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Assad’s Militias Turn to Schoolchildren to Fill Manpower Void


Mar 29th, 2017 by Alsouria Net (opposition website)

Opposition outlet claims loyalist paramilitary groups are routinely exploiting Syrians’ needs for a stable income by recruiting children into their ranks for up to $200 a month, with many of them being sent to battlefronts without proper training

Conscripted from schools or places of work to fight in the ranks of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, children walk through areas of Damascus and its countryside in full military gear, only to end up dead or stationed on battlefronts to await their fate.

Amid a dire economic climate and widespread financial stress for many families, celebrations for the conscription of schoolchildren under 18 years old have become a normal affair, as the regime exploits people’s need for an income against a backdrop of skyrocketing prices.

Damascus and its countryside have seen the conscription of children from the ages of 13 to 17 in various areas. One such area is Adra al-Amaliyeh, close to the city of Douma in the Damascus countryside, where a number of secondary and preparatory schools have witnessed the presence of recruiters from the Baath Brigades militia, while a party was held for about 40 children signing up to fight with the loyalist Fifth Corps, according to what sources told Alsouria Net, requesting anonymity out of fear for their safety.

The sources said there were no regulations for recruiting children, whereby the Baath Brigades accepted any child to fight in its ranks in exchange for $200 a month. Other incentives include the recording of their attendance in school and securing opportunities to succeed in academic courses.

In the Rukneddine area in the capital Damascus, children appear in their military gear alongside the National Defense Forces group and a number of other Shiite militias. Many of the children enter into fighting without having taken training courses to prepare them for the battle, increasing the likelihood of them being fatally wounded during clashes.

Among the children who told their stories to Alsouria Net was the child Shihab, 16, who lives in the Kashkool area near Jaramana and fights alongside the NDF militia for 35,000 Syrian pounds ($160) a month. He told his relatives that he had left school because his family was unable to secure a living and that he benefits from the salary he receives and from looting, which regime forces carry out in the areas they enter.
Although the most recent constitution, authored by the Assad regime in 2012, includes compulsory schooling for all children, it seems ensuring the education of those who drop out of school is not considered a priority in the areas under regime control.

The NDF militia, the popular committees and the Baath Brigades are the most prominent parties into which children are conscripted for the benefit of the Assad regime — something the regime has repeatedly denied. From time to time loyalist pages on social media will publish images of bases for conscripting children, while the NDF militia in the Hama countryside has previously published images of children who were receiving training, some of them wearing military uniform, overseen by fighters from the regime forces.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/32538/Assad_Militias_Turn_Schoolchildren_Fill_Manpower_Void

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UAE refuge is ‘something special’, say Syrians who fled civil war

One-page article

Having fled Syria’s civil war, about 120,000 Syrians have found a sanctuary in the UAE between 2011 and last year. Six of them tell of their yearning for their country’s peaceful past and their wish for a better life

Six years ago on March 15, fighting erupted in Syria that would change the face of the country forever.

In 2011, the regime of Bashar Al Assad clashed with anti-government forces in battles that would later involve ISIL, Al Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army, leaving cities in ruins.

Consequently, about 5 million Syrians fled to neighbouring countries in what has become the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

More than 120,000 Syrians moved to the UAE and were given residency visas between 2011 and last year. That nearly doubled the Syrian population in the UAE to 240,000 as of last September.

Last summer, the Government said it would take in 15,000 refugees in the coming years.

The Syrian families that arrived here have found peace and employment. But most have lost their homes and are unable to return. Some have also struggled to find places for their children in schools and struggled with the costs of living. Here, six Syrians who fled tell their stories.

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snailMohammed Taha, 29, hails from Aleppo. Alex Atack for The National

Homeless and in search of dignity

Name: Mohammed Taha

Age: 29

From: Aleppo

Profession: He was a butcher and a chef. He is currently jobless.

Lives: On Dubai’s streets and in mosques

“I left my country to escape serving in Bashar Al Assad’s army or any party involved in destroying my country and killing my people. All we saw was bloodshed and I was terrified.

“I was supposed to serve in the army as part of the compulsory military service, but I fled Syria in 2014 when the war became severe.

“Both the regime and the extremist rebels were bombing the country with all kinds of weapons.

