The Names of the Revolution


Posted by Matthew Barber on Saturday, December 14th, 2013

From the inception of the Syrian uprising, each Friday has been given a special title by activists involved in protests. Fridays were important in the beginning because more protests would occur on that day than any other day of the week. Protests would often take place immediately following communal prayers in mosques where large groups of people would have already congregated together, something impossible in Syria outside of institutionalized contexts like the mosque or a place of education.

Each Friday bore a name such as “The Day of Rage” or “The Day of Defiance” and such titles were picked up and circulated by both the Arab and Western media. The practice of naming the Fridays was started by the “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page, run by Fida’ ad-Din Tariif as-Sayyid ‘Isa, a Syrian activist in Sweden.

Some months into the uprising in 2011, people complained and proposed that the process of naming the Fridays should be democratic rather than performed by a small group of website administrators. A new system emerged whereby a number of options for the next Friday’s name would be posted on the Revolution Facebook page, and visitors were able to vote for the title of their choosing. Each week, multiple thousands vote on these names.

The names have reflected themes that concern the uprising during the particular week that a name is assigned. Back when the uprising was still characterized by protests rather than skirmishes, activists would incorporate the current Friday’s name into the slogans and banners used in demonstrations.

At the beginning, names began as simple, one-word titles such as “The Day of Honor” that were general in scope. Then the names began to express specific ideas, like “The Day of Loyalty to the Kurdish Uprising,” or positions that could be endorsed, like “The Day of No to Peacekeeping Forces in The Land of Sham.” Eventually, names grew unwieldy in length and included statements, i.e. “The Day of Full Preparation for Full Mobilization; Russia is the Enemy of the Syrian People” or “The Day of Allah Is Great: He Supported his Worshipers, Made his Soldiers Mighty, and Defeated the Factions Alone” (an excerpt from a prayer recited on Eid). Some titles employed cleverness: “Revolution University – Martyrdom Engineering.”

We recently collected all of the names given to the Fridays since the beginning of the uprising and list them below with translations. December 9 marked the 1000th day of the revolution; all of the Friday names listed below except the final one (Dec. 13) constitute the first 1000 days of the revolution.

Read more at Syria Comment

‘We Just Wish for the Hit to Put an End to the Massacres’

For Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, arguments about international law ring hollow.

A family from Dara’a, now living in a caravan in Zaatari. “Even the children have forgotten how to smile,” the woman remarked to me. (All photos: Max Blumenthal)

I sat inside a dimly lit, ramshackle trailer functioning as a general store for the residents of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, while a wiry, sad-eyed man named Adbel told me about the massacres that drove him from his hometown. Dragging deeply on a cigarette, Abdel described how army forces rained shells down on his neighborhood in Deir Ba’alba, a district in Homs, over five months ago, pounding the town over and over. Then he told me how government thugs barged into homes at 6 am, methodically slashing his neighbors to death with long knives, leaving fields irrigated with the blood of corpses, a nightmarish scene that looked much like this. Like nearly everyone I interviewed in the camp, he described his experience in clinical detail, with a flat tone and a blank expression, masking continuous trauma behind stoicism.

As Abdel mashed his cigarette into a tin ashtray and reached to light another, a woman appeared at the shop window with three young children. She said she had no money and had not been able to purchase baby formula for three days. She had trudged to hospitals across the camp seeking help and was turned away at each stop. Without hesitation, the shop owner, a burly middle-aged man also from Homs, pulled a can of formula off a shelf and handed it over to the woman. She made no promise to pay him back, and he did not ask for one. Like so many in the camp, she left Syria with nothing and now depends on the charity of others for her survival. In a human warehouse of 120,000, the fourth-largest population center in Jordan and the second-largest refugee camp in the world, where few can leave and even fewer are able to enter, the woman’s desperate existence was not an exception but the rule.

“We’re in a prison right now,” Abdel told me. “We can’t do anything. And the minute we try to have a small demonstration, even peacefully, [Jordanian soldiers] throw tear gas at us.”

“Guantánamo!” the shop owner bellows.

None of the dozens of adults I interviewed in the camp would allow me to report their full names or photograph their faces. If they return to Syria with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad still intact, they fear brutal recriminations. Many have already survived torture, escaped from prisons or defected from Assad’s army. “With all the bloodshed, the killing of people who did not even join the resistance, Bashar only wanted to teach us one lesson: That we are completely weak and he is our god,” a woman from Dara’a in her early 60s told me. “His goal is to demolish our spirit so we will never rise up again.” The woman’s sons had spent four months under sustained torture for defecting to the Free Syrian Army. She does not know where they are now, only that they are back in the field, battling Assad’s forces in a grinding stalemate that has taken somewhere around 100,000 lives.

Mansour, a 7-year-old, was held at gunpoint by regime forces when his father was arrested. They were reunited in Zaatari, where Mansour is desperate to receive a caravan for his family.

