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  1. The Battle of Aleppo

    This is Aleppo, a dead city. Hopefully it can be raised from the dead.
  2. By MONA EL-NAGGAR OCTOBER 28, 2016 “We’re not allowed to even go to the supermarket without permission or a companion, and that’s a simple thing on the huge, horrendous list of rules we have to follow.” — Dotops, 24 “The male guardianship makes my life like a hell!! We want to hang out with our friends, go and have lunch outside. I feel hopeless.” — Juju19, 21 “I don’t mind taking my dad’s approval in things he should be a part of. These very strong social bonds you will never, ever understand.” — Noura These are three of the nearly 6,000 women from Saudi Arabia who wrote to The New York Times this week about their lives. We had put a call-out on our website and on Twitter in conjunction with the publication of “Ladies First,” a Times documentary I directed about the first Saudi elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for local office. Saudi Arabia is an incredibly private, patriarchal society. While I was making the film, many women were afraid to share their stories for fear of backlash from the male relatives who oversee all aspects of their lives as so-called guardians. We wanted to hear more about their fears, their frustrations, their ambitions. Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of Twitter use, and our posts rocketed around. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring. Most of the responses focused on frustration over guardianship rules that force women to get permission from a male relative — a husband, father, brother or even son — to do things like attend college, travel abroad, marry the partner of their choice or seek medical attention. Some women talked about the pride they had in their culture and expressed great distrust of outsiders. But many of them shared a deep desire for change and echoed Juju19’s hopelessness. There was an angry backlash under the Twitter hashtag لاـ تقولون ـ للنيويورك ـ تايمز, Arabic for “Don’t tell The New York Times.” And there was a backlash to the backlash: “#don’t_tell_theNewYork_times that if your father rapes you and you run away, then you will go to prison, and if they let you out, then they will send you back to him.” Excerpts from the women’s responses are below, many translated from Arabic. In order to enable women to feel free to speak openly, we gave them the option of anonymity. Where possible, we verified the identity of the respondent or location of her email. In some cases, that proved impossible. We want to keep the conversation going. Feel free to email us. A Life Restricted I got into an accident once in a taxi, and the ambulance refused to take me to the hospital until my male guardian arrived. I had lost a lot of blood. If he didn’t arrive that minute, I would’ve been dead by now. — Rulaa, 19, Riyadh Every time I want to travel, I have to tell my teenage son to allow me. — Sarah, 42, a doctor in Riyadh My sister went to a bookstore without taking permission from her husband, and when she returned, he beat her up without restraint. — Al Qahtaniya, 28, Riyadh The door of the school where I work is closed from early morning till noon. There is a man guarding the door. Even if a teacher is done with her classes, she cannot leave. Metal gates keep us as prisoners. — Malak, 44, Riyadh I left the home and sought refuge with a human rights organization in Saudi. I told them about my problems with my father, and they were not able to do anything, and they advised me to go to the police to demand protection from my father. When I went to the police, my father had already informed them that I fled his home. I told the police everything, and they said that I did something wrong/committed a horrible crime in leaving the home of my father, and they placed me in prison! The first three days I spent in solitary, then they transferred me to the general ward. There were women there who committed crimes like killing and stealing. — Typical Saudi Girl, 23, Riyadh An Emotional Toll [My guardian] forbids visits to my female friends or going to shopping malls by myself. It is a complete and total isolation from all the joys in life. — Malak, 28, Abha It’s like I’m in handcuffs, and the society, the law, the people [are] against us. That’s why most women choose to marry in their early 20s as a way to escape, and guess what? The man she marries is no different from her brother or father. — Bashayr, 19, Al-Hasa He won’t allow me to work, even though I need the money. He also doesn’t provide all my needs. I can’t recall the last time he cared about what I needed or wanted. He is married to four women and completely preoccupied with them, and he doesn’t allow me to travel with my mother. I suffer a lot, even in my social life. He controls it completely and doesn’t allow me to have friends over or go to them. He forces me to live according to his beliefs and his religion. I can’t show my true self. I live in a lie just so that I wouldn’t end up getting killed. — Dina, 21, Riyadh It’s suffocating. I’d rather kill myself than live with it. I hold on to the smallest hope I have that someday this will change. — H41, 19, Riyadh The System Works for Some Saudi women have accomplished so much but do not advertise it. There is a long history of women that have worked tirelessly to help the society and build up the country. — Haifa, 28, New York and Riyadh I need my father’s or my husband’s permission to travel outside the kingdom, and this is O.K. for me, as I need them to know where I am, especially with the current status of events in the world. — Dujanah Mousa, 56, a doctor in Riyadh I have lived for a while in the West, and I found that the life of a woman is very difficult, for she has to bear heavy burdens that only a man can undertake. Whereas in our country, the man provides all forms of comfort for the woman. — Afnan, 30, Riyadh When will the international