“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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101. Alan said:

91. SC MODERATION
Return Jad back please !

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February 19th, 2012, 5:27 pm

 

102. irritated said:

#93

” Russia is thus defending the entire world from Fascism. ”

Russia did help save Europe from the fascists of Italy and the Nazis from Germany in WW2..

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February 19th, 2012, 5:27 pm

 

103. Uzair8 said:

Read the following important story on BBC Text earlier today but couldn’t post due to being busy.

Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’

19 February 2012

One of Syria’s leading businessmen says its economy is being crippled by foreign sanctions and that the government is slowly disintegrating.

Faisal al-Qudsi, the son of a former Syrian president, told the BBC the military action could only last six months and then there would be “millions of people on the streets”.

But he said President Bashar al-Assad’s government would fight to the end.

The 11-month uprising against Mr Assad has claimed thousands of lives.

Human rights groups have put the figure at more than 7,000, while the government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed combating “armed gangs and terrorists”.

The violence continued on Saturday, when Syrian troops fired on mourners during a funeral that turned into a mass demonstration in Damascus. Activists say at least one person was killed there and some 20 across the country.

‘Catch 22′

Speaking to the BBC’s Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

Mr Qudsi now chairs a London-based investment banking firm and has been heavily involved in private sector investment in Syria.

He said the uprising had destroyed tourism and the sanctions on exports of oil and other products had dramatically reduced the gross domestic product.

“So, effectively the foreign exchange reserves of the central bank have come down from $22bn (£14bn) to about $10bn and it is dwindling very rapidly,” Mr Qudsi said.

He said the military phase against protesters could only last another six months “because the army is getting tired and will go nowhere”.

Read more:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17088270

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February 19th, 2012, 5:28 pm

 

104. zoo said:

Egypt recalls its ambassador to Syria
The National staff
Feb 20, 2012
http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/egypt-recalls-its-ambassador-to-syria
Egypt’s foreign ministry said yesterday that it was withdrawing its ambassador to Syria, the latest Arab country to scale back its relations with the embattled regime in Damascus.
Related

The Egyptian state news agency, Mena, said that the foreign minister, Mohammed Amr, decided yesterday to keep the ambassador to Syria, Shukri Ismael, in Cairo until further notice.

The decision, which follows moves by Tunisia, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to reduce ties with Damascus came on a day in which gunmen fired on a car carrying a senior Syrian state prosecutor and a judge in the north-west province of Idlib, killing both of them and their driver, according to the state news agency.
(…)

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February 19th, 2012, 5:30 pm

 

105. jad said:

[First submitted on 2012/02/14 at 12:30 pm ]

Haytham Mannaa interview on Al7iwar TV, he is probably the most HONEST Syrian politician we will hear from during these horrible times of Syrian history:

قناة الحوار: الدكتور هيثم مناع

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February 19th, 2012, 5:30 pm

 

106. zoo said:

After the Mazzeh incident lauded as the beginning of Damascus uprising, another call for strike fails.

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/egypt-recalls-its-ambassador-to-syria
….
Activist groups called a one-day strike in Damascus to express support for other cities in revolt. But the call did not appear to have been widely heeded.

Residents in the capital said businesses were open as usual and so were schools and universities.

Calls for strikes in the past did not succeed in tightly controlled Damascus, where government forces and informers keep a close eye on all activities.

Earlier yesterday, a funeral was held in Damascus for a man who was killed a day earlier when security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at thousands of people marching in a funeral procession that turned into one of the largest protests in the capital.
(…)

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February 19th, 2012, 5:34 pm

 

107. Norman said:

Please at what prince Hasan said,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17068409

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February 19th, 2012, 5:35 pm

 

108. zoo said:

Syria’s Christians Will Suffer After Assad
The price of regime change
By David Warren, The Ottawa CitizenFebruary 17, 2012

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/price+regime+change/6171451/story.html
There are millions of Christians in Syria, who probably have the Russians and Chinese to thank that they may live there a little longer. The Security Council vetoes, a fortnight ago, on a resolution calling upon Syria’s dictator to step down, and supporting an Arab-sponsored plan to “end the violence,” put paid to any immediate prospect of western intervention.

The outrage expressed by Hillary Clinton, William Hague, and other western foreign ministers, probably concealed a little relief, for the vetoes provided the excuse they needed to avoid the issue, while continuing to posture about “humanitarianism” and “democracy.”

Let me be clear: I carry no brief for Putin’s Russia, or the PRC, let alone the Assad family’s monstrous regime in Damascus. The obvious needs restating from time to time: that many, perhaps most of the world’s governments are in the hands of evil tyrants (if gentle reader will forgive the pleonasm). Thus it often happens that we must appear to support one evil, in order to obviate a worse. This necessarily involves taking heat from utopian slogan-chanters.
..
Nor does the horrific violence in Syria please anyone who is sane. Though here, it is important to grasp that we are getting the same stilted information that comes with all “Arab Spring” reporting. Media both East and West, for different reasons, have taken a partisan position, and assigned white and black hats to the respective contestants for power. The opposition to Assad is presented as if it were a unified “resistance movement,” of an “oppressed people.”