When news of the August 21 chemical attacks that left hundreds dead in the Ghouta region east of Damascus reached Zaatari, terror and dread spiked to unprecedented levels. Many residents repeated to me the rumors spreading through the camp that Bashar would douse them in sarin gas as soon as he crushed the last vestiges of internal resistance—a kind of genocidal victory celebration. When President Barack Obama announced his intention to launch punitive missile strikes on Syria, however, a momentary sense of hope began to surge through the camp. Indeed, there was not one person I spoke to in Zaatari who did not demand US military intervention at the earliest possible moment.

Read more at The Nation

Syrian president’s brother, Maher al-Assad, key to regime survival

Maher al-Assad, the younger brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP)

He is rarely photographed or even quoted in Syria’s media. Wrapped in that blanket of secrecy, President Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother has been vital to the family’s survival in power.

Maher al-Assad commands the elite troops that protect the Syrian capital from rebels on its outskirts and is widely believed to have helped orchestrate the regime’s fierce campaign to put down the uprising, now well into its third year. He has also gained a reputation for brutality among opposition activists.

His role underlines the family core of the al-Assad regime, though he is a stark contrast to his brothers. His eldest brother, Basil, was the family prince, publicly groomed by their father, Hafez, to succeed him as president – until Basil died in a 1994 car crash. That vaulted Bashar, then an eye doctor in London with no military or political experience, into the role of heir, rising to the presidency after his father’s death in 2000. The two brothers – the “martyr” and the president – often appear together in posters.

Read more at Al Arabiya

Videos of Syrian Chemical Attack Victims – United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Attached are 13 videos compiled by the Intelligence Community (IC) from videos taken in Damascus, Syria following the use of chemical weapons on August 21, 2013.

via United States Senate

Human Rights Watch: Assad Regime Responsible for Chemical Weapons Attacks


Syrian Coalition
Istanbul, Turkey
September 11, 2013

“Based on the available evidence, Human Rights Watch finds that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for the August 21 attacks, and that a weapons-grade nerve agent was delivered during the attack,” a Human Rights Watch report concluded.

The report mentions a body of evidence implicating the Assad regime in the chemical weapons attacks on western and eastern Gouta on the early hours of August 21st, 2013.

Human Rights Watch said they have investigated claims that FSA fighters have used those weapons but found such claims “lacking in credibility and inconsistent with the evidence found at the scene.”

This report undeniably indicates that the Assad regime is responsible for the use of internationally prohibited chemical weapons in civilian areas.

The Syrian Coalition reaffirms its call for an international proportionate response to war crimes. It stresses that crimes against humanity cannot be absolved through political concessions.

A political solution is not viable in light of the absence of a firm international response that would restrain Assad’s killing machine and ensure the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom, justice, and dignity are achieved

via Syrian National Coalition

The West Must Not Appease Bashar al-Assad

No reasonable person, neither American nor Syrian, wishes to see the United States and its allies become deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, but for the western powers to fail to act now is tantamount to appeasement of a butcher of children. No one knows what will happen if we strike Syrian military targets; no one knows what will happen if we do not. That is not an argument. If the past is prologue, then Assad will continue to slaughter the people of Syria without discrimination. That much appears certain.

The confiscation of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal does not look like a realistic proposal on its face, because the safe transfer of massive quantities of chemical weapons in a war zone would be risky and problematic at best. How will compliance be verified when it was difficult just for UN inspectors to reach a suburb of Damascus?

The French are correct to insist upon stringent preconditions before any negotiated deal with Assad on chemical weapons. The world has tolerated this monster long enough. Every person who detests war should take a hard look at the situation in the Middle East today, and then explain to themselves how a victory for Assad, Iran and Hezbollah reduces the probability of a Middle East war, one into which the United States would be inextricably drawn by its many alliances in the region. To those who believe that opposing military action against Syria is the path of peace, I respectfully ask that they think again of the likely consequences of doing nothing.

There are indeed shades of past conflicts evoked by the images of carnage in Syria. But the deja vu being experienced is not that of Iraq–which was completely different–but of another, similar atrocity that occurred at Guernica, Spain, in 1937, of another moral failure to respond, and of the results of a flawed strategy of trying to appease a monster.

On April 26,1937, bombers and fighters of the German Luftwaffe and the Italian air force attacked the small Basque village of Guernica in northern Spain. It was an outrageous assault on an unarmed civilian population. It was the blatant mass murder of hundreds of civilians, by some accounts over a thousand were killed, men, women and children.

For America in those days, neutrality was the dominant U.S. foreign policy model, enshrined in a series of congressional acts that had been designed to further and further remove the United States from the possibility of involvement in “foreign wars.” The prevailing American sentiment then, as today in regard to atrocities being committed in Syria, was that what had happened in Guernica was not our problem. It simply didn’t involve us.

Four years later, the relevance of Guernica to the security interests of the United States became more than apparent. On December 8, 1941, in the wake of a devastating attack on American naval forces at Pearl Harbor, the United States formerly declared war on imperial Japan. Three days later, war was declared on the United States by those same German and Italian fascist regimes who had bombed Guernica only four years earlier.