media stop interfering in the affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and of its women and men and children? — Mimi, 29, Jidda A Future in Guardians’ Hands I’ve had to give up on a number of educational opportunities because he (my guardian) didn’t think a doctor needed a cultural exchange program or a symposium he didn’t understand. I’ve been trying to have him let me marry the man I love for the past two years. I’m in charge of people’s lives every day, but I can’t have my own life the way I want. — A.M., 30, a doctor in Jidda I had finally gotten a scholarship to get my master’s abroad. And it was my dream, which I waited and worked hard for, for many years, and I got the necessary grades. But because I would have no man — a so-called guardian — with me, my scholarship and travel were rejected. My guardian also forces me to cover my face, even though it should be a personal and religious freedom. — Ghadah, 27, Riyadh I’m currently struggling with my father and trying to make him approve that I go to medical school. It’s my last year of high school, and I have no idea if he’s going to approve that or not. I have no idea what my future holds. My future is in this ignorant/sexist man’s hands, and I can’t do anything about it. — Anonymous, 18, Al-Qassim A Supportive Guardian I am one of the lucky women who had an amazing and enlightened father and wonderful brothers, who do not interfere in my choices and support me all the way. Having said that, I get angry every time I travel and get asked by the passport official about my permit to travel. It just feels wrong that a middle-aged woman gets questioned every time to travel, while teenage boys are allowed to move in and out without question. — Abeer Abdul Hamid, 50, London The guardianship thing hasn’t affected my life because I’m not facing any problems with it due to my dad is a very cooperative man and he’s open-minded. — Latifah, 22, Riyadh I have the best father in the whole world. He understands what Islamic rules are, and he applies them correctly. For example, I have a goal of building my own early-intervention center for children with disabilities. My dad encouraged me to follow that dream and sent me to study here in the U.S. I know how much hard it’s been on him and my family to let me go, but he came with me first and helped me finding an apartment and all the stuff I needed. Then, when everything was going smoothly, he returned to Saudi. Therefore, I need a guardianship in my life. — D.A., 26, New York I like that I have a guardian who looks out for me and cares for my well-being and defends me and takes on what I can’t handle, and if I make a mistake, he will bear the punishment. — Oum Abdulrahman, 36, Riyadh Change Happens Slowly Women now are doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, working with men and having a value, and this is all in the past seven years or so. We are advancing. We are moving forward. We just need patience and a chance. — L, 18, Riyadh I have never felt in any way that there was something I wasn’t allowed to do. When you grow up in a society like Saudi Arabia, you get used to the rules and you work around them. Well, years ago, I had to take my father downtown with me to get my national ID issued. In the past few years, I have had to have that renewed, and I did not need to take my father with me this time. Things are changing. It’s subtle, but it’s there and it’s tangible. — Reem Seraj, 42, Riyadh http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/10/29/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-women.html
  3. Barring any major unforeseen event, on October 31 Lebanon’s parliament will elect as president the octogenarian Michel Aoun—a Maronite Christian former army commander and leading ally of Hezbollah. His election will have been facilitated by the decision of former prime minister Saad Hariri to endorse Aoun on October 21. Hariri is the leader of the largest Sunni Muslim bloc in parliament, and his move should bring to an end the presidential void that has been in place since May 2014, the longest since the end of the war in 1990. Aoun’s anticipated election will bring much-needed détente to Lebanese politics. It will probably end the current political paralysis and reinvigorate democratic institutions. However, the election will also achieve relatively little in the long run. HEZBOLLAH COULD BE IN AN IDEAL POSITION In publicly backing Aoun, Hariri stated that he understood the personal and political risks involved. Aoun has for some time been a major political adversary, is highly unpopular among Hariri’s Sunni base, and his election will be seen as a victory for Hezbollah and Syria. However, driven by financial and political misfortune, most evident in his candidates’ lackluster performances in municipal elections earlier this year, Hariri saw the deal as necessary to guarantee his own political survival. As for Aoun, he needed the support of Hariri’s bloc (and a green light from the leading Lebanese Sunni representative) to ensure his accession to the presidency. He has eyed the post since 1988–1989, when he led a contested military government and oversaw a failed and destructive effort to expel the Syrian army from Lebanon. With the deal done, other political actors who were left out in the cold are vying to reinforce their position. Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament, was notably angry that he was circumvented in the recent presidential maneuvers. He insisted that, first, there needed to be a package deal over the presidency. This was to include agreement on a new electoral law, shares in a new government, as well as implementation of previous agreements on the lucrative oil sector with Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son in law and Lebanon’s foreign minister. By continuing to oppose Aoun, Berri is raising the stakes to make sure he receives something in return for his consent. Walid Joumblatt, the Druze leader, is close to Berri and has not yet taken a position on Aoun’s election. However, he will likely support anything that reinforces Christian-Druze amity in the mountain regions over which he has influence. He will also be keen to see how the Aoun-Hariri rapprochement affects the prospects of electoral lists he will back in parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. Hezbollah has held Aoun up as its only candidate, even though it is the view of many people that the party only did so to perpetuate the presidential vacuum, believing Aoun would never become a consensus candidate. To others, Aoun is an instrument through which the party hopes to continue controlling Lebanon. At any rate, when Hariri backed Aoun, Hezbollah had no alternative but to announce its electoral support for him as well. Lebanon’s political scene is entering a new phase. Events have driven the final nail in the coffin of the two principal political alliances that had governed the country since 2005—the March 8 coalition affiliated with Hezbollah and the March 14 coalition associated with Hariri. New broad-based alliances, inconceivable a year ago, are now being forged. The realignments began late last year, when Hariri backed Sleiman Franjieh, another ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, for the presidency. The move alienated Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, who until then was the official March 14 candidate. Geagea responded by shifting his support to Aoun, who had previously been his principal Christian rival. What appears to be emerging is a Hariri-Aoun-Geagea axis, though how Hezbollah will respond to this remains uncertain. While the party is close to Aoun, its relations with Hariri and Geagea are not good. In the event a rival axis emerges made up of Berri, Joumblatt, and Franjieh, Hezbollah could be in a position to play these two alignments off against one another to its own advantage. A BUMPY ROAD AHEAD FOR HARIRI There is a general view that Hariri’s support for Aoun means that he will be named prime minister, unless Hariri decides otherwise. Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, has already said that the party would, grudgingly, accept Hariri. However, it is not certain that it will facilitate his task of forming a government, or governing. Indeed, recent press reportssuggest that the Syrians were opposed to a Hariri comeback, and Berri, a prominent ally of Syria, may use his clout to challenge the incoming government on multiple fronts. At the same time, Hariri’s effective concession of defeat has diminished his bargaining power over the makeup of the cabinet, leaving him vulnerable with respect to Hezbollah, Berri, and Aoun in the distribution of portfolios. Hariri’s troubles may not end there. There will be bumps on the road as the government formulates its policy statement, which will have to reflect a minimal consensus on issues of national concern. These include Hezbollah’s role in Syria, the financing of the international tribunal trying suspects in the assassination of Rafik Hariri (all of them Hezbollah members), and even how to contain Hezbollah’s anti-Saudi rhetoric. Where Aoun stands on these issues may further complicate Hariri’s efforts. In this context, a delay in the formation of the government might entail a postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2017, since a caretaker government cannot organize elections. WHAT WILL AOUN BRING? Supporters of Aoun depict him as a champion of Christian rights, who will rebuild respect for state institutions. That may be too optimistic by half. Aoun has been part of the Lebanese political scene for decades and was a participant in its civil war. Like other political players, he has been closely involved in deal making, the undermining of elections, and the divvying up of governmental posts. His age and temperament mean that the needed dynamism expected of a new president after a long vacuum will be lacking. Lastly, he cannot and will not do anything about Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, which has cast doubt on the sovereign authority of the state. Several things will effectively ensue from this. On the economic front, the continued involvement of Hezbollah in Syria, with the tacit acquiescence of Lebanon’s main leaders, makes it more likely that economic performance will remain sluggish, despite surprising private-sector activity. That’s because tourists and significant foreign direct investment, especially from the Gulf states, will remain elusive in such a context. On the security front, Aoun will likely focus on naming key security figures, particularly the head of the army, and on scoring specific successes through the intelligence services. Some of this may be directed against Syrian refugees. As the main purveyors of anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric, Aounists may escalate the xenophobia that has dominated public debate on the Syrian refugee question, perhaps translating this into even greater abuse of refugees. In the long run, and in view of mounting sectarian tensions in Lebanon, such actions might precipitate the growth of radical elements within refugee and other communities. In short, while the election of Michel Aoun opens the door to ending the political stalemate and breathing some life into Lebanon’s institutions, expectations of a major transformation should be held in check. If anything, his election will demonstrate that Lebanese leaders tend to arrive at their own arrangements when opportunities arise. With Aoun as president, the likelihood is that the appearance of change will only hide how little things have really changed. http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/64962
  4. Bashar Al-Assad praying like sunni

    If Bashar was "elected" by his people than was Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Sisi, Zinadine Bin Ali, and Kim Hong Il. Also, Maliki Sunnis pray like Shias.
