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Stop Starvation in Syria | End the Blockades

December 19, 2013

Call to Join the International Hunger Strike

Syrians are slowly dying of malnutrition – but not for lack of food.  A military blockade surrounds dozens of Syrian towns.  This starvation siege prevents 1.5 million Syrians from receiving food or medicine.

Qusai Zakarya is one of them.  He is 28 years old.  Qusai declared a hunger strike on November 26, to demand food and medicine be allowed to reach civilians across military lines in Syria.  “We are all hungry here in my hometown anyway.  Let me be hungry for a purpose,” Qusai says.

We are starting the first phase of a “rolling” solidarity hunger strike onFriday, December 20, where someone will do a hunger strike every day in support of the hunger strikers in Syria through the rest of December.

We are also working on putting together a list of supporters for launching a larger campaign leading up to the Geneva Conference in January.  We are asking that you commit to one day of a symbolic hunger strike and that you give us permission to put your name on the materials to publicize the hunger strikes more widely.  We also ask, if you are able, to send in a photo of yourself or group to stopthesiege@gmail.com, maybe with a sign illustrating your participation.

Our goals:

  • To call for food and medicine now to all besieged towns in Syria.
  • To call for a binding resolution from the UN Security Council requiring the regime in Syria and all armed parties to allow humanitarian organizations immediate unfettered access to aid the civilian population without discrimination, including cross-border access and cross-line access (from regime-controlled areas into rebel-controlled areas).
  • To alert media and political representatives to this situation.
  • To support this act of civil resistance in Syria.

Can you join us this holiday season in standing in solidarity with Syrians?  People of conscience everywhere must act to break the siege that is affecting over a million people. In Solidarity and Hope,

  • Keith Ellison, U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District
  • Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger-activist & former political prisoner
  • Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Gail Daneker, Friends for a Nonviolent World, Director of Peace Education Advocacy
  • Huwaida Arraf, Palestinian American co-founder of International Solidarity Movement
  • Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
  • Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer & former political prisoner
  • Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian feminist writer
  • Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Co-Founder of Shomer Shalom Network of Jewish Nonviolence
  • Jawdat Said, Syrian nonviolence teacher for over fifty years
  • Marilyn Hacker, American Poet
  • Mina Hamilton, American Writer
  • Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Lecturer, University for the Creative Arts
  • Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Nonviolence
  • Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of San Francisco
  • Suad Mohamed, University of Virginia
  • Danny Postel, University of Denver
  • Bob Nechal, Friends for a Nonviolent World
  • Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
  • Raed Fares, Media Office Director for the Town of Kafr Nbel, Syria
  • Afra Jalabi, Syrian Nonviolence Movement
  • Mohja Kahf, Syrian American poet & academic
  • Linda Thomson, Minnesota Peace Project
  • Ian Keith, St Paul Elementary School Teacher
  • Wael Khouli, Physician and Human Rights Activist
  • Mazen Halabi, Community Activist
  • Cathy Murphy, Peace Activist
  • Andy Berman, Veterans for Peace
  • Terry Burke, Friends for a Nonviolent World
  • Nicole Halabi, School Administrator
  • Wendy Tuck, Educator

(organizations listed for identification only)

Join us! Please sign up by sending your information to stopthesiege@gmail.com

Name: Affiliation: Country: E-mail:

source

Syria’s Paolo Dall’Oglio petition

My name is Paolo Dall’Oglio, I am a Jesuit, and for more than thirty years I have promoted in Syria the Islamic-Christian harmony-building.

I took a position in favor of the Syrian democrats crushed by an inhuman and indiscriminate repression that I was hoping not to have to see in the twenty-first century. I was expelled in June 2012, and have since been working full-time in defending the rights of Syrians and the legitimacy of their revolution.

Today we know that Syria is the ring of a regional geopolitical fight to death. In all this, the Churches have not been able to react in time, and Christians, now trapped in the war zones, simply tend to leave the country.

Unfortunately, the Syrian regime has been very clever in using a certain number of clergymen, men and women, for its propaganda in the West, in which it represents itself as the only and ultimate bastion defending Christians persecuted by Islamic terrorism.