The truth is we do not know much about what is happening inside Syria — just as we knew and know little about Libya, where, now that Gadhafi is dead, “the show is over” for the western audience. Journalists who (courageously) enter Syria are seldom in a position to check the hearsay they must forward as breaking news to deadline. As an old editor, it distresses me to see things as specific as body counts reported, from places where there are no disinterested observers.

It should also be remembered that all governments, even the most angelic, try to maintain order. When rebels seize bastions in Homs or elsewhere, overpowering local authorities, of course the state’s soldiers will go in. To present the Syrian regime’s defensive efforts, as if it were shelling for the sheer gratuitous pleasure of demolishing old towns, is to overstate the case for the opposition.

We have received little hints that indeed, al Qaeda and other terrorist Islamists are engaged in that opposition. The very existence of a “Free Syrian Army,” in support of a “Syrian National Council” suggests the violence is not confined to one side; and many of the victims of this violence are likely to be (as in Libya, again) unarmed people loyal to the regime, who become targets for vengeance when the regime’s soldiers are out of reach.
(…)

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February 19th, 2012, 5:38 pm

 

109. zoo said:

One year on: chaotic Libya reveals the perils of humanitarian intervention

The mission to remove Gaddafi was a noble one. But it provides a further lesson in the pitfalls of such actions
Peter Beaumont
The Observer, Sunday 19 February 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/peter-beaumont-libya-intervention-gaddafi

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February 19th, 2012, 5:40 pm

 

110. zoo said:

Syrian Forces Flood Damascus District, Prevent More Mass Protests
Posted Sunday, February 19th, 2012 at 5:30 pm
http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2012/02/19/syrian-forces-flood-damascus-district-prevent-more-mass-protests/

Syrian security forces have deployed heavily in a tense Damascus neighborhood, blocking opposition activists from staging a second day of mass protests, as the government continued a nationwide crackdown on protest hubs.

Activists said Syrian police flooded the Mezze district on Sunday to prevent a funeral for a young protester from turning into a major rally against President Bashar al-Assad. Samer al-Khatib was shot dead Saturday, as security forces fired on a mass funeral for several other anti-Assad activists killed in a police crackdown the day before. The mass funeral was one of the Syrian capital’s largest anti-Assad rallies of an 11-month opposition uprising.

Activists said police and pro-government militiamen forced Khatib’s family to hold Sunday’s funeral earlier than planned. Activist groups posted messages on Facebook urging Damascus residents to hold a one-day strike in solidarity with the uprising, but there was little response with the capital under tight government control.

Elsewhere, activists reported 14 people killed in violence linked to the revolt across Syria. Syrian state media said gunmen attacked a car carrying a Syrian state prosecutor and a judge in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing both officials and their driver Their deaths follow the Saturday assassination of an Aleppo city council member. Syrian state news agency SANA blamed “terrorists” for the killings.
(…}

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February 19th, 2012, 5:49 pm

 

111. Tara said:

Syrian officials killed by gunmen
(UKPA) – 2 hours ago  

Gunmen have assassinated a senior prosecutor and a judge in north-west Syria, while activists reported that security forces shelled rebel-held areas in the besieged city of Homs.
The Sana news agency said gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Idlib provincial state prosecutor Nidal Ghazal and judge Mohammed Ziadeh. The agency said the two were killed instantly along with their driver.

SANA said the prosecutor’s assassination came a day after gunmen shot dead Jamal al-Bish, a member of the city council of the nearby northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest. It said he was killed outside the city, a centre of support for President Bashar Assad that has been relatively quiet since the uprising began.

{…}

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5iOoZwBynOlehUUCwvxY8cACH148Q?docId=N0614061329644016909A

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February 19th, 2012, 5:51 pm

 

112. zoo said:

Overcautious and non-committal, Ford avoids taking any clear position on the SNC validity or on Obama’s earlier demand that Bashar Al Assad steps down.

Asharq Al-Awsat Interview: US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford

19/02/2012
By Mina al-Oraibi
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=3&id=28540

More like a “Friends of al-Assad” conference!

19/02/2012

By Tariq Alhomayed

If the Tunisian foreign ministry says it will not invite the Syrian National Council (SNC) to the upcoming “Friends of the Syrian People” conference, while both Russia and China will be invited, then the question here is: Who will this conference actually benefit? Or, why was this event not called the “Friends of al-Assad” conference in the first place?

How strange for the Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Rafik Abdessalem, to say that “there will certainly not be an official SNC representative” at the Friends of the Syrian People conference, indicating that the relevant authorities had “discussed the subject”. He added that “each thing [will come] in time”, hoping to soon see the formation of a Syrian opposition with “real representation”.
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=28533

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February 19th, 2012, 5:53 pm

 

113. Tara said:

Syria’s Alawites to fight to death for power: analysts

http://www.canada.com/life/Syria+Alawites+fight+death+power+analysts/6177296/story.html
 
 
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE FEBRUARY 19, 2012 5:17 AM

(…)
 

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February 19th, 2012, 5:55 pm

 

114. Tara said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17088270

19 February 2012 

Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’

One of Syria’s leading businessmen says its economy is being crippled by foreign sanctions and that the government is slowly disintegrating.

