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In the Name of God بسم الله

Sawa

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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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.
  14. MADRID – The conflict in Syria becomes more complex every day that it continues, and the country’s prospects have gotten only worse. The daily horrors that Aleppo’s besieged citizens are now experiencing mark a new low point, following the collapse of the latest ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, which disturbingly fell apart precisely at the same time that world leaders were gathered together for the United Nations General Assembly. When the Syrian conflict finally ends, three of its defining features will complicate reconstruction efforts. For starters, parties on all sides of the fight have disregarded international human-rights law and violated basic humanitarian norms. In fact, blocking humanitarian aid, attacking civilians, and targeting sites specially protected by international law have become strategies of war. Just since April, Syrian hospitals have suffered dozens of attacks, and aid has been withheld from some of the most devastated villages. Many hospitals in Aleppo have had to close after being targeted during the siege. These actions may constitute war crimes, and they are sadly not new. In 2015 alone, medical installations in Syria affiliated with Doctors Without Borders incurred 94 attacks, leaving 23 of the organization’s workers dead and another 58 wounded. Last May, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for all parties involved in Syria to respect international humanitarian law; now, Security Council members are accusing one another other of violating their own resolution. A second dynamic that could frustrate any peace effort is the conflict’s complex map of players, all of which will have to be accounted for in a final accord. While this map has changed significantly since the war began, the level of fragmentation within the groups on either side has become increasingly evident lately. Now that the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra has changed its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and reportedly dissociated itself from al-Qaeda, it is better positioned to ally with other rebel factions that have also rejected al-Qaeda. But while this rapprochement strengthens the fighting groups militarily, it also blurs the lines between rebels and Islamist radicals. This has occurred while rebel groups not closely aligned with al-Nusra have become weaker, allowing the Syrian regime to insist that it is not suppressing a rebellion, but fighting a war against terrorism. Thus, at the UN General Assembly, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem recently accused the US-led coalition in Syria of abetting terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State. Some months ago, discussions about a peace process centered on the question of whether Assad should go immediately, or remain during a transitional government; now, the question is whether the former al-Nusra is a viable partner. But the pro-Assad side has divisions of its own. In addition to the Russian army, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, and Afghan groups are also fighting for the regime, and each of these actors has its own interests. Some parties’ interests in the war are well known: Assad wants to remain in power; Russia wants to demonstrate its status as a great power capable of resisting the US; and Iran wants to increase its regional influence and secure access to the Mediterranean. When the fighting ends, these positions will only become more entrenched. A third obstacle in the path toward Syrian peace is the US-Russia stalemate. After so many broken ceasefires, the two countries clearly lack mutual trust. And as Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center has pointed out, the latest failure could have far more worrying consequences than past diplomatic impasses. So far, the US and Russia have not only broken off bilateral negotiations; mutual nuclear agreements have also come under threat. After the US accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria, Russia declared that it was suspending an agreement to dispose of surplus plutonium unless the US meets certain conditions, including compensating Russia for the costs of Western sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014. For its part, the US is in an uncertain position now that rebel factions have regrouped and its direct cooperation with Russia is on hold. President Barack Obama has only a short time left in office, which makes any major foreign-policy shift under his administration almost impossible. As the battle for Aleppo rages on, so, too, does the US presidential election campaign that will determine his successor. After more than five years of conflict in Syria, retreating without having found a solution is not an option. Although the new map of players complicates things, there is no doubt that they must all participate in a peace deal; otherwise, any agreement will prove ephemeral. Likewise, in order to rebuild Syrian civil society for the long term, all of the warring parties will have to take responsibility for their crimes. The issue of responsibility will be one of the most difficult challenges in the effort to achieve lasting peace. We will need committed leaders both inside and outside Syria. Although the US presidential election will be consequential, it has also become clear that peace cannot be delivered by the US and Russia on their own. European leaders should step in to restart negotiations. The European Union has mistakenly sat on the sidelines of these talks for too long, despite Syria’s importance to its own security and interests, and despite its responsibility to Syria’s citizens. The EU should make every diplomatic and humanitarian effort to bring together all participating parties and end the violence as soon as possible. Only then can Syria’s reconstruction begin. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/syria-war-peace-process-by-javier-solana-2016-10