“My family’s home in Aleppo was levelled, bombed into the ground – just like many buildings and homes.

“My brother and I left Syria in search of a new life. We were lucky to have escaped the war in our country but our plight continues.

“My brother went to Turkey and I came to Dubai.

“I was lucky enough to find a job in a restaurant serving

Arabic cuisine in Satwa, where I rented a bed space in an apartment.

“The two owners of the restaurant, a Syrian and a Palestinian, had a fight and decided to close the restaurant. My residency visa was consequently cancelled.

“Afterwards, I worked in another restaurant. The owner said he had to test my culinary skills for a month. I accepted and worked with an invalid residency visa. After the test period,the restaurant owner refused to renew my residency visa and gave me half of my salary. That meant that I could no longer stay in Satwa, so I looked elsewhere for a cheaper place.

“I moved to an apartment in Hor Al Anz and lived with some Asians. The bed space cost Dh400. I kept looking for a job. But with my bad luck, the owners of the restaurants I sought employment at asked me to work for a period of time. But after the period passed, they refused to renew my residency visa or give me my pay.

“Many of them said that ‘we don’t renew residency visas for Syrians’.

“I ran out of money and I have been on the streets since last June. I sleep now in mosques in Muraqqabat. Sometimes I sleep in parks, and I ask the restaurants nearby for food and water.

“I have been to charity organisations and people there told me that they only give money to families, women and the elderly.

“I don’t know what to do. I feel like people have stopped helping one another. I go out looking for work daily but I hear the same excuses.

“I only want to work for Dh2,000 or even Dh1,500 a month and get a residency visa. I came here to live with dignity.”

* Nawal Al Ramahi

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snailNauran Al Chalati’s family members use Skype to communicate. Victor Besa for The National

A family separated by war finds togetherness online

Name: Nauran Al Chalati

Age: 27

From: Damascus

Profession: Formerly a student in Damascus, she is now a video editor at a production house in Dubai Media City.

Lives: In Dubai since 2013 with her eldest sister. Her brother and father remain in Damascus.

“Your home country is like your foundation. The moment you leave, especially in a panic, you lose equilibrium. This is exactly what happened to my family. We are all struggling, making our own little worlds far from one another.

“I don’t know when I will be able to have a meal with my siblings and my father that is cooked by my mother. It looks like a dream.

“I graduated from a private university in Damascus in 2013 at the age of 22. I was unable to start my career in Damascus because there was no job or security. Things were getting horrible and my mother realised that there was no future for her family in Syria. Since then, my family has been separated, living in different parts of the world.

“I moved to the UAE in April 2013 when my elder brother, who was working in Dubai at the time, sponsored a tourist visa. All of us, except one of my brothers, came here in 2013. My brother was not able to leave the country and did not want to leave my father alone.

“My family spends a few months together in Dubai. My father applied for jobs here but failed and had to return to Damascus. My mother decided to move to the United States as a refugee.

“She always believed that we would be in safe hands if we settled in the US. My brother in Dubai joined her after a few months. My sister and I still live in Dubai.

“But there are no more family dinners. We don’t celebrate festivals together. We can only see one another on Skype. This is the price my family has paid because of the conflict in Syria.

“I don’t believe that one day things will be OK in Syria. They won’t be, at least not in the near future. I want my family and I to be settled. I want to take my father and brother out of Damascus safely. A peaceful life is my dream but this peaceful life will not be in Syria.”

* Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi

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snailArtist Mohannad Orabi says Dubai has made him more open in his approach to people of different nationalities and cultures. Christopher Pike / The National

Daughter eases portraits of sorrow

Name: Mohannad Orabi

Age: 39

From: Damascus

Profession: An artist in Syria, he now paints in a studio adjacent to Ayyam Gallery in Alserkal Avenue

Lives: In Dubai with his wife and daughter.

“There are emotions that you feel for the things you leave behind. Each day we hear news from my country. I have had bad experiences, I lost people close to me in this war.

“I had visited Dubai three or four times as a tourist, but making my decision to stay was a completely different experience.

“The first impression was that Dubai was a little bit difficult. The lifestyle in Dubai is completely different to those in Damascus and Cairo. I had lived in Cairo for a year and a half before moving to Dubai in 2014.

“It’s very difficult to be outside my country, but it’s difficult to go back to Syria.