Faisal al-Qudsi, the son of a former Syrian president, told the BBC the military action could only last six months and then there would be “millions of people on the streets”.

But he said President Bashar al-Assad’s government would fight to the end.

[...]

Speaking to the BBC’s Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

Mr Qudsi now chairs a London-based investment banking firm and has been heavily involved in private sector investment in Syria.

He said the uprising had destroyed tourism and the sanctions on exports of oil and other products had dramatically reduced the gross domestic product.

“So, effectively the foreign exchange reserves of the central bank have come down from $22bn (£14bn) to about $10bn and it is dwindling very rapidly,” Mr Qudsi said.

Mr Qudsi’s dire assessment of the Syrian regime’s situation is significant coming from such a source.

He has a strong background both in politics and the economy. The family’s roots are in Aleppo, the northern commercial centre. His father was president of Syria from 1961-3. Mr Qudsi, an international investment manager, has been deeply involved in private-sector projects in Syria.

One of the regime’s pillars of support has been the Sunni business and middle classes and merchants, because of the stability it appeared to offer against the uncertainties raised by regime change. Now Mr Qudsi says the regime is rapidly losing that support.

If he is right and the middle classes end up turning against President Assad as the economy collapses, bringing millions on to the streets of Damascus and Aleppo, the regime’s fate will be sealed. But Mr Qudsi also believes the regime will fight to its last gasp, and nobody knows how long that might take.

“They will have to sit and talk or at least they have to stop killing. And the minute they stop killing, more millions of people will be on the streets. So they are in a Catch 22.”

He added: “The apparatus of the government is slowly disintegrating and it’s almost non-existent in trouble spots like Homs, Idlib, Deraa. Courts are not there; police are not interested in any sort of crime and it is affecting the government very, very badly.”

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 6:01 pm

 

115. zoo said:

http://www.arabi-press.com/?page=article&id=23477
كتبت ماهيندا عربي كاتبي – دمشق – عربي برس .

إحتفلت القنوات الفضائية الخليجية وتلك اللبنانية التابعة لها بما أسمته ” أضخم تظاهرة تخرج في دمشق ” وذلك ربطا بالصور التي بثتها مباشرة من منطقة المزة غربي دمشق وأظهرت آلافا من السوريين يهتفون ” الله اكبر” و” اللي ما بيشارك ما في ناموس” خلال تشييع ثلاثة من الشهداء المدنيين ” الذيم سقطوا في اليوم السابق (جمعة المقاومة الشعبية) برصاص الأمن السوري ” بحسب المعارضين ، وبـ” رصاص مسلحين إرهابيين مارسوا القنص على متظاهري يوم الجمعة بهدف خلق البيئة الشعبية المناسبة لإنتشار المسلحين بين بيوت المناطق العشوائية ذات الصفة الريفية بين شرق أوتستراد المزة وغرب المحلق” بحسب مصادر مقربة من السلطات السورية، التي أكد إعلامها أن مسلحين تسللوا نهار الجمعة إلى أحياء عشوائية خلف مستشفى الرازي وأخذوا يطلقون النار على قوات الأمن بينما كان العشرات من الشبان يتظاهرون في المكان نفسه، فسقط منهم ثلاثة هم حسام الأصفر، و محمود محمد كرم، و بلال طويلة . والثلاثة من السكان المحليين الذين تنتمي عائلاتهم إلى “المزة بلد “، ما لفت نظر مراقب من الصحافيين حيث وصف الحادث بالمريب وربطه بما أعلنه القيادي في الإخوان المسلمين السوريين محمد سرميني لموقع إيلاف قبل ايام من تحضير تنظيمه لمفاجأة في دمشق وتسائل الصحافي المراقب عن سر سقوط ثلاثة من ” شباب المزة ” يوم الجمعة في حين أن المئات من أبناء داريا هم من تظاهروا في يوم جمعة المقاومة الشعبية في تظاهرة المزة التي سقط فيها الشهداء ؟
وأضاف الصحافي :
لو سقط شهداء من داريا في المزة لشيعهم أهل داريا فهل كانت تبحث رصاصات الموت عن هوية القتلى قبل إصابتهم ؟
لقد حصل المعارضون على هدية بمقتل الشبان الثلاثة، فقد سهل مقتلهم حصول تظاهرة تشييع لا يمكن إلا أن يشارك فيها كل من ينتمي إلى المزة (القرية التي تحولت بالتوسع إلى جزء من دمشق ولكن أهلها الأصليين لا يزالون يعملون في الزراعة ولهم أحياء خاصة بهم خلف الأوتستراد الشهير الذي يشق المنطقة وصولا إلى ساحة الأمويين).
(…)

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February 19th, 2012, 6:14 pm

 

116. newfolder said:

Hani Malazi, Syrian state tv anchor defects and reveals the regime’s lies and coverups (English subtitled video):

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February 19th, 2012, 6:28 pm

 

117. zoo said:

Turkey pushed over Syria

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Adel Iskandar, an Arab media scholar, says it is in the interest of a lot of countries to push Turkey to intervene in Syrian crisis, which rocks the country for nearly 1 year, a move that could be injurious to Turkey

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-pushed-over-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=14097&NewsCatID=338
….
‘Al-Jazeera neglected Bahrain completely’

Iskandar, who has written one of the most prominent books on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news network, also discussed how the channel has covered the ongoing Arab Spring.

