There is so much to be said about the uprising in Syria and the extremely brutal suppression by the Assad regime. And as usual, most of it is not said in the mainstream media.
So I thought I give you some pieces that are to the point and that give you some perspective of this slaughter of civilians. In other words, some insight into the world of real politics. This is a different universe that the normal platitudes and declarations our political elites are so good at excelling at.
I have so much material, all from public and open sources, that it is ridiculously big and unwieldy. Therefore, I have to drastically cut it down. Otherwise, it would become a book. The focus is therefore going to be on some countries and international organisations and what they have done or not done in 11 posts.
Part 1- Introduction. Part 2-Repports/Videos/Photos, Part 3- Russia, Part 4- Iran, Part 5- China, Part 6- Turkey, Part 7- Arab league, Part 8- UN, Part 9- EU/NATO, Part 10- US and the Obama administration and Part 11- Paul Conroy
The explanation for the headline you get at the end of this post.
This Syrian uprising started little over a year ago. The movement began in Syria on March 15th of 2011 with spontaneous demonstrations that demanded that the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reform Syria to a free and democratic state. Assad responded, as usual, with relentless force and a brutal crackdown. Which led to the people to call for the president to step down, and heed to his people’s will to relinquish his power. And for a peaceful transition to democracy.
All reasonably demands wouldn’t you say?
And from this start the Assad’s regimes force and a brutal crackdown have just intensified and widened. The death toll is around 11 000. Mostly civilians: children, women, families, elderly etc. Many of them executed in the most barbaric way.
On top of that, the deliberate destruction of WHOLE blocks of cities, Block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood.
Turning of electricity, water, telecommunications etc for cities and neighbourhoods. Destroying hospitals and preventing medicine and food to reach these areas etc.
I can add systematic rape to that mix of systematic violation of human rights.
Wouldn’t you say that this regime seems utterly barbaric and worthy of world condemnation?
And wouldn’t you have thought that the world would have done something by now?
And the answer to these questions is of course – YES ands as usual NO.
NOTHING have in realty been done except some cheap and empty rhetoric. A lot of grandstanding as usual with these people. And of course a lot of meetings, summits, conferences etc. Usually in very nice places very far from the reality they are supposed to talk about.
EU the other day “strengthened” sanctions, the 13 in a row, banned Assad’s wife from shopping on the Continent. Yea, I bet Syria’s dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad felt threatened to his core!
Some of these people, for over a year now, have assured us that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is about to fall. These assurances from the so-called “experts” are always delivered with great confidence.
And yet Assad, hangs on, slaughtering his own people, destroying and despoiling whole neighbourhoods, calling the bluff of the Arab League, Turkey, UN, USA and EU/NATO.
Helped to a very large degree by the enormous material support, weapons, training, intelligence, troops, personal etc. from Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah.
And by a traditional policy of dived and conquer the different ethnic and religious groups in Syria. And of course by terror and fear.
Nonetheless, this is a regime, with an enormous arsenal of heavy weapons, which in a year has not been able to dispatch a divided, badly organized, having hardly any weapons, and disparate opposition. It can be defeated and it will implode from the inside. The slaughter would end much faster if the people got some, any support, from abroad. And the fear is gone.
It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.
The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.
Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Faimly affair). Etc. Etc.
So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.
Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.
Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.
But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!
And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.
Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.
Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.
He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA. Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.
According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.
For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.
As for the do nothing as usual UN, it “proudly” upholds its tradition of doing ABSOLUTLY NOTHING when it really maters, like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc.
Refusing to arm or help the opposition will not end the conflict or limit it, it will drag on as all the above examples shows.
And by waiting the situation gets worse and much more complex, then “they” used its complexity as an excuse not to intervene while decrying the lost opportunity for intervention. And ALL this time the killing and atrocities committed by Assad’s regime just continues as nothing has happened.
On the contrary, the Assad regime has increased it’s attacks since Bashar al-Assad agreed to implement the “new” peace plan.
From Kafrnabel, Idleb
A snapshot from Idlib province
“The feeling here is one of desperation — and steadfast defiance”
”They are planning to retake the region piece by piece,” said Abu Hamdo, a member of the Revolution Command Council in Idlib. ”But there is no going back, because if they catch us we are dead, and if we fight them we are dead.”
