the Palestinian protest by GC in Yarmouk camp, which happened soon after the attempts to enter the Golan, I have heard Palestinians aligned with Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and various others swear up and down that they will do a multitude of unspeakable things to Ahmed Jibreel, none of which I will detail here. The Palestinians are generally with the revolution, and the revolution (at least that is the sentiment here, in the Damascus area) is with the Palestinians.

The Veto Power

I’m Going to do something controversial here and explain one view regarding  ‘veto’ concept within the UNSC. Please don’t be too harsh on me.

A long, long time ago, the world was a bloody place. Much more bloodier than it is today. We all recall tales of the great empires of old, and the greater empires of not-so-old. All these great empires had penchant for going at each other. The Persians and the Romans, the English and the French, the Ottomans and the Safavids, and countless others.

Often, we would see wars break out at the slightest provocation. Granted, killing a Serbian prince in itself isn’t going to cause a war to end all wars, but sometimes, many times, it can be a sufficient fuse. What is different in our modern world is the lack of great wars. We haven’t seen super-powers duke it out, not since the Second World War. This is, I think because of two reasons:

  1. We talk. Imagine the Cuban Missile Crisis without communications between the US and the USSR, or without a forum like the UN.
  2. Superpowers can bugger with each other without going to war

The second point is basically Veto rights. The legal structure of the UN, and the rules and restrictions placed on war-making within the structure mean that nation-states need to go through various acrobatic acts before they can proactively go to war.

Imagine if Syria was a major strategic asset for Russia, one that the Russians would be willing to go to war over. Imagine Russia not having veto power in such a situation.

To understand veto rights, one must think outside the ‘favoritism’ mentality. The nations that were given these rights at the formation of the UN have been the largest military powers since the late 1940s. A veto is a diplomatic tool that allows one of these nations to defend its interests, rightly or wrongly so, in a way that does not involve military action. This is one of the main reasons the world hasn’t seen two superpowers colliding in a military conflict. The (relatively) little things they used to go to war over are now vetoed into lower intensity.

With that said, Veto powers never were a good idea, and I disagree with the concept.

On the subject of the Russian, and to a lesser extent Chinese position… It is one that brings up many conspiracy theories. One thing that has been clear is that the Russians are intelligent about their foreign policy, and have a tendency to support their allies (even the wacky genocidal ones) to the hilt. Once things go past the hilt though, and all that support is gone. Two examples come to mind here: the aforementioned Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended with an under the table deal between the USSR and the USA that left Cuba out in the cold and Castro swearing with the ferocious rage of someone who just learnt about the realities of Superpower diplomacy, and the Serbian example everybody is talking about.

It isn’t clear though what the Russians see in Syria. True, there is a small naval base in Tartous, but it isn’t one that can be considered of any use in any conflicts it might be needed in other than as a weak retardant, at least for the next few years. Expanded, it might play a role in defending Russia’s assets and allies throughout the wider region, including The Mediterranean region, the Black Sea, the Gulf and the east coast of Africa, but that will take many years to happen.

There is also the Russian fear of similar ‘intervention’ happening on its grounds or much closer to home, but the Libya situation should show them that such action will happen regardless of what the Russians want when the Europeans and Americans put their minds to it, and the Russians do realize that the US is very hesitant in engaging directly in the Russian sphere of influence, as was clear in Georgia, when the Russians Decimated a relatively important NATO ally without any real western resistance.

What seems to me to be the dominant factor in Russian thinking now is the domino effect. The revolution is part of a long line of dominoes around the world, which include demonstrations in the west such as the Spain demonstrations last year, and the greater Occupy movement, as well as the other Arab revolutions. It is conceivable that these revolutions will spread to more regions considered pro-Russian. Prime locations, other than Iran would be the Caucus and Balkans regions, the Asian Soviet Republics such as Kazakhstan, and to Russia itself. It is also clear that once, and if Revolts spread to these regions, some if not most will be supported directly by a large body of Arab revolutionaries, and directly and indirectly by Powers That Care (PTCs). Historically, this has happened as is evident in the Arab Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, Arab support in the various Yugoslav conflicts, and the Arabs in Chechnya. Really, we’re more international than the Americans in our conflicts.

