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September 1, 2012

Huda Dachan: “I looked at Syria in the eyes”

Posted: 09/01/2012 by Mary Rizzo 

If I had to sum up in only one sentence the most emotional moment of my voyage, it certainly was when they brought us to the border between Turkey and Syria, and I saw, from the Syrian side, two gigantic independence flags waving majestically against the sky. I can’t describe it in words, but reading “Welcome to Free Syria” and recognising the colours of the flag that for more than a year has represented for us, Syrians, hope and the dream of freedom, as well as the end of the regime, was a marvellous feeling. I almost hesitated to set foot in Syrian territory, it seemed too good to be true: a dream that I’ve held in my heart for my entire life was, even if only marginally, becoming reality. Of Syria, the real Syria, I didn’t see anything. No, houses, no cities, no monuments, because I was in a border area, but the sensation of breathing in, finally, the air of my beloved and longed-for land, it was almost a rebirth for me. I bent down, picked up a stone, cradled it in my hand, I kept it with me… a small piece of Syria, a small part of me that has been suffocated by the injustice of the tyrannical regime.

I looked at Syria in the eyes
What struck me so very much during the encounters with our fellow Syrians, was the light in their eyes and faces… Despite the suffering that each one of them carries inside, despite the pain, the precariousness of their situation as refugees, people who had to abandon their homes and their people in order to save themselves from the air strikes, on their faces I saw no signs of hardness, but so much dignity, so much light; in the children and in the adults as well, men and women alike. The children adopted me as an aunt straight away, overcoming any shyness they might have had and they came to me to tell me about their experiences; the horrors of the war have forced them to grow up before their time and their words revolved only around this argument, and this was the case whether they were boys or girls. Even when they played, they repeated the scenes of their escape, the interventions of protection that the youth of the FSA carried out, escorting them until the refugee camp… The last day, before leaving, I tried to get a promise out of them, though knowing that what I was asking of them was impossible: “Try to play other kinds of games, don’t think about war all the time.” They lowered their eyes, they know I am asking too much of them. The war hasn’t physically killed them, but it has stripped them of their childhood, their feelings that they can be carefree, the drive to dream about life. The one, sole dream that they now have is to return home, to their schools, to the gardens where they used to play, to a home where they no longer expect to see the assassins of the regime with their bombs, their armoured tanks.

The immense heart of the women

In the various refugee camps we visited (Kilys, Islahiye, Altinoz, Bohsin, Yayladagi), after the necessary checks at the entrance, we were always presented by those running the camps and then welcomed warmly by everyone, with children taking part with enthusiasm, followed by many young men and women. The welcoming of the women, in particular, was very touching: each one of them wanted us to come visit them in their container or tent; there they tried to do everything possible so as to make me feel at home, then they tried to offer me something, a cup of tea, a sweet from the packets that the Turkish authorities gave them on occasion of the celebration of the end of Ramadan. I watched them move, putting in order those few objects that they had, which now represented their daily lives, with so much care and delicacy that it seemed that they were still the queens of their respective homes. Instead, today all of them are refugees, huddled together in conditions of poverty, with difficult living conditions, but this does not allow them to renounce their dignity, their values, their traditions.

Huda Dachan, Italian-Syrian social worker in the refugee camps in Turkey.

The Syrian Summary

Saturday, September 01, 2012

 by Maysaloon

Well we’ve finally arrived at a civil war, and no I don’t think that this was avoidable or an accident. It is a deliberate policy and gamble by Assad to hold on to a sliver of power. Reforms were always out of the question because the slightest slip would have spelled the end of his family’s grip on power. Let us be clear about it, this is one family’s grip on a country, not a party’s, not a minority’s, but one family only and with its barons and loyal core of supporters. Assadism is the litmus test upon which you can test the revolutionary credentials of the artificial opposition that is sprouting domestically. These smart suited and highly educated technocrats with their talk of reform and convenient focus on only the transgressions of the regime’s opponents never openly criticize or call for the overthrow of Assad. They have permission to tear the regime to shreds (verbally, of course) but the person of Bashar al Assad is inviolable, and the mere mention of his name in a way that could be construed – even remotely – to be a criticism is avoided.

full article here

Top Ten Clint Eastwood Empty-Chair Falsehoods

Posted on 09/01/2012 by Juan

You can’t see me, but I’m talking to Clint Eastwood sitting spectrally in an empty chair, and I am replying to his confused rant.

1. Mr. Eastwood, you called the failure to close the Guantanamo Bay penitentiary a broken promise. President Obama was prevented from closing Guantanamo by the Republican Congress, which refused to allocate the funds necessary to end it. Do you remember this this Washington Post headline, “House acts to block closing of Guantanamo”?