It is a scenario that is playing out repeatedly here: The army and security forces sweep into village after village, leaving behind bodies and burned homes, and the routed rebels must regroup.
Mazen Arja, an agricultural engineer “We have to organize anew and figure out who was killed and bring people together to begin the liberation of the northern region,” Arja said. “If we’re not patient and fight, we’re all dead anyway.”
”When we first went out in protests, we had hope for foreign support, but that hope was dashed. We had hope for buffer areas; that was dashed. We had hope for support for the Free Syrian Army, and that was dashed,” said the militia’s 25-year-old leader, Bilal Khabeet, who like Free Syrian Army members is a military defector. ”A rifle and 120 bullets, that’s all I have. Once they are finished, I am finished.”
Or as Ammar Abdulhamid a liberal democracy activist said:
“Of April Fools and Useless Tools!
The irony involved in holding an international conference on Syria on April Fools is all too noticeable, and the fact that just on the day before, an Assad official would claim victory simply adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the mix. But the Revolution-cum-Devolution goes on, no amount of irony or wishful thinking will make it go away.”
“Whatever the geopolitical calculations of Arab, regional and international leaders may be, ours is still a revolution for freedom, dignity, justice and equality. Is there any power in heaven or earth whose basic interests are commensurate with these aspirations of ours? If so, act now! Or forever be damned.”
Another snapshot from Daraa province:
“Sayyed Mahmud, an activist in Daraa reached by Skype, told AFP the situation was extremely tense in Dael.
”They burned down 14 houses yesterday. They are arresting people and have sent in troop reinforcements,” he said.
”As part of the regime’s campaign to starve the people, troops are raiding homes, destroying food stocks and equipment,” he added. ”For example, if they see a sowing machine, they destroy it.
”They go into bakeries and destroy the dough. There are 15-hour power cuts a day.”
You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who “attacks” and destroy dough and sowing machines. Not to mention killing unarmed civilians.
That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier.
And the endless deception and chicanery, round 27, of the Assad regime continues. Making a mockery of all so called “peace” deals. In addition, the world let him get away with it again and again. Without doing ANYTHING except generate “new peace” plans.
With all the usual strong and optimistic words and platitudes. Or as one Syrian said:
“As Obama and Erdogan talk, Assad kills”
You can put whatever country and organisation there instead, it doesn’t change anything.
Assad’s Vision for Reform
Here is the latest:
Damascus sees no deadline to withdraw troops
“The Syrian regime is not bound by a deadline to withdraw its troops from strife-torn areas, pro-government daily Al-Watan on Thursday quoted a government official as saying.
”There is no set date or deadline,” the unnamed official said.
”April 10 is the date set for the beginning, not the end, of the withdrawal of troops and it does not constitute a deadline.”
Syria says army will not be first to lay down arms, rejecting appeal by UN chief
“Syria rejected international envoy Kofi Annan’s call for the regime to halt violence first just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan. A senior official declared victory over the opposition.
It was the government’s first response to an appeal by Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as “the stronger party” in a “gesture of good faith” to the lightly armed opposition. Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed and Assad agreed to it on Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.
“The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended and the battle of reinforcing stability has started,” Makdessi said in an apparent reference to a string of recent regime offensives that drove rebels from key strongholds. He spoke on state TV late Friday.”
An to rely prove this point :
“Certain he is safe from Western-Arab intervention, Bashar Assad Sunday unleashed an across-the board air and ground offensive against the last surviving rebel locations.
Starting Sunday noon, April 8, 30 towns and villages were hit simultaneously. For the first time since the outbreak of revolt thirteen months ago, heavy long-range artillery and air force helicopters pounded the rebel positions remaining in the northern mountains of Idlib near the Turkish border. The scale of the onslaught was such that it is hard to come by casualty figures, but they certainly run into hundreds.
As he lifts all restraints, the Syrian ruler is also certain he is backed to the hilt byTehranandMoscow.”
And today, April 9 Assad’s forces attacked a Syrian refuge camp in Turkey.
Turkey: Three wounded as Syrian forces fire over border
”A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, saidTurkeyimmediately protested the incident to the Syrian charge d’affaires and asked that the fire be halted, the Associated Press reported.