“To a large extent, Al-Jazeera did the job they should be doing by covering the story that unfolded. At the end of the day, Al-Jazeera has made its bread and butter from political protests. So it was natural for Al-Jazeera to cover the protests,” he said.

However, Iskandar said there were some uprisings that the channel had completely neglected.

“Like in Bahrain. [In terms of the] percentage of the protestors, the Bahraini movement is the largest movement in the Arab Spring. However, the saddest situation is that while the Bahraini and Syrian revolts started at the same time of the year; one year after that Syrian is getting 99 percent of the coverage while Bahrain is only getting 0.01 percent of the coverage. This is going to hurt the network and its credibility in the eyes of the public,” Iskandar said.

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February 19th, 2012, 6:36 pm

 

118. Tara said:

Targeting civilians will be documented by the American reconnaissance planes and then hopefully be used in the ICC. 

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/iran-sends-two-warships-us-flies-drones-on-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nID=14143&NewsCatID=359

… the United States is flying its unmanned reconnaissance planes over Syria, officials say.

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February 19th, 2012, 6:45 pm

 

119. Ghufran said:

Norman,
I posted a link to prince Hassan (#73)
he is not an authority on freedom and democracy but his opinion is worth listening to.

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February 19th, 2012, 6:50 pm

 

120. majedkhaldoun said:

It seems that Israel is planning to hit Iran,the question is when?there may be a window,this period will be available to Israel if the regime in Syria is removed,syria may go through mini war,this will be the best time for Israel to attack Iran, either April through may,or after the american election, which I think will be more likely,
If an attack is imminent ,it would be a mistake for Iran to send two ships to the mediteranian sea, they can be hit easily.
Israel is thinking that if the syrian regime is involved in mini war,HA is very likely to attack Israel and that is why they are getting ready,and they are setting up their anti missile defense system, we know that US drones are flying over Syria, with both Israel and USA are talking ,and discussing matters,militarily, I think something could happen soon

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February 19th, 2012, 6:56 pm

 

121. Aldendeshe said:

Just to let you know that I received 3 emails today from Europe appreciating the new Syriacomment cut and paste policy. Much faster to navigate and read comments, less frustration and better information. I tried it myself on the beach today and it was a snap to navigate on mobile Android and Iphone.

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February 19th, 2012, 7:05 pm

 

122. Ghufran said:

Look at who is urging Obama to get tough in Syria: Karl Rove, the former Bush administration adviser; Paul Bremer, in charge of the U.S. occupation in Iraq after the 2003 invasion; R. James Woolsey, former CIA chief; Robert McFarlane, former Reagan national security adviser; and Dan Senor, a former Bremer adviser and spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
(the same men who destroyed Iraq to help Israel are trying again on Syria)

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February 19th, 2012, 7:05 pm

 

123. ann said:

West’s poker face at Middle Eastern grand chessboard – 19 February, 2012

http://rt.com/news/iran-syria-west-policy-697/

The planned neo-colonial takeover of the Middle East is gearing up. As the heat rises, the West finds it increasingly difficult to proceed with its grab for dominance and maintain a brave face, says political analyst Adrian Salbuchi.

­Things are happening very fast in the Middle East. Tensions are mounting, threats are being made, and strange assassinations are taking place… Even stranger diplomatic, political, global media, military and economic strings are being pulled; sometimes so quickly, that they’re getting tangled! The atmosphere is becoming very rarefied indeed! A bit of historical perspective might even lead you to think we’re re-living August 1939: the last days before World War II.

But what is really happening over there and why? Well, to begin with, we witnessed twenty years during which the US, UK, France, other NATO members, and Israel have variously attacked, bombed and overrun Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Palestine almost constantly and unimpaired.

Millions of Muslims have died as a consequence of these aggressions which have been based either on flagrant lies like Iraq’s non-existent WMDs, or Iran’s alleged A-Bomb program. Blatant double-standards make the media systematically ignore Israeli ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Last year we saw a fabricated and engineered social turmoil throughout the region – dubbed the “Arab Spring.”

There is consistent misrepresentation of the true nature of the Middle East conflict, the true goals of its wide assortment of players, and the true root causes of all the violence and turmoil. But now the Western powers are finally confronted with two tough cookies to crack: Syria and Iran. In these conflicts their masks are starting to fall. And when masks suddenly fall, many are caught off-guard showing their real faces.