  15. By now, those following the heart-wrenching news from Syria have been saturated with data, analysis, information, and misinformation on developments there since 2011. Many of us have adopted our disparate narratives. This is the case whether we have been observing Syria over the past two decades or whether we suddenly started paying attention in 2011. Unfortunately, in light of the contentious nature of received knowledge on the country, especially under the current conditions, such crystallization is invariably open to doubt or plausible counterargument. Worse still, there has been increasing gravitation toward two mutually exclusive narratives: (a) that of “pure and consistent revolution,” and (b) that of “external conspiracy.” Both narratives carry grains of truth, but both are encumbered by maximalist claims and fundamental blind spots that forfeit any common ground necessary for enduring cease-fires or potential transitions, as well as postwar reconciliation. These divisions have crystallized at research institutions, think tanks, and policy circles; among artists and journalists; and at media outlets and satellite television stations in the Middle East, which often portray a caricature of their preferred narrative. The debates occur everywhere—including in kitchen-table discussions within families and among friends—but with different intonations, intensity, and immediacy. The exceptions, ironically and refreshingly, are Syrians living in Syria, who are far more exhausted by these and indeed all narratives, and have on average a much more grounded point of view born out of intense suffering and proximity to what has become a theater of extreme cruelty. The target of this essay will be less the policy aspects of this debate and the options regarding greater US intervention, and more the broader discursive realm within which debates occur, particularly in online platforms. Policy and narratives are often connected, even if opportunistically and with a time-lag, which is all the more reason to take narratives, especially the most prevalent ones, seriously. Since my aim is to avoid yet another round of counterproductive personal polemics, I will refrain from associating particular individuals or institutions with the two narratives. Instead, my goal is to contribute to the restoration of some discursive accountability and nuance. To be sure, there is some internal divergence on issues within these narratives, which explains some flip-flopping, especially after the solidification of the jihadist component of the uprising. But the focus here is on the core claims around which narratives are woven. The first narrative asserts the purity and consistency of a revolution that started in 2011. This revolution, the narrative goes, seeks the removal of a brutal dictatorship in favor of a more accountable and just order. Many of its adherents recognize the problem of militarization and radicalization in the uprising, and even of problematic external interventions on that side. However, such dynamics are not allowed to impinge on the nature of the revolution. In this view, no degree of militarization, radicalization, or sectarianism of the uprising is enough to fundamentally change its potential in securing a more accountable and just order in Syria. This narrative thus acknowledges that various jihadists are practically spearheading the fight against the Assad regime on the battlefield. Yet it simultaneously either denounces their worldview or writes them off as a product of repression, in both cases distancing “the revolution” from jihadists. This narrative may also decry the subordination of the official representatives of the revolution to Arab Gulf states and Turkey, and by connection the United States, including their role in funding or facilitating the entry of jihadists into Syria. Yet it does not recognize the implications of doing so. The revolution is always said to be able to emerge unscathed, and rejection of this claim is dismissed as akin to betrayal. The second narrative recognizes the repression of the regime and the need for change. Its adherents often even recognize the legitimacy of protest, at least in theory. Yet when it comes to the actual uprising, they only see external conspiracy and internal jihadists. In this narrative, the rest of the protesters either fade into an irrelevant background or are brought to the fore as stooges of problematic external actors. Accordingly, there are no secular, anti-imperialist Syrians who are still working, one way or another, to overthrow the regime. They either do not exist or are too few to be counted. Concomitantly, this narrative makes the regime’s destruction of Syria less visible by its descriptive privileging of the imperialist forces that benefit from such destruction. Some go so far as to put the regime’s scale of destruction on par with that of the much weaker rebels. In this view, Syria is not only a theater for regional and international conflict; it is also where external designs must be defeated, no matter the cost to Syrians themselves. Participating in the opposition thus becomes a form of betrayal against anti-imperialism (and the nation itself). Both narratives fail to recognize the legitimate aspects of their counterpart. Adherents of both narratives refuse to allow