“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.


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.


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.


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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151. zoo said:

Syria’s crisis is leading us to unlikely bedfellows

David Cameron and William Hague are at risk of over-simplifying a dangerous and complex situation.

However, all doubt ended last week when James Clapper, director of US national intelligence, informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Damascus bombings “had all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda attack”. Mr Clapper added that “we believe al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria”. So, it’s official. Al-Qaeda is acknowledged as an ally of Britain and America in our desire to overturn the Syrian government.

Let’s consider for a moment one of the most glaring hypocrisies of American foreign policy: the differential treatment between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Washington never ceases to complain about the connection between the Pakistani intelligence services and the Taliban. But we never hear a whisper of concerns about the connection between Saudi intelligence and Salafi movements across the Middle East, of which al-Qaeda is the best known offshoot.

For months, the region has been alive with rumours that al-Qaeda and other Sunni fighters have been sneaking into Syria through Lebanon and Turkey. Many of these extremist Sunni infiltrators fought with al-Qaeda in Iraq before being driven out and taking refuge in the Lebanon. It is likely that they are backed with money and arms by Saudi interests, and inconceivable that they could act without the knowledge, and perhaps the assistance, of Saudi intelligence.
For the situation is far more complicated than he has admitted. It is far from obvious, for example, even that a majority of Syrians are opposed to the Assad regime. Russia calculates that perhaps two thirds of Syrians are still broadly supportive, and it is worth recalling that Russia was a more accurate source of information in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq than either Britain or the US.

Foreign policy is perhaps the area where David Cameron’s Government has copied New Labour most closely. Mr Cameron shares much of Tony Blair’s slavish adherence to American foreign policy aims, especially in the Middle East

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February 19th, 2012, 11:28 pm


152. Equus said:

Did you watch The Good wife (TV show)…?

Of Course it has to touch on Syria the episode is called: Live From Damascus, but the events are taking place in Homs.
It’s exhibiting Americans protesting in Homs and the protestor who died is a live and the software owner was prosecuted because the Syrian government is using the software. Hollywood style.

The question is why Americans are protesting in Homs?


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February 19th, 2012, 11:33 pm


153. zoo said:

China is raising its voice and the press rants.

China paper says West stirring up civil war in Syria

BEIJING (Reuters) – Western countries are stirring up a civil war in Syria with their wholehearted support for the opposition, a top Chinese newspaper said Monday, slamming calls for the country’s leader to hand over power as an incitement to further violence.
Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, in a front page commentary in its overseas edition, said China must stick to its line in opposing any attempt to force regime change or intervene in Syria.

“If Western countries continue to fully support Syria’s opposition, then in the end a large-scale civil war will erupt and there will be no way to thus avoid the possibility of foreign armed intervention,” Qu Xing, who the paper identified as a foreign affairs expert, wrote in the piece.

Over the weekend, thousands of Syrians demonstrated in the heart of the capital in one of the biggest anti-government rallies there since a nationwide uprising started nearly a year ago. ( REALLY??)


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February 19th, 2012, 11:47 pm


154. ann said:

Israel urged against ‘destabilizing’ Iran attack – 6 hrs ago


The top US military officer urged Israel on Sunday to hold off from any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, warning that such a move would be “premature” and “destabilizing.”


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February 20th, 2012, 12:02 am


155. Jerusalem said:

The Lady is in the headlines again: Basma Kudmani. God bless her, she knows how to insult her own but not Israelis.


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February 20th, 2012, 12:12 am


156. ann said:

The Internationalization of Syria’s Civil War – February 19, 2012

Foreign Arms, Foreign Fighters Pour Into Troubled Syria


From John McCain to Ayman al-Zawahri, the call to arms has gone out around the world and been answered. Foreign fighters and weaponry are pouring into Syria, arming various insurgent and rebel factions with an eye toward joining an increasingly internationalized civil war.

Now everybody from the Arab League to al-Qaeda is looking to cash in, and secure their own interests in Syria. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is expanding significantly into Syria, with Iraq struggling to control the border.