Defection and the FSA 

What we must understand is that the defectors are, at the same level, are reacting in a manner consistent with what we all saw in Egypt most recently, and in places such as Romania and to a lesser extent Tunisia previously. The only difference is that while the decision to defect was taken by the highest echelons of military command in the aforementioned cases, here in Syria we have a complacent and criminal high command that is in the end, part of the cult-leadership. This in turn caused people much lower in the chain of command to take personal initiatives based on their moral ideals. Initially, the FSA focused on defending protests. The reason that large-scale protests such as the ones we see in Homs before the invasion, and the Suburbs of Damascus is because off camera, there are FSA soldiers on the rooftops defending the protesters from any Assadist attack. Later on, the FSA grew in confidence, to a point where it started engaging the military in offensive action. Sometimes, these attacks have had an adverse effect on the FSA in the short-term or long-term, such as the recent offensive on the eastern Ghouta, which has unearthed a lot of inefficiencies in the FSA, and a lot of things that need sorting out.

In short, these guys have acted as a military force with some sense of professionalism. They have acted as a sponge for any civilians who might feel the need to bear arms, which is an important function as it forces these civilians who will inevitably appear in any such situation to act within a framework that isn’t a local-militia framework. They have isolated themselves from political action on all levels, which is in all ways a good sign. They have refrained from engaging in fights over petty disputes, regardless of the tensions that do exist on the ground between commanders, and at the higher levels, especially with Colonel Riad Al-Ass’ad or however it must be spelt. They have not isolated themselves from the populace in most instances, which is also a good sign.

There have been difficulties. The inability to use heavy weapons, and lack of effective counters to these weapons (which for some reason, Khalid Tlass, in his third incarnation isn’t so vocally lobbying for). The near impossibility of getting weapons in from across the borders, especially with the Jordanian gov’t trying to put a stranglehold on all weapons going through its borders, Hezbullah’s effective cornering of the arms market in Lebanon early in the revolution, and the shoring up of the Iraqi border by the Malki Government. I’d also like to call out the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been going on a membership drive, forcing activists and FSA members to swear allegiance to the MB before receiving a penny of support from the Brotherhood. Yeah, this is gonna be interesting in the long-term.

My point is, and this is mainly addressed to Zenoubia, your plan won’t work, under current circumstances. The Regime hasn’t shied away from assassinating any leaders who might be a threat to it, in fact, they’ve been doing it from the start, starting with Alawite military leaders back when Hafez took over, up to people who look like they might be leading the chants on the ground, such as happened in Midan during Rammadan. This has been one of their cornerstone policies, to kill anybody who might have any semblance of leadership skills or charisma. Tell me, do you know any ‘leaders’ of the Alawite sect whose sur-name isn’t Assad? They existed before 1982. Do you know any labor or union leaders who are in any way prominent? Parliamentarians? Heck, even government officials who might be slightly non-Baathist. I could think of Dardari who was always critical of the government, at least economically. Look where he is now. In Syria, prominence is a death sentence. Become too prominent, and you have sentenced your whole family, nay, your whole community to disfavor, if not annihilation. But then, you are asking of Syrians something that has been refused by all other Peoples who have been put under similar situations. Look at Egypt, Hosni only wanted to stay until the September elections in the end, and the protesters refused. Give these people time to pack their bags, and they will use that time to rob the country of everything that isn’t nailed down, then go for the stuff with the weakest nails. Believe me when I say this, in Zabadani, the Assadist forces have looted villas even of their door frames. Yes, door frames. This is how kleptomaniacal the regime is. In Egypt, the situation was a lot easier and simple than it is here. It was clear that Hosni was not going to be allowed to stay by the military, and there wasn’t as much violence, nor as much blood. Please note, a lot of people have much at stake here. It is clear that if the regime is given any breathing space, in any form, it will go on a cleansing campaign against all FSA members, all the people in the LCCs, anybody who as much as raised a finger to help a wounded protester.

And then you have the whole post-election. What then? We went the whole nine yards, proven our pre-proven thesis true, and the regime has not handed over power because it is clear, that whatever happens, the name of the game is Don’t Hand Over Power To The Masses. Is the international community going to come and save our souls, like it didn’t in Iran, and like it resoundingly didn’t in Burma? Are we going to protest peacefully, maybe do a sit-in like the one that happened in Clock Tower Square, or Tiananmen? Or are we going to bear arms against a regime military that will be much, much more prepared? What comes after the elections?

