“The Declining Number of Christians in Aleppo, Syria,” by Ehsani

Fewer Christians Live in Aleppo than is Commonly Thought
By Ehsani for Syria Comment
February 18, 2012
– No more than 100,000 Christians live in Aleppo – 3.3% of the city’s population, not the 12% commonly stated.

The exact number of religious minorities in Syria is difficult to ascertain. It is often reported that Christians make up somewhere between 9% and 12% of the population. Nearly two years ago, I happened to be visiting the city of Aleppo when a young Syrian Priest argued that the actual number of Syrian Christians is lower than the above consensus estimate. The initial purpose of the meeting at the time was to discuss the plight of Syrian youth.

This note will attempt to discuss the plight of  the Christian population in Aleppo. The findings will point to the fact that this particular minority seems to have suffered from a precipitous drop in its numbers measured as a percentage of the population. Low fertility rate, abysmal economic growth, unfavorable laws, regional dynamics and frightening language from some extremists have combined to deal this minority a remarkable blow when it comes to their numbers at least within the ancient city of Aleppo.

The Data:

My initial foray into this topic started over two years ago during one of my visits to the city. During one of my meetings, a noted Christian Priest remarked how Christian youth were leaving in larger numbers than ever before. He proceeded to argue how the lack of job opportunities, low wages and exuberant housing prices had combined to drive the youth in his congregation to move abroad. His attempts to convince his young men to stay in Syria fell on deaf ears. The result has been a migration of alarming proportions. And this has been going on for years. Pressed to back up his assertions with data, the priest promised to provide me with hard statistics about the size of the Aleppine Christian community on my next trip.

Prior to visiting Syria in January 2012, I decided to call another Church leader who seemed to also have a wide following in the Aleppo Christian community. My goal was simple. I wanted him to use the next two months to find out how many Christians live in the city of Aleppo.

As it turns out, Christian priests and bishops keep tally of their parishioners by keeping track of the number of families under their respective churches. The Assyrian Orthodox Church for example has 1300 families. Approximately every 300 families are assigned to each Priest. This gives the church a reasonable ability to calculate the number of people under its roof. This is made easier by the fact that Christian births and marriages are meticulously recorded by the Church; the registration process allows the community to keep close track of the number of its parishioners.

There are elven Christian denominations in the city of Aleppo. Listed below are the approximate number of families that belong to each of the eleven churches:

Roman (Melkite) Catholic 2,500

Roman (Antiochian) Orthodox 1,000

Armenian Catholic 1,300

Armenian Orthodox 10,000

Syriac Catholic 1,300

Syrian Orthodox 1,300

Maronites 400

Chaldean 400

Latin 400

Arab Anglican 100

Armenian Anglican 300

The total number of Christian families in Aleppo is therefore 19,000.  If one assumes that the average family size is 5 (a generous assumption), the number of Christians in Aleppo is below 100,000. It is of course difficult to accurately define the total number of Aleppo’s population. It is often argued that the number is around 3 million people if you exclude the reef (rural area) and as high as 5 million people when one includes areas like Hayyan, Hreitan, Albab and Mumbej.

If accurate, the 19,000 Christian families of Aleppo means that Christians make up only 3.5% of its 3 million residents.

When I shared the data with most Christians in the city of Aleppo, the response was mixed. Some nodded their heads in agreement. Some seemed surprised and demanded that they look at the numbers in more detail. Not one was able to refute them outright.

Many readers of this note are likely to be surprised by these findings. I urge them to correct my numbers if they are false. I would be grateful for anyone who can find holes in the above percentage.

Aleppo and Damascus are supposed to make up half of the population of Syria. However, Aleppo has hardly any Christians in its reef or countryside. This is not the case in other parts of the country like Wadi Al Nasara (The Valley of Christians) around Homs for example. The Priests I spoke with did not have Christian population statistics for the country as a whole, but insisted that the total number of Christians in Syria probably does not surpass one million. These means that they probably make up between 4% to 5% of the total population rather than the 9% to 12% that is usually cited.

Back to Aleppo:

Wikipedia still states that “Aleppo is home to many eastern Christian congregations and that “more than 250,000 Christians live in the city representing about 12% of the total population.”

The results of my own findings are vastly different from such numbers.

The last known census took place in 1944. During that time, Christians were known to number 112,110. This meant that they represented near 38% of the city’s population of just over 300,000. This statistic was confirmed when the political representatives for the city council were assigned. Of the 12 members to the council, 5 were Christians. This was an official confirmation that they made up nearly 40% of the city’s residents.

This number dropped significantly over the ensuing 20 years culminating with the arrival of Abdul Nassar. Following WW II, many Armenians decided to migrate to Armenia. Soon afterwards and during the early 1950′s, a significant percentage of Christians belonging to mostly lower income groups left for Venezuela and other parts of Latin America. Those in the upper income groups were dealt a severe economic blow upon the arrival of Abdul Nasser. The misguided nationalization drive of the period sent many wealthy families packing. Lebanon, Canada and other Western nations were the likely destination.

By the early 1960′s, the Christian population of Aleppo had dropped to as low as 20%. A Church official present at the meeting suggested that by the time Hafez Assad took over power in 1970, Christians in Aleppo were merely 10% of the city’s population.

Over the next four decades, this number has dropped to as low 3.5%. Wikipedia’s number of 12% is widely off the mark.  It is expected that I will encounter significant challenges to the data I presented. I welcome the input of those who do.

While on topic, it is worth remembering that the Christian existence in this land predates Islam. Christianity was born in the Levant. It was the Roman Empire that transported Christianity from the Levant to the Western part of the Empire. Later on during the new roman empire (Byzantine empire), it was a Damascene Christian Monophysite bishop that informed Khalid Ibn al-Walid that it was possible to breach city walls by attacking a position only lightly defended at night by opposing Byzantine soldiers. The Byzantine-Sassanid wars of 602-628 had exhausted the local populace. The negative treatment of the western Byzantine Empire’s rulers turned the local largely Christian population against their rule. As the Arab conquests reached the gates of Damascus, Christian Syrians were hardly opposed to the new  invaders.

Economics:

Perhaps no single issue has done more harm to Syria than its economic performance over the recent decades. The failure of the country’s experiment with socialism has been painful. So has been the state’s allocation of its water resources under the banner of self-sufficiency. Another abject failure has come from the lack of supply of housing as attempts to regulate the process of “Tanzeem” have taken decades. An explosion in Illegal housing was the inevitable consequence as legal housing unit prices rose beyond the economic means of most Syrians. What started as a noble exercise to help the poor afford basic needs decades ago has morphed into one of the most debilitating liabilities for the treasury. Subsidies may have been affordable when Syria had 8 million people and double the oil output. But they have sucked the government’s coffers dry now that the population has tripled and that oil output has fallen by half.  Last but not least is a debilitated public sector that is terribly inefficient and has monopolized vast sectors of the economy, stifling private initiative and weighing on Syria’s potential growth like a stone.