facts and developments to alter their views. Both adopt hypocritical stances regarding intervention. According to the first narrative, US intervention is good only if it is against the regime. For the second narrative, external intervention is good if it supports the regime—Russia is not imperialist, but the United States is, the argument goes. For the first narrative, the potential dangers resulting from state collapse is a moot point. Yet for the second narrative, state collapse is unacceptable no matter how bad things get. On the question of state collapse (as distinguished from regime overthrow), neither position is based on weighted analysis or a consideration of consequences. Instead, both start with an assumption about which side must be defeated, and both reverse-engineer the argument that suits that end. Usually, the first narrative is associated with the West and the second narrative with the regime, with all sorts of “incriminating” implications. And finally, neither side seems open to compromise: Nothing less than complete defeat of either the regime or the opposition is acceptable, forfeiting thereby a number of potential exits from the mayhem. Total triumph by one side will not restore well-being to Syria. The country will not be at peace without taking into account the aspirations of the majority of its citizens, whatever their affiliations or preferences. Thus, despite the moral and political conviction of their adherents, neither of these narratives—at least so long as a maximalist version is advanced—is sufficient to bring Syria back from the brink. National reconciliation is a messy and often unsatisfying business, judging from dozens of historical examples. Both sides go too far in discounting the imperfections of any future formula, which explains today’s costly intransigence. Those who take any of this as an argument for moral equivalence between the oppressor and the oppressed are fixated on apolitical, ideal types. More nuanced approaches exist, to be sure, but their proponents are usually dismissed by both sides as either traitors to the revolution, politically naive, pro-regime, pro-West, or even pro-jihadist. Sometimes the phrase “pro-opposition” is sufficiently damning for adherents of the second narrative because of the identity of the actors who support the opposition. Similarly, according to the first narrative, not toeing the line of the current opposition is tantamount to supporting Bashar al-Assad. Amid this poisonous atmosphere, observers are either forced to choose a side or are considered wishy-washy by both sides. One, it seems, is not allowed to be critical of the opposition from a vehemently anti-regime perspective. Equally, one cannot be for the opposition without being lumped into what is variously branded as the “pro-Western imperialist,” the “pro-Zionist,” or the “pro-jihadist” camp (or all three at once, despite the contradictions). The chief irony, however, is that we all pretend to be speaking on behalf of nearly all Syrians, when in reality most Syrians—those who labor day and night to keep their communities functioning—are far more nuanced than either of these two camps. Some who advocate a middle ground may not be saying much, since there is, at least at present, no institutional or social-political conduit for their position. But we should not be seeking an apolitical, abstract middle ground. Rather, a conception of an exit that preserves all groups in Syria, regardless of their preferences, is the only way out of the standoff. And that requires a generosity or flexibility of vision that neither of the two narratives seems capable of at the moment. This essay will address the two dominant trends as a way of opening up possibilities for outcomes that may be the best solution to the crisis. Those outcomes will necessarily be suboptimal, since genuine reconciliation is, at least at this point, an illusion. BLAME-GAME NARRATIVES Amid the bombs and the killing, many continue to bicker about responsibility for the current catastrophe. Often this occurs at the most personal level. Partisanship and rigid politics have numbed our minds, with many trying to absolve or blame this or that actor or factor in an absolute manner. It is difficult to apportion blame accurately, but it is not an intractable puzzle, so long as we consider history and common sense. On the one hand, and at the most basic level, how could one absolve the regime? It was not Jabhat al-Nusra or Qatar that ruled Syria with an iron fist the past four decades. It is one thing to hold external actors responsible for playing a fundamental role in weakening the opposition by hijacking it and encouraging militant elements in the push to overthrow the regime. It is another thing to cling to this narrative as cover for the regime’s decades of repression, its damaging neoliberal economic policies, and other ills. The killing and destruction we are witnessing today in Aleppo and elsewhere is being perpetrated by all sides, but overwhelmingly by the Syrian regime. This destruction is not a break with, but rather a manifestation of, the essential tenets of its rule under different circumstances. The regime in Syria would react in the same manner to any threat to its rule. It is not as though Assad would have tolerated a locally grown and independent, secular, anti-imperialist, pro-Palestine, leftist opposition, militant or not. The only difference today is the identity and character of the forces behind the opposition. It is this difference that gives the conflict a geopolitical dimension, from which the regime is poised to benefit by deftly identifying and manipulating the opposition’s multi-layered contradictions. In sum, the least complicated claim regarding the Syrian situation, and