Please note, that the FSA has the most legitimacy out of any opposition group in the eyes of the people on the ground. This is because they are the epitome of counter-Assadist-culture… Let me explain:

This will sound sexist, I apologize. I’ve previously mentioned that the regime isn’t the window dressing called the cabinet, headed by the prime-minister. It’s the extended family and cronies who control the Mukhabarat and to a lesser extent the army. To understand the administrative/bureaucratic environment this group has nurtured, grown, and grown from, one has to run the gauntlet only Syrian males with brothers, and a few unfortunate women do. It is called dealing with the army.

For most men, their first encounter with the army is when they go to create their army book. One does not truly know how debilitating, stupid, backwards, solidified, idiotic, neurotic, resentful, corrupt, nepotic, authoritarian, dictatorial, stupid, ignorant, stupid, bureaucratic, banal, inefficient, careless, dirty, uncreative, kleptomaniac, sectarian and stupid the regime can be until you have created your army book. If you’ve tried to pay the Badal, it is an even better learning experience.

Imagine a system where each person you have to deal with declares their price before servicing you, or even has their price written down on a chart to simplify the process, and EVERYBODY has a price you must pay. Imagine a system where you can be trapped in a requirement-circle that has you going from desk, to desk, to desk with each person referring you to someone else for reasons you can’t ask, lest you know about the arcane secrets of the military’s conscription offices. Imagine mistakes made by office clerks that could ruin your life, put you in jail, or have you paying huge fines, and these mistakes happen all the time! Imagine going through a process with no known end. Imagine getting to that end, only to find out that there is some minor detail that is wrong, and you have to do everything all over again. Imagine trying to tell an officer with the brain of a goose, the skull of a moose and the psyche of a rat that he might have made a tiny mistake in processing your documents, only for him to slap you and tell you he’ll shoot you the next time he sees you in his office. Imagine being told you haven’t processed your documents, or that yes, they know they processed your documents and that everything is good in them, but they lost them because some rat of fate had to choose your file in the archives to make its nest, and thusly, the rat has pressed you into conscription even though you’ve done ta’ajeel dirasi. Yes this has happened.

Now imagine the people at the head of such an apparatus. Imagine how they think, how they managed to create such a monstrosity, how they may have fought to keep the cleansing acids of reforms away from their growing hell-beast, how they grew it and in turn grew from it. These are the people we are dealing with. And these are the people who the FSA have turned away from. They have taken everything these devils have built, and refused to indulge or be complicit in it. They are the embodiment of the opposite of dealing with the army. They are the only white knights most anti-regime young Syrian men see in a sea of uncertain and gloomy darkness, where the world stood silent with its trillions of dollars of arms, they came with their AKs and RPGs to defend them from the military behemoth of despair. I hope you now understand why people see the FSA as central to this revolution, regardless of its many flaws.

SWOT Analysis Proposal

It looks like everybody left the SWOT analysis post, so I’m going to post my two cents here: After some thinking, a crude suggestion has formulated itself. First of all, we might be better off doing multiple SWOTs, one for each player. Defining each player will be the difficult part, as in multiple cases it isn’t clear where lines should be drawn for each group, among other things. Each SWOT analysis should be curated by one person who is tasked with the management and verification of the information going into their SWOT, as well as understanding the actual process itself. The comment section of a blog post isn’t really the best place for such discussions, as it lacks many tools to make things easier. I would suggest something like Crabgrass (made by the Riseup collective) or Asana, as well as other software, maybe a CMS or a wiki? I’m sure that specialized software for this stuff exists.

Participation in most SWOTs should be open, and the main person responsible for managing  each one is the curator of that SWOT.

SNC site is up, and they seem to have a project in the works called ‘One Thousand Years for Syria’. The idea is for volunteers to sign up one year of work for Syria in their respective fields of expertise after the revolution is finished, and it is an applause-worthy program. This is the sort of stuff the SNC, in my opinion, should be focusing on. Not trying to cuddle up to the west, and isolate Iran, Russia, Hezbullah and Hamas. Optimally, the Swot analysis should be hosted by the SNC, and so far the only good thing I’ve seen coming out of its activities alone is a severe mistrust and dislike now ingrained into every Syrian’s mind towards all politicians, post revolution.