“My daughter is happy at school, she has a lot of friends. It has been faster for her to become part of a community than for my wife and I.

“I have two brothers in Syria and we call one another every day. I still have friends in Syria. I try to connect my family there with my daughter. We send pictures and communicate on social media.

“I have learnt from my wife, who is a graphic designer. She was working in Damascus for five or six years, but in Dubai it’s difficult to find a job even though she speaks good English and Arabic. She keeps trying, goes for interviews and sends her resume.

“I left my house, my studio, my car and my paintings. My brother tries to visit my house to check on my belongings.

“I remember a painting I started to draw but didn’t finish. I hope that I will go back to Syria and complete my painting.

“I could feel the sadness in my previous paintings because of what I have left in Syria and what has happened in my country.

“Now there is a little hope in my paintings. This hope perhaps comes from my daughter when I see her smile and being happy.

“Maybe when I see my daughter, this is the image I want to see of my country.

“I know that after all these dark days that we have endured, there is light. It’s coming soon.

“In Dubai, there is a different effect because there is an emotional influence of the place you move into. Dubai is the capital city of art in the Middle East. But the most important thing in Dubai is that I don’t feel strange because there are people from different nationalities and cultures. It’s a global city, it’s made me more open. For me, it’s very important to respect differences between one another. That influences my work.

“I was at a workshop in a university in Egypt and brought my family with me for one or two months. It is now almost five years since I left Syria.”

* Ramola Talwar Badam

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snailAsmaa Kftarou says non-discrimination between religions in Syria in the past is present in the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National

Syria in their hearts, gratitude to UAE

Name: Asmaa Kftarou

Age: 44

From: Damascus

Profession: She was a civil servant at the ministry of religious affairs. She is currently unemployed

Lives: In Sharjah with her husband and five daughters.

“When I speak about Syria, despite the thousands of broken hearts, the unspeakable killings and the pain and suffering of millions who had no option but to flee in fear of their lives, I remain hopeful that the country will return to its former glory; that its soul is still intact; and that Syria will warmly embrace those people who are longing to return home.

“I’m from a well-known family in Damascus. My family come from a long line of Islamic educators and religious scholars in Damascus. My grandfather was the grand mufti for 41 years. He was known internationally and he spread Islam’s message of peace and love.

“Until 2010, I was working in the ministry of Islamic affairs in Damascus. I engaged in Islamic studies and taught Islam in schools in the capital. We had a stable and wonderful life in Syria.

“In 2011, when the killings started and after my husband, a member of parliament, barely escaped an assassination attempt, we had to leave Damascus out of fear for our daughters’ safety.

“Since then, I have been suffering deeply because I miss my family in Damascus and my country. To see what has happened to Syria saddens me to the core.

“We never once in Syria differentiated between different religions. We are all the sons and daughters of God and there was never anything but love between us. We’ve always tried to be accepting and good to people despite our differences. We tried to look beyond that to live together, and that’s how we had always lived in Syria.

“We found in the UAE a home that promotes peace and love between people, be they Syrian or Danish. There is a unity here that is truly special.

“Nevertheless, I haven’t found work here. I am still waiting to return home and begin to rebuild.

“It has been very difficult. We have five daughters, four of whom are studying. We need to support them.

“My husband has just finished his contract as an academic at Abu Dhabi University. They haven’t renewed it.

“My husband was of great importance in Damascus as a parliamentarian and a teacher. For him to be out of a stable job that befits his status is difficult.

“It’s been a struggle of course, but we’ll always hope for the best. As we all carry Syria in our hearts, we maintain our gratitude to the country that has provided us with a warm adopted home.”

* Naser Al Wasmi

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snailRuba Musleh started a business here to make life better for herself and her family. Anna Nielsen for The National

Memories of a decent life … and a desire for stability

Name: Ruba Mousleh

Age: 33

From: Harasta

Profession: Currently an employee of Nokia in Dubai where she moved in 2012 after the company closed its office in Syria because of the rising instability. She now lives in the UAE with her brother and family.

“There were bombs going off in the area and access to my house was impossible when things started getting bad.

“Today, almost five years after the conflict erupted, no one is allowed to go to Harasta. We don’t even know what state our house is in.