This manipulation of the public opinion has succeeded in discrediting to a large extent the Syrian revolutionary effort, both on the ground and abroad, in the eyes of many citizens around the world, and was thus able to create a paralysis of European diplomacy and politics, which ultimately only strengthens the most extremist groups and weakens the civil society.

The strong and instrumental implication of the Churches in the systematic manipulation of lies by the regime cannot but require a conscious and responsible reaction on behalf of the Catholic Church and therefore of the Pope of Rome. The petition I present to your attention will show the most cohesive and mature face of the Italian and international society, and will allow Pope Francis to overcome the resistance of his context which tends to be islamophobic, though often in a typically subtle and indirect way, and to launch his own diplomatic initiative, requesting the intervention of new actors such as Latin America.

This my petition, which is now yours, presents to the Pope the need to counter the current systematic use by the regime of clergymen among the most important in the Middle East, in order to look beyond and meet the expectations of all Syrians who are suffering for freedom, and to prepare a positive future for those Christians who will choose to remain in the country or return.

—-

Here my letter to Pope Francis:

Dear and most esteemed Pope Francis,

Knowing you as a lover of peace in justice, we ask you to personally promote an urgent and inclusive diplomatic initiative for Syria which would ensure the end of the torturous and murdering regime, safeguard the unity in diversity of the country, and allow by means of democratic self-determination with international assistance to exit from the war between armed extremisms.

We ask with confidence Pope Francis to personally inquire about the systematic manipulation of the catholic opinion in the world by accomplices of the Syrian regime, especially clergymen, with the intention to radically deny the democratic revolution, and justify with the excuse of terrorism the repression that is increasingly acquiring genocide character.

Solidarity with the Syrian revolution

Statement, published in Socialist Worker (US), May 1, 2013

Introduction:*
A group of Syrian, Arab and international activists launched the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution at the World Social Forum in Tunis last month to create an open and diverse platform to support the Syrian revolution. The World Social Forum was an opportunity to create organic relationships with progressive intellectuals and social movements. In addition, it was an important moment to re-inscribe the Syrian revolution in a larger framework of popular struggles against oppression and authoritarianism. It was an occasion to reassert the Syrian people’s right to self-defense and resistance against despotism and dictatorship.

The following statement, signed by intellectuals, academics, artists and activists from more than 30 countries, reminds the world that what is happening in Syria today is a people’s revolution for freedom and dignity–and for that reason, it should be supported by all means. The campaign has called for a day of solidarity on May 31, during which groups in various cities around the world are invited to organize protests, cultural events and other symbolic actions in public squares and in front of Syrian embassies, as well as online. Groups based in different countries will choose the most effective strategies to support the Syrian revolution and remind the world that:

– The massacre of the Syrian people must stop now.
– Assad must step down and be brought to justice.
– All countries or groups must end all financial and military support to the Syrian regime.
– All Syrian regime embassies must be closed down. Complicity with the Assad regime will not be tolerated.
– The Syrian representative must be expelled from the United Nations.
– Aid must be sent to all Syrian refugees and internally displaced.

* This published introduction above is unsigned and its relation to the statement below is not evident. In contrast to the statement, the introduction contains a string of wrong-headed proposals that fit comfortably with the U.S. et al-led drive to install a pro-imperialist puppet regime in Syria, including the closure of Syrian embassies, expulsion of Syrian representatives from the United Nations and diversion of aid away from institutions of the Syrian regime. The introduction also gives the U.S. and its allies a carte blanche to ‘bring to justice’ Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The world is all too familiar with the kind of ‘justice’ that the U.S. has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan… –RA

***************

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Assad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.

Since March 2011, Assad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres. It has refused political settlements that do not include Assad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division. The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime.

Staying true to the logic of an authoritarian regime, Assad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power.