To be sure, the word “Socialism” was finally dropped from the country’s new constitution. However, Article 13 continues to insist that:

“The national economy shall be based on the development of the public and private economic activities”. The same article also states that “ The state shall guarantee the protection of producers and consumers”. Finally, the constitution now dictates that “Taxes are imposed on an equitable and progressive bases which achieve the principles of equality and social justice”.

The combination of the above set of economic principals is a clear indication that the country’s transformation away from socialism will be slow and uneven.

Many of the readers of this forum are aware that I have been warning about the damaging effects of Syria’s anemic economy for years. It was my interest in the subject that triggered the initial meeting when I wanted to understand the plight of the youth and their preference to leave the country seeking better economic opportunities abroad. According to those present, economic issues were by far the most important factor behind the accelerated immigration trends. In one month alone, 400 Christian families migrated from Aleppo to Lebanon following the disastrous Nationalization policies of Abdul Nasser in the 1960′s.

The Syrian Personal Status Law:

Under Syrian law, a Christian can convert to Islam. It is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity of course. Inter-religious marriages seem to have provided Church leaders and the Christian community in general with a major challenge.

Christian women who decide to marry a Muslim man have to make a critical decision due to the country’s inheritance and estate laws. If she stays Christian rather than convert, she will inherit zero from her husband following his death.  The only way she can inherit is if she converts to Islam. Civil weddings do not exist in Syria.

This is why many Syrian Christian families find it extremely hard to accept inter-religious marriages. It is also why they seem to prefer to live in Christian-only buildings where the chances of young adults interacting with those from a different sect are lower. Christians feel that the civil laws are unfavorable to them.

For the record, many Christians were hopeful that article 3 was going to be dropped from the new constitution. Such expectations were not met when they found out that “The President has to be part of the Muslim faith.”

The plight of Iraq’s Christians:

Syrian Christians have been badly affected by the recent experience of Iraqi Christians. Aleppo has been home to many Iraqis who reside in the city as they await their immigration visas. Most attempt to leave the region for good. Stories of Christian persecution in Iraq have had a profound effect on Syria’s Christians. Many Syrian Christians are convinced that their future in the region may be no brighter than that of their Iraqi coreligionists.

The Religious Satellite Channels:

Nothing seems to send greater chills down the spine of most Syrian Christians than watching extremist religious figures rally their listeners and supporters on satellite television. Adnan Ar’ur may well speak for millions of Syrians. His steady appearances, however, seem to convince Syrian Christians to pack up and leave.

Conclusion:

The percentage of Aleppo’s Christians has been in steady decline since the early 1900’s. That the number has dropped from over 40% as recently as the 1940′s to the current 3.5% of the population of this city is remarkable. This phenomenon is not new. Many have known about these trends and have written about them. The consensus however has been that Christians still make up 9%-12% of Syria’s population. This admittedly unscientific study challenges those assumptions. Instead, it argues that Syrian Christians may have dropped to as low as 4%-6% of the total population and as low as 3.5% in Aleppo. Readers can draw their own conclusions about what implications this has for the country going forward. It may suggest that authoritarian support for President Assad and for “secularism” is not as important as sometimes stated.

Syrian Christians in the Diaspora continue to have a profound and strong attachment to the land. The sentiment amongst the Christians inside the country is unmistakable. They seem resigned to the fact that their numbers are heading south. When I presented my 3.5% number to many of them, many simply nodded their heads. The vast majority of them may not know the exact number but many have indicated to me that it does “feel” to them like 3.5%. Aleppo’s overwhelmingly Sunni countryside has been suffering from a deep economic depression for decades. Many of Syria’s poorest towns are those surrounding Aleppo. During the day, men from these areas descend on the city, looking for work and better opportunity. The population of Aleppo has soared. Indeed, most Aleppines feel like they are living in a city of 5 million people.  Seen from this perspective, the 19,000 families of this ancient land feel that they only make up 1.9% of its larger populace.

The Wide Spread Effects of Economics on All Syrians:

While this note listed a number of factors behind the drop in the percentage of Christians that make up the population of this land, it is the opinion of this writer that poor economic policy lies at the heart of this issue. The negative impact of economic mismanagement has hit all religious communities of Syria. Presented with the chance, most Syrian youth chose to migrate out of the country. The lack of economic upward mobility has meant that most young Syrians have found it difficult to carve out a reasonable economic future for themselves. Yes, Syria, like the rest of the Arab world, could do with less corruption and more democracy and freedom. None of this is likely to matter much in the long run unless the country can design a vibrant industrial policy, find sufficient energy and renewable water resources, improve its outmoded education and health care systems and make legal housing affordable for the vast majority of the populace. Let us remember that this region needs to create nearly 80 million jobs over the next twenty years. Syria alone needs to create close to 300,000 jobs a year. On current trends, this is nearly impossible to accomplish and it is the reason why we are at the beginning of our black tunnel.

NEWS ROUNDS UP

Hundreds and hundreds of anti-government protesters braved scattered gunfire from Syrian soldiers to march through a middle-class neighborhood in Damascus on Saturday, the biggest demonstration witnessed close to the heart of the capital since the country’s uprising started 11 months ago.

Frustrated Protestors Fill Streets In Damascus

Seemingly undeterred by an international outcry, Moscow has worked frantically in recent weeks to preserve its relationship with the increasingly isolated government of Mr. Assad

For Syria, Reliant on Russia for Weapons and Food, Old Bonds Run Deep

A “good number” of unmanned US military and intelligence drones are operating in the skies over Syria, monitoring the Syrian military’s attacks against opposition forces and civilians, NBC News reported, citing unnamed US defense sources.

US drones monitoring events in Syria

 

Comments (216)


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1. SANDRO LOEWE said:

All of a suden in seems that we are in the black tunnel because of structural economical problems while only one year ago all regime media were spreading the idea that Syria was:

1- Enjoying a growth rate much higher that the rest of the world in crisis.

2- A middle class was beginning to grow, specially in Damascus and Aleppo, but also in cities like Homs, Hama, Lattakia, etc.

3- Syria regime was leading modern politics in many aspects affecting young people, women, disabled.

I agree that there are structural problems. But then we must denounce that this regime was simply lying to all of us.

I do not think things are so simple. Maybe the Assad regime would have longed for some years before the internal implosion of structural failures became exposed.

I do not know, and I think nobody can be sure if a new regime in Syria can arrange the great mess we have been brought to. But two thing are sure; after last 11 months of uprising and all internal and external consequences:

1- Assad regime will be unable to recover the economics of Syria.

2- The only way to try to recover growth and stability (both main factors to arrange economic problems, and thus young generations problems) is the creation of a more democratic regime. This is a sine qua non condition. It does not guarantee a success but offers a chance. While Assad guarantees the total default of a state and its people.

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February 18th, 2012, 5:58 pm

 

2. mjabali said:

The Christians in Syria and the Middle East are shrinking in numbers for the last 100 years.