the one least likely to be countered convincingly, is that of the regime’s criminality. Counterclaims do not hold analytical water and do not stand up to factual analysis, let alone moral standing. Those who point to the rebels’ killing of tens of thousands of Syrian Army soldiers and scores of civilians on the regime’s “side,” or those living under its control, are not inaccurate. Yet they do not impinge on the regime’s primary responsibility for the catastrophe, then and now. When the regime’s brutality is invoked, defenders of the “conspiracy” narrative often acknowledge this fact—and then quickly dismiss it in favor of citing (or blaming) bigger culprits as though one cancels the other for those who suffer. The government—with much help from its regional and international allies—has brutalized the Syrian population since 2011. This fact, however, does not absolve its regional and international opponents from responsibility for significantly contributing to the mayhem. A legitimate protest movement by most Syrians was tangled up with the most cynical and imperial external motives—ones that have nothing to do with bolstering an independent, broad-based, and democratic opposition. No serious reflection can proceed without acknowledging this fact. Many honest observers will admit this much but refrain from drawing out its implications—including the fact that it mars their notion of “opposition” and “revolution.” Many are also unwilling to acknowledge the near impossibility of neatly disentangling the presumably good rebels from the bad ones, and the connection of either or both to unsavory external actors who fueled the violence that has brutalized the Syrian population. Jabhat al-Nusra, now called Fateh al-Sham, becomes a spigot variable, turned on or off depending on the context. According to the “revolution” narrative, all such talk is fodder for the regime to justify its killing. While this is often true, it whitewashes the “opposition” and/or “rebels” and naively absolves the external actors that support them, all with a horrendous foreign or domestic policy record in the region. Debunking the excessive claims of external conspiracy does not mean there was no consensus of sorts among regional and international players (i.e., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States). That consensus centered around the notion that Syria and its allies needed to be cut down to size because they impede domination of the region by those players along with their allies, notably Israel. (Syria and Iraq were the only remaining regional powers that posed any potential threat to Israel’s military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, even if only indirectly, through Hezbollah, in the case of Syria.) These very powers almost tripped over themselves as they rushed to fuel and hijack the Syrian uprising for their own purposes. They soon found that there were serious roadblocks—notably, Iran, Russia, and even China. How, then, can we absolve regional and international actors who have involved themselves in Syrian affairs in the most fundamental ways? Furthermore, there is an instructive history that fuels cynicism vis-à-vis the external supporters of the “pure and consistent revolution” narrative. What do we make of the decades-long support the Syrian regime received from some of the same oil-rich Arab countries that have bankrolled the militarization of the uprising? Or the extensive cooperative economic plans drawn up between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria’s Assad on the eve of the uprising, as though it was a match made in heaven? And what to make of the early US interest in supporting the Syrian opposition, when Washington supported crushing its equivalent in Bahrain only months before, all the while overseeing the mayhem unleashed next door in Iraq with its brutal and fraudulent 2003 invasion? Any serious observer recognizes that years of turmoil in Iraq, and its porous borders with Syria, had an impact on the nurturing and development of the most militant elements in the Syrian uprising—with notable support from the Syrian regime itself in facilitating the networking and passage of jihadists into Iraq in the post-2003 period. This unsavory history continues in Yemen today, as those calling for humanitarian aid in Aleppo and an end to Russian and Syrian-regime bombing—Saudi Arabia and the United States—are, respectively, leading and supporting the bombing of rebel-held areas of Yemen, resulting in horrific war crimes. None of this justifies the slaughter we are witnessing in Aleppo today, but all of it casts doubt on the support for the leading jihadists of the military opposition during the past five years. The regime is now in far better military standing because of stepped-up support from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Iraqi militias. But when it was not, in 2012-14, the “pure revolution” narrative persisted, even as the opposition forces were overrun by jihadists supported by “friends” of the revolution. We—all of us—need to rethink what we really want. If the argument is simply, all for the sake of revolution, or all for the sake of toppling the regime, then we should redefine what revolution, or regime overthrow, really means for all Syrians, including those who consider the regime the lesser evil. The fact that no one can answer this question is why a multitude of honest regime opponents can still fundamentally differ in diagnosing the conflict. Productive debates within and outside Syria occur not between die-hard supporters of a repressive regime and supporters of a fractured opposition. Rather, serious debates occur between those who fundamentally and unequivocally oppose the regime, but from different