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March 2013

Her Voice

Her Voice

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Syrian Revolution, I watched a single video: footage of an early expression of resistance recorded in central Damascus on March 15, 2011. After watching thousands of videos for the last two years — protests, funerals, destruction, bombs, and countless corpses — I was surprised that this video was as difficult to watch as the horrific ones. It’s a video that accidentally recorded an act of unparalleled bravery: one voice that pierced 41 years of a nation’s voluntary silence.

The scene opens in the bustling Hamidiyeh commercial center. In the background, men’s robotic voices thud like war drums, “With souls. With blood. We sacrifice for you, ya Bashar.” With each moment, the deafening beats grow louder. Another crowd forms out of what had appeared to be random pedestrians. Their words “silmiyeh, silmiyeh” (peaceful, peaceful) mesh with the men’s chant. The demonstrators arrive to our vantage point and as the new crowd joins in, they replace Bashar’s name with “Souriya.” With souls. With blood. We sacrifice for you, ya Souriya.

One woman appears in the frame. She yells, “It’s coming nearer to your Abu Hafez,” referencing the season of revolutions that had ignited in the region. Syria’s flag is proudly draped over her shoulders like a cape. The bright red pops in the muted sea of black, brown, and gray. She carries the only flag in this demonstration. This is not surprising, as the mob is chanting for a person and not a country. The mob’s chant represents the typical fear, submission, and humiliation of Assad’s Syria.

Moments later, the crowd breaks apart and she slips off the incriminating flag and slips on her sunglasses as a few thugs surround her, pulling her out of the march. She screams, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to,” walking away from them back into the demonstration. But they pull her out again. She screams, as a few women try to hold her back, try to save her from her own voice, “Freedom, in spite of your Bashar.” The people around her begin to chant “peaceful, peaceful” once more. She walks away, waving her flag in defiance, calling “Where are the men? Where are the men?” Then, “peaceful, peaceful” switches to “freedom, freedom.”

We are left at the intersection where the two groups have split into different directions. But as the video ends, only one chant can be heard, a chant that has become a roar, “Allah, Souriya, hurriyeh w bess!”

People reference multiple starting dates for the revolution: February 17, March 6, March 15, March 18. But all of them began with a moment like this one. All of them began with a voice.


The day after this event, Suheir Atassi and a group of protesters stood in front of the courthouse in Damascus demanding for the release of political prisoners. They were in turn imprisoned for their dissent. Two days after that, on a Friday, a protest emerged from the Hamzah and Abbas mosque in Daraa demanding that their tortured children be released from prison. Two men, Mahmoud Jawabrah and Hussam Ayyash were shot dead by security forces. The day after that, more men were killed while burying the revolution’s first martyrs. And the day after that, there was a protest to protest the funeral deaths. And the day after that there was a funeral for the people who were killed in the protest the day before. More violence and more deaths. More deaths and more violence. And here we are, two years later with over 70,000 dead, over a million Syrian refugees, and a country that has become a landscape of destruction.

Some people talk about the heavy price of the revolution. Some people talk about their fears of the future as if a viable, secure future under Assad’s rule is even possible. And some people ask, “Was it worth it?”

We have all lost. Sometimes it seems we have gained nothing but loss. Sometimes, even we watch the bloody videos and silently wonder, “Was it worth it?” It is the weakest question to ask; the question of despair.

Would you dare ask that woman “Was it worth it?” or “Is this the freedom you want?”


That voice lived within us. We hid it and never dared to speak it aloud. Not because we feared the unknown, on the contrary, we feared the known. Dissent meant torture, exile, death. That dormant voice became words spoken aloud in the street and scribbled on a school wall. Words that broke the fear. Words that became actions and actions that ended with rivers of Syrian blood.

That woman’s voice represents all of ours. Each of us knows the specific moment when our voices joined hers. For some, the moment arrived later than others. For some, the moment never arrived, as relentless fear still grips their vocal cords. And for thousands of Syrians, that voice cost them their lives.