This is a revolt that was sparked by the children of Deraa and the sit-ins and demonstrations of the youth in the cities, the peasants of the rural areas, and the dispossessed and marginalized of Syria. It is they who rallied nonviolently through protests and songs and chants, before the regime’s brutal crackdown. Since then, the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement. As a result, young men took up arms, first out of self-defense. Lately, this has resulted in attempts by some groups fighting the regime to force a climate of polarization, and negation of the Other, politically, socially and culturally. These acts that are in themselves against the revolution for freedom and dignity.

Yet the revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast. It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, appeal to those of you in the global civil society, not to ineffective and manipulative governments, to defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries, and to spread our vision: freedom from authoritarianism and support of Syrians’ revolution as an integral part of the struggles for freedom and dignity in the region and around the world.

The fight in Syria is an extension of the fight for freedom regionally and worldwide. It cannot be divorced from the struggles of the Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis and other peoples who have revolted against oppression and authoritarianism as well as against those seeking to usurp or destroy the uprisings and divert them for their own agendas. It is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality. The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian and Chinese movements for freedom.

The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the U.S. and its Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self-interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.

Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom.

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens and social movements, we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people to emphasize the revolutionary dimension of their struggle and to prevent the geopolitical battles and proxy wars taking place in their country. We ask you to lend your support to all Syrians from all backgrounds asking for a peaceful transition of power, one where all Syrians can have a voice and decide their own fate. We also reject all attempts of any group to monopolize power, and to impose its own agenda, or to impose unitary or homogenous identities on the Syrian people. We ask you to support those people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.

What you can do:
* Find out more about the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution on its Facebook page.
* There is also information on Facebook about the global day of solidarity set for May 31.
* Sign a petition in solidarity with the struggle for freedom in Syria
.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
source

Solidarity with Syria

April 29, 2013 § 1 Comment

Published at the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, this petition in support of the Syrian people’s struggle against dictatorship and genocide has been signed by leftist luminaries such as Norman Finkelstein, Gilbert Achcar and Tariq Ali (how good it is to welcome the latter back), academics of the stature of Frederic Jameson, Syrian intellectuals such as Yassin al-Haj Saleh, novelists such as Khaled Khalifa, and on the ground activists such as Razan Ghazzawi.

Who we are

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian revolution and people’s struggle against dictatorship. Join us on Facebook.
Solidarity With the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and FreedomWe, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.Since March 2011, Asad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres.

It has refused political settlements that do not include Asad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division.  The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime.
Staying true to the logics of an authoritarian regime, Asad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power.This is a revolt that was sparked by the children of Deraa and the sit-ins and demonstrations of the youth in the cities, the peasants of the rural areas, and the dispossessed and marginalized of Syria. It is they who rallied non-violently through protests and songs and chants, before the regime’s brutal crackdown.
Since then, the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement. As a result, young men took up arms, first out of self-defense. Lately, this has resulted in attempts by some groups fighting the regime to force a climate of polarization, and negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally. These acts that are in themselves against the revolution for freedom and dignity.Yet, the revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast.  It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, appeal to those of you in the global civil society, not to ineffective and manipulative governments, to defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries, and to spread our vision: freedom from authoritarianism and support of Syrians’ revolution as an integral part of the struggles for freedom and dignity in the region and around the world.The fight in Syria is an extension of the fight for freedom regionally and worldwide.  It cannot be divorced from the struggles of the Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, and other peoples who have revolted against oppression and authoritarianism as well as against those seeking to usurp or destroy the uprisings and divert them for their own agendas. It is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality.

The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet, it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese movements for freedom.The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom.

As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people to emphasize the revolutionary dimension of their struggle and to prevent the geopolitical battles and proxy wars taking place in their country. We ask you to lend your support to all Syrians from all backgrounds asking for a peaceful transition of power, one where all Syrians can have a voice and decide their own fate.

We also reject all attempts of any group to monopolize power, and to impose its own agenda, or to impose unitary or homogenous identities on the Syrian people. We ask you to support those people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.

Sign our petition here

Our Facebook page

The global day of solidarity

source

Syria : Yakzan Shishakly

 

Yakzan Shishakly – Credit Amal Hanano

It was early March 2013, and over 200 Syrian-Americans had gathered in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston. The gala was a benefit for the Maram Foundation, a nonprofit organization operating out of Reyhanli, Turkey, providing humanitarian aid for Syrians – namely, the thousands of internally displaced people near the Syrian village of Atma.