The US and the Arab League are likely to have the most money to spend trying to buy influence in Syria’s various rebel fighters. AQI has the advantage of experienced fighters in Iraq, having just spent the last eight years fighting a US occupation there.


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February 20th, 2012, 12:28 am


157. Hans said:

I can’t help it but laugh, I have and many of us here said that the radicals hijacked Syria and now the news including CIA and other saying there is evidence of Iraqi Alqaida is moving into Syria to help toppling the regime.
well let’s think about this, USA is going to support Alqaida and its radicals SNC to topple Assad who is backed by the Russian.
Deja vu, does anyone remember what happened in the 80’s when USA supported bin laden…against the russian and then killed him
is the history going to repeat itself in Syria.
some reports ( not clear how true) that the Americans drones are all over Syria sky.
but i doubt given the Russian in Tartous would have known that by now.
i am sure there is lots of secrets but if Assad could bring down some drones that would turn the image upside down on the Israelis and the americans.
is Ghalioun going to receive more money from the USA or he will have same fate like OBL one day.

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February 20th, 2012, 1:08 am


158. hans said:

I just noticed the numbers on the current poll which says a lot! either people don’t trust the SNC and the ground militia to rule Syria or the people here on SC are biased against this two entities.
given we are not biased but we understand that this two entities are the worse and probably is worse than the regime itself therefore the poll seeing the next president will come from somewhere else.
I have said it would be a very smart idea to have a christian to be the next president of Syria and thereafter the president should have not much power, but the PM is the one who will rule the country, same like Iraq, Israel, India etc.. why should we continue to elect one dictator after another.

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February 20th, 2012, 1:15 am


159. Shami said:


One of the most famous shabeeh captured by the free syrian army.

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February 20th, 2012, 7:25 am


160. Mina said:

The West starts having a headache: if it’s true al Qaeda is in Syria, then maybe Qaddafi was right to see al Qaeda in Lybia?! When are we going to see Cameron-Sarkozy or Mr “Peace Nobel Prize” on a bench in The Hague?
But of course, the Empire attacks only indefendible guys.

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February 20th, 2012, 7:29 am


161. majedkhaldoun said:

I keep hearing on SC statistics that do not make sense,such as
The Alawis make 20% of syrian population,christians makes 10% of Syria,Druze make up 7%
Sunni are 75%
All thesae claims are wrong
Alawis are 1.3 millipon ,out of 23 million this represent 5.6%
christians are 4%
Sunni are definitely over 80%,
I do not think there is reliable statistics, it is only estimation,it is not on the ID card,further the Kurds are ,in their majority, Sunni.

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February 20th, 2012, 7:51 am


162. Anton said:

Dear Syrian Patriots

Its time to help Syrian people not only hearing and looking them suffering

I am going to set up a new foundation to help Syrians in difficulties, it will be non political non partisan, social organization aims to help Syrian those needs help …
The aim is to raise funds during the next 3-6 months seeking the US and Europeans government support for fund and facilitate activities.

The foundation will be called “Syrian Christians charity foundation”

I am looking for people from this forum to help set it up and be active members.. any interest ?

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February 20th, 2012, 7:59 am


163. annie said:

Press and humanitarian aid (red cross) are not being allowed into Syria.

Blackouts of power and all phone service is making it nearly impossible for live reports to get out from inside Syria.

a BGAN terminal is a device that allows a camera or computer to communicate with a satellite network regardless of the situation with cell or power. They are expensive, but the communication ability when in a blackout is PRICELESS.

1500 dollars down to rent one and $8.00 per megabyte transferred. So we are going to need to raise 2,000 to get started and 10,000 to ensure we can broadcast without interruption.

Lets crowdfund this thing like crazy, if 1000 people give 10 dollars, we are set! Lets keep the information flowing when the internet gets turned off.