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 7:36 pm

 

124. SANDRO LOEWE said:

112. NEWFOLDER

Great link. After viewing it I think nothing else can be said about the nature of this falling regime. Let´s pray for the fall to be soon to avoid more children and innocent being killed by snipers in Homs.

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February 19th, 2012, 7:39 pm

 

125. Norman said:

MR Moderator,

I think that the problem that you changed the rules about full article without long enough notice, I do not think that was in the SC Rules.

[NOTE - Norman, you raise an excellent point regarding "fair use" standards and requests. These cannot be set as rule but as guidelines or rules of thumb. At its simplest, fair use suggests an limited ex. The Syria Comment Rules and Regulations now include brief guidelines for fair use of off-site material, and also now includes an email address for queries, complaints and concerns. Thank for the observation.]

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February 19th, 2012, 7:41 pm

 

126. ann said:

China’s Mideast envoy urges negotiations over regional issues – 2012-02-20

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-02/20/c_131419375.htm

JERUSALEM, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — Chinese Middle East envoy Wu Sike said Sunday that China is willing to play a constructive role in bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to peace negotiations.

Wu, on a visit to the region, met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Yitzhak Molcho, head of Israel’s negotiating team to the Amman exploratory talks with Palestinians earlier this year.

Wu noted that Israeli-Palestinian peace process should remain the focus in the Middle East, despite latest changes of international or regional situation.

China welcomes and supports recent meetings between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, in an effort to restart long- stalled talks, the Chinese envoy said, adding that his government hopes both sides show enough flexibility and create a favorable environment to resume peace negotiations.

Wu also discussed Syrian issue with Lieberman. Negotiation was the only way to solve the crisis in the Middle East, he noted.

Considering that military actions would damage the region’s stability and Syrian people’s benefits, Wu said that China supports peaceful solutions, brought up either by the Syrian government or the opposition groups.

Wu visited Syria last October and met several leaders of opposition groups. The leaders were against foreign military interference on Syria, which they believed would be counter- effective, Wu told Xinhua during an interview later.

Despite China’s vetoes earlier this year of two United Nations resolutions pressing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to abandon power, Wu said that China “shares a lot in common with Arab League and Israel on Syria issue,” with regard to ending violence against citizens.

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 7:46 pm

 

127. Tara said:

Sorry, it is the regime who is not invited to Tunisia.  SNC is officially invited.

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=366433

SNC invited to Tunisia conference, reports Al-Hayat
February 19, 2012     
  
Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Sunday that Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesalem “officially invited” the Syrian National Council on Saturday to attend the “friends of Syria” conference that will be held next Friday in Tunisia.

The daily also quoted SNC member Ahmad Ramdan as saying that the opposition will be represented in the conference, adding that Abdesalem “confirmed that statements quoting him as saying that the SNC is not invited are not true.”

On Friday, AFP said that Abdesalem told reporters that “there will certainly not be an official SNC representative” at the conference. 

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February 19th, 2012, 7:57 pm

 

128. ann said:

Top U.S. soldier says Syria different from Libya scenario – 2012-02-20

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-02/20/c_131419343.htm

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey on Sunday said security challenges in Syria differ geographically and militarily from those that led to NATO operations in Libya, and intervention would be difficult.

“Syria is a very different challenge,” Dempsey said in a CNN interview. “It’s a different challenge in terms of the capability of the Syrian military. They are very capable.”

Dempsey said Syria has “sophisticated, integrated” air defense system, adding that the country represents a “very different military problem,” and “intervening in Syria would be very difficult.”

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 8:03 pm

 

129. Ghufran said:

An attack on Iran will help the regime and hurt the US and its GCC allies. Senior US army chiefs and virtually all leaders of NATO are not supportive of such a move especially that it is not likely to achieve much for technical reasons explained in length by military experts. There is something in common with most war drummers: they are usually wrong.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:05 pm

 

130. SC Moderation said:

NOTE – Mjabali and Mina and Alan and Ann have written, “This site lost a lot by banning Jad,” and “SC without Jad is not SC,” and “Return Jad back please !” and “JAD should be back posting again very soon (February 21st).”

Jad is not banned from SC. Jad has been free to post since February 16. Please take note of the updated Syria Comment Rules and Regulations, which now contain guidelines on fair use. Syria Comment is open to all opinions, sources, critical comments, analyses — from any quarter. The aim of moderation is to ensure courteous and responsible discussion.

Those under ban at the moment are:

Dale Andersen
Khaled Tlass
Afram
Ghat Al Bird

These accounts have been free to post since time-limited bans expired:

Majedkhaldoun
SS

Jad had been warned, as had several others, not to paste full-text articles to the comments. On the day he was restricted from posting (February 14), three entire articles were posted after a warning had been posted by SC Moderation. Jad’s one-week ban was reduced to 48 hours, and the moderator thanked several commentators for their feedback.

The issue for SC moderation is simply full-text article pastes. If commentators observe this simple rule, there is no issue, no warning, no need for a ban.