Maram was founded in October 2012. Its physical presence on the ground has made it prominent among the dozens of nonprofits started in the last two years, as Syrian expats scramble to alleviate their homeland’s humanitarian crisis.

But being on the ground in war-ravaged Syria comes with a price. Maram’s founder, 34-year-old Syrian-American Yakzan Shishakly, knows this all too well. Now living full-time on the Turkish-Syrian border, he runs his foundation’s humanitarian and medical relief programs, which includes managing the Olive Tree Camp, near the town of Atma. Just over the Syrian border, it’s the country’s largest camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), housing more than 20,000 men, women and children.

Although he is a firsthand witness to the plight of thousands of Syrians and has become an expert on relief work in the region, Shishakly did not get onstage at his foundation’s Houston benefit. He watched the event like an outsider, shy and keeping his distance from the spotlight. Clean-shaven and wearing a suit – a departure from his camp uniform, pants and boots – he seemed to be a transplant in that ballroom, a world away from where I had seen him at work two months before in the hills of Idlib province.

The day after the benefit, Shishakly speeds along wide, smooth, Texas highways just a bit slower than he had on the bumpy Turkish roads leading to Olive Tree camp. “Did you feel out of place last night?” he asks. I know exactly what he means. Though it has been two years since the revolution began, we still find it difficult to maneuver between the roles we have assumed. We fundraise, deliver aid, practice activism and media awareness and, of course, lead our “normal” American lives.

Our stories are similar to those of so many other Syrians, whether inside the country or living abroad. From the tailor picking up a gun to the beautician training as a sniper, to expats across the ocean taking crash courses in aid relief and political lobbying, we are taking on responsibilities for which we were not prepared. All the while, men and women like Shishakly know that our people’s lives are at stake.

*
Shishakly grew up in Damascus in a family with deep political roots. His grandfather Adib was a military leader and president of Syria in 1953. His older brother, the grandfather’s namesake, Adib, is a prominent figure in the current Syrian political opposition. Yakzan, who owns an air-conditioning company in Houston, situated himself far from the world of political conferences and settled instead in the trenches, as close as
possible to the people who had lost everything.

Many people close to Shishakly express surprise at the role he has adopted. His involvement in the revolution began by organizing protests and planning fundraisers in the US, but during a trip to southern Turkey last year, he visited the few thousand stranded people across the border who had fled their homes and were denied entry to Turkey as refugees. They were living among the olive trees, without tents, water or food. Shishakly and his friends delivered the aid that they could and came back to the U.S. But he knew that he had to return. “We can do much better as Syrians for our people,” he said then.

In Houston, he raised money for tents and registered Maram as a nonprofit organization. He named it after a 4-year-old girl who was paralyzed after being injured by shelling in her village. Shishakly began to move back andforth between Reyhanli and Houston. Slowly the trips back to the U.S. became shorter and less frequent until, as he says, “I realized that I live here now,” on the outskirts of his homeland.

*

Shishakly’s day-to-day life is a continuous loop of fulfilling the camp’s never-ending demands and needs. In addition to the basic necessities, including food, water, shelter, medical care and educational programs,
Shishakly also provides security for the IDPs.

It is a struggle to balance the inside-outside factor even from the ground. Aid profiteering has become a booming business in towns that border camps. Shishakly is often in a situation of negotiation and confrontation with the villagers surrounding the camp, who eye the aid coming through the
border as rightfully theirs.

His role is difficult and can be dangerous. But in the months since he arrived, he has slowly changed from the Syrian-American outsider to a trusted advocate for the people in the camp. In helping them, he became “one of them.”

Olive Tree Camp -First Aid Graduation – Credit Maram Foundation

Long-term planning is almost impossible when nothing is static in the camp. The number of displaced arrivals grows by about 100 people every day. Aerial bombardment is constant, even in the liberated northern territories. And the flow of aid is erratic. Each day brings a wave of new people seeking shelter, new tents to erect and new mouths to feed. As time lags on and new arrivals rest among the olive trees, the camp’s earlier settlers grow weary and demanding.