Says OTW :

I believe that this is an extremely important work especially now that there are indications that the two Iranian ships near the Syrian coast are heavily engaged in disrupting opposition communications in Syria by interfering and intercepting satellite communication after the regime’s agencies were overwhelmed.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:14 am


164. DAWOUD said:

Dear Professor Landis:

Although I have begun to comment only since last week, I have been reading your blog for over a year. I have a brief feedback regarding this blog’s narrative and editorial policy, which I would like to share with you and the readers of this blog.

1. I agree that you should not allow comment writers to copy and paste full articles. Posting full articles may not only violate fair use and copy rights, it is also distracting. Writers should only paste articles’ titles and links. They can’t claim that they are posting full articles to bypass Syrian censorship. I don’t think that Putin’s Russia Today and China’s Xinhuanet are banned in Bashar’s dictatorial Syria!
While enforcing this policy, you have to be consistent. For example, #135 ZOO posted the full article from the NY Times.
Could JAD be banned for being anti-Bashar on a blog slanted in favor of Syria’s dictatorship? JAD’s comment from Feb. 14th, which you posted only yesterdays shows a video for anti-regime person talking about Syria’s repression in Arabic!
2.I enjoyed reading Ehsani’s post on Aleppo’s Christians (I am a Sunni Muslim married to a religious Christian woman, who is still Christian. I love her and support her adherence to her faith). However, to insure that all perspectives, including the Sunni Syrian perspective (the majority Sunnis are also the majority in the ongoing Syrian revolution) is not ignored nor minimized. I regretfully say it again: Your blog’s narrarive is slanted in favor of a dictatorship-Hafez’s and Bashar’s 40+-year-old tyranny!
The only thing that I find troubling in Ehsanni’s article is that he chooses to mention Iraqi Christians, which gives the impression that if Bashar falls, Syrian Christian would suffer. The conclusion of this troubling argument is that Syrian Christians should stand behind Bashar’s murderous regime! I would like to say two things about this troubling argument:
A. In Iraq, all groups suffered from dispossession and terror. Over 5 million Iraqi refugees. I have met here in the USA both Shia and Sunni Iraqi refugees. Maybe Christians seem to suffer more because their percentage of the population is smaller than Muslims. Sunni mosques, Husayniyat, and churches all suffered from bombings and suicidal attacks.
B. This argument that emphasizes the possible fate of Syrian Christians is the reason why you should invite a Syrian Sunni Muslim, in addition to the two Syrians on this blog, to explain the perspective of Syrians, who are Sunni Muslims and fighting Bashar’ regime-the WORST Arab regime EVEER!
I Sadly say that SC needs “affirmative action!”


P.S., If I get banned here, I will email this comment directly to you to ensure that you will read it.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:30 am


165. Majed97 said:

A new poll running on facebook shows a slight majority of people would vote for him to be president…


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February 20th, 2012, 8:49 am


166. irritated said:

#162 Majedalkhadoon

Don’t bother counting, it is dwindling by the day.
Soon your deep secret wishes will come true: the Sunnis will be 100% including some permanent Sunni guests, Salafists and Al Qaeda, for a finally fully “democratic” Syria, free of these annoying minorities.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:59 am


167. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

VIva la Revolución!

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February 20th, 2012, 9:08 am


168. irritated said:

#165 Dawoud

Sorry to intervene, but for the NYT article posted by Zoo, please take time to compare with the full article and adjust your glasses to notice the dots separating the excerpts …..
I hope you are not banned, I wouldn’t to want to miss any of your enlightening analysis and smart suggestions.

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February 20th, 2012, 9:13 am


169. majedkhaldoun said:

You are puting words in my comment that I did not say
like” annoying minorities”
I never said annoying, please respect yourself and refrain from doing that again, your obfiscation is clear.

Irritated keep claiming things that are not true,this has to stop by Irritated

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February 20th, 2012, 9:26 am


170. jna said:

164. anniesaid: Press and humanitarian aid (red cross) are not being allowed into Syria.

British Red Cross ups aid to tackle worsening violence in Syria


“She (Clinton) added that the United States is increasing funding of aid organizations like the Red Crescent and Red Cross while working directly with grass-roots Syrian groups to help people without electricity, food and clean water.”


