Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build the Ideal Islamic City
By Daniel Brook, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009
Eight years after 9/11, we still almost know Mohamed Atta. We can almost see him, a gaunt and spectral figure making his way through Hamburg’s red-light district en route to his radical storefront Al-Quds Mosque. We still vividly recall his ominous visa photograph. But the man in that photograph remains a cipher, his eyes vacant. How did those eyes see the world?
We’ll never know for sure, but part of the answer may lie in a document he left behind, one that has strangely gone largely unexamined: his master’s thesis in urban planning. While the bulk of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian street toughs tapped for their brawn, Atta was chosen for his brains. Trained as an architect in his native Egypt, he went on to pursue a master’s degree in city planning at the Hamburg University of Technology, in Germany…..
The subject of the thesis is a section of Aleppo, Syria’s second city. Atta describes decades of meddling by Western urban planners, who rammed highways through the neighborhood’s historic urban fabric and replaced many of its once ubiquitous courtyard houses with modernist high-rises. Atta calls for rebuilding the area along traditional lines, all tiny shops and odd-angled cul-de-sacs. The highways and high-rises are to be removed—in the meticulous color-coded maps, they are all slated for demolition. Traditional courtyard homes and market stalls are to be rebuilt.
For Atta, the rebuilding of Aleppo’s traditional cityscape was part of a larger project to restore the Islamic culture of the neighborhood, a culture he sees as threatened by the West. “The traditional structures of the society in all areas should be re-erected,” Atta writes in the thesis, using architectural metaphors to describe his reactionary cultural project. In Atta’s Aleppo, women wouldn’t leave the house, and policies would be carefully crafted so as not to “engender emancipatory thoughts of any kind,” which he sees as “out of place in Islamic society.” …..
[Landis: The following story on the Muslim Brotherhood is hard to believe. From President Assad’s interview with Zaman, which I published in the last post, it seems clear that the President believes that he has taken care of the Muslim Brotherhood problem. Speaking of Syrian militants who belong to the Kurdish Communist Party, he said:
“If some people, be they in Syria or in Turkey, decide to abandon terrorist activities, then we must accept and afford protection to them. We did the same thing with the Muslim Brotherhood issue in the 1980s. As a state, we embrace those who have abandoned terrorist practices. We will embrace and pardon again. A state should pardon, because our aim is to eliminate terrorism, not to take revenge.”
From this quote, it would seem that President Assad believes that he has already pardoned the leading Muslim Brotherhood members of the 1980s who sought pardons and has solved “Muslim Brotherhood terrorism.” The premise of the following IWPR article, it thus a bit hard believe. Rather, I would agree with the Kurdish activist quoted at the end of the article who is doubtful that the Syrian government is nearing an acceptance of the Muslim Brotherhood as a Political organization.
Is regime ready to talk to Muslim brotherhood?
Signs of dialogue with exiled opposition 27 years after Hama massacre.
By an IWPR-trained reporter (SB No. 75, 09-Sep-09)
Syria appears to be planning to open a dialogue with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, MB, to pre-empt the Islamisation of society and the rise of Islamic groups in countries around Syria, local political analysts say.
The regime is said to be concerned about growing fundamentalism. “Syrian society is witnessing a return to religion to face the difficulties of life,” said one analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It also sees MB branches becoming increasingly influential in neighboring countries like Jordan and Egypt, he said. Even Iraq and Turkey are currently ruled by Islamist groups, he added.
The analysts said a number of moves in the past months could signal that the leaders of the organization – who live in exile in Europe and in some Arabic countries – were inching towards less hostile relations with Damascus.
Earlier this year, the MB announced that it would suspend all “opposition activities” against Syrian authorities as a display of unity in the face of the Israeli attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
In April, the organization withdrew from the National Salvation Front, a coalition of exiled Syrian opposition groups formed in 2006 and grouping Islamist, secular and Kurdish dissidents.
The coalition had stated as its main objective changing the Syrian regime by peaceful means.
The MB explained its withdrawal from the group in a statement saying that the coalition proved it was unable to achieve its national goals.
The Syrian branch of the organization issued a statement in August confirming its earlier decision to suspend hostile activities against the regime in Damascus. The group said that it wanted “to give a true and honest chance for breaking the circle of evil enveloping the Syrian people for the past 40 years”.
But Abdel-Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice-president who is currently in the opposition, accused the Islamist group in a newspaper interview in April of establishing contacts with the regime in Syria.
He said that meetings were being held in an Arab country to prepare for reconciliation between the two parties.
Attempts by IWPR to contact the Muslim Brotherhood’s exiled leadership in London for comment were unsuccessful.
A number of Arab media reports said in August that prominent Syrian opposition figures are expected to return to Syria soon.
Another leading opposition figure said that he had information indicating that Turkish figures as well as Islamist groups in Jordan were mediating an easing of relations between the MB and Damascus.
Talks between the government and the organization were also reported by private United States-based intelligence organization Stratfor in January.
“The negotiations now appear to have reached a more critical stage and are focused more on following the Jordanian model of working with the more moderate elements of the MB as a way of containing the Islamist populace,” it said.
The report argued that as a minority regime, the Alawite-Baathist leadership had always supported more radical Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah to maintain its legitimacy in the eyes of Syria’s sizable Islamist community.
But now that Syria was trying to pursue peace negotiations with Israel it needed to distance itself from these radical groups and approach more moderate Islamist trends “to maintain its credibility and safeguard the regime from popular backlash”.
