Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
It breaks my heart that so many members of my family back in Syria are pro-regime. As Christians and middle/upper middle class, they have much to lose if the government is destabilized. But how can you sit by when this kind of evil is perpetuated in your name? Its just awful.
Crimes against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces
June 1, 2011 This 54-page report is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country.
Hamza al-Khatib Hamza al-Khatib’s death has become a rallying point for anti-government protesters. Kevin Rudd said incidents such as the alleged torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy by security forces had robbed Mr Assad of any legitimacy.
President Assad invited the boy’s family to meet him and promised an inquiry, state television said. Hamza is also being called a martyr by the Syrian authorities……
State TV said the teenager’s father and family were invited to meet President Assad, and they were quoted as saying he “engulfed us with his kindness and graciousness”. A man who identified himself as Hamza’s father said: “The president considered Hamza his own son and was deeply affected.”
The boy went missing after a demonstration at an army barracks near Deraa in the south at the end of April. Activists say he was captured and tortured to death, and that his mutilated body was handed back to his family four weeks later.
The government says he received three fatal gunshot wounds during the protest and died on the spot, but there was a delay in handing over his body because he was not identified. Syrian state TV aired a programme about the teenager on Tuesday night in which a judge said death was due to “a number of bullet wounds without any indication of torture or beating on the body”. Coroner Akram al-Shaar blamed the state of the body on decomposition, adding: “There are no marks on the surface of the body that show violence, resistance or torture.”
WASHINGTON (AFP)–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al Assad “has not engaged seriously in any kind of reform efforts. Every day that goes by, the position of the government becomes less tenable and the demands of the Syrian people for change only grow stronger,” the chief U.S. diplomat said.
Syrian businessmen back opposition conference: Inclusion of business community at conference in Turkey shows cracks in its support for President Bashar al-Assad
Lauren Williams in Beirut
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 May 2011 16.30 BST
Opposition figures are gathering in Turkey to debate how they can break the rule of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Key business figures in Syria are aligning themselves with opposition groups before a conference in Turkey on Tuesday in a sign that Syria’s traditionally pro-regime business elite may be beginning to break ranks with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
About 300 opposition figures are expected to arrive in Antalya, southern Turkey, for the three-day Syrian Conference for Change, designed to establish dialogue between opposition groups with a view to establishing a transitional council.
However, as a bloody crackdown against anti-regime protests continued, with Syrian activists reporting troops had bombarded a town in the central province of Homs with artillery on Sunday, it is clear sharp divisions exist among the fledgling opposition.
Until now, the Syrian uprising has largely manifested itself at street level with support from activists abroad as disaffected and marginalised classes call for personal freedoms and an end to corruption and poverty at the hands of the elite.
Organised by the Egypt-based National Organisation for Human Rights, the Turkey conference is being privately funded by three Syrian businessmen – Ali and Wassim Sanqar, brothers who are luxury car distributors based in Damascus, and Ammar Qurabi, chairman of the national organisation and UAE-based satellite channel Orient TV.
Orient TV’s Damascus bureau was closed after a bid to forcefully buy out the channel by the president’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, who is on the US sanctions list and controls an estimated 60% of the Syrian economy through stakes in various companies.
The Sanqar brothers also ran up against Makhlouf when a law was changed allowing him to acquire sole distribution rights for their company’s lucrative Mercedes dealership.
The Sanqar brothers declined to comment on their role at the conference, but Ammar Abdulhamid, the exiled Syrian dissident and head of the Washington-based Tharwa Foundation, said the inclusion of business personalities was “a significant development”.
“We have a number of other businessmen and entrepreneurs here. The business community is slowly coming around to realising the need to support the future of Syria,” he said.
On the eve of the conference, divisions were apparent. Organisers admitted they were rushed. Others, while calling for unity, privately complained of inadequate planning and consultation. Kurdish groups are boycotting the conference.
In London, an exiled nephew of the president claimed the conference was a front for Islamist extremism. Ribal al-Assad, head of the London-based Organisation for Democracy and Change, announced he would hold an alternative conference based on “freedom, democracy and religious pluralism”.
The son of Rifat al-Assad, who led the 1982 Hama massacre of up to 20,000 people following an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood, has attracted the ire of dissidents after failing to acknowledge his father’s role in the siege.
“I can assure you that none of these people represents the Syrian opposition,” he said. “They are individuals that only represent themselves.”