“Local Red Crescent workers have set up nine other centres round the city (Homs), he said, where residents can get medical care or receive food and supplies.

But those clinics may be hard to access for residents stuck inside neigubourhoods rocked with violence since the crackdown on rebels intensified two weeks ago. Shelling has often lasted for hours and government forces surround some rebel-held areas, in addition to the maze of checkpoints already around the city.”

“Red Crescent workers last Sunday arranged medical evacuations in one violence-hit Homs neighbourhood. “They evacuated more than 80 people, mostly women and children, from an area called Inshaat where there has been intensive fighting. The army gave a five-hour ceasefire for us to go around and evacuate people,” the spokesman said.”

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February 20th, 2012, 9:31 am


172. Ehsani said:


You said that the “only thing that I find troubling in Ehsani’s article is that he chooses to mention Iraqi Christians, which gives the impression that if Bashar falls, Syrian Christian would suffer.”

First, I am happy to hear that it’s the “only” thing in my article that troubled you.

Second, what I mention is not an “impression”. It is simply a “fact” that most Syrian Christians have viewed the experience of Iraqi Christians in a very negative light when it comes to their own future. Perhaps I should have clarified that I was writing from the detailed notes that I took during the meeting with the Church official this January. I respectfully disagree with you that what I tried to do is to somehow convince the reader that “Syrian Christians should stand behind Bashar’s murderous regime” as you put it.

I know that I speak for Dr. Landis when I write that you are more than welcome to write an article to post on SC. Indeed, readers have been encouraged to do so.

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February 20th, 2012, 9:48 am


173. zoo said:

Syria: the two faces of a divided country

Among ordinary Syrians, deep divisions are emerging over who is right and who is wrong.
Stephen Starr February 20, 2012 06:00


DAMASCUS — The Syrian regime claims armed gangs are responsible for the current unrest rocking the country. Protesters say security and military forces have killed thousands calling for freedom and regime change. The international community looks on.

On the ground, meanwhile, deep divisions are emerging over who is right and wrong, and where Syria will go from here.

“I live in Berzah, I saw what happened this morning,” said Sari, referring to the security crackdown on the Damascus suburb in the early hours of Feb. 14. “They [the security] knew exactly who they wanted. They entered the houses of the people who have committed crimes.”

Sari is from the Circassian community, which numbers more than 40,000 in Syria. Like many others from minorities in Syria, Sari backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“From my balcony I see what is happening. The protesters shoot at the security forces and they shoot back,” he said.

Sari, in his 20s, worked as an editor at an English-language newspaper until late last year when it closed due to falling advertising revenue.

“The opposition and demonstrators want the president out but what is their plan then? They go on television and scream about the situation inside Syria while they sit in Cairo or London. I am here — I see what goes on and I know the truth.”

Sari recalls how the members of the Syrian opposition have called for Farouk Sharaa, Syria’s vice president, to temporarily take over the presidency and lead a transitional government but believes that because he worked with the last president, Hafez al-Assad, he is not an ideal candidate. “He is worse than Bashar!” he said.

“Last week I was watching Al Arabiya and the presenter became almost hysterical talking about the shells falling on the city. They had a live video stream of the city showing — there was nothing on the screen,” Sari said.

Neighborhoods in the central city of Homs have been subjected to almost two weeks of shelling by regime forces. Activists say more than 300 people, including dozens of women and children, have been killed since the offensive against areas hosting members of the so-called Free Syrian Army began on Feb. 3.

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February 20th, 2012, 9:50 am


174. majedkhaldoun said:

would the assassination of Bashar ends syria plight?
I doubt that his son can be placed as president,he is only 8 year old.Asef is not from the blood of Hafiz, Maher is the only one that is left, but he has bad reputation.he will not last long.