Since I’ve gone into SNC-Bashing mode again (It’s addictive), I’d like to point them towards the Libya Rebuilding Taskforce, which was a seventy strong team of Libyan experts in various fields based in Dubai that was tasked with formulating what the LTC should do after capturing all of Libya. Rebuilding, infrastructure, policing, electricity and water supplies, stuff like that. Mr. Bourhan: I know the deep deep corridors of politicking are a trap for any politician with good intentions, but you are not a politician, you are an opposition figurehead for all of Syria. More of this stuff will show us that the post-Bashar political scene will be less like Lebanon, which the SNC is emulating within itself right now and more like the UK, where politics is (mostly) about policy, nation development is debated by people who care and decisions (mostly) are made based on facts (mostly), studies, research, and inquiries not by bigoted politicians on testosterone fueled vendettas and criminal enterprises. And you know what, initiatives like that, if crowdsourced, can really make Syrians feel like tomorrow’s Syria will be a different place, as if their intellect, creativity, knowledge and patriotic feelings will be felt by those on top, having a positive effect on the decision-making process, and the country as a whole. Market that, not foreign intervention.

Note from OTW: This post first appeared as a comment from hazrid on 7ee6an (here). It elicited a response from  Zenobia (here) and further narrative elaboration on the corruption in the regime’s army from  Sheila (here)  as well as from Zenobia (here), and on the self imposed exile of MGB (here)

Olives, Ironies, and civil war

On Jan, 5, 2011, Subhi Hadidi, a journalist termed by many in the opposition, including myself, as a moral compass for being fiercely independent in his criticism of the Syrian regime, published an article in the London based Pan Arab newspaper Alquds Alarabi about the cornerstone of the Syrian regime and its evolution during the past 10 month. The article’s introduction describes the intent of Adanan Alsukhbi, the regime’s governor of the Raqqa governorate of Syria to uproot the 15 years old olive trees planted on the private farm of activist lawyer Abduallah Al-Khalil after Assad’s militias destruction of the the lawyer’s house.  One of two trees mentioned in the Quran (fig and olive), and a universal symbol of peace, olive trees are both mystical and semi-sacred.  And uprooting olive trees, next to home demolition, has been a constant presence in Arab memory ever since it has been practiced by Israeli settlers and IDF soldiers be it as collective and individual punishment of Palestinians, pre-confiscation action, or part of the controversial and illegal price-tag policy exacted by extremist settlers against both the Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

It was an epic irony that, in his forth speech since the uprising started, and while the issue of uprooting olive trees in Raqqa, being fresh, and with Bashar Al-Assad being dubbed by many Syrians as having presided over the killing of more Syrians than double the number of Lebanese and Palestinians killed through the two most recent actions of Israel’s forces, and right after berating “certain” Arab countries and the Arab League as betrayers of Arabism (Urooba), chose, with pride, Syria’s rank as the fifth country in producing olives and olive-oil as one of the fundamental strengths of Syria that he hoped will get Syria through the isolation his regime has put the country through. It goes without saying that farmers and refugees from Jabal Alzzaweyah and Idlib region, have also described Assad’s forces scorched earth policy of uprooting and burning ancient olive trees in this region, which is responsible for a majority of Syria’s high quality olives and olive oil. Needless to say, Syrians have been talking loudly about the fact that the number of victims of the Assads’ forty one year reign of terror already exceeds the numbers of Syrians who lost their lives in the multiple wars with the enemy the regime is supposed to protect Syria from. Read the rest of this entry

Syrian Regime Signs with Bullets, 150 Day 1, 220 Day 2


1:00 AM Damascus Time

For Prompt Release and Distribution

الأن تحصل مجزرة

حصري_إدلب _كنصفرة: استشهاد أكثر من150مدني في كنصفرة نتيجة قصف مركز على تجمعات النازحين المدنيين في المزارع بين الزيتون ..كانوا هاربين من مداهمات الامن و الشبيحة و هم من القرى التالية كنصفرة, كفرعويد, المزره 13 شهيد منهم من عائلة واحدة من بيت الحاج علي 4 شهداء أخوة

… القرى الان مكلومة و تدفن شهداءها تحت القصف و العدد مرشح للزيادة..أغلب الجثث وصلت متفحمة..