“There was a lot of fighting between the Assad regime and the Free Syria Army. The situation was bad. There were bombings and fighting but people got used to it.

“I was lucky that I didn’t lose a family member. For those who lost their loved ones, they won’t ever be able to get used to it. I decided to leave because there’s no house to go back to. Our safety wasn’t guaranteed and I was given an opportunity to improve my life and my family’s.

“When I think about going back … I know that living there is extremely difficult. To find a job that can sustain you is close to impossible. Getting food, -water, and having a basic life are extremely difficult.

“Here it’s safe and we’re grateful, but it’s been difficult. I’ve tried to improve my life. I work and I’ve tried to get my family here. I was successful but I faced many complications. Also, I started a business, called Fruit Monsters, to try to make life better for my family and I.

“But my business is on its last legs and getting my parents to stay here is proving to be more difficult each month. We need to find a stable situation that can give us a feeling of permanent safety, not just a temporary solution.

“Life is difficult here. I pursued my master’s degree at Knowledge Village and it’s been two years since I tried to start a business. But the visa situation is difficult.

“Our life in Syria was very decent before the war. My parents were teachers and my brother a businessman. I had a job in an international company and we had our lives full of friends, social events, volunteering at NGOs, and it was safe.

“I don’t know how it is now. I don’t know if I can go back and deal with the level of danger, the corruption, the standard of living, which are definitely more difficult than when we left.

“When I think about going back, I don’t know what to do. I just want stability and safety for my family. I am beginning to lose hope.”

* Naser Al Wasmi

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snailF. Saad has been taking photos free in hopes of finding work. Vidhyaa for The National

Hardship of life through the lens

Name: F. Saad

Age: 42

From: Damascus

Profession: She was a photographer who ran her own studio. She is now jobless

Lives: In Abu Dhabi with her husband and daughter. Her two older children are students in Germany.

“My country has been destroyed. Sometimes we think that even if the war were to stop now, it would take 20 years for Syria to be a country that anyone can live in.

“After the war you need years of construction and to heal the psychology of people who saw the bombings, the blood, the deaths.

“It’s not only about the bombings, the gangs or the arms. No, there is something deeper that has affected the people and children who were brought up seeing that during the past six years.

“My father, stepmother, sister and family are in Syria. I have a sister and brothers here in the UAE. So half my family is there and half here.

“We have an apartment in Syria with three bedrooms and a very big yard. I lived in an area that is now under government control.

“Three years ago, gangs entered the town and destroyed my photo studio and bombed some houses.

“We were there when the armed gangs entered. We stayed in shelters for two weeks with no food, nothing. And more than 100 people.

“I came here with my husband and three children. My daughter and son are in Germany for studies. I cannot go back to Syria and there is no way they will give us visas to go to Germany.

“We came to Abu Dhabi in 2014 in the middle of the school year and it was not easy to get my youngest daughter in school. She was only five, so she stayed at home until the next year.

“Life is peaceful and everybody respects each other.

“We live respectful lives here, but you need money for rent. School fees are a struggle, daily life is a struggle and that is because we don’t have jobs.

“We live with my sister-in-law and depend on her. Without her support, we couldn’t survive.

“She is the only one with a permanent job.

“In Syria we lived well because our jobs brought us good money. My husband was the owner and manager of a garage. He got residency here through a company, but it shut down last month. “I had my own studio and took photographs of events and weddings.

“Here, I have taken photographs for conferences but they have been mostly for free as I try to get connections for work.

“My husband and I are struggling to find any kind of jobs.

“If you are in my situation, you will not think about the future. You think about now.

“I’m feeling numb, the feeling you get when you completely stop being scared of anything.

“We are fragile inside. We are partially broken emotionally because we lost a lot of people we loved. We had to leave our country and have no jobs.”

* Ramola Talwar Badam

The Boy who started the Syrian War –

Down the Alt-Right’s Syrian Rabbit Hole

How a Chemical Attack in 2013 set the Stage for Trump’s Post-Truth Presidency, and How We Can Fight Back.

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On August 21st 2013 rumors of a massive chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel held suburb of Damascus began to emerge. A series of now famous videos which showed victims laid out on the floor shaking were uploaded. Over the next few day fragmentary details of a major sarin gas attack began to emerge in the western media. As  journalists started putting the pieces together an Austin based conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones went on air to present his own version of events with absolute certainty.