Rami Jarrah always reminds me, the ones who start revolutions are not the ones who see them through. Maybe that is the greatest unknown that we should have feared. That good will eventually be broken. That hope will eventually die. That what we will be left with is less than what we had when we started. But then, I remember this video and imagine the courage of one woman’s voice against a sea of cowardly ones. I remember so many Syrian voices: the tortured man whose final words were, “my wife is my crown,” the boy who was shot in a protest and fell into his father’s arms saying “Forgive me, dad,” citizen journalist and martyr Mohamed Masalmeh, who declared that he was blessed to be one of the first protesters in Daraa, and Raed Faris, the Kafranbel artist, who said after Jabhet al-Nusra took over their town square for a recent Friday protest, “Let them take the square. The real square is where we are.”

There is no real celebration this year. There is no joy. The regime killed it many months ago. There are no more expectations. The Syrian political opposition killed those many months ago as well. There is no waiting for the world to act. We know that this is an unfair battle that Syrians will fight while everyone else watches in silence.

All we have left is what we began with: sheer awe at the resilience and determination of the Syrian people who despite their orphaned revolution and against all odds still stand shoulder to shoulder in now unrecognizable streets with nothing but their voices, their flags, and their chant: Freedom.

What is left is hope. And the knowledge that they will be there tomorrow and after tomorrow and the day after that … until the end.

I hope that the woman from Damascus is still alive. I hope I will meet her one day and tell her: Thank you for freeing our voices.


March 15, 2013, Aleppo, Syria


Two Matar Poems





صباح هذا اليوم
This morning
أيقظني منبه الساعة
The alarm clock woke me up
و قال لي : يا ابن العرب
And told me: oh son of Arabs
قد حان وقت النوم !
It is time to sleep!

انحناء السنبلة
The Stalk Bows

أنا من تراب وماء
I am made from dust and water
خذوا حذركم أيها السابلة
Take your precautions, passersby
خطاكم على جثتي نازلة
Your footsteps fall on my body
وصمتي سخاء
And my silence is generosity
لأن التراب صميم البقاء
Because dust is the seed of eternity
وأن الخطى زائلة
And footsteps are ephemeral

ولكن إذا ما حبستم بصدري الهواء
But if you cage the air in my chest
سلوا الأرض عن مبدأ الزلزلة
Ask the earth about the beginning of the earthquake
سلوا عن جنوني ضمير الشتاء
Ask the conscience of winter about my madness
أنا الغيمة المثقلة
I am the burdened cloud,
إذا أجهشت بالبكاء
Which when it weeps
فإن الصواعق في دمعها مرسلة
Sends lightning with its tears

أجل إنني أنحني فاشهدوا ذلتي الباسلة
Yes, I bow, so bear witness to my valiant humiliation
فلا تنحني الشمس إلا لتبلغ قلب السماء
For the sun does not bow except to reach the heart of the sky
ولا تنحني السنبلة
Nor does the wheat stalk bow
إذا لم تكن مثقلة
If it is not burdened
ولكنها ساعة الإنحناء
But in the hour of its bowing
تواري بذور البقاء
It hides the seeds of its survival
فتخفي برحم الثرى ثورة مقبلة
Concealing in the earth’s womb a coming revolution.

أجل إنني أنحني تحت سيف العناء
Yes, I bow under the sword of oppression
ولكن صمتي هو الجلجلة
But my silence is deafening
وذل انحنائي هو الكبرياء
And my humiliation is pride
لأني أبالغ في الإنحناء
Because I exaggerate in bowing
لكي أزرع القنـبـلة
To plant the bomb

– Ahmad Matar

Read and listen in Arabic.


see also this very rich page 


Goldman Sachs: Calling clients “Muppets” and worse, Greg Smith


As noted in the Roundup, Goldman Sachs is once again being cited for ripping off its clients, this time in the IPO space. Goldman had already paid massive fines for causing the mortgage crisis by selling its own clients toxic assets. Later the firm would take considerable reputational damage when a former Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times where he claimed Goldman employees routinely took advantage of the firm’s clients and enjoyed mocking them afterwards – the birth of the “Muppet” meme.