  5. Salam, Theoretically I'm a 20 year old adult and I have a "student" job and I'm completely independent. Realistically I depend on my parents to pay my college tuition and the costs of my apartment, so I'm still dependent on them, and I will probably continue to be dependent on them until I graduate and get a job that pays an adequate salary
  6. Are you saying that people who drink alcohol become abusive and get divorces because that is a ridiculous slippery slope, sure people abuse alcohol but people abuse many things, Alcohol in many countries is used in parties and to facilitate social interactions, I would say tens of millions of people drink alcohol and are not abusive, nor are they alcoholics, and nor do they divorce their wives. Also, obesity contributes to tremendous social costs in any health care system, so it really does affect a lot of people. The problem with this bill is the Iraqi parliament are trying to force religiosity on a population of more than 25 million people, sure most Iraqis are Shia, but are all shia religious shia's, in a functioning secular government people have the right to live their lives as they want, having the right to be secular or religious and Iraq and the middle east would benefit from such a system. Also, millions of Europeans come to Egypt each year, Europeans and westerners can tell the difference between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Egypt. And if Iraq ever found a stable peace millions of Europeans would want to visit a historic place like Iraq, with its monuments and the Euphrates.
  7. Clinton Adviser Proposes Attacking Iran to Aid the Saudis in Yemen Michael Morell is a former acting director of the CIA and a national security adviser to Hillary Clinton — one who is widely expected to occupy a senior post in her administration. He is also an opponent of the Iran nuclear agreement, a defender of waterboarding, and an advocate for making Russia “pay a price” in Syria by covertly killing Putin’s soldiers. On Tuesday, Morell added another title to that résumé: proponent of going to war with Iran, for the sake of securing Saudi Arabia’s influence in Yemen. “Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen,” Morell said, in remarks to the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank founded by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. “I would have no problem from a policy perspective of having the U.S. Navy boarding their ships, and if there are weapons on them, to turn those ships around.” Morell did note, per Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, that this policy “raised questions of international maritime law.” Which is a bit like saying, “Breaking into someone’s home, putting a gun in their face, and demanding they hand over all their weapons raises questions about armed-robbery law.” Understatement aside, Morell’s stipulation suggests that he might be dissuaded from initiating a naval war with Iran if the legal issues prove too pesky. But the fact that a person who has Clinton’s ear on national security thinks this proposal makes sense from a “policy perspective” is alarming. Forcibly boarding another nation’s naval or civilian vessels (outside one’s own territorial waters) and confiscating their weapons can reasonably be construed as an act of war, a point that would be unmistakable if the roles here were reversed. How many Americans (whose paychecks aren’t directly or indirectly subsidized by Gulf State monarchies) think keeping Yemen within Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence is a cause worth entering another Middle Eastern war over? How many would think so if they knew that the Saudis had recently bombed a Yemeni funeral hall, killing 140 people and leading the Obama administration to reconsider its support for the Saudi intervention? Or that some observers of the conflict contend that the Saudis are exaggerating Iran’s role, in order to justify the kingdom’s own expansionist ambitions? Even if one accepts the Saudis’ preferred narrative — that Yemen’s Houthi rebels are tools of an Iranian regime hell-bent on spreading “Persian subversion” — it’s difficult to see how America has a pressing interest in keeping one of the world’s poorest countries aligned with Riyadh instead of Tehran. By contrast, it’s easy to see how allowing the Saudis to bomb Yemeni funerals with American missiles could inspire blowback that does threaten our national security, and easier still to see how a hot conflict with Iran could take a toll on our nation’s blood and treasure. Morell is just one of many advisers Clinton has consulted with over the course of her campaign. And as Josh Rogin has noted, there is a group of intervention skeptics among her inner circle, who hope to beat back the bipartisan call for both an escalation of American involvement in the Syrian civil war and a more “muscular” approach in our dealings with Iran. Still, Morell’s perspective is in line with that of a new report on Middle East strategy released by the Center for American Progress and the thinking of Clinton’s top national-security aide Jake Sullivan, who recently declared, “We need to be raising the costs to Iran for its destabilizing behavior