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February 20th, 2012, 10:03 am


175. Equus said:

Silencing The Critics

by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Last week in one fell swoop the last two remaining critics of Washington/Tel Aviv imperialism were removed from the mainstream media. Judge Napolitano’s popular program, Freedom Watch, was cancelled by Fox TV, and Pat Buchanan was fired by MSNBC. Both pundits had wide followings and were appreciated for speaking frankly.

Don’t you love the freedom of speech in America?? We are pro on how we do it.


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February 20th, 2012, 10:08 am


176. Equus said:

The Sarajevo market bomb was not set by Serbs but by Bosnian Muslims, as the UN later confirmed. The skeletal “Serb concentration camp” victim was a nonsense, as the BBC’s John Simpson confirmed and the “10,000 deaths in Kosovo” were proved to be a complete myth.

KOSOVO MASSACRE FRAUD BY GERMANY TO JUSTIFY YUGOSLAV WAR (I guess this is a spoiler for Mrs Jolie recent movie “Blood & Honey”

19th February 2012

Hope Syrians realize the plot too, not after the fact.

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February 20th, 2012, 10:24 am


177. Revlon said:

Dear Joshua,
The poll that you have posted would have been more telling if “neither” were to be replaced with “I do not know” category.

Requiring answering by “neither” would imply that the polled are knowledgeable enough of the entire membership of the said bodies to issue an intelligent answer!
That is both theoretically and virtually impossible.

Disapproval of the policies of the practices of either the SNC or the FSA “Fighting Militias on the Streets” by some of the polled can hardly be interpreted as synonymous with disapproval of all of its membership!!

In USA presidential elections, it takes several rounds of primary elections across many states to even begin to get glimpse of an emerging leader!

The future leader shall be self-made. Any association with traditional or emerging parties are bound to be detrimental to the chances of any candidate.
The future leader shall be conservative Moslem.
The future leader’s agenda shall be topped by
-extracting all traces of regime elements from the public life of the Syrian state.
-a clear plan to bring all regime criminals to justice.
-a clear plan to reverse g all aspects of injustice practiced by the falling regime.

Al-Jazeera channel shall play an essential role in the media campaign for the future Syrian president.
It is the most trusted of the regional and international ones.
All emerging local channels shall be viewed with suspicion and need some time to earn credibility.

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February 20th, 2012, 10:31 am


178. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

“……Hope Syrians realize the plot too, not after the fact…”
The plot is clear, that is why it failed. What they [the plotters ] relying on for upcoming moves will fail, Iran will fail the next move.

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February 20th, 2012, 10:34 am


180. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

@177 REVLON said:

The poll that you have posted would have been more telling if “neither” were to be replaced with “I do not know” category.

But we do know that for a fact.

[Edited — please do not make personal attacks on other commentators]

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February 20th, 2012, 10:39 am


181. Joshua said:

Dear DAWOUD in 165 you write:

Dear Professor Landis:

2.I enjoyed reading Ehsani’s post on Aleppo’s Christians ….Your blog’s narrarive is slanted in favor of a dictatorship-Hafez’s and Bashar’s 40+-year-old tyranny!

The conclusion of this troubling argument is that Syrian Christians should stand behind Bashar’s murderous regime! ….

B. This argument that emphasizes the possible fate of Syrian Christians is the reason why you should invite a Syrian Sunni Muslim, in addition to the two Syrians on this blog, to explain the perspective of Syrians, who are Sunni Muslims and fighting Bashar’ regime-the WORST Arab regime EVEER!
I Sadly say that SC needs “affirmative action!” Sincerely,

(Joshua responds) Dear Dawoud, Ehsani is anything but a supporter of Assad’s dictatorship. In fact, a number of Syrian Christians asked him not to publish the real population statistics for Christians because they feared that they would legitimize the revolution. After all, if minorities have been shrinking as a percentage of the population, Assad’s justification that he must maintain secularism is weakened. Minorities have kept the upper hand in Syria through dictatorship for half a century. If Sunni Arabs are 65% of the population, this is unjust. If they are 70%, it is even worse. Sunni Syrians are probably closer to 80% of the population than the 75% that is commonly given, as Majedkhaldoun suggests.