If you look at Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Southern Turkey you will see the massive emigration out.

Southern Turkey has no noted Christian presence whatsoever now.

The current popularity of the Muslim extremist ideas are a threat to the Christians and to all of the other minorities.

There is no equal space for Christians in the Middle East as long as the discrimination against them in constitutional.

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February 18th, 2012, 6:24 pm

 

3. sheila said:

Dear Ihsani,
Thank you for shining the light on the Christian community in Aleppo. I grew up in that city and have many friends who happen to be Christian. As a matter of fact, my two best friends here in the US are both Christian from Aleppo. Needless to say, I care deeply about my friends and their families. I totally agree with your assessment of the plight of this community. From my observations throughout the years I have the exact same view that you have. Even though Aleppo is a very mixed and relatively tolerant city, I have seen incidents of discrimination against Christians. I have also felt their numbers dwindling. I remember a friend from school, who is one of four girls, telling me that she and her sisters have no chance in getting married because there are no more eligible bachelors left in Aleppo. This was in 1990. I can only imagine what it looks like today.
One thing I would like to point out is the difference and animosity between the Arab/Syriac Christians and the Armenian Christians. This makes it as “bad” for intermarriage between these two communities as it is between the Christian and Muslim communities. With one they share religion, with the other, they share ethnicity.
We have to also take into consideration the fact that Syria is after all a third world country.
Finally, I believe you are right that the biggest reason for the young to leave the country is economic. The reason why it is more pronounced in the Christian community is as you rightly point out, the lower birth rate than the Muslim community.
By the way, thanks for the beautiful picture. It brought back memories.

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February 18th, 2012, 6:40 pm

 

4. Aldendeshe said:

While it is not surprising the number of Christians in Aleppo is low, the number of Christians in Syria is in fact around 10%-12% and it is an increase of about 2% overall from 1963. This is despite steady outflow to Europe and the Americas. Homs as well had steady outflow since 1963, but while Christians migrated at higher percentage rate out of the city starting the 1970, after Assad rise to power, the city replenished its Christian population from those newcomers from the Mountain (Marmarita-Safita areas) and Alawites areas on the coast. They moved into newly built area back then such as (Inshaat), which was totally Christian inhabited at the beginning. The old Christian neighborhood around the Jesuit Schools and Churches, east of the (Souk) almost look deserted in the 70s before I left Syria, and most of Mahatta area, back then was the affluent Christian neighborhood, started to look that way as well. Almost all the Christian families that I have known in Mahatta either left Syria or was about to leave. But Hafez did bring new generation of Christians from the mountain and coast to inhabit other parts of the town. So Ihsani numbers may be accurate in term of Aleppo local Christian population, but it does not represent Syria as a whole. I am also aware, because we known many Armenian families in Aleppo and Homs that many when Assad came to power left in a hurry to France, Spain and Germany.

My first girlfriend in Syria was Christian, she came to say goodbye before I left Syria, she said to me her father will kill her is she married me (a Moslem by birth certificate) and that here mother and friends while they approved and tolerated the dating relation, they told here to cut it off eventually. As an outgoing person I was chocked to hear a language usually you will hear from conservative Moslems, not even from city moderate ones, and she belonged to one of the most respected upper part of the Homs Christian family, banker daughter. This was the very first time personally experienced hurtful and demeaning prejudices and it made me aware early on in my life how terrible it is.

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February 18th, 2012, 6:41 pm

 

5. majedkhaldoun said:

The drop of the number of christians in Syria is due to many factors, small families,better economiy in the west, intelligence of the syrian christians,discrimination against minorities,several wars in the middle east. the hatred left by the invasion of crusaders,Ottoman rule, mistakes by the christians (such as siding with the wrong side ), state laws,creation of Lebanon,and due to the nature of the christian religion.every reason can be debated by long debate.
Christians who migrated to the US are wealthy,and they sent a lot of money to their families,that should have helped the christians to stay longer and do better in Syria.
Most of christians are in the Alawi mountain,Damascus,Aleppo and Qamishly area,with very few left in Homs and other cities.
In USA, Islam is spreading and increasing in number,now count close to 10,000,000,they came from different countries,mainly due to immigration,but also due to conversion,I expect the Muslims in USA to be over 30 million by the 2050,Palestinians for example they have average family of four -six children.

The demonstrations in Damascus is a turning point in this revolution, It happened in Damascus,where Assad is tightly controling the city, it is large ,30,000, and happened inspite of the cold weather, it was snowing heavy, this is very ominous sign for Assad, If Damascus rise against Assad,Aleppo must rise too,
I said it before, in the future almost all syrians will rise against Assad, and that will be the end.

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February 18th, 2012, 6:51 pm

 

6. zoo said:

‘Assad would not amend constitution if he loved power’
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/227294.html

Press TV has talked to Omar Nashabi, Editor of al-Akhbar weekly to ask his opinion on the issue of the US, West, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda interest to rapidly topple the Assad government.
Nashabi: Yes, definitely the target it is not President Bashar al-Assad. The target is a stable Syria and a capable Syria

Syria is a country that has institutions that provide basic services to its citizens unlike, for example, Lebanon where the situation is so chaotic and we have problems with rebuilding the country after the long civil war. In Syria you have educational institutions that are offering basic services to the population. You have medical services that are cheaper than Lebanon and that are available for the whole population. You have internet, phone, you have electricity in the different areas. You have agricultural reform; you have police, traffic police. I mean basic services to the people. Why should any Syrian destroy what they have?

When they have seen the example in Lebanon and in Iraq that in war, in destruction, in occupation everything will go away. The basic services will not be there for the regular people. So, I am sure and I second your Guest from London on his position, regarding preserving Syrian institutions going through with the reforms that President Assad suggested. If there are more demands, I am sure President Assad is ready to listen.

President Assad in fact is not holding on to power or else he wouldn’t have amended the constitution. He is saying that the constitution the president can only rule for seven years only to be extended one time. He allowed the freedom of expression; he removed the one party rule system. These are all serious reforms and if one wants to test them, one has to test it.

If people believe that President Assad is not serious let them test him. Let us give this man a chance. I think by all levels and we are talking to ordinary Syrians who do not carry weapons. Others as your guest said from London, those who are carrying weapons, these are terrorist groups that work for the interests, these are mercenaries. One cannot have dialogue with mercenaries.
{…}

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February 18th, 2012, 7:08 pm

 
 

8. Aldendeshe said:

@Zoo
Enjoy Assad Zoo and don’t bring PressTV over here please. Yes we have many demands for Assad, who do we address them to, the Ayatollah?

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February 18th, 2012, 7:18 pm

 

9. sheila said:

Hey Tara,
He cleans up pretty well doesn’t he?