Now Joe Nocera has obtained, due to a clerical error, documents detailing Goldman Sachs screwing its IPO clients. Goldman’s clients, eToys, are in the midst of a lawsuit against Goldman. eToys is claiming Goldman conspired to keep the price of the IPO low to benefit their investment bank clients who gave Goldman a kickback in return. eToys later went out of business partly due to lacking capital that it could have raised in a more honest IPO.

Recently, however, I came across a cache of documents related to the eToys litigation that seem to tilt the argument in favor of the skeptics. Although the documents were supposed to be under seal, they were sitting in a file at the New York County Clerk’s Office, available to anyone who asked for them. I asked.

What they clearly show is that Goldman knew exactly what it was doing when it underpriced the eToys I.P.O. — and many others as well. (According to the lawsuit, Fitt led around a dozen underwritings in 1999, several of which were also woefully underpriced.) Taken in their entirety, the e-mails and internal reports show Goldman took advantage of naïve Internet start-ups to fatten its own bottom line.

The documents detail that Goldman’s focus was on using the eToys IPO to generate more business with its investment clients. After the investment clients profited the Goldman Sales force sprung into action calling the clients to secure more business gaining large commissions. A quid pro quo with eToys and other IPO clients losing out.

Goldman carefully calculated the first-day gains reaped by its investment clients. After compiling the numbers in something it called a trade-up report, the Goldman sales force would call on clients, show them how much they had made from Goldman’s I.P.O.’s and demand that they reward Goldman with increased business.It was not unusual for Goldman sales representatives to ask that 30 to 50 percent of the first-day profits be returned to Goldman via commissions, according to depositions given in the case.

“What specifically do you recall” your Goldman broker wanting, asked one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in a deposition with an investor named Andrew Hale Siegal.

“You made $50,000, how about $25,000 back?” came the answer. “You know, you made a killing.”

“Did he ever explain to you how to pay it back?” asked the lawyer.

“No. But we both knew that I knew how,” Siegal replied. “I mean, commissions, however I could generate.”

30-50%! Now that’s an incentive structure.

Luckily for Goldman Sachs they were not so greedy they forgot to do another kickback, this one in the form of bribes to Congress and the President. Otherwise they might have to actually suffer for their misbehavior. But having bought protection from the Justice Department while getting massive subsidies and bailout guarantees from the Federal Reserve ensures Goldman’s continued survival and dominance. And as long as Goldman has the government behind them they will have clients no matter how likely they are to treat them like Muppets.


LeakSource | mars 13, 2013 à 9:45 | Catégories: News | URL:

Prince Charles describes ‘horror’ of Syria’s refugee crisis

The Prince of Wales described the “horror” of Syria’s refugee crisis today as he visited a camp in Jordan for those who have fled the bloody civil war.

10:35AM GMT 13 Mar 2013

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall met victims of torture and families torn apart by the conflict who begged them to “Help us.”

The Duchess described the refugees’ plight as “harrowing” after hearing their stories during the visit to the King Abdullah Park refugee camp seven miles from the Syrian border.

It is home to 1,200 of the 440,000 Syrian refugees who have poured into Jordan over the past two years, and houses less than 24 hours’ worth of new arrivals in the country.

The Royal couple dropped in on one of the families living in prefabricated huts in the camp, where Naim, 55 (who did not want to give his surname for fear of reprisals) told the Prince he had been tortured.

“I was arrested twice in 2011 because I write poetry against the [Assad] regime,” he said. “They put out cigars and cigarettes on my body and arms.

“They would tie me up and blindfold me and started doing things to my body.”

He fled his village near the southern Syrian border with his wife and five children in July.

The Prince asked him: “Do you see any end to this horror?”

He replied: “It is with you. You have the solution. The Syrian people are everybody’s problem.” He added: “Help us.”

The Prince said: “Many of these children have been traumatised by the horrors of what they’ve witnessed before they got here.

“Some of them have lost their parents and had horrendous experiences and it is remarkable what all these wonderful [aid agencies] are doing to deal with this unbelievable and heartbreaking situation.”

He praised the “truly remarkable” generosity of the Jordanians, but said: “It’s putting more and more strain on food and hospitals, so clearly the Jordanians need more assistance and help to be able to cope with this immense challenge. It’s a desperate situation.”