Allow me to repeat Ehsani’s invitation. Please write a short essay for SC. It would be welcome. Best and thanks for you interesting critique, Joshua

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February 20th, 2012, 10:55 am


182. DAWOUD said:

# 172 Ehsani

Thanks for replying to my comment. One can be biased either by inclusion or omission. If you are pro-Bashar (I think that you are whether you admit it or not) you can either include biased information in favor of the regime\’s standpoint, or you can ignore narratives incriminating Damascus\’ dictatorship. This is called \”slanting\” the news.
It\’s good that your Aleppo\’s article is based on your written notes and ethnographic interviews. I wish that next time you go to Syria (you shouldn\’t have a problem getting into the country given your Bashar-friendly perspectives)you go to the Sunni heartland like Der\’a, Hama, etc. to interview Sunni Syrians and document their perspectives, particularly on the following misconceptions:
1) a victory for the Syrian revolt is a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, which it would use to persecute secularists and Christians.
2) the revolt is inspired by Sunni extremists and terrorists.
3)Zionists and U.S. neo-conservatives would be welcome in post-Bashar Syria
4) Syria would not seek to liberate the Golan and occupied Palestine

Above are only some of the myths/misconceptions that are propagated by the regime and its apologists in Lebanon, the Arab World, and on this blog. You do all of us a favor if you attempt to OBJECTIVELY deal with them.


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February 20th, 2012, 10:56 am


183. irritated said:

@174. majedkhaldoun said:

“would the assassination of Bashar ends syria plight?”

I don’t want to put more words in your mouth, but your comment seems to imply it would.

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February 20th, 2012, 10:56 am


184. majedkhaldoun said:

The words of John McCain in Egypt news conference as far as Syria, are welcome news,he talked about arming the opposition, who are about to be butchered, He and Senator Graham said ,while AlQaida are trying to get involved, the demonstrators are not part of AlQaida.

The friends of Syria meeting include the SNC,this is only reasonable thing,SNC is a respectable opposition,made of great people.

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February 20th, 2012, 11:05 am


185. Alan said:

US Drones Are Operating in Syrian Sky
By what international legislation of the USA have afforded it? It is necessary to defend the sovereignty! by all possible ways!

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February 20th, 2012, 11:13 am


186. zoo said:

Is the ‘Friends of Syria’ composition an indication of the ‘inclusive’ democracy planned for Syria?
While all the Syrian opposition groups will be invited, around 50% of the Syrians will have no representation.

Syrian opposition invited to Tunis conference

Syrian opposition groups will take part in an international conference on the crisis in Syria on Friday, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said, warning against an “Iraqi scenario”.

“The Syrian National Council and other opposition groups will be represented at the Tunis meeting,” Abdessalem told reporters on Monday following a meeting of foreign ministers from Mediterranean region states in Rome.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said of the meeting: “It has to be inclusive. Of course the opposition has to be present.”

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February 20th, 2012, 11:13 am


187. irritated said:

@185. majedkhaldoun said:

“The friends of Syria meeting include the SNC,this is only reasonable thing,SNC is a respectable opposition,made of great people.”

What is your latest prediction?
Would the SNC finally be recognized as the sole representative of the Syrian people, or they will be “strongly advised” with the other opposition groups invited at the meeting to enter into a dialog with the Syrian government without any pre-conditions?

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February 20th, 2012, 11:19 am


188. mjabali said:

Revelon Comment 177 said:

“The future leader shall be conservative Moslem.”

A Conservative Muslim to rule Syria is the worst idea ever. Imagine if we have al-Arour to rule Syria? What is the future of the women and minorities under the rule of a conservative Muslim? What would be the type of relations a conservative Muslim that believe in al-Jihad to be on relations with the states around Syria? Is this conservative Muslim gonna wage war against the infidels: Jews, Christians, Alawis, Shia, Druze, Ismailis….etc

Can you please shed some light why he should be conservative. I said “he” because of course according to this logic there is no room ever for a woman to become president.