perspectives that pivot around the complicity/subordination of significant portions of the opposition to external actors. In these debates, what that development means regarding the notion of “revolution” and the geopolitical significance of the Syrian conflict is as important as the fact that the uprising began as a genuine uprising against dictatorship. There simply is no rhetorical, let alone practical, escape from dealing seriously with this impasse. A REGIONAL CATASTROPHE News coming out of Syria, Russia, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, and elsewhere indicate that we’re nowhere near a solution to the conflict. Humanitarian instincts that push for stopping the bloodshed frequently lead to calls—ever more insistent, during the siege of east Aleppo—for policies that would seem to guarantee escalation by the Western powers. In an echo of the narrative binary trap, both the United States and Russia are trapped. Washington will not just sit aside for long and watch Moscow rule the conflict. But the most frequently suggested US alternative—imposition of a no-fly zone or a no-bombing zone—would have to be accompanied by readiness for direct confrontation with Russia, an almost necessary consequence of any seriously enforced no-fly zone. On the other hand, Russia is now knee-deep in the conflict, with a professed objective to eradicate “terrorist” groups (as it calls all military opposition to the regime). This is an indefinite task, and ultimately a disingenuous cover for much broader goals of global self-assertion, from which Russian President Vladimir Putin will not easily retreat. Half-baked proposals today are at best a band-aid and at worst recipes for full-scale regional or international war. The United States may scale up its involvement, but it is unlikely to overplay its hand in the face of Russian steadfastness, despite Hillary Clinton’s calls for a no-fly zone. Syria alone is not an important enough player or prize in international relations. For their part, the Syrian regime and Russia are accelerating their conquests to enhance the regime’s position, militarily as well as economically, before a new administration assumes power in Washington next January. But there is another dimension. To fully understand the reason for this impasse, we must adopt a bird’s-eye view of the interconnected regional conflicts. The Syrian war is increasingly bound up with regional developments from Iraq to Yemen, as well as the question of ISIS. Even as Russia pummels Aleppo, Saudi Arabia is pummeling Yemen, using US-made jetfighters that Washington is currently refueling, with Iran advancing its warships to the Yemeni coast in defense of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Russia, Syria, the Syrian rebels, the United States, Turkey, various Kurdish forces, Iraq, and Iraqi popular mobilization forces are all battling or claim to be battling ISIS. The last five of those players have begun their offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, though the Turks and the Iraqi government are having a war of words about who will be joining that fight. More complications could be added, even if we discount the future. Anyone who thinks the Syrian conflict can be addressed in isolation from these other battles is not paying attention. Timetables for various actors differ, and though the crushing of the rebels in Aleppo might be a milestone for the Syrian regime and the Russians, it would be but a stage in a broader strategic effort, with ripple effects across the region. With all these moving parts, unforeseen developments are likely to complicate the situation in Syria even further, most of them at the expense of Syrians. UNSATISFYING EXITS For some time now, this conflict has been bereft of principles, and notions of victory and victors have become senseless. So far, there are only victims. It is very difficult to write and think calmly while the country is being destroyed and Syrian society is coming apart. But that should propel us into areas we have not considered before. Considering the militant contenders involved, there actually should not be any absolute victors in this conflict. But many do see a potential victor to support. Some want the regime to disappear first, regardless of who is spearheading that effort; they say “only then can we start the talking, building, and reconciliation.” It is as though the regime is an autonomous object, disconnected from people, that can be surgically excised. No less illusory is the demand that the opposition be crushed first, after which the regime will somehow reconstitute its rule over the whole of Syria, bring together whatever is left, and shed its repressive past. Morality aside, both demands are impossible. The basics are not a puzzle. There can be no return to the pre-2011 rule of Syria—whether or not Russia or the almighty wills it. Similarly, the opposition will not overthrow the regime and build a secular, democratic, and socially equitable Syria, because neither its external supporters nor its strongest internal militants desire it. Those who do actually desire a secular, democratic, and egalitarian Syrian society exist on both sides of the divide, but their voices are drowned out. Although current conditions are grim, we can at least envision scenarios that would bring disparate voices together under the banner of struggling for a better Syria. But this can occur only if those involved agree that they cannot win in absolute terms, or at least that they need to redefine victory along lines that are not mutually exclusive, that include all Syrian groups, and that preserve the well-being of most Syrians, even as they hold out the promise of justice for those who have suffered. Those opposed to the