In retrospect the August 23rd episode of “The Alex Jones Show” is worth re watching, because it was a chilling precursor to the alt right movement that would shape how Donald Trump sees the world. Between segments hawking survivalist and pseudo medical products, listeners called in to speak with Jones. One caller ranted about fears that Obamacare death panels would kill his grandmother, Jones suggested Obama’s Muslim background made him a bad dog owner and a segment about the inappropriate conduct of the Clinton foundation ran (remember this was during the summer of 2013).

Read full article here

Russia and the Syrian Regime are Documenting Their Own Crimes

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In the era of “fake news,” Russian hacking, and “post truth presidency,” it can be hard to discern fact from fiction and propaganda from reporting. Over the past few years the smear and bullshit industry has been kicked into overdrive by state actors invested in spreading misinformation.

Propaganda is nothing new but as America comes to grips with the role of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election via hacks and so-called “fake news”, many are wondering what, if anything, can be done to counter these increasingly toxic and advanced strains of misinformation. Most worrying is the fact that US president elect Donald Trump seems to be a voracious consumer of fake information, at the expense of US intelligence agencies and other more rational observers.

This seemingly insurmountable challenge has left lawmakers scratching their heads, considering countermeasures and toying with the absolutely unacceptable notion of censorship. For those of us who oppose censorship but are still terrified by the plague of bullshit there is good news. Simply put, the best cure for Russian propaganda is Russian propaganda.

Nowhere is this problem more apparent than in the Syrian war, which despite being one of the most recorded conflicts in history, is still the subject of a massive amount of orchestrated disinformation. As the evacuation of Aleppo kicks off Russia and the Syrian regime are franticly pushing to control the narrative through selective reporting and ad hominem attacks. Pro Regime outlets, Russian TV as well as some western apologists have consistently tried to downplay or obfuscate the reports of mass atrocities taking place in Syria. One of the most obvious propaganda tactics has been to attack the credibility of rescue workers and try to debunk evidence of indiscriminate airstrikes.

Fortunately, the disinformation frequently discredits itself.

In the wake of an airstrike against a UN SARC convoy earlier this year Russian television claimed that Russian forces did not know the location of the convoy and that no airstrike had taken place. Yet they also showed Russian drone footage of a rebel mortar being driven past the very convoy. Russians can’t have been unaware of the convoys location while simultaneously tracking it for proof that it was somehow a legitimate target. The UN subsequently provided satellite evidence that showed that indeed airstrikes had taken place.

Russia and the Syrian regime have claimed that they don’t target civilians yet they have dropped leaflets over Aleppo which threaten the population with extermination if they remain in their city.

There has also been an obsession with discrediting civilian voices coming out of Aleppo. Russia Today and InTheNow have both aired videos over the past 72 hours calling into question the validity of activists tweeting videos out of Aleppo, blatantly asserting that they themselves are part of a misinformation campaign. The implication has been that the activists are somehow linked to the west or are not in Aleppo.

The most startling example of this has been the campaign to discredit the twitter account run jointly by the seven year old Bana Alabed and her mother Fatimeh, from inside Aleppo. During a segment featuring RT’s Anissa Naouai for the Russian funded InTheNow tried to discredit Bana’s and other Syrian’s twitter accounts and pleas for help “it almost looks like a coordinated PR campaign.”  This regardless of the fact that many journalists have been in direct contact in Bana and her mother and Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins has used geolocation to prove Bana’s precise location in Aleppo.

A subsequent RT segment featuring Murad Gazdiev attacked Alabed’s parents, “for all their concern for Bana’s wellbeing instead of fleeing east Aleppo the parents chose to take Bana deeper into rebel territory.” Gazdiev went on to try and discredit the notion that Bana’s family could have access to internet “the odd thing is how Bana’s parents seem to have a constant internet connection.” Gazdiev claims that while he was in government controlled Aleppo there was no internet yet Bana was still tweeting.

Of course tweets from RT’s own correspondents show that there is internet in Aleppo and anyone who has been to rebel controlled Aleppo knows that there are ways to stay online. Finally after complaining about being blocked by Bana and questioning why she would be “up at 2am,” Gazdiev did acknowledge that she is “a real girl in Aleppo being used as a tool in a war she probably doesn’t understand.” In other words Russian propaganda discredited Russian propaganda, Bana is real and in Aleppo, and Russia knows it.