Shishakly and his growing team of volunteers have begun to implement programs to alleviate people’s sense of helplessness and restore their dignity and pride. Recently, a group of 40 women and 20 men completed a first aid course and were awarded certificates. For some of the graduates, this was the first “diploma” they had ever received. “They felt like they existed again,” Shishakly said.

This group will continue their first aid education while working as paid volunteers inside the camp. Shishakly maintains a “help the people help themselves” philosophy. When the violence ends, he hopes to transition people back to their homes as equipped citizens ready to rebuild the country.

***

One of the devastating symptoms of the displaced is that they themselves have become outsiders to the world. They are hardened by the violence they have suffered and witnessed. They are frustrated with the journalists who visit, take pictures and conduct interviews to write yet another report on the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, while their desperate situation remains unchanged. Many of them, now jaded, simply turn away from the cameras and notebooks.

Shishakly is similarly disappointed  – in the political opposition, the endless power plays, empty talk and false promises. As the camp grows, so does his frustration as a result of watching glacial political developments and the trickle of aid. But walking Atma’s dirt lanes, Shishakly seems to be immune to the misery. Among the tents, he is usually surrounded by people, blending in with his beard and rugged clothes.

During my visit in late December, I would come back from the camp and tell him the stories I had heard inside the tents. He only partially listened. He has heard too much and seen too much. When I told him about meeting Manar, a woman who lost her two children in a tent fire last year, he told me that he had taken the children to the hospital, later claimed their burned corpses, and then arranged their burial. He had done the things that their mother couldn’t, and performed the duties of their absent father.

I asked him how he dealt with these responsibilities. He responded with a sentence that has since become his trademark: “Even when your heart is breaking with pain and sadness, you have to keep a smile on your face because your smile may be someone else’s hope.”

*

A few weeks ago, we are on the phone. It’s early morning at Olive Tree. Mid-chat, Shishakly receives a call from the camp. There has been another fire, this time in a village nearby. Because the official Bab al-Hawa crossing is closed, the injured family is rushed through his camp to receive emergency care across the border in a Turkish hospital. Men are yelling for an ambulance. “Come fast!” someone screams. “They are my family. They are dying in front of me.”

Shishakly tells me that he has to go. He’s frustrated. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be anymore,” he says, before he hangs up. “Am I a camp director, crisis manager, emergency operator, counselor? I don’t know.”

I sit holding my now silent phone, facing the glowing laptop in my living room. As usual, it’s past midnight here in the West. Upstairs, my own family is sleeping. In a few hours it will be time to assume my “normal”role in the U.S. and live another day pretending that I don’t feel out of place.

I know there are hundreds of Syrians across the world sitting just like me, with Skype messages pouring in and the emails that don’t stop. Screens glow with stories to be written, videos to be watched, news to be shared, funds to be raised, skills to be learned. Another child needs a prosthetic limb, another activist needs political asylum, another contact has been martyred.

The list of duties piles up; they are responsibilities that were not supposed to be ours, but now they are. Each day we convince ourselves that if we just hang in there for a little bit longer, these duties will be crossed off and we can finally close this brutal chapter of our lives. But with each day, the opposite seems to be true. This is our new reality.

Although Shishakly can’t hear me, I answer his question: Neither do I.

In the darkness, I think about my friend across the world, beginning every morning with 20,000 hungry mouths on his mind. Today he started with another fire, and he may end it by collecting scorched bodies of dead children. I know that, despite it all, he will find some way to place a smile on his face.

We have been reduced to frantically placing Band-Aids over our country’s hemorrhaging wounds. Somewhere along the way, we were pulled in and morphed from spectators to actors. We now bear this destiny of personal and collective scars as we navigate between roles and identities. A rare few rose up to the challenge, bluntly sacrificing one part of themselves for another. In the process, they found their unquestionable place.

