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December 12, 2012

Damascus- Omar Offendum.mp4


Meet the Assadosphere, the Online Defenders of Syria’s Butcher

That would be a heavenly Bashar Assad, dictator of Syria, arm-wrestling the demonic Uncle Sam. Is that Mount Doom in the background? Photo: Instagram/Bashar4Ever

You might think it’s hard to defend Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator responsible for the murder of 40,000 human beings. You must be new to the internet.

Assad doesn’t have many allies IRL — Iran and Russia are about the only ones remaining. But as the Syrian rebellion stretches into its 20th month, he’s found (and paid for) a whole heap of friends online, who warn of an impending NATO invasion to dominate Syria; secret CIA shipments of weapons to terrorist groups; and, of course, that Assad’s enemies are all really Jews. Welcome to the Assadosphere — on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the web.

Assad has maintained a robust propaganda presence for years: Remember the infamous Vogue profile of his wife Asma, which praised the “wildly democratic” Assad family right as it began its wave of bloodshed. Assad’s online buddies are the next wave of that propaganda: They’ve taken a defense of his regime viral, to the point where they don’t need to take their marching orders from Damascus. They’re contesting the web and social-media space that would otherwise be filled with recitations of Assad’s war crimes — and flooding the zone.

We’ve seen these characters show up occasionally in our comment threads and Facebook pages. But the most efficient portal into online Assad apologias comes from the Twitter hashtag #RealSyria. There, you’ll learn that the Free Syrian Army, “aka al Qaeda” is “preparing suits etc. for chemical weapons false flag.” You’ll see links to YouTube clips from the “Eretz Zen Channel” to learn how the rebels torture citizens with “flesh burning materials.” (Not that said rebels are in said video.) And you’ll find people skeptical of the “HUUURR DURRRR” that that nice Mr. Assad would ever use his “supposed” chemical weapons. It’s not like an Assad spokesman warned the world last July that “these types of weapons are [under] the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

According to Bashar Assad’s defenders on Instagram, the U.S. media hides from you how the Jews control the Syrian rebellion, or something. Image: Instagram/Laith Belal
Then there’s the News About Syria-English blog, Facebook page and Google+ account. It invariably describes the Syrian rebels as “terrorists”; takes at face value Assad’s declarations that he’ll “not use chemical weapons, if it possesses any, whatever the circumstances“; and warns that last year’s war in Libya has yet to satisfy NATO’s “thirst for blood.”

And on like that. SyriaTribune maintains a YouTube channel stocked with clips from — surprise — Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today portraying Assad as the victim of a bloody-minded western conspiracy. A self-described French intellectual named Thierry Meyssan — author of 9/11 The Big Lie — reveals that TV images purporting to show Assad’s massacres of civilians were prepared by the CIA, along with White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and “aims at demoralizing the Syrians in order to pave the way for a coup d’etat.” The #FakeRevolution hashtag on Instagram provides pictorial, meme-filled boosterism for Bashar, like a screengrab from Time’ app kindly telling user mybubb1e to stop voting for Assad for Person of the Year or Hillary Clinton with flames shooting out of her eyes and ear, courtesy of Bashar4Ever.

Now, the Syrian rebellion is eclectic, and it includes some rather extreme elements –including al-Qaida-aligned terrorists. Human Rights Watch has borne witness to its willingness to execute and torture detainees. But human rights abuses can’t be the real issue for these web and social-media accounts: if so, they’d be turning on Assad, who drops cluster bombs on Syrian cities and has killed more civilians over the last 20 months than perhaps any other despot in power. And anyone defending Assad because they hate the idea of another U.S. invasion might consider that the Obama administration evidently wants to stay out of Syria at all costs. Yes, the Syrian rebels might actually acquire chemical weapons in the wake of Assad’s downfall, and that’s legitimately worrisome, but perhaps some ire might be spared for the regime that, you know, created that chemical stockpile.

Of course, the Syrian rebels use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for everything from propaganda to weapons training, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that Assad’s defenders seek to contest that online space. It’s the internet; people say terrible things on it. But the Assadosphere is the sort of thing that Block and Unfollow functions were created for.


The Land of Topless Minarets and Headless Little Girls

A requiem for Syria.


Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

In Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities, a world traveler named Marco Polo describes the cities of a vast but crumbling empire to its ruler, Kublai Khan. Over time, the intricate descriptions of the cities begin to overlap until the khan slowly realizes that his appointed traveler has been describing the same city, an imagined city, over and over, in fragments — each vignette exposing another perspective, unveiling yet another city, where death mirrors life and cities are named after Italian women. Each city is suspended between reality and imagination, structured on a set of absurd rules, reminding the reader that a city can only be absorbed through short glances, each glance anchored to an object, a story, or a memory.

I’ve been reading and rereading Invisible Cities for over a decade. Before the Syrian revolution, Calvino’s poetics were safely rooted in the realm of fiction. When I recently picked it up to look for a quote, I began to read it once more — this time sneaking a few pages at a time between my daily intake of endless streams of gruesome images emerging from our all-too-real Syrian cities. For the first time, Calvino’s words detached from fantasy; Syria’s cities became embedded within the lines of the Invisible Cities. I listened, along with Kublai Khan, to Marco Polo’s narrations and tried to understand how cities become invisible.

Watching death has become a pastime of the revolution. There is much to learn from it. Death is sudden; it is shorter than a short YouTube clip. Death is a man wrapped in his shroud, bloodied gauze strips tied around his head, cotton stuffed in his nostrils, and the bluish-gray tinge of his skin. Death is the camera panning over mass graves where children’s bodies are arranged in long, perfect lines, then covered with rust-colored dirt. The death of Syrians accumulated so fast it seems impossible to comprehend over 40,000 lives lost in less than two years.

read full article here

Something Unbelievable, To Have Somebody…Arrested for a Poem’

Last Friday, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman filed a report from Qatar on the life sentence for Mohammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami stemming from his 2011 “Jasmine Poem.” 


Goodman spoke with al-Ajami’s attorney, Najeeb al-Nuaimi, who explained the sequence of events that led to al-Ajami’s 11 months in solitary confinement and the ruling of life in prison.

Although admitting he is not connoisseur of poetry, Al-Nuami was vigorous in his defense of al-Ajami, and repeated that it was a “shame” on the nation. Al-Nuami suggested that if the emir didn’t like al-Ajami’s poetry, then there were other options:

I mean, even in ancient Islamic time, there are—you know, everything about the kings, about the prince, nobody hanged them. They gave them money to shut their mouth. That’s the way. They give him money, then he shuts his mouth. But why him? They said, “I don’t know.” So I felt something unique in this case, something unbelievable, to have somebody to be arrested for a poem.

Goodman ran an English excerpt of the poem, trans. Ali Issa, which I have modified only slightly:

Knowing that those who satisfy themselves and upset their people will tomorrow have someone else sitting in their seat,

Knowing that those who satisfy themselves and upset their people will tomorrow have someone else sitting in their seat,

For those who think the country is in their names and their children’s names — the country is for the people, and its glories are theirs.

Repeat with one voice, for one faith:

We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites.

We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites.

The Arab governments and who rules them are, without exception, thieves.


The question that frames the thoughts of those who wonder will not find an answer in any official channels.

As long as it imports everything it has from the West, why can’t it import laws and freedoms?

Why can’t it import laws and freedoms?

Meanwhile, Mohamed bin Saif al-Kuwari, part of an official state Human Rights Committee, told Goodman that if anyone in Qatar were to read “The Jasmine Poem” out loud in Qatar today, his understanding was that they too would be sentenced to life in prison:

“Yes. Now this is according to the judgments last month.”

Al-Kuwairi defended the ruling by saying that certain symbols could not be attacked.

Watch the Democracy Now! video:

Listen to “Tunisian Jasmine”:


One Response to ‘Something Unbelievable, To Have Somebody…Arrested for a Poem’

  1. This account is nothing less than Kafkaesque!! First this incomprehensible life imprisonment of a writer who dares to speak the truth to those in power. And then this little additional warning, this mocking slap to the face of anyone who might contemplate reciting this poem aloud!!

    I truly want to live in a world where a poem can strike this much fear in the hearts of any despot.

    Along with so many others I stand with, and salute Mr. al-Ajami. And of course I will begin my next poetry reading with some of Mr. al-Ajami’s poem. A small far away echo, one of many I’m sure.


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