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February 18th, 2012, 7:19 pm

 

10. ghufran said:

I know that some people may want to put a pretty face on the ugly reality of a Middle East that is becoming increasingly intolerant and outrageously chaotic. The shrinking Christian community in all of the Middle East,including countries like Syria and Lebanon,can not be good for the Middle East,it is a sign of a deteriorating economic and cultural environment,this is why the emigration from the Middle East also includes Muslims,many of whom are skilled and highly educated professionals.
It is a matter of time before Assad has to give up his post in a way or the other,that may be the easy part,the hard part will be keeping Syria united and rebuilding a country that was once a promising project of progress and tolerance.

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February 18th, 2012, 7:25 pm

 

11. Aldendeshe said:

I know we too lazy to play the kids game of thumb up and down. But Ghufran Comment needs your thumb up please, I gave him/her one.

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February 18th, 2012, 7:43 pm

 

12. Tara said:

 
حرصت الفنانة الجزائرية الكبيرة وردة على نفي ما تم نشره أخيرا على لسانها في عدد من وسائل الإعلام، في رسالة أشيع أنها وجهتها لقناة الجزيرة والعاملين بها، طالبت فيها بضرورة رفع أيديهم عن سورية، وتضمنت الرسالة اتهاما للقناة والعاملين فيها بتحمل مسؤولية عشرات الشهداء الذين يتساقطون بشكل يومي في سورية.

وأكدت المساعدة الخاصة للفـــــنـــانة وردة الــســــيدة نجــــــاة لـ «الراي» أن الفنانة وردة لم تجر أي لقاءات صحافية أو تلفزيونية مع أي وسيلة إعلامية سواء كانت سورية أو من أي جنسية أخرى، ولهذا فهي تشعر بغضب شديد بسبب قيام بعض المواقع الإلكترونية بفبركة بعض التصريحات على لسانها.
وأضافت: «إن مازاد من غضبها أن أصدقاءها وابنها أخبروها أن من تناقل هذه التصريحات هذه المرة هو وسيلة إعلامية لها اسم معروف وليس موقعا إلكترونيا. 
وأوضحت السيدة نجاة، أن الفنانة وردة ترفض كثيرا من الدعوات للظهور الإعلامي واللقاءات الصحافية وترفض دائما التعليق على الأحداث السياسية التي ينتابها الكثير من الغموض الفتره الأخيرة». مضيفة: إنها ليست سعيدة جراء ما يحدث في الوطن العربي كله، ولكنها دائما ترفض التعليق وتكتفي بالدعاء بالسلام لكل الشعوب العربية. 
واستطردت: «منذ أن تم نشر هذه الأخبار تلقيت مئات المكالمات من أشخاص كثيرين ومعجبين يريدون استيضاح الأمر والتحقق من صحة هذه التصريحات، لأن الكثيرين يعرفون أن مثل هذه التصريحات غير الحقيقية يقوم بالترويج لها مجهولون من حين لآخر». 
وأنهت نجاة كلامها قائلة لـ «الراي»: الفنانة وردة تطلب من كل معجبيها ألا يصدقوا كل مايتم نشره سوى من خلال التصريحات التي تظهر فيها بنفسها، وأوضحت أن آخر لقاء صحافي أجرته الفنانة وردة كان في جريدة الأهرام المصرية وقت إصدار ألبومها الأخير «اللي ضاع من عمري» العام الماضي.

{…}

http://www.zaman-alwsl.net/readNews.php?id=24754

————————-

Hi Sheila,

More importantly is his stand with the Syrian people that,unless proven otherwise, makes him a hero in my eyes. In term of looks, there is only one specific look that I like..

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February 18th, 2012, 8:03 pm

 

13. mjabali said:

There is no equality so they will seek it outside their home country. It is simple. the economic prospect is a minor factor and a natural byproduct of discrimination.

The discrimination against the minorities of the Middle East is the norm and nothing will change it except for a modern constitution and a massive brainwash for many.

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February 18th, 2012, 8:08 pm

 

14. sheila said:

Dear Mjabali @13,
I agree with you, however, we have to admit that the majority in the Middle East, and more specifically in Syria, is not fairing any better than the minorities. As a matter of fact, it is a fact that it is fairing a lot worse.
By the way, you are one of the people that I respect on Syria Comment. I find you to be smart, articulate and fair minded.

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February 18th, 2012, 8:25 pm

 

15. Aldendeshe said:

@Ehsani
What do you estimate it will take to get Syria up and running money wise after Assad is out. How one could launch without borrowing and relaying on public debt, any ideas?

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February 18th, 2012, 8:25 pm

 

16. Shami said:

Ghufran there is nothing to fear for Syrian unity,this is a burned card.

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February 18th, 2012, 8:38 pm

 

17. ghufran said:

shami,
if you are referring to the fact that the regime is using the sectarian card I would have to agree,but if you are denying that Syrians are divided,then I have to disagree. There is still hope of mending relations between the classes and the sects because Syria historically was more tolerant than most Arab countries,but the increasing use of violence and the mounting number of dead Syrians will make the task of uniting Syrians more difficult especially if we see a surge of political Islamists in Syria similar to Egypt,Tunisia,Libya and Morocco. The diversity of the Syrian society may serve as a barrier to the ascension of a religious ruling faction but that barrier may not withstand the power of violence and the influence of money.

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February 18th, 2012, 9:09 pm

 

18. Homsia said:

True democracy will protect minorities and trust will be built again which will result in the numbers to go up. This will take a very long time. The regime is sectarian and its brutality is increasing the divide. The homs model is scary where the city is split now along sectarian lines. The past 10 days have been about collective punishment of what could have probably been considered the most tolerant neighborhood in Syria (Inshaat)

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/4406/the-inshaat-exodus

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February 18th, 2012, 9:31 pm

 

19. zoo said:

#8 Aldendeshe

The article is an interview with Omar Nashabi, editor of Al Akhbar, if you did not skip the post when you read it was in PressTV!

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February 18th, 2012, 9:32 pm

 

20. Tara said:

Bronco,

Read this.  Is Russia playing games? They vetoed the resolution twice so what compromise are they talking about? 

Russia says it will seek Syria compromise
Published: Feb. 17, 2012 at 9:44 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 17 (UPI) — Russia said it’s willing to seek a compromise with U.N. member states to “resolve the Syrian crisis.”

RIA Novosti, which reported the comment, which came a day after the U.N. condemned the Syrian government, did not elaborate on the elements of a possible compromise.

“We are ready to seek a compromise formula to resolve the Syrian crisis on the basis of the U.N.,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Friday, referring to the U.N. resolution approved Thursday. “But the interests of the Syrian people, peace and security in the whole region must be paramount.”

{…}
http://m.upi.com/m/story/UPI-46551329465600/

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February 18th, 2012, 9:40 pm

 

21. Tara said:

The vetoes were the moments of fame for China.  Is it a self esteem problem?  The Chinese are happy about the veto because it “indicates China’s rising influenced in world affairs, and that it stood it’s ground against the west”.  What a pitiful reason.