Syria 1940 | LIFE in the Middle East: Photos From Syria in 1940 | LIFE.com

View from above Aleppo, Syria, 1940.

The ongoing chaos and violence that have come to define the Syrian civil war — a war that has now raged for close to two years, with no signs of abating — not only forced the names of ancient cities (Aleppo, Homs) back into today’s headlines, but reminded anyone who might have forgotten that Syria has long been a key crossroads and a major player not merely in the Middle east, but on the global stage.

In 1940, seven months before the United States entered World War II and nine months after Germany invade Poland, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the young (and, as it turned out, destined to be short-lived) republic in order to document Syria’s pivotal role — cultural, geographical, military — in the region. Eight decades later, in photographs that ran in LIFE and many more that did not, LIFE.com recalls the Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and other Syrian cities and towns as they appeared in the middle part of the last century.

This is how LIFE described the situation to its readers in the magazine’s May 20, 1940, issue, published mere weeks before Paris fell to the Germans, leaving Syria (briefly) under the rule of Vichy France:

Should Hitler strike east or Mussolini jump into the war or Soviet Russia pile on, the world spotlight would instantly narrow on far forgotten Syria. Here is now massed a formidable French army under the old warhorse Maxime Weygand, ready to rush either to the defense of Egypt or of Turkey and the Balkans. Here is a sample of the brains, the men and the material of France and its colonies. Here flies the flag of France …raised at sunrise to the bugle call Au Drapeau at Aleppo.

The French expeditionary forces in the Levant States, chief of which is Syria, has tanks and planes, motorized guns … The army’s numbers and the names of its generals are dark military secrets. Best guess is that it has now at least 150,000 men. It includes men from the far-flung domains of France: Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senegalese, Annamites, Madgascar Malgaches, Lebanese, Syrians, Bedouin camel fighters, Cherkess Cossacks of Syria and large units of the French Foreign Legion. One of the most polyglot companies ever assembled, these men of many tongues and colors now bathe on Beirut’s one fine beach, shop in the suks, peer into the Tomb of Saladin in Damascus and swelter in the heat of Homs and Aleppo.

The ancient fortresses of Syria could not long stand against air bombing. But the olive groves are just high enough for a small tank to get under … Action may come without warning. For Syria, long a crossroads of world trade, has been watered by men’s blood for far longer than Flanders. In this natural cockpit where Asia, Africa and Europe meet, have fought Abraham, David, Alexander, Ramses, Sargon, Menelaus, Pompey, Bohemond, Nureddin, Saladin, Tamerlane, Baibars the Panther, Suleiman, Mohammad Ali, Lawrence of Arabia and [British General Edmund] Allenby.

Read more at LIFE.com.

A Faceless Teenage Refugee Who Helped Ignite Syria’s War – NYTimes.com

A boy now living in Jordan, who was part of a group whose arrest and torture helped start Syria’s uprising.

AMMAN, Jordan — In a listless border town, the teenager goes unnoticed, one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the Syrian civil war, dashing across villages and farms to land in Jordan, just five miles from home.

But this young man carries a burden — maybe an honor, too — that almost no one else shares.

He knows that he and his friends helped start it all. They ignited an uprising.

It began simply enough, inspired not so much by political activism as by teenage rebellion against authority, and boredom. He watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in the city of Dara’a with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts.

“It’s your turn, doctor,” the cousin wrote.

The opening episodes of the Arab uprisings are growing more distant, the memory of them clouded by fears about what the revolutions have wrought. In Egypt’s chaos, activists talk of a second revolution, and in Tunisia a political assassination this week has imperiled one of the region’s more hopeful transitions. Then there is Syria, where tens of thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled the country and the idea of the nation itself is disappearing amid cycles of sectarian bloodshed.

Read more at The New York Times.

Red Lines Matter – NYTimes.com

 

BERLIN — Europe knows, and this city in particular, about the importance of American “red lines.” West Berlin, caught for more than four decades 100 miles within the Soviet occupation zone, survived on the credibility of the U.S. commitment to it, demonstrated by the Allied airlift in response to the Soviet blockade of 1948.

A shattered Europe became whole, free and prosperous under the shield of U.S. credibility. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty spelled out that an armed attack against one member “shall be considered an attack against them all.” This was believable enough to deter a Soviet attack on Western Europe.

American credibility in Asia has played a substantial part in the rapid but peaceful rise of China, a power shift of a kind that has seldom, if ever, occurred in world history without major conflict. China believes in the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. America has been the offsetting power allaying the tensions of China’s emergence.

It is the credibility of the United States as a European and Asian and Middle Eastern power that underwrites global security.

Read more at The New York Times.

Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say

 

Bodies of people activists say were killed by nerve gas in the Ghouta region are seen in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus

 

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? “It’s unclear where control lies,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. “Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?”

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. That is why the U.S. government, from the president on down, has been unequivocal in its declarations that the Syrian military gassed thousands of civilians in the East Ghouta region.

Read more at Foreign Policy