and we need to be raising the confidence of our Sunni partners.” On Tuesday, Morell put this sentiment in terms both more concise and grandiose: “We’re back and we’re going to lead again.” The best hope for those who don’t share Morell’s definition of leadership may be Clinton’s instinct for political caution. While intervention skeptics (or “Iran apologists,” as Eli Lake, whose passion I love, refers to them) are in the minority among elites, they’re quite likely in the majority among the voting public — a point not entirely lost on said foreign-policy mandarins. “My concern is that we may be talking to each other and agreeing with each other,” Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East analyst at the Center for American Progress, recently told the Washington Post. “But that these discussions are isolated from where the public may be right now.” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/10/clinton-adviser-lets-attack-iran-to-aid-saudis-in-yemen.html
  8. Harrowing accounts of torture, inhuman conditions and mass deaths in Syria's prisons The horrifying experiences of detainees subjected to rampant torture and other ill-treatment in Syrian prisons are laid bare in a damning new report published by Amnesty International today which estimates that 17,723 people have died in custody in Syria since the crisis began in March 2011 – an average rate of more than 300 deaths each month. ‘It breaks the human’: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons documents crimes against humanity committed by government forces. It retraces the experiences of thousands of detainees through the cases of 65 torture survivors who described appalling abuse and inhuman conditions in security branches operated by Syrian intelligence agencies and in Saydnaya Military Prison, on the outskirts of Damascus. Most said they had witnessed prisoners dying in custody and some described being held in cells alongside dead bodies. “The catalogue of horror stories featured in this report depicts in gruesome detail the dreadful abuse detainees routinely suffer from the moment of their arrest, through their interrogation and detention behind the closed doors of Syria’s notorious intelligence facilities. This journey is often lethal, with detainees being at risk of death in custody at every stage,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “For decades, Syrian government forces have used torture as a means to crush their opponents. Today, it is being carried out as part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against anyone suspected of opposing the government in the civilian population and amounts to crimes against humanity. Those responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice. “The international community, in particular Russia and the USA, which are co-chairing peace talks on Syria, must bring these abuses to the top of the agenda in their discussions with both the authorities and armed groups and press them to end the use of torture and other ill-treatment.” Amnesty International is also calling for all prisoners of conscience to be freed, and all others to be released or promptly tried in line with international fair trial standards, and for independent monitors to be allowed immediate and unfettered access to all places of detention The report highlights new statistics from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), an organization that uses scientific approaches to analyse human rights violations, which indicate that 17,723 people died in custody across Syria between March 2011 when the crisis began and December 2015. This is equivalent to an average of more than 300 deaths each month. In the decade leading up to 2011, Amnesty International recorded a total of at least 45 deaths in custody in Syria. However, the figure is a conservative estimate and both HRDAG and Amnesty International believe that, with tens of thousands of people forcibly disappeared in detention facilities across Syria, the real figure is likely to be even higher. For the launch of this report Amnesty International has also partnered with a team of specialists at Forensic Architecture, University of Goldsmiths to create a virtual 3D reconstruction of Saydnaya, one of Syria’s most notorious prisons. Using architectural and acoustic modelling and descriptions from former detainees, the model aims to bring to life the daily terror they experienced and their appalling detention conditions. “Using 3D modelling techniques and the memories of those who survived horrendous abuse there, for the first time we are able to get a true glimpse inside one of Syria’s most notorious torture prisons,” said Philip Luther. Abused at every stage The majority of survivors told Amnesty International that the abuse would begin instantly upon their arrest and during transfers, even before they set foot in a detention centre. Upon arrival at a detention facility detainees described a “welcome party” ritual involving severe beatings, often using silicone or metal bars or electric cables. “They treated us like animals. They wanted people to be as inhuman as possible… I saw the blood, it was like a river… I never imagined humanity would reach such a low