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October 2015

Fragments of so-called life in Syria

SILAY SILDIR – Ankara

In her latest book ‘The Crossing,’ PEN award winning Syrian journalist Samar Yazbek gives an account of what she witnessed in Syria

“The Crossing” is neither fiction nor a memoir. It is a testimony of a Syrian journalist on the people left behind in Syria. Samar Yazbek documents the real people, living (or more accurately dying) under the current aerial bombardment.

 

In her book, the PEN award winning journalist gives an account of what she has witnessed. From the 2011 protests demanding human rights to the formation of local militias by common people, “The Crossing” accounts for the gradual metamorphosis of the rebellion into a fragmented opposition dominated by extremists.

“Before our homeland became a magnet attracting radical Islamists and paid soldiers, we had an honorable revolution,” says Yazbek, referring to the beginning of the protests she participated in as an activist. Her critical writings and activism against the autocracy of the Assad regime forced her into exile. She was arrested for five times, beaten and forced to watch young activists hanging upside down in the dungeons of the regime.

Yet, she believes writing is essential in this turmoil. Unless documented, she says, the truth will be forgotten because of the chaotic environment and manipulations of the media under the pressure of the intelligence service. That is why, starting from 2012, she sneaked back into her country multiple times to document sometimes even the front line.

She talks about the inability of a child to run, with her already shrapnel-blown arms and legs when planes start to drop barrel bombs. She also talks about a regime soldier, executed for disobeying a direct order and refusing to rape another child.

Her testimonials are heavy, as she answers our question “How is the daily life under current war conditions?” She points to the shrapnel-loaded barrel bombs of the regime once again as the biggest danger threatening the survival of innocent civilians today.

“Access to primary health care, water and gas requires a long journey on unsafe roads,” she says. In her own words, daily life is hell in Syria, both for children and adults. In areas under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Yazbek explains children are taken from their mothers suddenly in the daytime, to be armed under their so-called army. These children then become numbers in death tolls in air strike operations.

She has met elderly people who refuse to run and hide during aerial bombardment. “Hope for survival is lessening,” she tells us. “The number of civil organizations including Turkish volunteers actively working within Syrian borders is decreasing,” she reports. “Bettering the daily life for those we left behind becomes harder by this very fact.”

Yazbek says the primary reason is the expanding ISIL activity, with its morbid brutality and the interventions of other radical religious groups in civil society, while the regime’s bombs drop from the sky.

Indeed, the hegemonic wars of the international community in the region have replaced humanitarian solutions. Military solutions trampled the priority to protect. The United Nations held their meeting in New York last week. No deterrent decision was produced for Assad’s helicopter-dropped barrel bombs killing civilians indiscriminately. Besides, France started its first air strikes against ISIL militants in Syria, which means more bombs on already decaying towns. The civilian left behind in Syria seems to be nobody’s top priority. Russia appears to be more concerned about extremist Islamic formations with its air force backing up the regime. Europe’s biggest source of worry is most probably people marching to their borders. “We do not see measureable gains, the murderer ISIL is expanding and Assad’s tortures make things worse,” says Yazbek. “Where politics fail to accomplish its objective to produce a solution what can media or literature do?” we ask Yazbek.

Her answer is simple: “We should keep on writing and put civilian massacres on the agenda.” She believes literature constructs social memory and remembering the truth nourishes hope to reconstruct society.

“Syria’s major problem is that our demands of justice and freedom have been transformed into a refugee and donation problem,” says Yazbek. “This is a political decision and manipulation of the truth by international actors,” she explains.

Meanwhile, EU leaders gathered in Brussels. They announced a short-term action plan: the EU would offer at least 1 billion euros more to the U.N. refugee agency and others, to increase funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, etc. However, so far this year, the U.N. has received only 37 percent of its appeal for aid in Syria. The World Health Organization has only received 27 percent of needed funds for the devastated country. When it comes to those we left behind, neither side seems to have much regard for civilians under the crossfire.

“The Crossing” appeared on the bookshelves on July 2. The book aims to keep an eye on the people in Syria left to suffer alone in political maneuvers.