The vote against the resolution, which was overwhelming approved Thursday, indicates China’s rising influence in world affairs, the Global Times said.
“The country’s courage to truly express itself and to calmly stand its ground is worthy of merit,” the paper said.
“It is wrong to blindly come down on the side of the West in each vote,” it said.
Global Times is published by the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper and its editorials generally reflect the more pugnacious, jingoistic side of government opinion.
China, which carried out a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, has refused to condemn Syria over the violence.
Beijing’s authoritarian leaders generally oppose any moves that could lead to humanitarian interventions, such as last year’s NATO air campaign in Libya, and have themselves used overwhelming force against anti-government protests in Tibet and the traditionally Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

{…}

http://news.yahoo.com/china-says-supports-arab-league-handling-syria-151005658.html

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February 18th, 2012, 9:52 pm

 

22. bronco said:

Bitter tears for the loss of the Christians and the minorities

While Lebanese has some sort of guarantee to keep some political rights through an unwritten agreement of power sharing, Syria will not have that. The fact that the Arab Sunnis will take the power from a minority will be a sign to non-moslem or non-arab ethnic minorities that they will become second class citizens with little power, no protection and no guarantees. They will be systematically discriminated.
Either they’ll fight back to get their recognition included in the Constitution or through a political agreement like Lebanon or they’ll create an autonomous areas like Iraq Kurdistan or they will leave the country.
Sunnis alone then will be responsible to move Syria into ‘democracy’. As there are no example of Sunni Arab Moslem working democracy, it will be trial and errors and under the advices and financial influence of rich non-democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the GCC.
The economy will be in shamble, so many young educated christians who could claim to be discriminated, will be welcomed in the Western countries and there will be a real brain drain, leaving Syria empty.
Because the Islamic extremists are also Sunnis, it will be very difficult for a Sunni government to control them and Syria will fall prey to countries that would want to use it for their own interests. Israel will have no incentive to give the Golan back ever.
The loss of the Christian community and the loss of confidence of of the Kurds, the Alawites, the Assyrians in their role in a society dominated by the Sunnis will transform Syria into a monochrome country at the mercy of the rich Sunni Gulf countries and the western countries, like Tunisia is becoming, weak and dependent.
A gloomy future that many Syrians are fighting to desire.

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February 18th, 2012, 10:07 pm

 

23. Shami said:

Ghufran prior to Ba’ath dictatorship Syria was not as you portray it today ,extremism happened to be an outcome of the failure of arab authoritarian secularism ,Nasser,the Algerian generals,Assad and co destroyed the civil society ,we will need the time we need to rebuild it.
Despite all these lost decades ,the extremists among the Muslims remain marginal,I would not call the AKP ,Ikhwan ,and even the non takfiri salafists as extremists.
I do not see how Syria could be divided.

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February 18th, 2012, 10:07 pm

 

24. bronco said:

reposted
Bitter tears for the loss of the Christians and the minorities

While Lebanese has some sort of guarantee to keep some political rights through an unwritten agreement of power sharing, Syria will not have that. The fact that the Arab Sunnis will take the power from a minority will be a sign to non-moslem or non-arab ethnic minorities that they will become second class citizens with little power, no protection and no guarantees. They will be systematically discriminated.
Either they’ll fight back to get their recognition included in the Constitution or through a political agreement like Lebanon or they’ll create an autonomous areas like Iraq Kurdistan or they will leave the country.
Sunnis alone then will be responsible to move Syria into ‘democracy’. As there are no example of Sunni Arab Moslem working democracy, it will be trial and errors and under the advices and financial influence of rich non-democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the GCC.
The economy will be in shamble, so many young educated christians who could claim to be discriminated, will be welcomed in the Western countries and there will be a real brain drain, leaving Syria empty.
Because the Islamic extremists are also Sunnis, it will be very difficult for a Sunni government to control them and Syria will fall prey to countries that would want to use it for their own interests. Israel will have no incentive to give the Golan back ever.
The loss of the Christian community and the loss of confidence of of the Kurds, the Alawites, the Assyrians in their role in a society dominated by the Sunnis will transform Syria into a monochrome country at the mercy of the rich Sunni Gulf countries and the western countries, like Tunisia is becoming, weak and dependent.
A gloomy future that many Syrians are fighting to desire.

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February 18th, 2012, 10:08 pm

 

25. Darryl said:

13. MJABALI said:

My dear MJABALI, bandages never fix a problem. The Arabic world needs a “new Qur’an” to eliminate discrimination and racism from Islam before any new constitution is introduced. The Arabs need to take a lesson from Persia through the Bahai experiment.

However, as you may have already discovered with the likes of foreign educated people like …., do not hold your breath when dealing with those who did not even complete high school to implement such a drastic change.

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February 18th, 2012, 10:21 pm

 

26. ann said:

Humanitarian corridors in Syria: way out of crisis or way in for invaders? – 19 February, 2012

http://rt.com/news/syria-humanitarian-corridors-intervention-669/

Europe seeks to bring relief to the Syrian people by creating humanitarian corridors, a seemingly noble idea aimed at winning Russian and Chinese support in the UN Security Council. But some are calling the plan a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

­The call for supply routes bringing humanitarian aid to Syrian cities first surfaced last November, and is back on the table as of this week.

“The idea of humanitarian corridors that I previously proposed, which would allow NGOs to reach the zones where scandalous massacres are taking place, should be discussed at the Security Council,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Wednesday.

Paris suggested creating a safe passage for relief organizations, either with Syrian approval or under an international mandate – hence the need for UNSC approval.

Damascus is currently stretched thin on forces, and hardly has any to spare on guarding aid convoys. But allowing foreign troops on its territory is also not an option, as was shown in the recent refusal to allow entry to Arab League peacekeepers.

The Security Council could establish the corridors through a resolution, and mandate that they be guarded by some government or organization. But Russia and China, who both have veto power, said they will not allow passage of any resolution they see as unbalanced.

Both Russia and China oppose any UN resolution that could later be used by NATO as permission for military action, as happened in Libya. “Libya offers a negative case study. NATO abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone and directly provided firepower assistance to one side in the Libyan war,” said China’s biggest Communist newspaper, The People’s Daily.

Juppe’s plan so far has only received backing from the European parliament. Its President, Martin Schulz, said the body “wants to see humanitarian corridors to be put into place and shelters provided for the growing numbers of displaced people.”

Not everyone seems to be sold on the idea, however. NATO would be the first choice for guarding duty, but its Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated the alliance has “ no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.” He also reiterated that “a regional solution” should be found for the conflict.

This passes the ball to the Arab League, though Syria’s lack of trust in some League members like Qatar and Saudi Arabia could get in the way. Damascus suspects the two Sunni monarchies of fueling the unrest in Syria in a bid to oust the Shia Alawite minority from power, so Syrian acceptance of their troops on its soil is unlikely.

And Lebanon and Turkey, the two countries that could easily deliver aid into Syrian territory, aren’t in a hurry to do so. Turkish press recently reported that Ankara would prefer an aid corridor going through the Mediterranean Sea and supported by the British military base in Cyprus, rather than through Turkey’s southeastern territories.