He said some former brotherhood members were posing as moderates.
Long suspected of holding political ambitions, Assad said his only personal role was to “play a small part in bringing freedom, democracy and human rights to my country”.
A pro-democracy activist and organiser, Radwan Ziadeh from the National Initiative for Change, denied the claims, saying the conference represented both secular and moderate Islamic groups.
But he acknowledged the need for religious Syrian society to be present. “We know Syrian society is very conservative. Moderate Muslims must be present.”
He said leadership alternatives in Syria had been repressed. “Everyone knows that the Syrian uprising is leaderless. We need to establish some sort of balance to move ahead.
“The intended outcome is for a united opposition established on the principles of greater co-ordination inside and outside Syria.”
He stressed that although Turkey sanctioned the conference, no state representatives would be present but said that any party formed should seek assistance from the Arab League and other international organisations.
“We can divide the cake later on, for now the focus is on the humanitarian issue in putting pressure on regime that has killed over 1,100 people and detained more than 11,000.”
Patrick Seal said on BBC today that the conference in Anatalya is to find leaders who can move into discussions with Bashar al-Assad. Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey….
In an article published in Asharq al-Awsat, a group comprised of 12 Kurdish political parties in Syria (National Movement of Kurdish Parties in Syria) announced that they intend to boycott the opposition summit. The group stated that ‘any such meeting held in Turkey can only be a detriment to the Kurds in Syria, because Turkey is against the aspirations of the Kurds, not just with regards to northern Kurdistan, but in all four parts of Kurdistan, including the Kurdish region of Syria.’…
Kado stressed that ‘we, the Kurds in Syria, do not trust Turkey or its policies, and that is why we have decided to boycott the summit.’ Kado also said part of the reason for the boycott was the attendance of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But other reasons have also surfaced. Two weeks ago the National Movement of Kurdish Parties in Syria announced its own plan to resolve the current crisis in Syria. The Kurdish initiative, which outlined a comprehensive plan for democratic change and fundamental reform at all levels, was largely ignored by non-Kurdish groups.
Abdul Baqi Youssef, a leading member of the Kurdish Yekîtî Party in Syria, told AKNews that they do not know who supports this conference or what its goals are. Nor, he said, did the conference organisers make any contact with the Kurdish Movement during the preparations for the conference.
This feeling of lack of inclusion in the process and not receiving any support from other opposition groups in Syria on its own proposal could also be contributing factors in the decision not to attend the Antalya summit….
Kurds are not the only ones sceptical of the conference. Ribal al-Assad, the Director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria and cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has criticised some of the ‘Syrian opposition’ involved in the proposed meeting for not being genuine representatives of the Syrian people and called for the ‘evil agenda’ of the conference to be ‘exposed to the international community.’ He says that ‘[a]ny meeting of the Syrian opposition must include a broad coalition of groups that genuinely believe in freedom, democracy, and religious pluralism.’….
On May 27, the Saudi owned Elaph website carried the following report: “A group of Syrian activists issued a statement where they rejected the conference that the Syrian opposition factions had called for holding in Turkey on May 31. They also rejected that any other conferences that could be held outside Syria in order to discuss the internal situation.
“The statement that was launched by civil activist, Bassam al-Kadi, and that was carried over the Internet read: “Any conference held outside Syria is rejected on our part… It does not represent any one of us and it rather constitutes a violation of the rights of all the Syrian people…” The statement also categorically rejected all the so-called dealers with foreign countries, in addition to rejecting these conferences and their participants…
“The Journalist and Civil Activist, Bassam Al-Kadi, told Elaph that the Syrians who came up with this statement and those who signed it are aspiring for a “free, democratic, safe, and stable” Syria. He added that they oppose the idea of an external interference. He added: “The people are the ones who always pay the price rather than the regimes. We reject the transformation of some well-known figures to “democratic fighters” in the name of the Syrians. We reject all the talk on the presence of some sides that represent the Syrian people or some of them.”
“…And concerning the expected conference of the opposition in Antalia, Al-Kadi revealed that one of the objectives of this conference is to deal with foreign countries, no matter who these countries are. He added that…the conference organizers are trying to take advantage of the rebelling youths in the streets today. He told Elaph: “We have seen and heard this scenario before and we have witnessed its results in Libya.” …Al-Kadi also spoke about the Syrian media and held it responsible for 60 percent of the problems that are currently taking place on the Syrian arena. He said: “The Syrian media has failed miserably during the past two months.”….