One of the most frequent targets of disinformation and smear attacks has been Syria’s lauded Civil Defense group known as the “White Helmets.” Attacks from Russian outlets and apologists have been relentless. In a press conference held along with Syria’s UN delegation a Canadian blogger named Eva Bartlett claimed that no one had ever heard of the White Helmets in East Aleppo

Unfortunately for Eva Bartlett and Russia’s disinfo narrative RT also ran a segment where surrendered civilians—undoubtedly in a position where they could be coerced by nearby regime soldiers—claimed that the White Helmets were notorious thieves known to everyone. RT has also claimed that the White Helmets abandon civilians under the rubble. This is what Freud called the logic of dreams. The White Helmets which RT says don’t exist have been behaving terribly according to RT.

The fact checking website Snopes was so appalled by Bartlett’s dishonesty that they weighed on her false assertions that victims were being “recycled” and that Al Quds hospital cannot have been struck on two separate occasions.

The Syrian military itself is also a great source of corroborating information. Earlier this year after the White Helmets were struck in an attack, the Syrian armed forces posted a screen grab on their official Facebook page taking credit for the attack and boasting about “tearing apart” civil defense, yet regime and Russian outlets continued to deny targeting the group.

On Saturday the famous and beloved Syrian doctor Salem Abualnaser posted a powerful video from the roof of Al Quds hospital in Eastern Aleppo, showing the destruction around him explaining to the world why he chose to join the demonstrations in his home city of Tartus back in 2011 and why he is still in Aleppo. The subtext of this message makes it one of the most poignant pieces of footage filmed since the war began.

For several years the Assads themselves have been a great source of information on their own human rights abuses and lies. When the image of a shell shocked five year old, Omran Daqneesh in the back of an ambulance following a regime or Russian strike was seen across the world, Bashar Assad promptly dismissed the image as a fabrication during an interview with Swiss media.

His wife Asma al Assad, however, had a different take,when she was questioned about the photo she did not dispute it’s authenticity. The Assad regime likewise has often claimed to be fighting ISIS in Aleppo, yet pro regime accounts consistently post images of dead fighters in Aleppo affiliated with other groups.

The regime has also dismissed all evidence that it is conducting mass displacement in communities like Daraya as propaganda, yet Syrian state television broadcast images of Bashar Assad visiting a completely bombed out and empty Daraya where he bragged “we have come here to replace the fake freedom which they tried to peddle during the beginning of the crisis- including here in Daraya- with true freedom.” This statement delivered in a completely empty street of a depopulated suburb was a direct denunciation of the peaceful protests that had taken place in Daraya in 2011 and furthermore it is an admission of guilt in the policy of displacement.

After the 2013 sarin gas attack on Eastern Ghouta Assad admitted to having chemical weapons during an interview with Dennis Kucinich for Fox News saying “it’s not a secret anymore.” The Syrian regime has always blamed the Ghouta attack on Syrian rebels in what they describe as a “false flag attack.”

In the immediate aftermath of the chemical attack Russia Today initially aired segments calling into question weather or not the attack actually happened and Russian diplomats insisted that images of the attacks were faked.

Months later as evidence of the chemical attack became insurmountable, Russia Today aired a segment conveniently quoting “Russian diplomatic sources” saying that the Ghouta attack was the work of “an Al Qaeda linked group backed by Saudi Arabia.” Interestingly the segment contradicts previous Russian and regime assertions that the attack wasn’t real, by confirming that “one thousand and a half” people were killed. Curiously the regime has never been able to explain why they think the rebels have never again used their supposedly massive stockpile of sarin.
In recent weeks doubters and deniers have questioned the location and sincerity of activists uploading messages from besieged Aleppo. However as evacuations from rebel held Aleppo get underway more and more video evidence is emerging which proves that Aleppo was in fact full of civilians who were bombed indiscriminately. Activists and residents who’s location and validity have been questioned by doubters and state actors have been posting videos of themselves with civilians preparing to be evacuated in the easily identifiable green buses that have become a notorious tool of Assad’s policy of displacement.