2. Mr. Eastwood you called “stupid” the idea of trying terrorists who attacked New York in a civilian courtroom in New York. But what would have better vindicated the strengths of America’s rule of law, the thing about the US most admired abroad? Mr. Eastwood, perhaps you spent so many years playing vigilantes who just blew people away (people who in the real world we would have needed to try to establish their guilt or innocence) that you want to run our judicial system as a kangaroo court.

3. You complained that there are 23 million unemployed Americans. Actually there are 12.8 million unemployed Americans. But there are no measures by which W. created more jobs per month on average during his presidency than has Obama, and there is good reason to blame current massive unemployment on Bush’s policies of deregulating banks and other financial institutions, which caused the crash of 2008.

4. You criticized President Obama for giving a target date for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan of 2014, and alleged that Romney said, “Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?” But George W. Bush set a target date of 31 December, 2011, for withdrawal from Iraq, and did so in negotiation with the Iraqi parliament. Was that also a bad idea? Have you considered that NATO allies and the government of President Hamid Karzai may have demanded an announced withdrawal date as a prerequisite of continued cooperation with the US there? And, just for your information, Gov. Romney hasn’t called for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately.

5. Mr. Eastwood, you made fun of Joe Biden as the ‘intellect of the Democratic Party.’ Vice President Biden was chair or ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for decades, helped to save the Bosnian Muslims from genocide, and passed the Violence against Women Act. I haven’t always agreed with him myself, but he has been among our more thoughtful contributors to American foreign policy. You, on the other hand, like to pretend to shoot down large numbers of people over the course of a violent two-hour fantasy.

6. You criticized President Obama for ‘talking about student loans.’ The Republican Party, especially Paul Ryan, wants to take away the government-backed loans on which millions of students depend, at a time when student indebtedness is at an all-time high. Just because some people are way overpaid for play-acting doesn’t mean that ordinary people don’t need student loans to get the credentials that allow them to make a better life for themselves.

7. Mr. Eastwood, you criticized President Obama for saying he is an ‘ecological man’ but flying in Air Force One. Under President Obama, non-hydro forms of green energy in the United States have doubled from 3 percent of electricity production to 6 percent. Obama’s tax credits have been a big reason why. In contrast, Mr. Romney wants to get rid of credits for wind energy, which will hurt the Iowa economy, e.g., and is in the back pocket of Big Oil, so that he will stand in the way of green energy. I think doubling renewables rather offsets an occasional jet ride. And, it is Obama’s policies that will get us to the solar-driven airplane, not Romney’s.

8. You made fun of Obama because he has a law degree from Harvard. I just want you to sit in your empty chair for a while, and think about that.

9. You called Mr. Romney a ‘stellar businessman,’ but his business appears to have been to send American jobs to China.

10. I don’t know who suggested to you that you address us at the end and say, “Make my day,” with the implication that we should vote Romney-Ryan. But what I remember is, that phrase is a threat you are going to do bad things to us.


Listening Post – Caught in Syria’s propaganda war


Bashar’s cult of personality

Bashar al-Assad is a lot more involved in the security apparatus than many analysts would like to think. (AFP photo)

Last week, the daily Al-Joumhouria published the transcripts of the surveillance tapes in the case of former minister Michel Samaha, who was recently arrested and charged for plotting a campaign of terrorist bombings in northern Lebanon. Samaha was caught red-handed, and his conversations with the head of the cell that was to execute these bombings were taped, as this operative himself had been recruited by the Internal Security Forces.

These transcripts offer a unique window into the Syrian regime’s decision-making process and chain of command when commissioning terror operations in Lebanon. But more importantly, they provide us with an interesting insight into the current structure of the regime. What they reveal is that, over the course of the uprising, Bashar al-Assad has further consolidated the security services. In effect, the regime is little more than Bashar himself.

Misunderstanding the nature and structure of the Assad regime has been a chronic problem that has long affected Western analysis and policymaking. Misinterpretation became even more acute after Bashar inherited power after his father died in 2000. The most infamous example was the “old guard” thesis: that is, the notion that a “reform-minded” Bashar was constrained by entrenched remnants from his father’s time. Similarly, several analysts posited the existence of a “hardline” faction within the regime, and spoke of autonomous security chiefs who were able to pursue certain policies without Bashar’s knowledge, and, presumably, against his wishes. Bashar, in other words, was presented as merely a “figurehead”—the president who, in the words of Paul Salem, “does not command.”

Thus, it was hardly surprising when, following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, many Arab and Western pundits often claimed that it probably wasn’t Bashar personally who gave that order. Even though Bashar reportedly threatened to “break Lebanon over [Hariri’s] head,” these pundits nevertheless maintained that such a decision was either made without his knowledge, or, at best, was forced on him by the powerful elements of the regime who “really” make major security decisions, if not general policy.

read full article here

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