In the early 1980s, the MB was in open armed revolt against the government, culminating in an insurrection in the town of Hama in 1982 which was violently crushed by the army, killing many thousands.
A Kurdish activist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the withdrawal of the MB from the main opposition coalition abroad was probably the result of a “deal” between authorities and the Islamist group. He said he believed the Syrian regime was ready to give the MB some legitimacy in return for the Islamists taking a stand against the democratic secular opposition in the country.
The activist argued that the regime in Syria allowed religious institutions to exist but repressed non-religious civil society groups.
Most recently, a widely circulated media report said that the Syrian authorities were planning to cancel a law that allows the death penalty for anyone found to be a member of the MB.
The Arab news website Al-Bawaba in an August 29 article quoted unnamed Syrian and Arab sources as saying that a legal committee formed by the Syrian Baath party command had just finished drafting a proposal to revoke the law in question. The website, which describes itself as a portal for Middle East news and information and has offices in a number of Arab countries, said that this was a preparatory step for the return of some of the MB cadres to Syria.
The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Muallem, at a news conference the next morning denied any knowledge of what was reported. Although the regime has not carried out capital punishment against any alleged member of the MB, it continues to arrest any individuals or groups suspected of political Islamist activity.
“The Syrian regime has succeeded in causing the opposition abroad to splinter after crushing all internal opposition,” said a Damascus-based political analyst, who asked not to be named.
He added that the Syrian regime could be trying to control religious movements to use them as a bargaining chip in its relations with the West.
Some critics, however, believe that it is unrealistic to expect any warming of relations between the MB and the Syrian government.
A former Kurdish dissident did not trust the regime to change its colors and said it was not ready for dialogue with political groups that oppose or criticize it. The system in Syria is not open to the existence of political groups other than the one in power, he said.
Published under partnership agreement with IWPR. Normal copyrights applied. Visit the IWPR website at:The Institute for War & Peace Reporting. IWPR11/09/2009 . © Copyright KurdishMedia.com 1998 – 2008. All rights reserved.
WSJ [Reg]: Diplomacy Fuels Interest in Syrian Oil
By JULIEN BARNES-DACEY, 2009-09-14
DAMASCUS — Oil-industry executives here anticipate a surge of interest by international petroleum companies amid a recent thaw in the country’s diplomatic relations …
Syria’s location on the Mediterranean and its relatively unexplored geology make it a potentially profitable frontier for smaller international companies. Mtanios Habib, a former Syrian oil minister, says the country holds significant potential, including oil-sands reserves on the Jordanian border. He says 40% of Syria’s land hasn’t been explored.
The country’s near-pariah status in recent years kept out most companies. Now, improved relations with Washington and other Western capitals, along with recent oil discoveries, are fueling hope that foreign companies might help to revive the industry.
[Dwindling Output chart]
In August, Gulfsands Petroleum PLC of London began production of 16,000 barrels a day at one of its recent discoveries, at the Khurbet East field, in northeast Syria. The company says it expects to ramp up production to 35,000 barrels a day by the end of next year.
“In terms of Syria being finished, we’ve proved otherwise,” says Mahdi Sajjad, Gulfsands’ co-founder and general manager.
Gulfsands bet big on Syria when most other companies shied away. The company made its Khurbet East find in 2007. That year, it entered a strategic partnership with Cham Holding, controlled by tycoon Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad and a target of recent U.S. sanctions.
In November 2008, Gulfsands made a second discovery in the northeast. Executives say they believe that find could hold commercially extractable reserves of 12 million barrels.
Syria needs the foreign know-how. Oil accounted for 17% of government revenue in 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund. But short-term Syrian forecasts predict steep declines — as much as 25,000 barrels a day of lost production each year — if new fields aren’t found or extraction technology isn’t improved.
Since 2000, Damascus has opened up swathes of the country to exploration by foreigners, and Chinese, Indian and Russian companies have entered the market.
The state Syrian Petroleum Co. has a longstanding joint venture with a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and China National Petroleum Co.
U.S. economic sanctions, imposed in recent years because of Syria’s support of militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, impede any meaningful oil-industry work by U.S. companies.
This summer, however, the Obama administration said it would make it easier for Syria to import items such as aircraft parts and other technology. Washington also has agreed to reinstate its U.S. ambassador.
Meanwhile, European nations, including France, have warmed to Damascus after Syria appeared to support political détente among Lebanon’s squabbling factions.
“Under the current sanctions in place in Syria, it would be close to impossible to have any American oil company work in that country,” said Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive of Occidental Petroleum Corp. “If the political situation changes, that would be a different story.”
Wael Tabbaa, chairman of Petro Services, a privately run Syrian oil-services company, says Western companies could be drawn into Syria if sanctions are eased.
“There are still 400,000 barrels per day, and that’s still a lot of work,” Mr. Tabbaa said.
Syrian blogger jailed for ‘spreading false news’
Posted on : 2009-09-13 | Author : DPA
News Category :
Damascus – Syria’s Supreme State Security Court on Sunday sentenced a blogger to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news,” a Syrian human rights organisation reported. The court found that Karim Arabji, a 31-year-old business consultant, was guilty of “spreading false or exaggerated news that could harm the morale of the country,” in connection with remarks posted by users of a website he edited, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Officers from Syria’s military intelligence service arrested Karim Arabji in June 2007. He has been in detention since then.
You can see the following Video reports by Tharwa foundation :
العشوائيات في سوريا
The Unplanded Communities in Syria
المسألة الكردية في سوريا
The Kurdish Question in Syria