The videos posted by the activists the regime tried so hard to discredit either match the images of green buses taken from the regime side or are in easily identifiable locations. A video of evacuees running in terror seems to have escaped the attention of those openly mocking the besieged and terrified population.

The old axiom that “the first casualty of war is the truth” may be true, but sometimes you just aren’t looking hard enough.

The Fall

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Aleppo, Syria – December 2016

What do you really expect me to say at this stage, and what difference would it really make? The whole point of what I tried to do over the last fifteen years of my life was specifically meant to avoid a moment like the current one when some of us, the zombified fools that they have allowed themselves to become, are dancing, cheering and gloating over the graves of their defeated compatriots, while the entire country lies in ruins and the fate of all now subject to the whims and calculations of parties totally uninterested in our needs and concerns, and totally indifferent to our suffering. What could my dismay and indignation accomplish at this stage but point to me as though I were the center of it all?

But this is not about me. It’s not my fate that really matters here. This is not what this moment is about. Rather, the underlying reality is about the thing that we once had and have now squandered to the point that “it,” be it the homeland or simply our sense of humanity and decency, and “we,” a collective entity with a specific sense of identity and shared destiny, no longer exist.

What are we now but a collection of impoverished tribes living out of time in haphazardly interwoven enclaves ruled by a pitiful assortment of puppet warlords bastardizing themselves to the highest bidder to ensure their continued survival? What are we now but ghastly ghosts lording over each other and, in the name of some ancient injustices, busy creating new ones to fuel the unchangeable sameness of our collective folly? True, not all the criminals involved are equal, but the nature of their multiplying crimes is the same, and it reeks of greed, avarice and an undeserved sense of entitlement and self-worth. Yes, there are innocent and idealist around, and they are plenty, but history happens to the innocent and idealist as well as the guilty and the cynical, and is often more unforgiven of the former for failing to understand the impersonal nature of its processes and to prepare themselves accordingly.

We now also know that concepts such as “community of nations” and “responsibility to protect” and promises such as “never again” are indeed illusory, and that the people behind them have a tendency to forget their relevance and meaning at will, and to simply ignore their complicity and their guilt. Years later, some might regurgitate some words in a mediocre memoir by way of an apology, or take part in some renewed pledge to learn from the mistakes of the past, only to have some new younger figures, the ones then in charge, once again obfuscate and forget.

Aside from these painful realizations, let my continued silence on this matter be my commentary, my protest and my condemnation.

About

Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian-American author and pro-democracy activist based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is the founder of the Tharwa Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to democracy promotion. His personal website and entries from his older blogs can be accessed here.

Note

My politics fall neither on the Right nor the Left, nor somewhere in-between. They are issue-specific and stem out of a simple yet ardent belief, perhaps the only one I have, in the necessity of good.

The Delirica

The Delirica is a companion blog to the Daily Digest of Global Delirium meant to highlight certain DDGD items by publishing them as separate posts. Also, the Delirica republishes articles by Ammar that appeared on other sites.

Rime Allaf on Syria

No, actually, Syria is not an “again” but an absolute first. It is nothing like Bosnia or Rwanda or Chechnya or any other “never again” genocidal event in history. It is a macabre Truman Show, an uninterrupted 6-year long live reality TV program watched globally 24/7 on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, on Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.

“Never again” doesn’t apply to us, for what has been done to Syria has never been done before. Our tragic fate is to be the modern age’s “never before.”

Never before has the world been able to observe – in real time – the destruction of a nation and the extermination of a people who dared to demand freedom. Never before has a civilian population been filmed under attack with Scud missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons by its “own” illegitimate authorities. Never before have starvation sieges and old-fashioned barbaric massacres been so documented as they happened. Never before has mass torture been so evidenced. And never before has the world’s indifferent silence been so loud, save for perfunctory condemnations and erasable red lines.

Indeed, never before has the mightiest superpower the world has ever known shamelessly pretended to be impotent, and never before has it had the temerity of falsely pleading with the Syrian people’s executioners for grace and mercy, the same grace and mercy it denied Syrians by rejecting their desperate appeals for protection.

Never again? You mean never before. Hell of a legacy.