level… they would have had no problem killing us right there and then,” said Samer, a lawyer arrested near Hama. Such “welcome parties” were often described as being followed by “security checks”, during which women in particular reported being subjected to rape and sexual assault by male guards. At the intelligence branches detainees endured relentless torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation, generally in order to extract “confessions” or other information or as a punishment. Common methods included dulab (forcibly contorting the victim’s body into a rubber tyre) and falaqa(flogging on the soles of the feet). Detainees also faced electric shocks, or rape and sexual violence, had their fingernails or toenails pulled out, were scalded with hot water or burned with cigarettes. Ali, a detainee at the Military Intelligence branch in Homs, described how he was held in the shabehstress position, suspended by his wrists for several hours and beaten repeatedly. The combination of poor conditions in the intelligence branches, including overcrowding, lack of food and medical care, and inadequate sanitation amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and are prohibited by international law. Survivors described being held in cells so overcrowded they had to take turns to sleep, or sleep while squatting. “It was like being in a room of dead people. They were trying to finish us there,” said Jalal, a former detainee. Another detainee, “Ziad” (whose name has been changed to protect his identity), said ventilation in Military Intelligence Branch 235 in Damascus stopped working one day and seven people died of suffocation: “They began to kick us to see who was alive and who wasn’t. They told me and the other survivor to stand up… that is when I realized that… seven people had died, that I had slept next to seven bodies… [then] I saw the rest of the bodies in the corridor, around 25 other bodies.” Detainees also reported that access to food, water and sanitation facilities was often very restricted. Most said that they were prevented from washing properly. In such environments, infestations of scabies and lice, and diseases thrived. As most detainees were denied access to proper medical care, in many cases detainees were forced to treat each other with only the most rudimentary supplies, further contributing to the dramatic increase in deaths in custody since 2011. Detainees generally have neither access to their doctors, nor their families or lawyers while in these branches, and as such this treatment in many cases amounts to enforced disappearance. Saydnaya Military Prison Detainees often spend months or even years in the branches of the various intelligence agencies. Some eventually face outrageously unfair trials before military courts – often lasting no more than a matter of minutes – before being transferred to Saydnaya Military Prison where conditions are particularly dire. “In [the intelligence branch] the torture and beating were to make us ‘confess’. In Saydnaya it felt like the purpose was death, some form of natural selection, to get rid of the weak as soon as they arrive,” said Omar S. The torture and other ill-treatment in Saydnaya appears to be part of a relentless effort to degrade, punish and humiliate prisoners. Survivors said prisoners there are routinely beaten to death. Salam, a lawyer from Aleppo who spent more than two years in Saydnaya, said: “When they took me inside the prison, I could smell the torture. It’s a particular smell of humidity, blood and sweat; it’s the torture smell.” He described one incident when guards beat to death an imprisoned Kung Fu trainer after they found out he had been training others in his cell: “They beat the trainer and five others to death straight away, and then continued on the other 14. They all died within a week. We saw the blood coming out of the cell.” Detainees at Saydnaya are initially held for weeks at a time in underground cells which are freezing cold in the winter months, without access to blankets. Later they are transferred to cells above ground where their suffering continues. Deprived of food some detainees said they ate orange rinds and olive pits to avoid starving to death. They are forbidden from speaking or looking at the guards, who regularly humiliate and taunt detainees apparently just for the sake of it. Omar S described how on one occasion a guard forced two men to strip naked and ordered one to rape the other, threatening that if he did not do it he would die. “The deliberate and systematic nature of the torture and other ill-treatment at Saydnaya prison represents the basest form of cruelty and a callous lack of humanity,” said Philip Luther. “The international community must make it a priority to end this kind of appalling and entrenched abuse. For years Russia has used its UN Security Council veto to shield its ally, the Syrian government, and to prevent individual perpetrators within the government and military from facing justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. This shameful betrayal of humanity in the face of mass suffering must stop now.” Most survivors of torture and other ill-treatment have been left physically and psychologically scarred by their ordeals. The majority have fled after their release and are among the more than 11 million Syrians displaced from their homes. Amnesty International is calling on the international community to ensure that torture survivors receive the medical and psychological treatment, as well as social support, necessary for their rehabilitation. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/harrowing-accounts-of-torture-inhuman-conditions-and-mass-deaths-in-syrias-prisons/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=quote&utm_term=The+catalogue+of+horror+stories+featured+in+this+report+depicts+in+gruesome+detail+the+dreadful+abuse+detainees+routinely+suffer+from+the+moment+of+their+arrest&utm_campaign=social