Jad was sent a note of apology signed by Alex (Camille Otrakji) and SC Moderation, approved by Joshua Landis. Jad has been a long-term positive addition to the Syria Comment community. We welcome him, and ask him only to bear in mind a tighter comment restriction on linking and pasting. This rule of thumb is applied to everyone. We thank Ann especially for helping make comments easier to read and reference, and for her links to important media reports.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:05 pm

 

131. Norman said:

Hey Ghufran,

Couldn’t you keep quiet and let me have my day in the sun, and feel that i contributed,

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February 19th, 2012, 8:22 pm

 

132. bronco said:

This is repost as my posts seems to vanish

[NOTE - Bronco, the name was misspelled. Software puts that kind of post into moderation. We need a 'Damascus-time' moderator to catch the overnight errors. ]

Bitter tears for the loss of the Christians and the minorities

In the middle east where there is variety of religions and ethnicities, I observe that the ruling majority is always suspicious of the minorities’ foreign allegeances and tend to radicalize and often ostracise them. We see that Iin Iran, in Bahrain, in Saudi Arabi, in Lebanon etc..
This is why generally, minorities feel more reassured when the country ruler is also from a minority.
In Lebanon the christian have managed to obtain some sort of guarantee to keep significant political rights through an unwritten agreement of power sharing. This seem unthinkable for most moslem Syrians. The fact that the Arab Sunnis will ultimately 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 and westerne educated expats.
The economy will be in shamble, therefore 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.
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 19th, 2012, 8:25 pm

 

133. irritated said:

#120 Tara

As it was posted it earlier, Qatar and Saudi might have threatened to boycott the conference if their ally, the SNC is not invited.
It seems that have succeeded in arm twisting the Tunisians.

Now the Tunisians may have to invite ALL the opposition groups in Syria otherwise some other countries may boycott the meeting.
They are starting to feel the complexity and sensitivity of their good intended proposition.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:28 pm

 

134. Tara said:

Irritated@ 130

Is that an opinion or you have a reference?

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February 19th, 2012, 8:35 pm

 

135. zoo said:

Few Good Options for Syrian Opposition
By HUGO DIXON | REUTERS
Published: February 19, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/business/global/20iht-dixon20.html
When the Syrian revolution began, the activists employed almost entirely nonviolent tactics. They also rejected the idea of foreign intervention.

Nearly a year later, the revolution’s character has changed. There are still protests, boycotts, strikes and funeral marches. But the opposition’s main strategy for overthrowing Bashar al-Assad’s regime has become one of outmuscling it. To achieve that, it is calling for military help from abroad — a request that will be pressed when Friends of Syria, a contact group of mainly Arab and Western countries, meets in Tunis this week.

The switch in strategy is understandable, though regrettable.
….
Nonviolent struggle has about twice the chance of bringing down dictators as armed struggle, according to a study of 20th- and early 21st-century conflicts, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan. Among the many reasons, those close to the regime feel less threatened by nonviolent tactics and so are more likely to shift their allegiance, while it is easier to involve millions of people in Gandhi-style civil disobedience than in military operations.

This is the context of the upcoming Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis. There are various ideas on the table, all fraught with problems. One, touted by the French, would create humanitarian corridors through which aid could be ferried to the trouble spots. The snag is that a large and sophisticated military force would be needed to blast open and protect such corridors.

Another proposal is to create a safe zone by the Turkish border, where refugees and defecting Syrian soldiers could congregate. This could then be a base from which to launch a counterattack against Mr. Assad, in the same way that Benghazi was used against Colonel Qaddafi.

Again, a foreign army would be needed to secure such a haven. Western powers, which have just disengaged from Iraq, do not seem to have much appetite for that. There is also the complication that Russia and China have made it clear they would veto any resolution in the U.N. Security Council authorizing military intervention.

The rich Gulf Arab countries, led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, may not have such qualms. But they are not in a position to field an army to match Mr. Assad’s. Their main contribution is likely to be giving the Syrian opposition money to buy arms. If enough sophisticated weapons pour into the country, Mr. Assad might eventually be toppled. But the bloodshed would be horrendous, and Syria could be left with radical Islamist gangs as Afghanistan was after the West decided to arm the mujahideen as a response to Soviet occupation in 1979.

Conflicts that turn violent rarely revert to nonviolence. Probably the best known was the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, but that change in strategy took decades. Still, the other options for Syria and the region look ghastly.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:37 pm

 

136. irritated said:

#131 Tara

An opinion.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:39 pm

 

137. Ghufran said:

Norman, you only need to show up to contribute,I can always read your posts without having a heartburn,I just want you to read mine or cough up something new :)

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February 19th, 2012, 8:41 pm

 

138. Tara said:

Irritated

You may be right but who care? The end result is what matters.