A few days after the Houston benefit, I messaged Yakzan, asking if he was home yet. His answer came moments later, from Syria: “Yes. :)

*For more information on the Maram Foundation and the Olive Tree Camp, please visit www.maramfoundation.org. *

source

To day at the Syrian Embassy in Brussels

[youtube http://youtu.be/5Rty4zirNQc?]

Libyan fighters ‘return favour’ in Syria battles

 

20 September 2012 – 16H12
Fighters with the Free Syrian Army regroup at their base in Azaz, some 47km north of Aleppo, on September 13. Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.

Fighters with the Free Syrian Army regroup at their base in Azaz, some 47km north of Aleppo, on September 13. Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) joins hands with then-Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who went on to be ousted and killed in 2011, at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Damascus on March 29, 2008. Some Libyan fighters who helped oust Kadhafi's regime are now in Syria to join the revolution against Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) joins hands with then-Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who went on to be ousted and killed in 2011, at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Damascus on March 29, 2008. Some Libyan fighters who helped oust Kadhafi’s regime are now in Syria to join the revolution against Assad.

AFP – Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favour.

“In the Libyan revolution, many Syrians fought on our side, so it is now time to return the favour,” explained Firas, who left his studies in Britain to join the uprising to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Firas said he had been watching the events in Syria unfold on television and knew he had to do something.

“I am tired of peace conferences, of useless sanctions imposed on the Assad government; I am fed up as people look the other way while Russia and China supply weapons to the regime.

“While the world sits down to talk, women and children here in Syria die under the regime’s artillery fire and nobody does anything about it.”

Firas sees a big difference in the two conflicts.

“In Libya, we had a no-fly zone to which civilians could flee without fear of being systematically bombed, but here the cities have become death traps in which the Assad government punishes the people without a thought,” he said.

Abu Omar, another Libyan fighter, also feels it was his duty to fight in Syria.

“I had to do something for them. At the moment it is important to be here with my brothers,” he said.

The Libyans are fighting Syrian government forces in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district, which has witnessed fierce clashes between the rebels and regime troops for several days now.

“After 30,000 dead you think the Syrians expect Westerners to come and help? Nobody will do anything for them because the life of a Syrian child is not worth that of a Western child,” said Abu Abdo, another Libyan.

“How many more children must die for the West to act,” he asked, adding that he is “fighting against a tyrant who uses weapons bought from the West to massacre his own people.”

He said the Libyans are not fighting a holy war.

“It is not jihad, it is a revolution,” Abu Abdo insisted, adding that “in Syria there are many foreign fighters as we no longer believe in promises coming from the West.”

Firas has his own explanation for why the West is not interfering in the Syrian conflict as it did in Libya.

“In Libya there is oil and gas and the West is still looking for wars from which it can derive economic benefits even if it is at the cost of thousands of lives, as was the case in Iraq,” he said.

“The second reason is that Libya is far from Israel, a war out there does not affect Israel as here a large-scale conflict would be devastating.”

He also pointed to talk about the presence of radical Islamists among the rebels as a concern in the West.

“Does our wearing a beard or praying to a god different than yours make us terrorists or members of Al-Qaeda?” he asked angrily. “If that’s the case, then we are all Al-Qaeda,” he added sarcastically.

“Kadhafi used the same technique. He said we were backed by Al-Qaeda so that Europe would not intervene and he could annihilate us. Here too you are fighting against a dictator who is violating human rights every day and killing his own people.”

Firas warned that the West’s passive approach towards the Syrian conflict is contributing to the rise of pro-Qaeda sentiment among the people and rebels.

“It is undeniable that in Syria, as elsewhere, there are people who support Al-Qaeda,” Firas says.

“I have met a number of fighters from a small group very close (to Al-Qaeda) and it would definitely scare you to talk to them. They are very radical and they hate everything that comes from the West.”

Abu Omar echoes similar fears.

“These people are beginning to smear the Syrian revolution,” he laments.

“But what we must understand is that this is not a religious war; this is a war for a people’s freedom. We have not come from Libya to fight against Shiites or Alawites, but the troops who support the regime, regardless of their faith.”

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