Last Rebels in Aleppo Say Assad Forces Are Burning People Alive

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As the Syrian dictator’s coalition captures the last rebel-held neighborhoods, residents are bidding the world farewell and opposition media says mass atrocities have already begun.

MICHAEL WEISS

ROY GUTMAN

ALEX ROWELL

12.13.16 5:15 AM ET

Amid celebratory gunfire and cheers from Assad loyalists, foreign militias under Iranian command and troops loyal to the regime on Monday captured about 90 percent of the opposition-held areas of eastern Aleppo.

The last hope of the besieged rebels, most of whom seem to have withdrawn in the face of certain defeat, had been to receive reinforcements or resupplies from their counterparts in the southern and western suburbs. That option has now been foreclosed upon as these routes are completely interdicted by the regime.

read full article here

The Guardian view on Aleppo: the west’s grim failure

As Assad’s forces, backed by the Russians, make their final move on Syria’s second city, the world can only count the cost of a humanitarian and military disaster it failed to stop

Syrian residents flee the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, 30 November 2016. Photograph: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images

Exhausted parents clutching terrified children in their arms, young people pushing the old in makeshift carts or wheelchairs and families pulling overstuffed suitcases: the scenes from east Aleppo are those of a new exodus. As Syrian government forces move on the last urban stronghold of the anti-Assad opposition, helped by Shia militias from Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah, hundreds of men have been rounded up and disappeared. Their relatives, as well as human rights activists, fear they may already be dead, or have become victims of Assad’s network of jails and torture centres where thousands have been murdered.

Aleppo families fear for 500 men seized by forces loyal to Assad
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The Syrian and Russian onslaught has been going on for weeks. But now it is at a new intensity, as it approaches what may be the end game. A strategy of indiscriminate bombing, terror and destruction, the UN was told, threatens to turn this part of Syria’s second city into a giant graveyard. Syrian army leaflets dropped on the city warn the inhabitants that they must flee, or face annihilation.

Rebel-held Aleppo seems condemned to utter destruction and defeat. Posted on social media, citizens’ desperate messages resemble final pleas, all hope gone. A UN representative has described the situation as a “descent into hell”. US Department of State officials have made it clear that nothing much can be done; western countries have convened an emergency security council meeting, but beyond words of condemnation and warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in the making – France has spoken of “what could be the biggest massacres of civilian population since the second world war” – the powerlessness of UN institutions is obvious. In London, at prime minister’s questions , the SNP’s Angus Robertson at least got the Syrian crisis into the discussion. Labour again passed by on the other side.

Meanwhile, Russia’s propaganda machine is hard at work alongside the Syrian regime’s, trying to frame these events as the “liberation” of a population described as hostages of Islamic terrorists. This is as false as it is cynical. “Terrorists” is the label attached to the opposition to Assad ever since the outbreak of the 2011 street uprising against his dictatorship – a revolution that morphed into a full-on civil war after the Damascus government decided to deploy military power, including missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons, against its own population. By the summer of 2015, President Assad seemed on the verge of being overthrown. Then Russia launched its military intervention – all the while paying lip service to a diplomatic process the US administration pursued to no avail.

The battle for eastern Aleppo in maps: how rebel territory is shrinking
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Russia’s move was aimed at reversing the war’s dynamics and consolidating its beleaguered ally, President Assad. Entrenched in Syria, with powerful S-400 air defence systems installed, it took advantage of western reluctance to get embroiled in the conflict, at a time when Washington had made plain that its priority was fighting Islamic State (Isis), rather than putting an end to the massacres carried out by President Assad’s forces. Russia has not only turned a blind eye to these atrocities, it has assisted them. In Moscow, officials now indicate that the situation in east Aleppo will be “resolved” by the end of the year. Make no mistake, that means that the estimated 250,000 inhabitants still remaining at the start of this week will be forced either to leave, or face arrest or death.

The fate of rebel-held Aleppo spells the abject failure of the west’s contradictory and piecemeal policies. It is a humiliation for the UN. Its fall will be an unequivocal victory for Russian strategy. Aleppo will join an infamous list of cities whose names are synonymous with mass crimes committed while the world looked impotently on: Srebrenica, Grozny, even Guernica. Once again, it’s never again. The consequences, both for radicalisation and for the balance of power in the region, are hard to fathom exactly. But they will not be good.

 

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