regime, from any perspective, must devote their energies toward building a more independent, democratic, and inclusive movement based on shared national goals and overlapping interests in at least stopping the mayhem. This will be a long and arduous task, one in which we have to take seriously some of the claims and concerns of the narratives this essay has examined. Most importantly, such an effort should not have its sights set on a particular end game; rather, we would do well to keep in mind that there will be life after the conflict, which requires the most responsible kind of building. We must start now, lest other, more powerful, and well-funded actors steal the day yet again and impose only a softer version of a repressive and exploitative Syria. The good news is that various groups and organizations in and around Syria have already begun such efforts, and they are well aware that international institutions, funders, and countries will descend on the Syrian scene when it is time to rebuild. These external, well-heeled actors—whether it is the World Bank, the Gulf Cooperation Council, their sponsors, or others, including China—have started their work in anticipation of an eventual end to the conflict, and they have a structural edge in terms of capital and networks. They should not be left alone to rule the “day after.” The alternative efforts deserve our support in pushing for both an independent narrative and a steadfastly independent Syria. This might seem far-fetched, but it is a vision from which we can create productive ideas that don’t cancel each other out for the sake of existing visions—ones that are even more far-fetched, and considerably more violent. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-debate-over-syria-has-reached-a-dead-end/
  16. Salam, 1: In Egypt the young people are suffering through high unemployment and a total stagnation. The younger people are very distrustful of the government some are easily controlled by religion while others just want to leave Egypt. The older people tend to accept a certain status quo and support stability over change, the young people want change in the country or leave it. Older people are extremely nationalistic and the younger people I know are very skeptical of the whole system. 2: Being from a fairly wealthy family my parents always put me in private schools were English was taught. But to me one of the best ways to learn a second language like English or French or Spanish is to watch television shows from those countries and to listen to the music from those cultures with subtitles. Listening to a language being constantly spoken one can learn get acustomed to it. 3: In Egypt the school system can be divided into private, governmental, and religious schools. The Private school in Egypt use international curriculum's like the British and french and American systems my primary school for example used a British curriculum. And then you have government schools which are free for kids from 5 till there like 17. The government schools are mostly taught in Arabic and feature everything you will get in any school in the world. There are some special government schools that teach english a long with other languages and treat arabic as a secondary language. Then you have secondary school which are divided into vocational schools and normal secondary education. In Egypt you also have religious schools which are administered by the Az Azhar university and the ministry of religious endowments, and they go from primary school to university. I don't know much about university in Egypt as I've spend most of my time since high school and the US. 4. My favorite holiday has always been eid el fitr because I would be reunited with my family, which is very big and I like most of them. 5. The two things that I like about my country is my family and the nature. There are some really beautiful places in Egypt with a lot of history, the south of Egypt where I have family is a beautiful place. And most of my family lives in Egypt and they are my favorite things about the country. I don't like the government and the backwards mentality of many Egyptian. The government is a horrible dictatorship that is ripe with corruption the ones who control Egypt don't care about normal Egyptians and don't tolerate any dissent, yet the tolerate extreme levels of corruption and human rights abuse. I also don't like the backwards mentality of many Egyptians being a person raised in upper middle class Egypt I was blessed with being exposed to a good education and tolerant and modern family that is not present in a lot of Egypt. There is rampant misogyny and sexual assaults, women are taught to hide themselves and to relocate themselves to the back of the bus which is horrible, great parts of Egypt are like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and the poor of Egypt are easily controlled by demagoguery groups like the Muslim brotherhood and now the salafis and their tele salafi sheikhs who are the worst people in Egypt and possibly the world. 6: My favorite national food is Kushari which is a mix of tomato sauce, rice, lentils, and onions, and its really nutritional and tasty especially for someone who has a vegetarian diet like me. In the US I love chipotle I eat it every week, sometimes twice. 7. Egypt if you have enough money it's like any other country, the biggest difference is that Egypt is a lot more religious and the government is a lot worse than places like the US and France. But people are people anywhere. 8. Its very long history. 9. I would change the government, into one like the US and separate religion from politics. I would also exile the salafis from my country and all backwards sects, that take advantage of the poor.