Two refugees and one Turkish citizen, a translator, were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilisin the southwestern Gaziantep province, he said.”
Yeap, that’s REALLY showing respect for the “ceasefire” and UN “peace plan”. And the “world” will let Assad get away with again, and again.
Waiting for Syria’s regime to Change
And another snapshot from Kastanaz:
”The army is destroying buildings and bombing them till they turn to charcoal,” said Mohammed Khatib, a refugee who said he came from Kastanaz, a Syrian town of 20,000 people.
”The army wants people to move out of their houses. If the residents refuse, they destroy them with the people inside.”
”For the past three days there have been bodies lying in the streets. Around 200 have been killed. The town is now abandoned.”
I could go on an on to give one witness after another of atrocities and planed destruction.
Another from Sarmin:
“Using information stored on laptops, army intelligence officers detain all manner of people. Bad-mouthing the regime? Arrested. Seen at a protest? Arrested. Got an internet connection? Arrested. The list goes on.
”The shabiha (pro-government militia) came to my house and took my children,” said Fatoum Haj Housin, a resident of the town Sarmin, five miles north-west of Saraqeb, which had been attacked a few days earlier.
”They took all three of them. They were young men in the army but they defected in January. The militia shot them in the head and burned their bodies in front of me in our courtyard. In the name of God, bring me a Kalashnikov and I will kill Assad myself!”
There was still scorching and ash in front of her house – and much evidence elsewhere in Sarmin of destruction by ground forces. The field hospital had been torched, walls and houses sprayed with AK47 fire and the mosque smashed by three shells.
When the tanks leave the city centres and the ground forces come in, this is what happens – with nobody from the outside to see.
Yet for every person killed the rebels’ resolve seems to grow day by day.
”We can never go back now,” said Feras Mulheen, a student from Saraqeb who had just seen his house destroyed by the tanks. ”There’s nothing to go back to. We either win or we die trying. There’s nothing in between.”
The situation for the FSA (Free Syrian Army):
“We are getting money mainly from individuals, from Syrians living abroad. We hear a lot of promises from the international community, but nobody will support us,” said Mohammed.
His unit has 50 men and two satellite phones in a country where mobile telephone networks are down, security forces tap landlines, and the Internet is dysfunctional.
As for the guns, Mohammed said, his unit has just light weapons, not enough to confront the Syrian army.
“The air force attacks us and we do not have artillery to fight back,” said the commander.
He said there are a lot of soldiers in the regular army who are too afraid to defect, but help the FSA from the inside.
“Our unit exchanged a carton of cigarettes for 200 bullets; we get gasoline from a soldier who steals it from the tanks in the bases,” he said.
Other local commanders described their constant hustle to-and-fro across the Syrian-Turkish border to secure money for their supplies.
“We have enough men. The defectors’ numbers have increased. But they do not have weapons. If they have a gun, they do not have ammunition,” he said while busily working on his laptop.
Communications technologies are a precious commodity. Asked about internal FSA communications, Abu Muhammed, commander of a unit in the Idlib countryside, replied with sadness and irony, “We use pigeons.”
“There’s not a lot of direct communication between the ground and the leadership,” he said, explaining how his men do not take specific daily orders from the officers sitting in the Turkish camps, like Col. Riad al Asaad, nominal head of the FSA.
“With the means we have, this is only self-defense,” he admitted.
See also (excerpts):
Undergunned and Overwhelmed
“It’s a view widely shared by defectors, arms dealers, and refugees alike here along the Turkish-Syrian border. For months, Assad’s opponents have been buying black-market weapons from the countries bordering their volatile state — from Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan — as well as from within Syria, primarily from members of the corrupt regime or military sympathizers who remain embedded with loyalists. But it’s getting harder. Money doesn’t seem to be the main problem. Securing supplies is.
Nor have Assad’s staunchest enemies — the Arab Gulf kingdoms — opened their armories to the rebels. In late February, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal raised the FSA’s hopes when he said that arming Assad’s opponents was ”an excellent idea.” Yet, more than a month later, Saudi supplies have not made their way to the front, according to the FSA leadership as well as numerous rebel commanders inside Syria.