للعمل على إيقاف هذه المجزرة الآن: انشر هذا الخبر أيها القارئ الكريم في كل جروب أنت مشترك فيه، وفي صفحات الأخبار كلها

A massacre is ongoing right now.

Idlib, Kensafra, More than 150 civilians were murdered in Kensafra as a result of the targeted bombing of the gathering of refugees in between olive orchards. in several villages (Kensafra, Kafar-oueyd, Mazra). There are 13 martyrs from one family 4 brothres.

Villages are in mourning now and they are burying he martyrs. The number is increasing and most corpses arrived burned like charcoal.

Please distribute this on Facebook and in every news site.

بيان من برهان غليون

استغل النظام السوري التوقيع على بروتوكول المراقبين العرب في اطار المبادرة العربية للقيام بهجوم وحشي لا سابق له على المدن والاحياء السورية الثائرة.لقد بلغ عدد الشهداء في اليوم الاول لهذا التوقيع مئة وعشرين شهيدا وهو يتجاوز اليوم الثلاثاء المئتين وعشرين شهيدا اضافة الى مئات الجرحى والمفقودين.

ادعو الامين العام للجامعة العربية السيد نبيل العربي والامين العام للامم المتحدة بان كي مون للتدخل فورا لوقف المجازر التي يرتكبها النظام السوري بحق المدنيين العزل متسترا بتوقيعه على بروتوكول المراقبين كما ادعو الراي العام والمجتمع الدوليين للتظاهر والاحتجاج وعمل كل ما بوسعهما لاعلان تضامنهما مع الئعب السوري والعمل بجميع الوسائل لوضع حد لمجازر النظام السوري وفضح اعماله الوحشية.

A Press Release From Burhan Ghalyoun

The Syrian regime is using its signing on the observers’ protocol within the AL initiative to conduct a barbaric vicious attack on dissident villages and towns. The number of martyrs reach 120 on the first day, and today it is exceeding 220 martyrs in addition to hundreds of wounded and missing.

I call on the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr. Nabil Al-Arabi and the Secretary General of the UN to interfere immediately to put a halt to the massacres being commited by the Syrian regime against unarmed civilians hiding under its signature of the observers’ protocol. I also call on the international community and the international public opinion to demonstrate and protest and do everything they could to declare solidarity with the Peoples of Syria and to spare to method to halt the massacres committed by the Syrian regime and to expose its barbaric actions.

How it started

Cartoon by Ali Ferzat

One of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat cartoons. Others may have been more appropriate, but when online, one feels much like the person depicted in the cartoon. The real question is, is there a reality behind the mask, if so, what is it?

By Friday, August 21, 2009,  two years and 10 days ago, I had been blogging on Syria Comment for more than a year during which I typified the secular, progressive, leftist, “resistance” supporter. I was, and still am, a pro Palestinian, anti-neo-con blogger, but in fact, many of my posts where either in support of peace as seen from the resistance camp point of view, or, being fiercely secular, repetitive haggling with those whose opposition to the resistance camp had a slight hint of sectarianism, true or perceived. I was willing to overlook, against my better judgment, the fact that Syria still lived under a dictatorship, and had decided, despite of my personal disgust at the way Bashar Al-Asad inherited Syria from his father; to accept the notion that with Bush’s armies around the corner in Iraq and Israel attacking Lebanon and Gaza, to side with the so-called resistance camp, and by that, continue to tolerate the excesses of the Syrian regime, with the hope that what Syria Comment most influential poster, Alex, has been saying publicly and privately is true and that his confidence that reforms were just around the corner and it was only the series of attacks on Syria, and the neocons’ devilish plans that were the only reasons for their halt, and for the regression against those who early on presented the Damascus Declaration after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon.

Worst yet, and out of desire for stability, a rejection for the neocons vision,  and to a lesser extent, perhaps a desire that  my middle and upper middle class family in Syria continue to  enjoy some  of the scraps of modernity after years of Baathist deprivation,  I became  a reliable doubter of any potential involvement of the Syrian regime in the assassination of Hariri, perhaps out of the naive conviction that Hezbollah, the only resistance group that managed to really resist, was that this mythical good, always correct, hero. Needless to say, striving for just peaceful settlement of conflict, yearning for economic prosperity for my place of birth, made me a dependable advocate of the Syrian regime’s foreign policy.  Speaking of realism and critical thinking….. Read the rest of this entry

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