Posted by Joshua on Monday, October 2nd, 2006
Syria has released 3 Kurdish activists from jail. This move comes only days before the October 5th demonstration that is being organized on behalf of Kurdish citizenship for the 200,000 Kurds who continue to be denied full citizenship and rights in Syria. October 5 will be the anniversary of the 1962 census carried out by President Nazim al-Qudsi, which was used as the instrument for denying Kurds their rights, based on the provenance of their grandfathers and great grandfathers. President Asad has promised on several occasions that he would restore the rights and complete citizenship of the Kurds who were unfairly harmed by the 1962 census and subsequent policies, but he has refused to live up to his promises. Doubtlessly Asad believes that he can use the unfulfilled promise of citizenship as a club held over the heads of Syria’s Kurdish community to ensure their good behavior as Iraq’s Kurdish provinces gain independence. This is a silly policy and will most likely back fire because it will guarantee that Syria’s Kurds resent the Syrian state and its discriminatory policies. It will make Kurds who don’t yet long to join Kurdistan, question their attachment to the Syrian state. The Qur’an says there is “no compulsion in religion.” Nationalism is a modern form of religion. Anyone who believes that Kurdish loyalty can be won by the sword is only trying to cheat God. It is a bit like Israel trying to starve Palestinians into recognizing Greater Israel.
The national Salvation Front, run by Khaddam and Bayanouni, are calling on all Syrians to join the Oct. 5th demonstrations as an opening effort of their “new policy” of trying to build support “within” Syria. (See article copied below on Kurds) I must say that Khaddam and Bayanouni are smart to champion the Kurdish demand for full citizenship, just as they are smart to condemn Farid Ghadry’s politics of bigotry and his effort to turn Syrians against their fellow Alawis. National unity will be a winning strategy. Syrians have allowed themselves to be divided for too long. Asad has talked about promoting national unity, but on the Kurdish issue, he has made a mockery of this strategy and left a giant hole for the opposition to walk through. It is good to see that they are taking advantage of this weakness and bringing attention to government backed discrimination and racism. Turkey’s Islamic party was always much better on the Kurdish issue than were the Ataturk seculars. The Kurdish helped them win power and keep it. Asad should heed this lesson.
The Syrian government has done more than its fair share in helping refugees of many stripes – and not only Arab refugees like the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iraqis, but also non-Arabs, such as Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, and many more. There is no need to mistreat the Kurds – it ruins what has been Syria’s excellent record of helping others and promoting tolerance among ethnic groups and religions in the region.
Israel does not want peace with Syria (copied from Warincontext.com)
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, October 1, 2006
What do you call a rejection of peace that is liable to lead to war? What is the term for a state that is not even willing to sit at the negotiating table with the head of a state who publicly issues an explicit peace proposal? If there is a positive angle to the Israeli refusal to consider the Syrian president’s proposals, it is the exposure of the bitter truth: Israel does not want peace with Syria – period. No linguistic trick or diplomatic contortion can change this unequivocal fact. We will no longer be able to declare that we are seeking peace with our neighbors; we are not turning toward them for peace. In the Middle East, a new rejectionist axis has formed: Israel and the United States, which is saying “no” to Syria. Not only is Iran endangering peace in the region, Israel is too. It would be best for us to admit this.Common sense makes it difficult to understand and the heart refuses to accept how it happened that an important Arab state offered to forge a peace accord with us and we arrogantly rebuffed it. “It’s not the right time,” the statesmen in Jerusalem say. With Syria, it is not the right time. With the Palestinians, it is not the right partner. And when is the right time? Only after the next war. This type of refusal, which is liable to lead to another cycle of bloodshed, is a crime. [ complete article]
Is Israel a partner?