Iraq to help curb threat to Syria from border, AP, 06/01/2011
BAGHDAD—Iraq says it is working to curb weapons smuggling into Syria across the two nations’ border as the Assad regime struggles with violent demonstrations against its government. Iraq long has accused Syria of turning a blind eye to al-Qaida weapons and fighters streaming across its northern border to assist Iraq’s Sunni-led insurgency. But Syria now says deadly traffic is coming from Iraq. Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Wednesday that security committees are looking to prevent any trafficking of weapons and militants between the two countries. He acknowledged “infiltrators from both sides”—an unusual admission by Baghdad that Iraqi fighters are hurting Syria’s security.
Al-Watan writes that the government has decided to
1. Not remove article #8 (establishing the Baath Party as the ruling party) from the constitution for now, it is up to the next elected parliament to modify the constitution… “if you defeat us during those elections, then go ahead and modify it”
2. The role of the Baath is to monitor not to govern anymore… etc
3. There are 2.8 million Baath party members.
4. Within 48 hours .. general amnesty!
A Third Way on Syria Is Still Possible
by Nicholas Noe in HuffPost: Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Beirut — In yet another incredibly dangerous turn in the Middle East, “liberal interventionists” are once again joining forces with “hawkish” neoconservative voices to advocate for the collapse of the Syrian regime — sooner rather than later
Unlike in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War, however, this Neo-LiberalCon consensus is gaining the advantage with seemingly few, if any, credible alternatives posed, save for a weak attempt by the Obama administration to pose a “grand bargain” for the Syrian regime that really boils down to four not-so-grand words: “reform or die fighting.”….
Syrian Army Uses Helicopters in Crackdown Against Protesters, By Massoud A. Derhally May 29 (Bloomberg) —
Syrian army helicopters fired on anti-government demonstrators today as government forces continued a crackdown on protests that began in mid-March. Helicopters fired on people in the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan, injuring at least 16, said Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights. Al Jazeera news channel reported at least two protesters were killed in Rastan. At least seven civilians were killed in the nearby city of Homs, including a woman and a child, Qurabi said. A securityofficer was also killed Homs, where government forces aren’t allowing anyone in or out of the city, Qurabi said.
The endgame for Syria’s bloody junta: Damascus gambles on international vacillation. But the people know their heroism will win the day
Burhan Ghalioun guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 May 2011
As part of the democratic revolution that has swept the Arab world, Syria’s youth ignited a popular uprising on 15 March that has significantly altered the political landscape. It has also added a bright new page to the history of the Syrian people complementing previous uprisings for national liberation and independence. Events since have revealed two fundamental truths. First, the failure of the current regime to formulate a serious plan for reform that goes beyond a cosmetic overhaul of the existing system; the reinforcement of its self-seclusion and its political and intellectual stagnation. Second, the Syrian people’s intention to persist in their struggle until they achieve their demands for freedom and the establishment of a democratic authority of their choosing – whatever the cost.
One of the characteristics of the regime’s impotence is that it has substituted the necessary discourse on reform with an increasing use of violence, intimidation and torture in areas where the citizens have expressed an undaunted will to continue in their opposition to the existing system….
It is paramount that we act swiftly and decisively to erode and completely isolate the Syrian regime – until it is compelled to lay down the tools of excessive violence it is using against the peaceful protesters and opens up serious channels of negotiation under Arab or international auspices. This must be done with a view to abandoning the current formula for rule that is predicated on the monopolisation of power, corruption and a brutal security apparatus. It must be done with a view to moving towards a multiparty democratic system that guarantees the rights of all Syrians and ensures their freedoms and the future of their children…..
Residents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades put up fierce resistance, activists said. State media said four soldiers were killed.
Most of the opposition to autocratic President Bashar Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed throughout the uprising that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.
Two activists in the area said residents of two towns under attack in central Homs province since Sunday had taken up arms against troops and members of the security forces.
He said many people are armed in Syria and over the past years weapons have been smuggled into the country from Lebanon and Iraq.
Monday’s accounts by the two activists, however, were the first credible reports of serious resistance by people who have taken up arms. It is not clear how widespread such resistance might be elsewhere in the country, but the government has claimed that more than 150 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the unrest began.
May 18, 2011Here are two interesting articles from Friday’s Arabic papers, via Mideast-wire. I wonder, who are the ‘youths’ that have been meeting Assad and will now organize ‘dialogue conferences’?