October/13/2015

source

Syria’s war: A 5-minute history

Vox
Syria’s war has killed at least 250,000 people and displaced 12 million. To understand how Syria got to this place, it helps to start at the beginning:

Toward a People’s History of the Syrian Uprising—A Conversation with Wendy Pearlman

October 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

In the increasingly disfigured debate about Syria, it is scarcely even remembered that it all began as a popular uprising—indeed, as a nonviolent and non-sectarian one whose goals were dignity, justice, and freedom from a one-family mafia torture state in power for more than four decades.

Wendy Pearlman is out to set that record straight and explain why the Syrian uprising happened in the first place.

Pearlman, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University in Chicago who serves on the faculty of the university’s Middle East and North African Studies Program, is the author of Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada and Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement.

For the last two years Pearlman has been working on a book that she conceives as something of a people’s history of the Syrian uprising. She has interviewed more than 150 Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey about their experiences in the uprising and war. Along the way, she has published a series of powerful articles, among them “Love in the Syrian Revolution”, “Fathers of Revolution” and “On the Third Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising”.

In September, our Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver had the pleasure of co-hosting Pearlman (along with the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy) for a pair of presentations about her book-in-progress. While she was in Denver, I conducted this interview with her for our Middle East Dialogues video series:

SYRIA – The long journey of a Syrian refugee (part 1/3): on the “Road of Death”, from Homs to Antakya*

 SOURCE

The Redaction of The Maghreb and Orient Courier publishes the story of Nori, a 21-years-old Syrian refugee, in three parts (in its issues of September, October and December)*. Nori told our correspondent the story of a journey towards life. He was a citizen of Homs and after his family had fled the war and his brother had died, nothing kept him in his city. He decided to leave his city behind, and the violence, war and misery that went with it. Here is his story, how he fled the regime and arrived in Turkey, just to find himself in a similar uncertainty about his future as back home – although less lethal.

* ALL DONATIONS TO THE MAGHREB AND ORIENT COURIER WITH THE MENTION “SYRIAN REFUGEE” WILL ENTIRELY BE TRANSFERED TO NORI, THIS STORY’S PROTAGONIST – THANKS A LOT TO OUR READERS FOR SUPPORTING HIM.

 

SYRIA - September 2015 - Amhed SAYED'“On the 16th of January 2014, my brother died and left me to live alone after my family had already fled to Jordan. Life became very hard for me in Homs. The position in the city became increasingly harder to maintain…

The bombardments increased after the leader of the biggest brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighting in Homs received new weapons… The regime provoked the city in order to deplete the rebels’ weapons and to get a better morale amongst the troops so as to recruit further soldiers. Many massacres happened until an air strike killed the main leader of the FSA.

At that time, I decided to fill my loneliness by teaching in the poor schools, but the following massacres and murders caused by the rockets and the air strikes of the regime further demoralised me because I could not do anything to protect the children and even to save my life. The bombardments continued to destroy houses; the schools which I was teaching in and my house were destroyed… Six children died together… They were my students…

The only thing I could do was either to get out of the country or to die myself…

READ ON HERE

Theo Jansen Strandbeest

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Clase Magistral Ilan Pappé Universidad de Chile – INGLÉS

first minutes are difficult but the sounds gets better at 5′

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr : ‘If I die I’ve had a happy life’

‘If I die I’ve had a happy life’: Astonishing bravery of the boy who faces being beheaded then crucified in Saudi Arabia for taking part in protest when he was 17

  • Ali Mohammed al-Nimr arrested for participating in protest in Qatif in 2012
  • He will be beheaded and his body will be crucified in public for three days 
  • Source close to family said Ali, 21, remains optimistic in the face of death
  • They say government is making an example of Ali in wake of social unrest 

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was, by all accounts, a regular 17-year-old boy who loved cars and hanging out with his friends when he was sentenced to death simply for protesting against Saudi Arabia’s government.

Any day now, he will be publicly beheaded and his body will be crucified and left to fester out in the open for three days despite worldwide condemnation.

Even in the face of certain death, a source close to his family told MailOnline he ‘has not lost hope’ of surviving this dreadful situation.