The couple also visited a therapy session where children aged six to 14 are given help to overcome the trauma they have lived through by drawing happy memories of home to give them hope for the future.

Noraman, 13, who lost her father and two brothers when her village of Mahaja was attacked, drew apple and orange trees and told the Duchess: “This is the garden I remember in my house but I’m not sure it will be there when I get back.”

In the garden she drew were a flag of Syria and a flag of Jordan, reflecting her uncertain future.

Emira, 12, does not know if her father is alive or dead and said: “I’m not sure if I will see him again. My mother sometimes says he is dead and sometimes says he is in prison.”

Sava Mobaslat, 41, the programme director for Save the Children in Jordan, said the 600 children at the camp are bussed to local schools to continue their education but go to the children’s centre every day for therapy sessions.

“It is aimed at building coping mechanisms and providing resilience,” she said. “We use drawing, drama, music and arts as an alternative form of expression through which they can express their anxiety and frustration to help them get over it.

“They draw guns, bodies, a lot of red to begin with and gradually they go back to drawing the garden in their back yard.

“The time frame for their recovery varies from child to child, it takes longer for someone who has witnessed the death of a parent or sibling. We have one girl who was walking to school and saw it bombed with her siblings inside and it took her a long time to get over that image.”

After meeting women making knitted goods to raise money for the camp, the Duchess said: “Seeing all these children, some of whom have lost their parents and been adopted by others, I feel it’s quite heartbreaking.

“Some of their stories are so harrowing, but what I find so remarkable is their strength of spirit and the way they are so cheerful despite their circumstances.

“I think that is women for you. They have got their children to look after, they have to survive.

“But to think that many of them don’t even know whether their husbands are alive or dead…it is just awful.”

King Abdullah Park does not compare in scale to the Zaatari camp nearby which has 146,000 people in it, but security concerns meant the Royal couple could not go to the larger camp.

Andrew Harper, the humanitarian coordinator in Jordan for the UN High Commission for Refugees, said: “The desperation of the people in Syria is rising and we are not seeing any indications that the situation is going to get better any time soon.”

A million people have already fled Syria for neighbouring countries and Jordan alone could have a million within its borders by the end of 2013.

Mr Harper said: “I still think we are at the preliminary stages of a mass migration from Syria to Jordan.

“Jordan can’t continue to take hundreds of thousands or a million with nice words from the international community.

“We need significant support and investment. We are all running out of money. People expect us to do the impossible and we are facing a looming disaster.”

Later the Prince and the Duchess visited Jerash, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world, where they were given a guided tour of the streets, temples and amphitheatre.

Bassem Youssef Interview on Canadian TV CBC …


The era of digital mercenaries

March 12, 2013
By Redac_MM
“My computer was shut down before me.” This is the clear observation of a Syrian activist arrested and tortured by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Caught in the nets of online monitoring, Karim Taymour tells a reporter from Bloomberg [1] have been present during his interrogation a stack of more than 1000 pages detailing his conversations and electronic files exchanged on Skype. His executioners knew clearly much of it as they were found in his room, or rather his computer.

Online monitoring is a growing danger for journalists, bloggers, citizen journalists and human rights. In 2011, WikiLeaks made public the Spyfiles, documents showing the extent of the surveillance market and the financial burden it represents (over $ 5 billion), and the sophistication of the products offered.

Traditional surveillance has not disappeared. Police continue to roam near cafes Eritrea Vietnamese dissidents are followed and sometimes attacked by plainclothes police, cyber-dissident Hu Jia and his wife Zeng Jinyang have endured police permanently stationed at the bottom of their building for months. Bets on wiretapping journalists prying greatly facilitated the work of the intelligence services. But today, the possibilities offered by online monitoring widen the scope of possibilities for governments.

The 2013 edition of the report on the Internet Enemies discusses monitoring within the meaning of the monitoring activity designed to control dissent and the dissemination of sensitive information, an activity exploited to strengthen the powers in place and prevent potential destabilization.

On March 12, World Day against cyber censorship, an initial list of five “United Internet enemies” is made public. It lists the states involved in active surveillance, intrusive, actors information for serious violations of freedom of information and human rights. It is Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam.