  9. What benefit does Iraq gain from banning alcohol ? And are they next going to force every women to wear the hijab and ban music, this is a very slippery slope
  10. Iraq’s parliament has passed a law forbidding the import, production or selling of alcoholic beverages in a surprise move that angered many in the country’s Christian community who rely on the business. The law, passed late on Saturday night, imposes a fine of up to 25m Iraqi dinars (£17,000) for anyone violating the ban. But it’s unclear how strictly the law would be enforced, and it could be struck down by the supreme court. Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, but it has always been available in Iraq’s larger cities, mainly from shops run by Christians. Those shops are currently closed because of the Shia holy month of Muharram. Iraq’s parliament is dominated by Shia Islamist parties. The assembly announced the ban on its website but did not say how many lawmakers voted for or against it. Christian lawmaker Joseph Slaiwa said the “unjust” ban was slipped into a draft law regulating the income of municipal authorities without lawmakers being notified. The original article only called for imposing taxes on liquor stores and restaurants serving liquor, he said. “This ban is unconstitutional, as the constitution acknowledges the rights of non-Muslim minorities and ethnic groups who live alongside Muslims in Iraq,” he said. “To those Muslim lawmakers, I say: ‘Take care of your religion and leave ours for us, we know how to deal with it’.” He said some lawmakers will submit an appeal at the high federal court. The bill was proposed by Mahmoud al-Hassan, a judge and lawmaker from the State of Law coalition, the largest bloc in parliament. He insisted it was inkeeping with article 2 in the constitution, which prohibits any legislation that goes against Islam. Advertisement “The constitution preserves democracy and the rights of non-Muslim groups, but these rights must not violate the religion of Islam,” he said. “Some of the lawmakers’ vote was religiously motivated, but many others voted to avoid anything unconstitutional.” Kirk Sowell, the publisher of the biweekly newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics, said the bill was clearly supported by Shia Islamists but came “as a bit of a surprise because it has not been a subject of major debate or discussion”. He said the executive branch could move to have the law overturned on procedural or other grounds, and the supreme court could strike it down. Other Muslim-majority countries have laws restricting alcohol, but only a few, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, enforce a complete ban. The Iraqi law was unlikely to be enforced in the largely autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a sizeable Christian community. The bill comes as Iraq is waging a massive military operation to retake the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. Isis brutally enforces a ban on alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs in the territory under its control. Iraqis debated the alcohol ban on social media, with many criticising lawmakers for ignoring more pressing concerns, such as the war against Isis, an economic crisis brought on by low oil prices, and the government’s own corruption and paralysis. A cartoon circulated online showing men with their backs turned on Mosul, shooting a bottle of liquor. Others expressed support for the ban and praised parliament for aligning the country’s laws with Islamic teachings. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/23/iraqs-parliament-passes-law-banning-alcohol
  11. Operation Mosul

    Daughter tries to prevent father from going to Mosul
  12. Salam, The only side in this conflict that people should support is peace, a rational dialog that ends the conflict, supporting endless battles will not end this nightmare, there are various UN plans and non biased plans that carve a way to unite Syria and end this conflict.
  13. Syria’s Darkest Hour

    So a totalitarian corrupt police state which has oppressed Syria for the last 50 years has played no role in creating terror, resentment, and the kinds of radical attitudes that lead to this sort of conflict. Taking a black and white point of view of good guys versus bad guys oversimplifies a very complex conflict that has been boiling for a long time which has killed Syria.
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