  17. Repressing someone's natural sexual nature is dangerous. Men in western countries don't go around assaulting women who wear yoga pants and shorts and (who 98.9 % don't cover their hair) and so on, saying that women should conceal themselves instead of men controlling their urges is dangerous and something I disagree with in applying the Quran.
  18. Actually most Syrians a little more than half of the Syrian population is either internally displaced or refugees. For the exception of Latakia and Tartous Assad has bombed every major city in Syria.
  19. Are 30 % of what ? The Houthi are Zaydi shia, houthism isn't a sect of Islam. The number isn't quantitative because there has never been a census on the middle and upper class of Syria. What I know is that prominent figures and families have been in the forefront against the Assad regime, like Sheikh Moaz El Khatib, the Attasi family, the Tlas family, Riyad Al Hijab, Sheikh Muhammed Al Yaqoubi, and so on.. The Houthis never supported Hadi, that is not agreed, Hadi's support came from members of South Yemen, Islah, and portions of Saleh's party Can you show me the article saying he is a sunni, because it is very well known that he is a zaydi. Saleh has been allied with wahabis, and salafis, and he has allowed its toxic spread throughtout yemen during his rule but he has always been known as a zaydi. So you're saying if Assad steps down the government, and security services of Syria will be destroyed There is no statistical proof that Assad is supported by the majority. The "elections" that Assad did perform were barley jokes where he won 97 and 87 % of the vote. The only proof you have that Assad is supported by the "majority" is that his forces haven't been kicked out from the places they control, many of which they carpet bombed or starved into submission.
  20. Actually the PYD which is the political wing of the YPG has always called for a transitional government without the presence of Assad. The article mentioned middle class and upper class sunnis supporting Assad without providing any real statistical evidence. And there are tons of uperclass sunni families that are part of the opposition to Assad. That is not true Hadi came to power to appease the southerners of Yemen who had spearheaded the protest against Saleh and who had been disenfranchised by him ever since Yemen reunited. Zaydi Shias make up 40 % of Yemen not the houthis, houthi are mainly from Saadah yemen. And Saleh was a Zaydi Shia and they have ruled Northern Yemen for most of the last 100 years, Then this war will never end, because the west and saudi arabia can find and give arms to people who hate Assad forever. And Yemen is very different from Syria, having a member of the baath party that hasn't defected taking power will not completely change Syria.
  21. A True Sunni: Are you saying that everyone in the areas Assad and the Kurd's control supports him ? And would anything change for the worse if Assad was replaced with another baathist
  22. A True Sunni: Good you recognize he is a dictator. I recognize that the opposition in Syria has been hijacked by Islamic (salafi) lunatics what I hope now is for a peaceful solution for this horrible conflict. The best settlement is for Assad to step down. As you mentioned there are Sunni and Christian baathist who support him, if he stepped down a sunni baathist like Farouk El Sharaa (Assad's vice president) or even an alawi like Ali Haidar could have a better negotiation position to end this conflict. This conflict will not end through a military solution, if people believe this conflict can end through a military solution, this conflict will endure forever.
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