A list of five “Companies enemy of the Internet” , otherwise known as “mercenaries of the digital age,” is also published. Gamma Trovicor, Hacking Team, and Blue Coat Amesys were selected for this survey is not exhaustive, known to lie in the coming months. Their products have been or are being used by the authorities for violations of human rights and freedom of information. At the moment when these companies began to trade with authoritarian regimes, they could not ignore the fact that their products could be used to monitor journalists, dissidents and netizens. When these digital surveillance products have been sold to an authoritarian regime through an intermediary, without the publisher not being informed, the inability of the latter to draw sales and exports its own software is indicative of the absence taken into account by these companies to the risk of misuse of their technologies and the vulnerability of human rights.

Surveys conducted by Bloomberg , the Wall Street Journal , and researchers Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto showed that surveillance technology used against dissidents and activists of human rights in countries such as Egypt, Bahrain and Libya from companies Western . Two types of products provided by companies are pinned in this report: the listening material on a large scale to monitor the network as a whole, spyware (spyware) and other devices to implement a targeted surveillance.

These spyware programs are used to spy on the contents of other disks, recover passwords, access the contents of electronic messages or eavesdrop on VOIP communication. They can be installed directly on computers or via the Internet through false up-to-day or attachments in e-mail without the user noticing. The civilian use of such programs is limited. Some manufacturers directly state actors such as intelligence and security services, while others do not hesitate to advertise their capacity to monitor and track political opponents. In authoritarian regimes, this system is used to spy on journalists and their sources to eradicate freedom of information.

Duplication can be done in some technologies used for legitimate fight against cybercrime, they become formidable tools for censorship and surveillance against human rights actors and information when they are used by authoritarian regimes. Lack of supervision of trade in these weapons digital ‘allows authoritarian governments to identify (people-) journalists to take them.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the establishment of export control technologies and monitoring equipment to countries that violate human rights. Such an approach can not be left to the private sector. The legislature must intervene. The European Union and the United States banned the export of surveillance technology to Iran and Syria. A commendable decision which can not remain an isolated act. European governments must adopt a harmonized approach to control the export of surveillance technology . The Obama administration has also adopt this type of legislation, such as the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA).

Negotiations between governments had yet taken place, resulting in the arrangement of Wassennaar concluded in July 1996, which aims to promote “transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of arms and dual-use goods to prevent destabilizing accumulations. ” It now includes 40 countries including France, Germany, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Democracies seem to gradually give the lure of the required monitoring and cyber security at any price. Evidenced by the proliferation of projects and proposals potentially draconian laws, allowing the establishment of a general surveillance. FISAA CISPA and the United States, British Communications Data Bill UK, wetgeving STD control cybercrime in the Netherlands, many texts that sacrifice freedom of expression on the Internet on the altar of the fight against cybercrime (for more information, read the chapter “Overview of cybercensorship”). The adoption by regimes traditionally respectful of human rights of such draconian laws give arguments to the leaders of countries that adopt repressive legislative arsenal against critical voices.

This is the model of the Internet as conceived by its founders, exchange space and freedom, transcending borders, which is challenged by the acceleration of cyber-censorship and the trivialization of cyber-surveillance. Especially the Internet is the cost of power struggles between states. Widespread surveillance is one of the major players who are struggling to control the governance of the Net. At the World Conference on Telecommunications in Dubai in December 2012, China supported a proposal to drastically extend the control of ITU Internet . China had the support of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan among others questioning the role of ICANN in the allocation of domain names and IP address ranges the protection of “physical security and operational networks,” the ‘ use of PGD in next generation networks [2] .

The equation is complicated for players information, caught between on the one hand the need for personal protection and security of their online sources, and secondly the need to collect and circulate information . The protection of sources is no longer only the ethics of journalists, it depends more on their mastery of their computer as noted cybersecurity expert Chris Soghoian in a editorial in the New York Times .