By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz, October 1, 2006
In the 1967 war, Jordan’s King Hussein was considered an enemy of the state of Israel. In the 1973 war, Hussein refrained from joining the combined assault of Egypt and Syria, and there are those who say that he even warned Israel about it. Twenty-one years later, Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel: The enemy of 1967 and covert ally of 1973 became an overt friend.When official Israel claims to have no partners with which to establish peace, the development of the relationship with King Hussein should be placed in the public eye. The “no partner” status is reversible, and Israel can have a significant influence on its expiration date. Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat was not considered a partner in ’73, and earned the status of very desired guest in ’77. Government spokesmen in Jerusalem explain in retrospect why Sadat does not resemble Hafez or Bashar Assad, why Hussein does not resemble Yasser Arafat, why the hostile situation that Israel had with Egypt and with Jordan had the potential to change while the relationship with the Palestinians is fated to be eternally drenched in blood and Syria will remain an enemy forever. These explanations, however, ignore the Israeli side of the equation: The desire to hold onto the West Bank and the Golan Heights has a critical impact on the development of the conflict. [ complete article]
The LA Times’s Borzou Daragahi writes that “Abdullah II of Jordan, who has closely allied himself with the U.S., is accused by reformers and traditionalists alike of alienating his people. The title of the article is Jordan’s king risks Shah’s fate, critics warn.” Numerous parallels exist between the shah’s rule and that of Abdullah. “Like the shah’s SAVAK security and intelligence service, Jordan’s General Intelligence Department, now in a new hilltop complex in an Amman suburb, operates as a “subdivision” of the CIA, said Alexis Debat, a former French Defense Ministry official.” This assessment seems extreme to me, however, there can be little doubt that adhereing too closely to US policy is taking a toll on regime ligitimacy. The cost of remaining loyal to the US will grow exponentially along with the growth in suffering in both Iraq and Palestine as the true cost of Washington’s determination to continue failing policies begins to kick in.
Ibrahim Hamidi wrote an important article in al-Hayat a week ago explaining how the wall of isolation that the US has been enforcing around Syria is beginning to crumble. I could only find a French translation. Here is a bit of it.
Le mur que l’administration BUSH a tenté de construire pour isoler la Syrie au cours des dernières années commence à s’effriter. 23 septembre 2006
Le mur construit par l’administration américaine pour isoler la Syrie commence à s’effriter depuis quelques mois. Les élections espagnoles et italiennes, ainsi que la baisse de la popularité du Président CHIRAC, y ont contribué.
De plus, cette tentative d’isoler la Syrie a abouti à des résultats contraires à ceux que l’on avait escomptés. Elle a eu pour conséquence de renforcer l’alliance syro-iranienne, ainsi que le soutien de la Syrie au Jihad et au Hamas.
La visite de M. MORATINOS à Damas a eu pour effet de tourner la page de l’isolement de la Syrie. Elle a abouti à une entente sur six points :
1- La gravité de la situation au moyen-orient, mais la possibilité d’en sortir.
2- La nécessité d’inclure toutes les parties dans la recherche d’une solution.
3- L’impossibilité de la solution militaire.
4- Un cessez-le-feu immédiat qui s’est concrétisé par la 1701.
5- Le soutien à l’unité de toutes les forces politiques libanaises et du gouvernement.
6- La nécessité d’une paix juste et globale en Palestine, au Liban et en Syrie.
“The flood of the Ba’th” (taken from Mideastwire.com)
Diana Mukkaled, a regular columnist for Asharq Al Awsat, an independent pan-Arab daily, wrote in the paper’s Arabic edition on September 24 that: “The opening scene of Syrian director Omar Amiralay’s documentary ‘A Flood in Ba’th Country,’ portrays children in military attire in a classroom in a small rural village chanting, ‘We, the pioneers of the Ba’th, salute our leader Bashar al Assad’, followed by, ‘We are the voice of the proletariat’.