Why not a moderate Muslim? What is wrong with that idea? The man, according to Revelon, has to be conservative and that will lead to a disaster for sure.

Revelon also said:

“Al-Jazeera channel shall play an essential role in the media campaign for the future Syrian president.
It is the most trusted of the regional and international ones.
All emerging local channels shall be viewed with suspicion and need some time to earn credibility.”

The person who says something like this has zero loyalty to Syria and also has zero understanding of the ability of the Syrian people who up till now teaching the land of al-Jazeera how to read, write and make TV shows.

Who on earth want a TV station coming out of Qatar to lead the change in Syria?

al-Jazeera is a joke on its best day. It is an outlet to brainwash the masses. It is the mouthpiece of al-Qaeda for many years, do we Syrians need anything close to this? Do we Syrians need this association with this station coming from the Wahabi state of Qatar?

If we follow Revelon’s logic, al-Qirdawi will program what people see in Syria: and we all know what it is going to be, some religious brain wash to the masses to make them more conservative and never respect anyone else. imagine if al-Zawahiri will give the Syrians a daily speech!

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February 20th, 2012, 11:20 am


189. Tara said:


From a previous thread. It was an opinion. I do not have a reference. Or let me say, it was a wishful thinking. I always had some sort of admiration to the mainstream Shiaa being revolutionary and principled and may be I just want to hold on to that impression.

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February 20th, 2012, 11:22 am


190. DAWOUD said:

# 182 Joshua

Thanks Mr. Landis for replying to my understandably “angry” comment (I think it is understandable because I find it very troubling that in 2012 people are still apologizing on behalf of a rotten dictatorship, regardless of its colors and nature). I accept your correction that Ehsani is not pro-Bashar. You know him personally, whereas my knowledge of him is based on reading his posts, which (in my opinion) are not critical enough of a murderous dictatorship.
I trust that the 80% of Syrian Sunni Muslims’ perspectives would be reflected on your blog through your (Mr. Landis) articles. I hate to sound religious/sectarian, but Bashar has resorted to this sleazy tactic since March of last year: He and his propagandists have attempted to rally support by scaring Christians, Alawis, Kurds, and Druze of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni Muslims.
For me and most Syrians (including the overwhelming majority of Syria’s Sunnis), the devil is more merciful than Bashar and his murderous thugs!
As I have more time, I will email you a full article. Otherwise, I will continue to post my analyses/rants as comments.

Again, thanks for replying.


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February 20th, 2012, 11:27 am


191. Mina said:

How come al Jazeera does not have al Aroor interviewed on its 9 PM news, as they did with Qardawi commenting on Egypt and Mubarak last year, while no one in Tahrir had requested his view?
Europe has banned al-Manar from most of its cable networks, so why not for the fundamentalist Saudi channels?

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February 20th, 2012, 11:50 am


192. Observer said:

Let me try to divide the arguments that go back and forth about the crisis in Syria into categories so that the picture is clearer
1. Political issues that are based on interests and power plays as for example the Russian veto to spite NATO over the Lybia campaign and the internal politics of re election of Putin. The Iranian support for the regime as it tries to maintain its regional projection as the resistance hub against Israel and the US.
2. Moral issues that go back and forth about double standards and the morality of resistance and the morality of maintaining order and the UN vote legitimacy and what have you.
3. The arguments of fear and doomsday scenarios as we hear about the terrible situation that Egypt and Tunisia and Libya are in after the revolution.
In terms of politics I can reasonably argue and demonstrate that the regime is isolaged more than ever; that its reform agenda is not believable; and that its narrative of a world wide conspiracy is not holding water. It has 137 votes against it; it has a window dressing constitution; and after a year of turmoil it has failed to stem the so called armed gangs and therefore should resign or step aside or conduct real dialogue with the opponent.
An example of the later is the negotiations that are under way with the Taliban in Afghanistan by NATO.
On the moral side, the regime has acknowldged from the start that there is reform need. Fredo Corleone himself declared that corruption is eating away at the fabric of the society and the marginalization of the ability of the Baath party to allow for advancement and employement is testimony to the lack of a moral compass of the regime.
The use of heavy handed tactics is also morally wrong and cannot be justified especially since the state of emergency has been abolished.
As for the fear of change, the most important thing to fear is that this regime stays in place, anything else is better by far