Before leaving the field, he is concerned about his physical security, war reporter armed himself with a helmet and a bulletproof vest. Similarly, any journalist should carry a ” survival kit digital “when it is stored or exchange sensitive information online, on your computer or on your mobile phone. This kit, developed gradually by Reporters Without Borders site WeFightCensorship , highlights the need to clean its metadata documents often too talkative , explains how to use the Tor network or virtual private network (VPN) to anonymize communication, provides Tips for secure communications and data on mobile devices etc. ..

Journalists and netizens need to better estimate the potential monitoring and the type of data or communications to protect to find the solution to their situation and, if possible easy to use. Faced with the sophistication of the means deployed by censors and intelligence, the ingenuity of players information and hacktivists who support each is put to the test. But after their tussle depends the future of freedom of information. A fight without bombs, without bars of prisons, bleached without inserts in newspapers, but a fight where if you do not take care, the enemies of truth and reality could impose absolute domination.

Photo by RobH (Own work) [ CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

[1] Read the article ” Hackers in Damascus ”
[2] ITU summit in December 2012 in Dubai aimed to standardize norms and standards used on the Internet. One of the standards proposed for the conference was the widespread installation of Deep Packet Inspection technology . This type of technology is extremely intrusive because it provides access to the contents of emails exchanged intercept instant messages and access to the entire content accessed by a user on the Internet.

Syria: the story behind one of the most shocking images of the war

Why did the bodies of 110 men suddenly wash up in the river running through Aleppo city six weeks ago? A Guardian investigation found out

Bodies revealed by the Queiq river’s receding waters. Photo: Thomas Rassloff/EPA

It is already one of the defining images of the Syrian civil war: a line of bodies at neatly spaced intervals lying on a river bed in the heart of Syria’s second city Aleppo. All 110 victims have been shot in the head, their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back. Their brutal execution only became apparent when the winter high waters of the Queiq river, which courses through the no man’s land between the opposition-held east of the city and the regime-held west, subsided in January.

It’s a picture that begs so many questions: who were these men? How did they die. Why? What does their story tell us about the wretched disintegration of Syria? A Guardian investigation has established a grisly narrative behind the worst – and most visible – massacre to have taken place here. All the men were from neighbourhoods in the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo. Most were men of working age. Many disappeared at regime checkpoints. They may not be the last to be found. Locals have since dropped a grate from a bridge, directly over an eddy in the river. Corpses were still arriving 10 days after the original discovery on January 29, washed downstream by currents flushed by winter rains.

The grate over the Queiq river in southern Aleppo, which locals have placed hoping to catch the bodies that flow downstream see clip in full article

Just after dawn on 29 January, a car pulled up outside a school being used as a rebel base in the Aleppo suburb of Bustan al-Qasr with news of the massacre. Since then a painstaking task to identify the victims and establish how they died has been inching forwards. The victims, many without names, were mostly buried within three days — 48 hours longer than social custom dictates, to allow for their families to claim them.

Ever since, relatives have been arriving to identify the dead from photographs taken by the rescuers. Each family member who has made the journey to a makeshift office, set up inside a childcare centre, brings with them accounts of when they last saw their father, son, cousin, or brother and where he had travelled before he was murdered.

There are no women on the grisly slideshow of dead men that is replayed in melancholy slow motion every time a relative arrives. Nor are there more than a handful of males aged over 30. Most of the dead dragged from Aleppo’s Queiq River were men of working age.

Another thread strongly unites the fate of the river massacre victims; each of them had either been in the west of the city, or had been trying to get there. They had to pass though checkpoints run by the Syrian army, or their proxy militia, the Shabiha. The process involved handing over identification papers that detailed in which area of the city the holder of the papers lived.

Full article here

White House Petition: Free Bradley Manning—Give Him a Full and Complete Pardon

In Bradley Manning, News on March 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Free Bradley Manning


Free Bradley Manning—Give him a full and complete pardon

Concerning Nobel Peace Prize nominee PFC Bradley Manning : Please President Obama grant a full pardon and have him released immediately. His 1000 days locked up display the worst of U.S. flagrant disregard for human rights. Show that we as a nation can accept a critical examination of our behavior and rise to the occasion of correcting it to reflect ethics and international law. PFC Manning should be lauded for exposing the truth .


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