Same for the GA vote. 134 countries do not support the regime yet the regime has the powers of the countries that matter.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:47 pm

 

139. ann said:

JAD should be back posting again very soon (February 21st)

[NOTE- Jad has been free to post since February 16th]

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February 19th, 2012, 8:55 pm

 

140. Norman said:

Ghufran,

You got me,

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February 19th, 2012, 8:55 pm

 

141. jad said:

Dear SC Moderator,
First of all, thank you very much for giving me back the privilege of writing on SC, I appreciate that.
I’m sorry that I didn’t write earlier but I got busy at work and your ban came in good timing for that :)
Hopefully I’ll be back of making trouble on SC soon but not before the 21st as you initially asked, I’m happy to obey the rules.
I’ll do my best not to paste the full text of articles as requested, but just in my defense, I was used to do that on SC for years now since many sites are blocked in Syria while SC is not, so I was taking advantage of that trying to help any Syrian inside our beloved homeland to be able to read the full articles without the need to go in the trouble to read them from the blocked sites.
Again, Thank you for your excellent work on SC forcing the rules on all of us, I’m very appreciative for your effort.
Regards.

Dears Norman, SNK, Ann, Mawal, Ghufran, Alan, Mina, Mjabali, Irritated and any commentator who wrote a word about me; I’m nobody and worth nothing without your help, thank you for every comment you wrote on my defense, however, I made a mistake and I deserve the ban, not a big deal :), as I wrote before, I’m not going to give up, it’s not my thing.

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February 19th, 2012, 8:56 pm

 

142. irritated said:

#131 Tara

Tunis foreign minister changes his mind and invites the SNC:
The Qatari connection

Rafik Abdelsalam is the son-in-law of the leader of Annahda Rached Ghannouchi. He is very close to Qatar. He has worked several years as the Director of the Studies Center of Al Jazeera in Qatar.
It is said that he got the job as the Ministry of Foreign Affair thanks to the help of Qatar.
I guess there was no real arm-twisting necessary then..

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February 19th, 2012, 9:03 pm

 

143. Ghufran said:

حكم البابا
لا يستطيع المجلس الوطني السوري أن يتابع بهذه الطريقة، ولم يعد الكذب على السوريين الذين فوضوه وأعطوه شيكاً على بياض مجدياً، فالجميع يعرف أن الدكتور غليون المتمسك برئاسته للمجلس لا يمكن أن يضحك على السوريين ويقول لهم أنه سيعود إلى جامعته وعمله الأكاديمي بعد سقوط النظام كما تحدث قبل أيام على الجزيرة مباشر، وكان خطأ المذيع القاتل في عدم سؤاله له عن اصراره على التمديد له مرتين حتى الآن تحت تهديد الانسحاب منه في حال أقصي من الرئاسة ما دام زاهداً فيها إلى هذا الحد، وناجي طيارة عضو المجلس الذي خرج على شاشة العربية ليعلن الإضراب عن الطعام تضامناً مع أهالي مدينة حمص السورية، لا يمكن أن يقنع مشاهداً واحداً بعد أن خرج ثانية على نفس الشاشة بعد سبعة أيام من إعلانه الإضراب وهو بكامل صحته ولم ينقص من وزنه غراماً واحداً، وكان خطأ المذيعة أنها لم تحضر له ميزاناً في المرتين لترى كم نقص
وزنه، واليوم تأتي الدكتورة بسمه قضماني لتكذّب عيون وعقل كل من شاهد الفيديو الذي جمعها بإسرائيليين كالت لهم ولدولتهم من المديح والتملق، ما يجعل من محتواه وصمة عار على جبين هذا المجلس، فإسرائيل كانت
وستبقى بالنسبة للسوريين عدواً اغتصب وقتل ودمّر، ولن يشرف هذه الثورة وجود أشخاص مدّوا أو سيمدون أيديهم لنفاقها تصريحاً أو تلميحاً.
This is the link,mr moderator :)
http://www.alquds.co.uk/index.asp?fname=today%5C19qpt997.htm&arc=data%5C2012%5C02%5C02-19%5C19qpt997.htm

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February 19th, 2012, 9:15 pm

 

144. Tara said:

Rent-a-radical, rent-a-love,…the regime is capable of anything and everything to stay in power.

Syrian opposition sees radicals at work for regime
By Mona Alami, Special for USA TODAY Updated 56m ago

BEIRUT – The Free Syrian Army says terrorists are operating in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime as its military forces continue to bombard opposition cities despite United Nations condemnation.
Aref Hamoud, a colonel in the Free Syrian Army, said his units are encountering a growing number of radical elements in some parts of the country. He said the radicals are Syrians and not foreigners from al-Qaeda.
“Up until now, the al-Qaeda insurgency lacks local support of the population, which is an essential element for its guerrilla warfare,” he said. “A prolonged crisis would breed a more fertile ground for the organization, which is why we call for Arab and Western countries to provide military and financial support.