Turkey’s reluctance to act directly against Syria is understandable. Joining the international choir calling on President Assad to step down and suggesting an internationally protected zone for the Syrian opposition on its territory is one thing. Invading its neighbor and facing possible military retaliation from Syria – and perhaps its close ally Iran as well – is a bit too risky, even for a NATO member. Especially if retribution may come indirectly – through support of Kurd separatists waging a guerrilla war on Turkish troops.
­Secret war already begin waged inside Syria?

­Asia Times’ roving correspondent Pepe Escobar told RT that installing a humanitarian corridor is akin to telling a government “Look, you are illegitimate and incompetent – now we would like to take care of your people.”

“And on the ground of this corridor there will be all kinds of things happening like weapons smuggling, intelligence operatives penetrating and coordinating with local people,” he added.

Escobar also noted that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are basically the only ones pushing for the humanitarian corridor.

“The ones that are really involved are Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are selling this idea to the US, Britain and France.”

The journalist also said there will not actually be a humanitarian corridor, but just a pretext to be on the ground and to influence action inside Syria much more than is currently possible.

But in addition to any questions raised by the proposed humanitarian corridors, Escobar said a secret war is already being waged against Syria.

“There is already a foreign military intervention going on. Do not forget that NATO have a command and control center in Hatay province, Southern Turkey, very close to the Turkish-Syrian border. This is a conduit for intelligence going back and forth across borders, and weapons, of course – and these weapons are being financed basically by the GCC, especially the Saudis and the Qataris actively involved – with the intelligence as well as with monitors and trainers on the ground.”

He added that there is another conduit through the Lebanese border – the Syrian National Council.

“They are supported directly by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, by the Turkish government and the Qataris. And there is also the Free Syrian Army – which even non-biased analysts in Europe say is not free and is not an army: it’s a bunch of guerrillas infiltrated by people affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Salafi Jihadists.”

Escobar concluded that humanitarian corridors or not, the foreign interference is already there.

“Now this is a shadow war doubled with a civil war,” he said.

[...]

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February 18th, 2012, 10:36 pm

 

27. irritated said:

Corridors to deliver arms to finish up Syria?

It seems to me that the enemies of Syria have resorted to a full destruction of Syria a la Iraq, as they haven’t been able to impose a change of regime favorable to them. Destruction is the only guarantee that Syria will be neutralized for good.
The only worry they still have is that it may spill over to their allies in the region, Turkey and Jordan. Lebanon will have to pay the same price as they support Bashar Al Assad.
Blinded by their hatred and their illusion of a better Syria to come, the supporters of the ‘revolution’ are the ones who are helping the destruction of the social fabric, the institutions, the security Syrians have enjoyed for years. The realization of the loss and that they have been just pawns will come when it’s too late.

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February 18th, 2012, 10:52 pm

 

28. ann said:

Chinese vice FM meeting the real opposition in Syria – 2012-02-19

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/photo/2012-02/19/c_131418619_2.htm

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February 18th, 2012, 10:59 pm

 

29. ann said:

US wants SWIFT war on Iran – Feb 17, 2012

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NB17Ak04.html

Then there’s the stupid argument that the recent bombings and failed bombings in Delhi, Georgia and Bangkok represent Tehran’s retaliation for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran – conducted by the Iranian terrorist group MeK under the orders of the Israeli Mossad.

If and when Tehran decides to target Israeli interests, it may be able to do it closer to home, and it has the competent operatives to do it without a trace. The notion that Tehran would send Iranian agents to friendly Asian countries such as India and Thailand – and in the case of the Three Stooges in Bangkok openly displaying their passports and even rials – is ludicrous beyond belief. These are patsies; the question is to find out who’s manipulating them.

If the Washington/Tel Aviv-promoted hysteria is already at fever pitch, wait for March 20, when the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil in other currencies apart from the US dollar, heralding the arrival of a new oil marker to be denominated in euro, yen, yuan, rupee or a basket of currencies.

[...]

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February 18th, 2012, 11:17 pm

 

30. Juergen said:

Greetings from Tahrir Square Cairo

I hope the next powercut is not imminent….

Just like to add that i read a number that the number of christians was over 60% in Syria in the years after independence, this shrinked down to 15%/10%( i guess actual numbers are kept a state secret in Syria) When i see my christian friends in Aleppo and Damascus, all of them send their children to private shools, tuition of 300/500 Euro a month is common, and they pay it for the sake of their children,and rather have less fancy things. i do believe that this good education is one reason many leave, its their key to the west.

Just read in DER SPIEGEL that the US is using drones to see what the regime would like to hide.

http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/17/10435915-officials-us-drones-monitoring-clashes-in-syria

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February 18th, 2012, 11:18 pm

 

31. Leo Syriacus said:

The article by Ehsani sheds light on the grim situation that all people in the Middle East outside Petro-Dollar Sheikhdoms have experienced in the last fifty years, and yes minorities in general suffered more than the major group as it is everywhere and in all situations, the weaker in numbers and resources suffers more.
Unfortunately Christian Syrians have suffered considerably, very few of them belong to the mega-rich urban Bourgeoisie that teamed up with the regime and made billions.
Very few of them were given senior govenment positions or government support like other communities received.
The Syrian Christian professional, public servant, and small merchant has had some difficult economic situation lately and have seen their middle class status detoriorate and it is not surprising that their children immigrate to Europe and North America and never return, most of their Muslim friends also escape the poor job market but mainly to the Gulf state and return to Syria after a decade or so to resettle

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February 18th, 2012, 11:28 pm

 

32. irritated said:

#26. ann

It was time the local Syrian opposition get a boost from a big power, after a year of neglect in favor of the French-MB illusionists.

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February 18th, 2012, 11:50 pm

 

33. ann said:

Al Qaeda influence complicates US approach to Syria – February 18, 2012

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/18/al-qaeda-influence-complicates-us-approach-to-syria/

Regardless of motive, the presence of Al Qaeda puts the U.S. and its allies in a difficult spot as they strategize on how to extract the intractable Assad from power — presumably without western military force.

After hearing Clapper’s testimony Thursday, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., quoted a column from a prominent foreign policy analyst: “When interventionists become avenging angels, they blind themselves and the nation and run dangerously amuck. They plunge in with no plans, with half-baked plans, with demands to supply arms to rebels they know nothing about.”

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 12:01 am

 

34. zoo said:

Who is attending the Friends of Syria (FOS) meeting on the 24th February in Tunis?
Will KSA and Qatar boycott it as China and Russia are invited and the SNC is not?

http://www.dp-news.com/en/detail.aspx?articleid=112135

Proposed initially by France and the United States the FOS Conference is considered a crucial counter move emerging in the aftermath of Russian and Chinese vetos in the UN Security Council resolution

“Russia and China were invited to participate in the Syria’s Friends conference held in Tunisia on Feb. 24, said Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem.