Still, the ire and resentment of many activists and fighters on the ground is directed primarily toward the so-called leaders of the opposition, all of whom are in exile. The depth of anger was perhaps best expressed in a short video in which a small group of men in civilian garb stand in two neat rows in front of an olive tree, scarves concealing their identities. The clip is not unlike countless others purporting to show members of the FSA, except that none of the nine men featured in it holds any weapons. Some carry lemons instead of grenades; others hold sticks as if they were rifles. One wields a hammer.
”In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate … We, the free men of Idlib, announce the formation of the ‘We Hope to Be Armed’ brigade,” the speaker says. ”We do not have any weapons. We ask the National Council and the commander of the Free Army to fulfill their lying promises and to stop serenading the revolutionaries on the ground without sending weapons, because your serenades are killing us.”
Col. Ahmad Hijazi, the FSA’s chief of staff, says he can understand the resentment. ”I don’t blame them,” he says. ”The people are angry and they are taking out their frustrations on us. But what can we do? They are asking us for more than what we can do. Governments must support the Free Army.”
In the absence of such aid, Syria‘s military defectors just wait. The camp housing the FSA officers looks just like the others Turkey has established for the thousands of civilians who have fled across its border — rows of white tents are neatly pitched along lanes of uneven loose white gravel. But unlike most of the others, the officers’ camp is isolated from nearby towns and villages. It’s in the middle of a lush agricultural plain in Apaydin, about 12 miles from Antakya, where verdant fields abut plowed, upturned earth, and snow-capped hills rim the horizon.
The FSA may claim to be operating a ”command and control center” for the anti-Assad military effort from the camp, but it’s unclear whether they can control much of anything from a base with regular power cuts. Its critics, like the ”We Hope to Be Armed Brigade,” say it has offered little to the men fighting and dying inside Syria in its name. How do the FSA’s commanders account for their seeming lack of impact on the ground?
Hijazi shifts uncomfortably in his plastic chair inside one of the many identical tents in the officers’ camp. He doesn’t like the question. Nor does his fellow officer, Major Maher Nuami, who is seated on a single bed (the only one) in the tent. ”It’s sensitive,” Hijazi finally says. They won’t say if the FSA has sent emissaries to Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Libya — which recently pledged $100 million to the Syrian opposition — but insist that they have received no help on the ground from these states.
If the international community doesn’t arm them and provide logistical support, ”everything” the world fears from the fall of Assad will come to pass, Nuami argues.
”The people will get weapons, one way or another, so help us,” Nuami continues. ”If you give us weapons, we can control them. We want the fall of the regime, not the fall of the state. If the international community helps us, we’ll help them. If it doesn’t, our people offer no guarantees.”
According to the FSA officers, the claims of foreign fighters in Syria — eagerly touted by the Assad regime — are wildly overblown. A lone Libyan had reportedly volunteered to fight with their FSA unit recently, but left after a few days. ”He said, ‘You guys are crazy, this is suicide, you don’t have weapons’,” Mokbat said. ”He was right. I wish the revolution would go back, it was better before. We used to shoot into the air, we didn’t worry about ammunition. Now we think twice about using each bullet.”
Although Turkey houses the FSA, it ”does not allow any weapon to be transferred to Syria in [an] illegal way,” a Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Anyone caught trying will be arrested and the weapons confiscated, he added.
That’s exactly what many Syrian refugees, defectors and civilian revolutionaries accuse the high-level defectors in the camp of doing — just sitting there. In the absence of an organized military effort, the burden of securing weapons and funding has fallen to lower-level officers like Alaa, as well as ordinary Syrians like Abdel-Salim, a taxi driver turned thuwar who commands the ”Free Syrians,” a ragtag bunch of farmers, taxi drivers and other civilians from a string of villages abutting the Turkish border. Abdel-Salim, a 40-year-old with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard and high cheekbones, had crossed the border into southernTurkey to try and secure supplies for his group: 3,000 bullets, to be precise.
The ”Free Syrians” are under the FSA banner, he explains, and are in regular communication with its leadership via a few defectors in his group. ”We ask the defectors to go to the officers’ camp to ask for help but we haven’t got anything from the Free Army yet,” Abdel-Salim says. ”But to be fair, I don’t think the Free Army has anything itself.”