“There was not much commentary in Amiralay’s film rather, he allowed the pictures to speak for themselves and to recount the story of the Syrian village of Al-Mashi that is governed by a clan leader and Member of Parliament, assisted by his nephew who is the head-teacher of a school and an official of the Ba’th party. The village represents a reduced example of the forty years of Ba’th rule and how this one party has maintained control and planted its ideology into the minds of Syrians from an early stage through instruction and repetition. One of the film’s ironies is a scene in which students are reading a text about freedom by Mostafa Lotfi El-Manfalouti.
“The documentary was filmed and produced in 2003 and was shown at numerous film festivals. There were many attempts to obstruct its viewing such as at the last Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia where the film was withdrawn. The production was awarded Best Short Film by the Arab World Institute in Paris, 2005. The Syrian authorities have always followed closely the film and the success of its director who is well-known for his opposition to the Syrian government. However, Syrian authorities only decided on 19 September 2006 to arrest Amiralay, prohibit him from leaving Syria and interrogate him for thirteen hours.
“This action came after Al Arabiya aired the documentary less than two weeks ago. Therefore, his arrest came only after the film was made available to Arab viewers in general and Syrians in particular. Disregarding the circumstances and factors associated to the film, its broadcast by Al Arabiya was the cause of Amiralay’s arrest and restriction on travel. According to Amiralay, the Syrian investigator asked about the content of the film in the same way that the film portrays. Amiralay said, ‘They wanted to know about the purpose and significance of the film’. As if this was not evident in the documentary itself!
“Amiralay loosened the reins on the film and the characters by interfering as little as possible and it is evident that this is what provoked the suspicion of Syrian censorship. Restriction is exactly what the production ‘A Flood in Ba’th Country’ looks at and accordingly the context of the film seemed normal and unlikely to be condemned by observers.
“What is left is that is that it is likely that the film will be shown on television as it is a form of public media and that political sensitivity will become more dominant than the questions that the director raised in his film, knowing that the Syrian investigator was aware that the documentary was produced before the crisis, which Syria is currently experiencing, began. Perhaps this ordeal that the Syrian director and producer is facing as well as Syrian literates and oppositionists is the natural ending that we should expect to see as we watch films like ‘Flood in Ba’th Country’.” – Asharq Al Awsat, United Kingdom
Protest in Syria Demanding Kurdish Citizenship (taken from Mideastwire.com)
Elaph, an independent news website, reported in its September 27 issue about the latest developments in the issue of the Kurds in Syria. The website wrote: “The Kurdish political parties called for a protest in front of the building of the Syrian government headquarters on the morning of Thursday on the 5th of October to mark the ‘passage of more than four decades since the last census in 1962 in the Heske province’. The parties clarified that according to the census ‘hundreds of thousands of Kurds lost their Syrian nationalities and were deprived of all their rights’. A statement by the Yekiti and Azadi Kurdish political parties and the Kurdish Future movement in Syria pointed out that ‘despite all appeals to the government and its repeated pledges to solve the issue, most recently by the Syrian vice president Doctor Najah Al-Attar, none of the promises were ever implemented’.”The website continued: “The statement, of which Elaph received a copy, announced that ‘Our Kurdish people that constitute the second principal nationality and that live on its historic lands is suffering from racial policies and projects such as the Arab settlements and Arabization [transformation of area into Arab dominated region] plus the intentional marginalization and prohibiting us from reaching important jobs and the continuation of the regime to ignore the presence and rights of our people and its oppression of the democratic activists. Therefore we decided to field a public protest near the quarters of the government in Damascus starting at 11 p.m. on Thursday on the 5th of October and to raise slogans calling for the return of the Syrian nationality to those that have been deprived from it and to compensate them. We also will call for the cancellation of the policy of discrimination against us and to find a democratic solution for our cause within the unity of the country’.”The website added: “The statement called upon ‘our people and the Kurdish political forces and the national Syrian forces to congregate and protests against the continuation of the suppression of liberties, the oppression, and the discrimination and to call for finding solutions for all the issues through dialogue and common efforts for a democratic peaceful change in the country’.” – Elaph, United Kingdom