Earlier the spokesperson for the United States Department of State Victoria Nuland ruled out Russia and China from the list of Syria’s Friends as they did not defend adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on Syria.

For their part, Syrian opposition groups have not been received any invitation to take part at Syria`s Friends meeting which supposed to be held in Tunisia on 24th of February 2012.
..
Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, has confirmed her intention to participate in the meeting as a representative of the international community.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia welcomed Tunisia’s initiative, but l have not confirmed their participation, reports add

An official source from the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be participating in the Friends of Syria’s inaugural conference, which will be held in Tunisia next Friday.
In a meeting with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Clinton asserted her commitment to finding, “a political solution to address the unrest in Syria.” However, she also stated that any UN-Arab peacekeeping intervention in Syria must be conducted under the consent of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are expected to actively participate in the upcoming Friends of Syria conference
http://www.tunisia-live.net/2012/02/17/hillary-clinton-to-attend-the-upcoming-friends-of-syria-conference-in-tunisia/

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February 19th, 2012, 12:04 am

 

35. ghufran said:

even if half of what is in this report from Jordan,by aljazeera,is true,one has to think twice before believing that Syria can be fixed:
http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/EEC54857-B3AE-4E5E-9B4E-C957D745BEF7.htm?GoogleStatID=9

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February 19th, 2012, 12:13 am

 

36. ann said:

Report: U.S. drones flying over Syria to monitor crackdown – 18.02.12

Pentagon officials say drones used to gather evidence to make case for international response.

40 Turkish intelligence officials captured in Syria, Assad regime claims Israel’s Mossad trained them.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/report-u-s-drones-flying-over-syria-to-monitor-crackdown-1.413606

The United States is flying unmanned reconnaissance planes over Syria to monitor the “regime’s escalating crackdown on dissent,” U.S. defense officials told NBC television on Saturday.

Turkey fears this development after a diplomatic crisis erupted with Syria when more than 40 Turkish intelligence officers were captured by the Syrian army. Over the past week, Turkey has been conducting intensive negotiations with Syria in order to secure their freedom, and Syria insists that their release will be conditioned on the extradition of Syrian officers and soldiers that defected and are currently in Turkey.

Syria also conditioned the continuation of the negotiations on Turkey’s blockade of weapon transfers and passage of soldiers from the rebels’ Free Syria Army through its territory. It also demanded that Iran sponsor the negotiations of releasing the Turkish officers.

Turkey, who mediated several weeks ago between the Free Syria Army and Iran to secure the release of several Iranian citizens who were captured by the rebels, rejects Syria’s demands, and for this reason Turkish sources believe that Turkey will soon decide on hardening its stance on Syria.

Syria, on the other hand, has recently published “confessions” that it allegedly gathered from the Turkish officers that they were trained by Israel’s Mossad, and were given instructions to carry out bombings to undermine the country’s security. According to the Syrians, one of the Turkish officers said that the Mossad also trains soldiers from the Free Syria Army, and that Mossad agents came to Jordan in order to train al-Qaida officials to send to Syria to carry out attacks.

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 12:16 am

 

37. zoo said:

For Tunis, the SNC is not the Syrian opposition’s “real representation”

Syrian Opposition Group Will Not Be Represented at Friends of Syria Conference
Charles Baeder | 17 February 2012 | 0 Comments
http://www.tunisia-live.net/2012/02/17/syrian-opposition-group-will-not-be-represented-at-friends-of-syria-conference/

Today, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalam confirmed to reporters that the Syrian National Council, a Syrian political opposition group enjoying wide international recognition, will not be invited to attend the international Friends of Syria conference, scheduled to be held February 24th in Tunisia.

“There will certainly not be an official SNC representative [present at the conference],” stated Abdessalam during a press conference held today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Each thing in its time,” he added, expressing hope to see the formation of a Syrian opposition group with “real representation.”

The Syrian National Council, headed by exiled council chairman Burhan Ghalioun, was permitted to hold its inaugural congress in Tunisia last December. The three-day event concluded with the provision of assurances from Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki that the opposition group would be officially recognized by the Tunisian government. However, formal recognition has not yet been extended.
(..)

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February 19th, 2012, 12:17 am

 

38. ghufran said:

Dempsey on Syria:
Fareed Zakaria: What would you say to those who argue that the United States should arm the opposition movement in Syria?
Martin Dempsey: I think it’s premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point. And let me broaden the conversation a bit. Syria is an arena right now for all of the various interests to play out. And what I mean by that is you’ve got great power involvement. Turkey clearly has an interest, a very important interest. Russia has a very important interest. Iran has an interest. And what we see playing out is that not just those countries, in fact, potentially not all of them in any case, but we see the various groups who might think that at issue is a Sunni-Shia competition for regional control.
(This is the link,he also spoke about the Syrian army: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/17/watch-gps-martin-dempsey-on-syria-iran-and-china/

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February 19th, 2012, 12:41 am

 

39. irritated said:

33. ann

How long would Turkey hide that 40 of their officers at in the hands of the Syrian military?
The suspicion that Al Qaeda has infiltrated the FSA is a major blow to any military action that some imagined the FSA will be capable of.
Most western countries will be less inclined to arms the “friends of al Qaeda.”
That may explain the absence of new claims of attacks by the FSA and the apparent decrease of defections.
There is now a return to the ‘old strategy’ of exploiting any gathering and turning it violent. Funerals and any gathering are now infiltrated by elements pushing the Army into confrontation. Civilian death attributed to the army ‘repressing a peaceful demonstration’ ‘sells’ better in the media than terrorist attacks and it is easier to trigger as tensions are high especially during funerals.
Yet, while it is making noise in Western media, for the arab serious media it is a ‘deja vu’ and its timing seems well chosen to disrupt the Chinese visit.
Syrians should be warned while attending funerals that elements are infiltrating it and will try to convert it into a “demonstration” to instillate violence and create casualties filmed by cameras conveniently set on a roof.

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February 19th, 2012, 12:44 am

 

40. ghufran said:

welcome to the new Libya:
The decision of the NTC to hold its meetings in private and rule by decree has left diplomats dismayed, and the country is fragmenting under its feet.Misrata, Libya’s third city, will tomorrow hold its own elections, unsanctioned by the NTC, a final step towards what is independence in all but name. Its militias control a 300-mile-long corridor stretching across central Libya, policing it according to the city’s own leadership, rather than that of the NTC.
This is the full article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/19/libya-government-absent-revolution-anniversary
( I need to hear from those who think that a violent and abrupt regime change will produce different results. Indeed, Syria will probably be far worse due to a more diverse population and the involvement of so many regional and international players)

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February 19th, 2012, 12:51 am

 

41. Syria no kandahar said:

Gloves are off,Terrorists are using all they can to destroy Syria:

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February 19th, 2012, 1:43 am

 

42. Syria no Kandahar said:

ثلاث جسس حاولو الانشقاق
Terrorists are so evidence based,if you doubt what they say,ask the جسس

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February 19th, 2012, 1:48 am

 

43. Syria no Kandahar said:

شريعة القرضاوي

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February 19th, 2012, 2:21 am

 

44. Walid said:

Random samplings taken by Gallup polling consistently shows a population of between 9-12% Christian in Syria. That is likely more scientific that this article.