Abdel-Salim recalls that he participated in peaceful protests for months, and only picked up a weapon four months ago, when he ”lost hope” in protests. He was shot about a month before that, in his stomach and his right leg, and spent 10 days recuperating in a Turkish hospital. He walks with a limp, but that didn’t deter him from crossing back into Syria to fight Assad’s army. ”I didn’t want to pick up a weapon,” he says, ”but I think Israel is more honorable than the Syrian regime.”
The longer Abdel-Salim speaks, the angrier he gets. ”Where is the money the Syrian opposition got from the Libyans?” he seethes. ”We haven’t seen any of the [Syrian] National Council members down here. … What is Riad al-Assad doing in Turkey anyway? Army commander? He should cross the border, lift people’s morale. What is he scared of — dying?”
The Assad System – to kill more
Another from defected soldiers:
Defectors: Torture of children, rape by #Syrian army ‘routine’ !
In addition to shooting unarmed civilians, Syrian military personnel routinely have raped women and girls, tortured children and encouraged troops to loot the houses they storm, former foot soldiers say.
“What I have seen with my own eyes, it was indescribable,” said Rolat Azad, 21, who said he’d served as a master sergeant in Idlib province in the northeast of Syria. There, he commanded 10 men who’d break into houses seeking to arrest men whose names they’d been given by the country’s intelligence agencies. “They gave us orders: ‘You are free to do what you like,’ ” he recalled.
Starting last July, he said, his unit arrested and tortured five to 10 people daily. “We had a torture room on our base,” he said. “There was physical torture — beatings — and psychological tortures,” said Azad, a Syrian Kurd who deserted and fled in March to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. “They also brought women and girls through. They put them in the closed room and called soldiers to rape them.”
The women often were killed, he said.
Azad — as with other former soldiers here, the name is a pseudonym assumed to protect his family, still in Syria — was interviewed at a camp that Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government set up for Syrian army deserters. He recalled the torture of two young teenage boys. He said they’d been arrested either for shooting videos of the military or showing disrespect for the military and the regime, something that wasn’t uncommon, even among children. “I once asked a small kid why he wasn’t going to school,” Azad said. “He said, ‘We won’t until this regime is gone.’ “
One boy, about 13, was brought into the torture room and given electrical shocks, Azad said. Another, 14, was brought into the room in late February. His screams could be heard in the camp outside the town of Jisr al Shughour. “It was painful for all the soldiers,” he said. Azad said he had no idea of the boy’s fate. “They held him one or two days. Either they killed him or sent him to military security,” he said.
Even worse, he said, was hearing the wailing and screaming of old men being tortured: “When they tortured old men, I couldn’t stand it. I went outside. Others closed their eyes. I could not stay.”
An independent U.N. commission of inquiry has described the Syrian government’s offensive against civilians as possible “crimes against humanity.” The commission, which reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, detailed arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture, including the torture of children, in its latest report, issued in February, but it didn’t detail the practice of rape. Commission officials said they had yet to talk with a rape victim.
He was assigned to a military construction unit but was ordered to the scenes of demonstrations, where troops would shoot at civilians.
“It was an ugly scene. We were at the top of a building and would shoot at civilians: children, women, men, anyone against the regime.” He said the Syrian intelligence agencies stationed personnel to make sure they shot civilians. “They were watching anyone not shooting and taking down names,” he said.
Several soldiers said Kurdish and Sunni Muslim troops tried wherever possible to fire over people’s heads, but Alawites — members of the sect related to Shiite Islam that President Bashar Assad belongs to — boasted about how many demonstrators they’d killed.
“We had an order to shoot and kill,” said Khaled Derecki, 20. “But some of those demonstrating were my friends, and we fired over their heads. “But the Alawites in my unit were very proud. They’d say: ‘Today, we killed seven or eight.’ “
240mm mortar bombs
One of the weapons used by the Assad’s regime in “attacking” and destroying cities and neighbourhoods is the Russian SM-240 (2S4) 240-mm self-propelled mortar known to the West as the M-1975.
This systems fire the world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb (240mm F-864), designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue.
It is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.
Other munitions used by Assad’s regime on the “attack” is Russian 122mm howitzers and 120mm mortars and 121-mm and 81-mm shells.