From inside his prison cell, the courageous activist told them: ‘I will get out. And if I die, I’ve lived a happy life.’

MailOnline’s source claimed the government is ‘making an example’ of Ali because of the actions of his uncle Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’ite cleric who was also sentenced to death for speaking out against them.

Capital punishment: Ali Mohammed al-Nimr (pictured) was arrested for taking part in an anti-government protest and sentenced to death in May 2014

Capital punishment: Ali Mohammed al-Nimr (pictured) was arrested for taking part in an anti-government protest and sentenced to death in May 2014

Courageous: Ali (pictured) will be beheaded and crucified any day now, but a source close to his family says the activist has 'not lost hope' that he will survive this ordeal

Courageous: Ali (pictured) will be beheaded and crucified any day now, but a source close to his family says the activist has ‘not lost hope’ that he will survive this ordeal

Missing him: Ali's father, who MailOnline's source has described as a 'broken man', tweeted this picture of Ali's brother and sister hugging a painting of him

Missing him: Ali’s father, who MailOnline’s source has described as a ‘broken man’, tweeted this picture of Ali’s brother and sister hugging a painting of him

Activist: The source believes the government is taking revenge on Ali because his uncle Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (pictured wounded in the back of a police car after his arrest in 2012) who spoke out against them

Activist: The source believes the government is taking revenge on Ali because his uncle Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (pictured wounded in the back of a police car after his arrest in 2012) who spoke out against them

Ali, now 21, was a high school student when he was arrested for taking part in a pro-democracy rally in the eastern governate of Qatif, where police brutally clamped down on demonstrators in 2012.

He was charged with attending the protest, teaching first aid to demonstrators, using his Blackberry phone to urge more people to join and possessing a gun – the only accusation his family strongly denies.

The country’s Specialised Criminal Court – which tries suspected terrorists and human rights activists – sentenced him to death in May 2014.

The decision was condemned by activists and human rights groups around the world, who argued he was being put to death for a crime he committed as a child and he was tortured into giving a false confession.

Despite facing an agonising wait to be yanked from his cell and beheaded by a state-sanctioned executioner, he remains incredibly stoic.

The source close to his family, who spoke to Ali over the phone, said: ‘He was so optimistic. He wasn’t scared. Even after he was given the death penalty, he never showed any fear.’

The lives of his family members, who live in constant fear that he will be executed at a moment’s notice, have been ripped apart by what they deem an act of vengeance.

‘They feel sad, they feel hopeless – helpless. They lie awake at night thinking about how he’s doing in prison, wondering if he is thinking about the death penalty,’ MailOnline’s source said.

‘His father is a very strong man but I can feel that he’s not acting normal any more – he is broken.

‘And his mother loves him so much. She says forget about it, don’t worry, but I can see that she is worried a lot. They are going to kill their child – nobody can handle that.’

Cruelty: MailOnline's source said Ali (pictured) was a regular 17-year-old boy who liked cars and hanging out with his friends when he was arrested and detained without trial in 2012

Cruelty: MailOnline's source said Ali (pictured) was a regular 17-year-old boy who liked cars and hanging out with his friends when he was arrested and detained without trial in 2012

Cruelty: MailOnline’s source said Ali (pictured) was a regular 17-year-old boy who liked cars and hanging out with his friends when he was arrested and detained without trial in 2012

Fearless: MailOnline's source said Ali (pictured) remains 'optimistic' even in the face of death, adding: 'Even after he was given the death penalty, he never showed any fear'

Fearless: MailOnline’s source said Ali (pictured) remains ‘optimistic’ even in the face of death, adding: ‘Even after he was given the death penalty, he never showed any fear’

Death penalty: A human rights group told MailOnline that the crucifixion sentence in Saudi Arabia entails beheading, then a public display of the body

Death penalty: A human rights group told MailOnline that the crucifixion sentence in Saudi Arabia entails beheading, then a public display of the body

Some family members cannot sleep at night because their thoughts are plagued by his impending death.

The source said: ‘They can’t stop thinking about Ali’s case. I think about what his mother and father must be feeling reading news articles that he’s going to be executed. This is their life – it’s ruined now.’