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February 19th, 2012, 3:23 am

 

45. Mina said:

Ghufran #37
And instead of looking back on Libya just a few months ago, Le Monde is now having all sorts of nomenklatura writers (Littell 2 days ago, Tahar ben Jelloun yesterday) write about Bashar al Asad as if he was Stalin or Darth Vader. When you add than Ben Jelloun has received medails and honours from a tyrant and torturer such as Hasan II, you get a bitter feeling about what is going on to France.
I wonder too if Le Monde and Haaretz having titles yesterday about US drones above Syria to document the bombing for further prosecutions are not a follow up of “Ford’s evidences” except that they missed Moon of Alabama and SC posts. The internet speed is too quick for the (shataaim) mukhabaraat who decide what make the news.

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February 19th, 2012, 3:54 am

 

46. OFF THE WALL said:

Once more, EHSANI persists in placing a mirror in front of us and showing us realities which we tend to avoid (except for Shami in this case). And while I do respect SANDRO LOEWE i have to disagree with the word “All of a sudden”. The economic/demography time bomb has always been present in EHSANI’s writing for years now and he has addressed it professionally without pro or anti-regime hyperbole while a few of us were giving Bashar Al-Assad one chance after the other until some of us realized how empty is the man and his gang nearly three years ago now while others did not and perhaps will never do.

Some of us, who come from secular communities have felt the drain through our own lives. I remember family friends disappearing. Those we used to spend “Friday” and/or “Sunday” afternoons (depends on who is in private and who is in public schools) and with whom, as kids i colored eggs and played games. It was Khalil first, then it was Alma, followed by Nour and so on….The pattern was nearly identical. The family would visit or we would visit them one evening. We the kids would go to play, but when we sneaked again to the family/guest room, the adults would be teary eyed and an atmosphere of sadness would fill the place. And when they were gone, they would be gone for a long time this time. It would sometimes be years before we see each others again on one of their short visits home. And by then, it is only the parents, for the growing children are now either staying in their new home country for school, or as young adults have other priorities to take care of on the short visit to the motherland. But this also applies to many friends from other sects, who starting in the late-sixties, would pack and leave for work, albeit to different destinations until finally it was my turn to do so, to say good by to friends and relatives, get on on a plane, and make a new life for my self with hope abound and a never ending undertone of sadness as an eternal companion on my journey.

EHSANI’s article forces me to think about several what if questions. And the first would be, what if the community has stuck and fought back. But then another question begs itself naturally, and that would be How…..

There was a time in Syria when such fight was possible. In the mid to late fifties, and even in the early seventies, a vocal push back against discrimination would have been possible. A general progressive atmosphere prevailed among Syria’s elites who could have pushed back and forced major changes at least on personal status laws. Again, it was an opportunity lost. Then came the Baath party, whose founders include Christians, and who would have been expected to address the concerns of the minorities but has failed miserably as the Assad family later declared itself “guardian” on the one side, but failed miserably in addressing the real concerns not only of the minorities but of all Syrians. Unless they take a public stand and force the issue publicly, the spiritual leaders of the christian community will be begging their congregations to remain, but will eventually find themselves alone tending to buildings with no one to chant the prayers.

The numbers arrived at by Ehsani are extremely worrying, they are below critical mass required for the survival of the community. Of course this does not apply to countries like the US or Canada, but in less developing countries, a critical mass is needed for any minority to survive socially and economically.

I also have one question. To what extent has the west’s (especially Canada, France, and Scandinavia) humanitarian policy of welcoming and greatly facilitating minority immigration at certain points in recent history resulted in accelerating the immigration of Syria’s Christians and in providing alternatives to fighting back (not talking about armed fighting here)?

Finally, I can understand the anxiety caused by satellite channels. But we do have the same phenomenon in the US and if one flips through the dial, there would be tonnes of channels who preach hate, demonize Muslims, Arabs, and other Christians, and issue threats. Watching these channels make me more hell bent on staying. The difference is that, I have a law to protect me and no one to force tutelage on me as “guardian” of my interest, there is only the law and efforts to apply it fairly. Therefore, I can push back without carrying a weapon.

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February 19th, 2012, 4:02 am

 

47. Mina said:

OTW
I suggest you that the Syrian opposition should address the lies of the Salafis before they win the kind of “free” elections you dream of, as they did in Egypt, because of the lack of organisation of the other competing parties. It is just not enough to claim since one year that “We Syrians are not sectarian or religious fundamentalists”.
http://www.egyptindependent.com/node/666371

You mention the role of the West in extracting Christians from the Middle East: Palestinians and Turks since the seventies, then Iraqis and Syrians. It is a very active role. Even as the EU had become a well-guarded fortress in the last 10 years, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands managed to bring lots of emigrants from these communities to help their aging population. I have seen in Syria the weirdest people claiming to be half-Vatican half-UN, helping in doing applications to the US, Canada and the EU for Iraqi refugees out of the official office for refugees.

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February 19th, 2012, 5:21 am

 

48. OFF THE WALL said:

@ 43
This would have been far more sincere defense of the rights of the wonderful Baha’i community than using the rambling of a fool. But since there is nothing in the article that defends Bashar Al-Assad and/or his backers it was not selected to highlight the plight of a minorities in yet another ME country, but where persecution of minorities is a national policy. I will save others the efforts and paste a quote.

In 1979, with the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the persecutions took a new direction, becoming an official government policy and being pursued in a systematic way. Since then, more than 200 Bahá’ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. Formal Bahá’í administration had to be suspended, and holy places, shrines, and cemeteries have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed.

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February 19th, 2012, 5:53 am

 

49. Mina said:

OTW,
Your answer shows you refuse to consider the Salafi problem.

Le Monde mentions one killed in yesterday Mezzeh demo, and a new discordant voice, Algeria, unhappy with the GCC led AL.
http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2012/02/19/l-opposition-syrienne-compte-manifester-a-damas_1645433_3218.html

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February 19th, 2012, 6:16 am

 

50. OFF THE WALL said:

MINA
I can spend ages addressing the Salafi and the militant groups issue, and I have addressed it and I am addressing it every day. But i believe you will not see or recognize that willingly because based on your comments and on similar comments on SC, i believe that this serious issue is being cynically misused on this forum as a vehicle to defend the indefensible murderous regime, increase sectarian fear and tension, and to de-legitimize a legitimate popular revolution against an oppressive and murderous regime. I refuse to participate in this cynical effort on such counter-revolutionary and reactionary terms and make no apology for that.

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February 19th, 2012, 6:31 am

 

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