You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who attacks civilian cities and destroy whole blocks and neighbourhoods by using among other things 240mm mortar bombs. Designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks”
That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier – killing unarmed civilians in their homes.
This is a photo of the 240mm mortar bomb. I cut it from a Russian instructional video.
So who are these “brave” men slaughtering unarmed civilians?
The main force is Assad’s loyal shabiha, a militia of an estimated 35,000 Alawites who have pledged loyalty to Assad and are his regime’s key prop.
The Syrian opposition refers to this ragtag band of Assad loyalists as jaysh abu shahhata— or the “army of the sandals,” referring to its shoddy equipment and lack of discipline.
Another one is the infamous Fourth Armored Division, under the control of the president’s brother, Maher. The Syrian 14th Infantry Division and the 40th and 90th mechanized brigades has also taken part.
In addition, they are not very “professional” or good at their work, except of course to destroy cities and kill civilians.
For example when the 4th Armored Division were sent (February 28) to the Baba Amr district of Homs, after Syrian forces failed in their three-week long offensive (including intensive shelling) to enter the city. It wasn’t until the army shut off the last supply line that it was able to enter Baba Amr—spearheaded by nearly 7000 soldiers from the 4th Armored Division, which is roughly the entire unit.
The resistance there was carried by one of the most professional Syrian rebel group, The Al Farouk Brigades, which kept the Syrian military at bay for nearly a month although they have no ties with the FSA and number no more than 300 to 400 fighters. The rebel movement has some 40 small “brigades”, mixed freelancers who fight at random here and there but demonstrate little operational ability.
And what did this “glorious elite” Armored Division do after the capture?
Well one of the first thing it did was to behead 17 civilians.
A “normal routine” for any professional soldier wouldn’t you say?
”Assad’s security forces have just beheaded – yes, beheaded – 17 civilians in Baba Amr, according to the human rights group Avaaz. I have been speaking to Will Davies, Avaaz’s media campaigner, who confirmed with me that he is ”100 per cent” sure that this story is true as it’s been corroborated by independent sources. In fact, he provided a list of all the victims:
1. Abdul-Haleem Sabouh 2. Abdul-Naser Sabouh 3. Abdul-Hameed Sabouh
4. Abdul-Rahman Sabouh 5. Abdul-Baset Sabouh 6. Amer son of Omer Sabouh
7. Abdul-Moueen Daboul 8. Abdul-Salam Kujuk 9. Barri al-Akidy
10. Ez al-Deen al-Akidy 11. Ahmad al-Akidy 12. Abdul-Rahman Jneed
13. Abdul-Kafi Juneed 14. Radwan Bitar 15. Mahmoud al-Zoubi
16. Mahmoud al-louz 17. Alaa al-Ali”
But for the most part, most of the army stays out of this. They have “defected in place”
From division level down to battalions and brigades level. Entire units from commander down defy orders from the General Staff in Damascus to fight the rebels without crossing the lines to the opposition. To keep the spreading passive mutiny, Assad keeps the defiant units supplied in their barracks with funds and food.
Another example of this passive mutiny by the Syrian army, was when the five Syrian divisions stationed on Syria’s Golan border with Israel and its frontier with South Lebanon; were told by their commanders in beginning of March to ignore orders from Damascus to join the crackdown on rebels because their mission was “to defend the Syrian homeland from external threats” – another form of “defection in place.”
In other words, we are so “busy” protecting the borders so we don’t want to and don’t have time for this kind of “nonsense”.
For the most part, the Syrian army is a declining, anachronistic force, whose high officers is afraid of the leader, and watch each other’s backs. The problems with corruption, nepotism, poorly organized technical and maintenance support etc. This keeps much of the army paralyzed.
Some Special Forces and armored units are exceptions, but promotion is highly dependent on favoritism and nepotism.
That is why – contrary to what the West believes – Assad is not using his army to crack down on the uprising but the loyal Alawite Shabiha brigades and battalions.
Many artists, writers etc have taken part in the protests and uprising. To name some:
Samar Yazbeck, Ibrahim Qashoush, Rasha Omran, Ali Farzat, Mai Skaf, Khaled Khalifa, Samih Shqair, Fadwa Sulaiman —there’s an impressive list of Syrian writers, musicians and artists who have bravely and unambiguously supported the people’s aspirations for dignity.