Ali once had a passion for photography and dreams of studying psychology when he finished high school.

He now only dreams of getting out of prison, the family source told MailOnline, adding: ‘The last time I spoke to him, he told me he was going to get out and continue his studies.

‘He doesn’t think about the death penalty or prison or the miserable life he has now – he just tries to get through to the next day.

‘Otherwise he said he’d be broken all day, just thinking about death. But if he thinks about the future, he’s going to live a happy life and he knows that.

There are fears that the Saudi government  ordered Ali’s arrest and killing because they wanted to take revenge on his activist uncle, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

He was sentenced to death last year for disobeying the ruler, inciting sectarian strife and ‘encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations’.

Policemen shot and wounded Sheikh al-Nimr, a vocal critic of the ‘harassment’ of Shi’ite Muslims, during his arrest in July 2012.

The evidence of the charges against him came from religious sermons and interviews attributed to the cleric but Amnesty International claimed he was ‘exercising his right to free expression and was not inciting violence’.

Renowned: ASaudi anti-government protester carries a poster with the image of jailed Shiite cleric, and Ali’s uncle, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Revenge: There are fears that the Saudi government ordered Ali's (pictured) arrest and killing because they wanted to take revenge on his activist uncle, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Revenge: There are fears that the Saudi government ordered Ali’s (pictured) arrest and killing because they wanted to take revenge on his activist uncle, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

MailOnline’s source said: He [Sheikh al-Nimr] didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t hurt anyone, he just did and said what all the other Saudis were thinking. We were all afraid, but he said it.

‘He would tell people, you should not be scared of the government, they should be scared of us.

‘If you say anything about freedom, say anything against them [Saudi government], they want revenge. This is not the way governments should treat people.’

Ali’s impending execution has been met with global outrage. France and the United Nations have ordered Saudi Arabia not to kill him and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene.

Many argued that he should not be executed for an alleged crime he committed when he was just 17, and legally considered a child.

Human rights groups also argued that his lawyers were denied access to evidence and that the final appeal against his execution took place in secret and without his knowledge.

A Change.org petition calling for a stop to the crucifixion has gained 12,000 signatures, another one started by human rights group Reprieve has nearly 14,000 and one urging UK’s government to put pressure on the Saudis has around 3,500.

United Nations experts on arbitrary executions, torture and child rights have urged Saudi Arabia to halt the execution – saying ‘confessions obtained under torture cannot be used as evidence’.

They said Saudi Arabia has executed 134 people this year, which is already 44 more than the total for the whole of 2014.

Anger: A Bahraini protester carries a lit palm branch during clashes with riot police following a protest against the death sentence of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in October 2014

Anger: A Bahraini protester carries a lit palm branch during clashes with riot police following a protest against the death sentence of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in October 2014

In a joint statement, the experts said: ‘Such a surge in executions in the country makes Saudi Arabia a sad exception in a world where States are increasingly moving away from the death penalty.’

The experts also said imposing the death penalty on children violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Saudi Arabia signed up to.

Finally, they said: ‘Al-Nimr did not receive a fair trial and his lawyer was not allowed to properly assist him and was prevented from accessing the case file.

‘We call upon the Saudi authorities to ensure a fair retrial of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, and to immediately halt the scheduled execution.’

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, told MailOnline: ‘The Saudi government’s plans to “crucify” Ali al-Nimr are nothing short of an outrage.

‘He was imprisoned, tortured into a bogus “confession”, denied access to a lawyer and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

She called on countries like the UK and United States, who are allies of Saudi Arabia, to intervene to ‘save his life’ and urged Britain’s Ministry of Justice to withdraw its bid to provide ‘services’ to the Saudi prison system.

Reprieve told MailOnline that the crucifixion sentence in modern Saudi Arabia entails beheading and then publicly displaying the body.

A spokesman said: ‘The sentence is actually quite unusual, even for Saudi Arabia, particularly given the lack of any real evidence against Ali.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3253285/If-die-ve-happy-life-Astonishing-bravery-boy-faces-beheaded-crucified-Saudi-Arabia-taking-protest-17.html#ixzz3nIDiD98g 
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