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February 20th, 2012, 12:25 pm


193. Tara said:

• Maysaloon, a Syrian blogger based in the the UK, was encouraged by the protests:

The Damascus protests in Mazzeh yesterday were breathtaking to watch, and I know those streets like the back of my hand. The fact that a protest of this size managed to slip through the security net means that the minute Assad’s control is weakened we can expect to see enormous crowds in Damascus again. That I feel certain of. Only months ago we saw this enormous Syrian flag festooned across that same thoroughfare by “supporters” of the regime. Yesterday was a different story, and the fact that the regime’s thugs opened fire on clearly unarmed and peaceful protesters should be enough for all but the most stubborn defenders of dictatorship that Assad’s time is up.


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February 20th, 2012, 12:30 pm


194. Anton said:

Dear Mr. Joshua Landis

Can you please explain to me/ us why you labeled President Assad as dictator from your point of view?

Thanks in Advance

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February 20th, 2012, 12:47 pm


195. Revlon said:

187. Dear MJABALI,
Moderate conservative Moslem was what I actually meant, not ultraconservative as you justifiably concluded.
I regard myself as an open minded Moslem, who believes that the most sacred of purposes in all religions to be the promotion of the freedom of choice of human beings, regardless of what they believe in.
My related statement on the future leader of Syria can not therefore be a personal preference. It is actually based on other Arab uprisings precedents and personal acquaintance with street opinion.

Likewise, aljazeera street popularity shall make it the most influential media channel in shaping the future of Syria; never mind what you or others think of its professionalism

Please name your gold standard for a reliable and credible arabic, english, french, or german media channel

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February 20th, 2012, 12:57 pm


197. mjabali said:


al-Arour has Safa TV. He has his show and if he did not appear in person on al-Jazeera his ideas are there.

There is a huge list of Sunni Salafi Sheikhs that has been on the air since the first days of this chaos in Syria trying to affect events. Their tone is sectarian as you know. Some of them are crossing borders to give lectures in Tunis and Egypt trying to help shape things these days (Adnan al-Khutayri and Wajdi Ghoneim for example).



The internet will distribute these lectures, more efficient than any other method.

I am amazed why al-Arour did not appear on al-Jazeera yet on Faysal al-Qasem’s show. It would be nice to see him VS some secular heavy weight.

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February 20th, 2012, 12:59 pm


198. Mina said:

If al Jazeera is reliable and serious, why don’t they interview Sheikh al Aroor?

I didn’t know Aroor until I surfed on Twitter last March at the beginning of the Syrian events and realized how influential he was. He was calling for Bashar’s head and advertizing his TV program, and I noticed a number of Arabic speaking teenagers obviously tweeting from the US who were following him and re-tweeting his advertisments.

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February 20th, 2012, 12:59 pm


199. John MUMU said:

Dear Anton, My name is John and I am currently studying to obtain a Master in Public Administration. I have been watching events unfold in Syria since the uprising began and am very knowledgable on Middle Eastern Issues more specificlly in the Levant region. Your Idea of a “Syrian Christians charity foundation” is very appealing to me, and I believe my background work in grass roots organizing would be very beneficial to you. If we could correspond by e-mail that would be great (johnmuhanna12@gmail.com) and I can give you any relevent information you may need.


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February 20th, 2012, 1:03 pm


200. jna said:

Can we assume that all who vote in the referendum on the draft constitution are opposed to the opposition SNC?

“”We have called for a boycott of the referendum which cannot be held while parts of Syria are a war zone,” said Omar Idilbi, a Beirut-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council.”
Red Cross tries to broker Syria cease-fire

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February 20th, 2012, 1:04 pm


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