As the Alawi actress Fadwa Sulaiman, on November 8, 2011, leading the crowd in besieged and blood-soaked Homsin chants of “No Muslim Brotherhood, No Salafis, We All Want Freedom.” And “One, One, the Syrian People are One.”
A video statement she made on November 10, 2011, excerpts :
“Districts are being raided since last night, searching for me. People are being beaten to reveal my hiding place. In case I get arrested by the security or army forces, who might force me to appear on Al-Dunia channel to make me to admit that I am part of the conspiracy against Syria the way they did with the honorable Sheik Al-Sayasneh and the brave officier Hussein Harmoush. If they hurt me or any members of my family in any way, then I hold the government and its security apparatus and thugs fully responsible.”
“I urge the great Syrian people to continue their peaceful struggle until they topple the regime and achieve the democratic civic state that all Syrians dream of. And I invite you to unite and stand together to overthrow the regime which lost its legitimacy the moment the constitution was changed to accommodate the appointment of Bashar Al-Assad as president ofSyria, for no reason other than being the son of the late president.
I urge you to come out to the streets and squares today and every day to declare civil disobedience and hunger strike until the withdrawal of the security and military forces from the streets and the release of all the political and opinion prisoners which are currently in the oppressive jails and to spare the blood of all Syrians.
I urge all the Syrians around the world, and all people to support us and stand in front of our embassies around the world declaring hunger strike to express the right of people to express their opinion about their regimes without being killed by these regimes.”
“Baba Amr is living a real humanitarian disaster. Stand by Baba Amr, because no district or road in Syria is exempt from a fate similar to that of Bab Amr, as long as the Arab league is providing the regime with one extension after another so that it continues repressing the Syrian people, and depriving them from their freedom, dignity and life, and peace be upon Syria and its people.”
And journalist, writer and screenwriter Samar Yazbek speaks up on Syria in an Italian magazine, April 24, 2011
“I’m not optimistic, to the contrary. In recent weeks people have finally broken the silence and fear, I myself have participated in the demonstrations”, she says. “We have found the courage to ask for freedom and democracy, an end to emergency laws that oppress us since 1963. We demand real political parties and elections, the right to express ourselves. But the repression is very hard, with many deaths and arrests. As always, the regime makes promises, but does not maintain them. The army and security forces control everything.”
“The regime has indeed destroyed the Alawite religion, a peaceful religion, as it engaged in things foreign to the faith, leading some to become its Alawite thugs. But many of us are opponents, in jail, in exile, or banned from travel. The regime is playing with sectarianism to terrify “its” minority and get support. A game that will end, but first, I fear, there will be clashes between the communities. ”
In Syria, Holding a Camera is a Death Sentence
Most of the documentation, videos, photos etc from the Assad’s regimes slaughter of it’s own people has been documented by very brave civilians who risk their life every time they try to document and record what is happening. Many has paid with their life for this “crime”
Here is an interview with the founder of the of Syria’s Dier Press Network. How a group of doctors became the vanguard of Eastern Syria’s free press.
“In the town of Dierez-Zour on the road from Syria to Iraq, a doctor, who we’ll call Kareem, put down his medicine bottles. It wasMarch 15, 2011. The media blackout in Syria had just begun. Kareem had no experience as a journalist. But when he turned on the TV and saw the blackout, he picked up the phone. On the other end is his cousin, who we’ll call Ahmed, a young law student in theUK.
When Syria’s crackdown on protests began to intensify, Ahmed and Kareem made a commitment to respond. On March 21, they formed a network of smugglers, cameramen, and tech support that has become known as the Dier Press Network (DPN.), Syria’s first citizen-journalist media company.
One year later, Ahmed and Kareem reflect on the small company that has grown into a satellite TV network, the colleagues they’ve lost, and the future of the Syrian free press. Their names have been changed to protect their families.”
”Guernica: How did you start?
Ahmed: Kareem gave me a call one day. The government started using live ammunition on protesters, beating them up, and if you were caught you risked torture. You could hear the metal clang of tanks outside the classroom windows, the drone of airplanes above the teacher’s voice, the plodding of artillery, like footsteps of a faraway giant. I had already left the country about a year ago. But he was seeing all these things with his own eyes and he wanted to show the world what he saw.