….
The Syrian regime released over a dozen members of Fatah al-Islam and al-Qaeda from prison several weeks ago, according to al-Qaeda-linked websites. Fatah al-Islam is a Palestinian terrorist organization.
Hamoud said that a more troubling development is the alleged release of Abu Mussab al-Suri, a Syrian citizen and longtime jihadist captured in Pakistan in 2005. The U.S. State Department had issued a $5 million reward for his capture and he was turned over to U.S. custody but eventually handed to the Syrians. An al-Qaeda-linked forum said he had been released, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“The Syrian regime is willing to take any risk to stay in power by playing up the West’s fears, especially those of the U.S. and Israel,” Hamoud said. “They believe such reckless measures will relieve some of the pressure.”

“The situation in Aleppo was relatively calm due to the strong military presence of Syrian security forces,” Hamoud said. “However, this week, they seem to be slowly loosing their grip on the city.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-02-17/syria-terrorists-assad-regime/53160584/1

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February 19th, 2012, 9:16 pm

 

145. jna said:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/foreign-ngo-workers-to-be-tried-on-feb26.html?track=lat-pick

REPORTING FROM CAIRO — Forty-three pro-democracy workers, including 19 Americans, will stand trial Feb. 26 in a case that is at the center of an escalating diplomatic crisis between Washington and Cairo over political reform in Egypt, the state news agency MENA reported Saturday.

The defendants, including Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, will be tried on charges of illegally operating and funding foreign nongovernmental organizations in an effort to create unrest in Egypt, MENA reported.

MENA reported that the prosecution’s investigation has so far shown that four U.S.-based organizations — International Republican Institute, Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and an organization that trains journalists — allegedly operated in Egypt without licenses while illegally receiving a total of nearly $26 million.

Sam LaHood is the director of IRI’s Egyptian office.

Only seven of the U.S defendants are in Egypt, including several who have taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. All have been barred from leaving the country.

Cabinet Minister Faiza Abu El-Naga accused the American groups of financing the spread of chaos in Egypt since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime one year ago. In testimony in October, El-Naga said that Washington sought to disrupt Egypt through street protests to strengthen U.S. and Israeli regional interests.
…read more http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/foreign-ngo-workers-to-be-tried-on-feb26.html?track=lat-pick

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February 19th, 2012, 9:30 pm

 

146. ann said:

Welcome back JAD!

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February 19th, 2012, 9:52 pm

 

147. ann said:

2 judicial officials slain in Syria – 8 hrs ago

http://news.yahoo.com/2-judicial-officials-slain-syria-182121002.html

BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen in Syria staged a guerrilla-style ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge Sunday in an attack that suggested armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The roadway slayings — reported in an opposition-dominated northern region by the Syrian state news agency — came a day after a deadly hit-and-run attack on a political figure in the heart of the pro-Assad city of Aleppo.

The targeted killings have not reached Assad’s inner circle, but they indicate a growing shift toward violent tactics by the opposition as it brings aboard more military defectors and seeks to tighten control over the small pieces of territory in its hands.

The latest assassinations came on a road in the northwest province of Idlib, which has become a patchwork of areas held either by the government or mutinous soldiers who have safe-haven bases in nearby Turkey.

The state news agency SANA said gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Idlib provincial state prosecutor Nidal Ghazal and Judge Mohammed Ziadeh, who were killed instantly. The driver also was fatally wounded.

On Saturday, SANA said gunmen shot to death Jamal al-Bish, a member of the city council of the nearby northern city of Aleppo. The city has been a center of support for Assad since the uprising began.

The back-to-back slayings follow the Feb. 11 killing of a Syrian army general in the first assassination to take place in the capital city of Damascus. Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli, a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital, was shot as he left his home. Last month, the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch in Idlib was shot to death while on his way to Damascus.

[...]

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February 19th, 2012, 10:02 pm

 

148. ss said:

There is no fear of regime fall. The only survivor is the regime. The people are the ones who are payig the price. The regime will survive for years but the people are dying from the criminal acts of what is called resistent????
Why do you have to kill to reach what you want?

on the other hand I do not think there is any weapon to control someone who is ready to go and explode himself amongt civillian. No matter how strong the regime is; evil will always find its way to the lives of normal people.

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February 19th, 2012, 10:04 pm

 

149. zoo said:

#141 JNA

Is Egypt’s Government Malicious or Incompetent?
Eric Trager
February 18, 2012 | 12:00 am
http://www.tnr.com/article/world/100840/egypt-scaf-army-tantawi-ngo-riots
The Egyptian government’s decision to investigate pro-democracy NGOs for criminal activity and the subsequent imposition of travel bans on democracy workers didn’t just ruin the plans of the six Americans now stuck there—it sparked a severe crisis in relations between Cairo and Washington. But how the Obama administration responds hinges on a question that it feels has not yet been answered: Is Egypt’s current government deliberately instigating conflict, or just incapable of managing its own affairs?
{..}

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February 19th, 2012, 11:18 pm

 

150. irritated said:

#140 Taraa

“Aref Hamoud, a colonel in the Free Syrian Army, said his units are encountering a growing number of radical elements in some parts of the country.”

Encountering = embracing or fighting?

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February 19th, 2012, 11:21 pm

 

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