There is a growing sense among Syria experts that change is inevitable. At least, that was the mood among analysts gathered for a recent discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Tamara Wittes, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, represented the U.S. government there.
The I.A.E.A. and Syria, By BENNETT RAMBERG, Published: May 31, 2011, NYTimes
At its meeting next week, the I.A.E.A. board of governors must decide whether to formally declare Syria in noncompliance with the nonproliferation treaty. Doing so will place the matter before the U.N. Security Council, opening the way for sanctions.
Change Appears Inevitable In Syria, Analysts Say
by Michele Kelemen
In Washington, there is a growing sense that Assad’s rule is coming to an end.
So far, the U.S. and its partners have been unable to get the Security Council to condemn the violence. The resolution under consideration was drafted by Britain and other countries, but diplomats are trying to persuade Russia not to block it…..
“One way or another, change is coming. And it’s very important for us, all of us, therefore, to focus on how that’s going to happen. Because how it happens is as important — in fact, in some ways at this point, more important — than when. Change is inevitable,” Wittes said.
So the U.S. needs to start making plans, says Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The U.S. has to think about a strategy for bringing about what kind of government it would like to see in Syria after the Assads go,” Tabler says.
AP Exclusive: Syria Says It Will Cooperate on Nuclear Probe But US Pushes for UN Referral
NEW YORK — In a major turnaround, Syria is pledging full cooperation with U.N. attempts to probe strong evidence that it secretly built a reactor that could have been used to make nuclear arms, according to a confidential document shared with The Associated Press on Sunday.
If Syria fulfills its promise, the move would end three years of stonewalling by Damascus of the International Atomic Energy. Since 2008, the agency has tried in vain to follow up on strong evidence that a target bombed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes was a nearly built nuclear reactor that would have produced plutonium once active.
Syria’s sudden readiness to cooperate seems to be an attempt at derailing U.S.-led attempts to have Damascus referred to the U.N. Security Council amid already strong international pressure on the Syrian leadership to end its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
‘Perfect storm’ looms for world’s food supplies Posted: 31 May 2011 07:01 AM PDT AFP reports: Oxfam called on Tuesday for an overhaul of the world’s food system, warning that in a couple of decades, millions more people would be gripped by hunger due to population growth and climate-hit harvests. A “broken food system” means that the price of some staples will more than double by 2030, battering the world’s poorest […]
Egyptian general admits ‘virginity checks’ conducted on protesters Posted: 31 May 2011 10:00 AM PDT CNN reports: A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities. The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with […]
Walker’s World: Money and the Arab Spring
May 31, 2011By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Editor Emeritus
PARIS, May 31 (UPI) — The Group of Eight summit exposed not only the financial weakness of the old industrial powers when faced with the challenge of the Arab Spring but also the crisis in its Middle Eastern alliances that is forcing the United States to choose between its immediate interests and its values.
On the face of it, all seemed generosity as the G8 leaders announced that some $20 billion would be available over the next three years to support new democratic governments of North Africa. However, the money won’t come directly from the indebted G8 members but from international institutions like the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. And the small print of who was to pay for what and how was left vague.
This sounds like serious money but the International Monetary Fund estimates that eight times as much — some $160 billion — is needed as the fledgling new governments in Egypt and Tunisia grapple with a collapse of their tourist trade, strikes and soaring food and import prices. Egypt’s bread subsidies, which the government cannot afford but dare not remove, could alone swallow the money that G8 mentioned……
There is a kind of collective guilt hanging over the G8, the knowledge that two decades ago their predecessors did a wretched job of helping Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika to modernize the old Soviet Union and an even worse one of helping steer Boris Yeltsin’s Russia to prosperity and democratic stability.
That sense of historic guilt is compounded by the worrying suspicion that democracy may not the best route to prosperity for countries emerging from dictatorships. Few say it out loud, but the Chinese example of economic success and political autocracy is a potent one.
And most of the Asian tigers like Taiwan and South Korea went through a phase of dictatorship while building the economic base from which they later introduced democratic reforms. In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, there is the further concern that democracy may well empower Islamic parties.
This is the argument that Saudi officials have been making for years, long before the revolution in Tunisia. They tried to warn U.S. President Barack Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush, that the neo-con “democratization” project for the Middle East after the invasion of Iraq would either fail, empower Iran or breed the wrong kind of Islamic governments.