Kareem: Most news was on the Western side ofSyria, but the East was rebelling and no one knew about it. I wanted to do something, but I was really starting from zero. It was a process of trial and error at the beginning.
Guernica: How did you build a citizen-journalist network? How would others do so?
Kareem: First thing was to start a Facebook page. The problem with this, we found out, was that Facebook was heavily monitored by the government. But still, we felt the most prominent way to spread the news during the media blackout was through Facebook.”
“Guernica: What is DPN exactly?
Ahmed: It stands for Dier ez-Zour Press Network. Dier ez-Zour is our province in Syria. DPN. is a non-partisan, non-sectarian news group. We rely on a mix of volunteers within and without the company. It is a sort of crowd-sourced journalism that relies on ordinary citizens.
Guernica: What are the next steps in expanding this kind of media network?
Ahmed: You need a lot of public support. We had it. But after the media blackout worsened, we depended less and less on trusted friends and more and more on anonymous volunteers. Basically, we went from one cameraman and Kareem to hundreds cameramen and hundreds of Kareems [smugglers]. The problem was that when the army entered towns like Dier ez-Zour, filming any citizens getting killed was very dangerous, and yet DPN. was carrying all of these videos. Carrying a camera was a death sentence.”
Some recent headlines from local media:
Al-Arabiya: Saturday’s death toll in Syriareaches 133 people (April 7)
Turkeysays 2,800 fleeSyria in one day (April 5)
More than 1,000 Syrian refugees flee toTurkey in single day (April 4)
Al-Jazeera: Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 92 (April 4)
Al-Arabiya: Sunday’s death toll in Syriarises to 57 people (April 1)
Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces kill 50 people on Saturday, activists say (March 24)
Al-Jazeera: Syria’s Thursday death toll rises to 81, activists say (March 22)
Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 70, Local Coordination Committees say (March 21)
Al-Arabiya: Syrian forces kill 55 people on Tuesday (March 20)
Monday March 19, 2012
Death toll: 52, including 6 inDeraaProvince, and 6 inDeirEzzorProvince. Explosions were heard in Arbeen and Harasta inEastern Ghoutah region ofDamascus, as well as in Qaboun District inDamascusCity itself. The pounding of Old Homs continues, as locals find 6 bodies belonging to local women killed by pro-Assad death squads.
Al-Arabiya: Friday’s death toll in Syriarises to 41 (March 16)
Al-Jazeera: Thursday’s death toll in Syriarises to 72 (March 15)
Syria planting border mines to stop refugee flight,Turkey says (March 15)
One thousand Syrians flee toTurkey in single day, official says (March 15)
More than 9,000 killed inSyria violence, monitors say (March 15)
Syria– one year after the revolution: 10,000 confirmed dead.20,000 missing / 120,000 detained / 230,000 internally displaced / 150,000 refugees(Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Gulf, Europe) / 1,400,000 at risk of famine(according to FAO).
Wednesday March 15, 2012
Tuesday: Forty people were executed by pro-Assad death squads near Bilal Mosque inIdlibCity. But ten loyalist troops were killed in an ambush in the city of Ma’aratAl-Nouman. In Homs City, the pounding of Jub Al-Jandali Neighborhood continued,leading to the death of at least 5 residents. In nearby Talbisseh, poundingleft 14 locals wounded. In the town ofDa’el,DeraaProvince, 12loyalists were killed in an ambush by local FSA units.
Wednesday: 85 people were killed mostly inIdlib City as pro-Assad death squads took controlover the city. The death toll also includes 6 who died under torture in HamaCity (3) and AleppoCity (3), 6 killed inDamascus and suburbs, and 11 who werekilled in a renewed incursion intoDeraaCity.
Thursday: 91 people were killed including at least 23 who were executed by pro-Assad death squadsinIdlib City. Death toll also includes 5 children and 4 defectors.
Al-Jazeera: Syrian security forces kill 76, activists say (March 14)
And by the way, the headline Vladimir Putin ‘The Butcher of Homs’ was given by the people on the streets in Homs and Babr Amr. That’s as he so “fondly” known on the streets of Babr Amr.
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