The photo montage as protest against forcible disappearances

There’s a remarkable phenomenon observable everywhere around the world that families of the tens of thousands who have been disappeared create photo montages of their beloved. Those montages remain central to protests by survivors for decades. It is a matter of the deceased haunting justice. There are still such displays in Spain going back to the Spanish civil war in the 1930s & they are still excavating mass graves from the dictatorship of General Franco.

Now activists are posting photos of Syrians disappeared by the Assad regime, some going back to the earliest days of the 2011 revolution. They are a very powerful & moving testimony because the crimes of the regime become personal.

Above all, we should never detach ourselves or take emotional distance from the suffering of other human beings. We can’t be laid waste by it or we’d soon all be basket cases. But we should always remain haunted by it as a guiding spirit.

Books on the historic events in the Middle East

A well-informed fellow on Twitter, an Assad opponent, has listed the ten best books he’s read in 2016 on Middle East politics & history. Those who are political savants or who apply ready-made formulas to social & political reality may not be interested but those who inform themselves about complex issues will be. These are the titles:

Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution & War

Bahrain’s Uprising: Resistance & Repression in the Gulf

Muted Modernists: The Struggle Over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia

The Alawis of Syria: War, Faith & Politics in the Levant

A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt

Shiism & Politics in the Middle East

The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression & Reform

Syria: Revolution From Above (The Contemporary Middle East)

The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria

Awakening Islam: Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia

The extraordinary tenacity of Kashmiri freedom fighters

Srinagar protest after Friday prayers (from Basit Zargar) Dec 30 2016
Those who complain they’re tired of protesting should draw on the resolve of Kashmiris who after decades & generations of extreme violence, extreme grief & incalculable loss, still exhibit an extraordinary, almost superhuman, determination to achieve freedom.

These protesters are going after an occupation vehicle following Friday prayers in the Batamaloo area of Srinagar.

Our deepest respect & solidarity.

End the occupation. Self-determination for Kashmir.

(Photo from Twitter wall of Basit Zargar)

Rania Khalek abandons principled journalism to become hack for Assad regime

Khalek on RT re mass graves (Dec 30 2016)

Rania Khalek, well known for writing about the Palestinian struggle, discredited herself as a journalist by agreeing to speak at an Assad-sponsored conference in Damascus. When criticized for doing so, she replied by saying she had been negligent about the character of the conference. Not a judicious quality for an investigative reporter in a war zone.

She apparently did not attend the conference but instead proceeded to west Aleppo during the bombing offensive on east Aleppo to do investigative reporting. There is no evidence of that trip in reports from her or photos & no indication of how she traveled from Damascus to Aleppo. Was she escorted by any Assad officials & did she have Syrian military security like Beeley & Bartlett?

As her career as a reputable journalist was tanking, Russia Today (RT) recognized the value she could play in promoting their narrative about Syria, in particular Aleppo. She has been interviewed twice on RT as an expert, independent journalist, & someone who has been on the scene in Syria.

She exhibits no worthy investigative skills & relies mostly on Russian media, Assadist bloggers, & some quite freaky Muslim-hating sources. She ran with the story about the discovery of mass graves in east Aleppo, not exhibiting the investigative skepticism, tenacity or honesty of a grade school kid doing a book report. The story is that the Syrian army found recent mass graves of children mutilated & dismembered by the “jihadist head-choppers.” So that’s what RT interviewed her about, playing her like a fiddle to help salvage her career.

The story of mass graves is very consequential if it’s true but it only appears in Russian media & Assadist blogs. To explain that, Khalek says “US media is acting as a mouth-piece for Al-Qaeda.” She also claims there is “corroborating photographic evidence” of those graves. In fact, even if there were photos–& there are not–a scrupulous & honest reporter would require more proof than photos in the era of photoshopping & post-truth truthiness. But Khalek forges heedlessly ahead in the best traditions of fake news.

Did it dawn on our intrepid propagandist to suggest that Syria & Russia call on independent forensics investigators to examine those graves & verify their claims? Kashmiri investigators must be quite sophisticated in the forensics of mass graves as are Argentinians & others who have to deal with such horrors. Why doesn’t Khalek publicly call on Syria & Russia to get some real corroborating evidence? She could even suggest Assad allow foreign reporters to enter east Aleppo to do their own investigations.

It’s deeply troubling to see young journalists capitulate so early to the blandishments & rewards of writing hack. It’s a well-trodden path. But once you take it, betraying the principles of journalism rooted in freedom struggles, you have to expect the sharpest criticism. That’s the way it goes. So we prevail on Khalek to stop whining that she is victim of a bullying campaign. Maybe if she gets on Assad’s payroll like Beeley & Bartlett she’ll stop claiming the war in Syria is all about her.

(Photo is screen shot from RT interview with Khalek)

Doctor describes evacuated civilians of east Aleppo: “They looked almost like they were coming out of a concentration camp.”

David Nott, a British surgeon, just returned from several days in Syria’s Idlib province, the area Aleppo residents were forcibly evacuated to when the Syrian army took over after a six-month bombing offensive. He has taken several medical trips to Syria since 2011 & trained many of the doctors who worked the field hospitals in east Aleppo.

Dr. Nott said of those he treated: “They looked almost like they were coming out of a concentration camp” & “were really in a desperate state.” As he described them, their bones were jutting through skin, they had gangrenous limbs, shrapnel still buried in their wounds, & were “dehydrated, malnourished, & psychologically traumatized.”

These are the same people that Vanessa Beeley, Assad’s own Leni Riefenstahl, claimed were dancing in the streets. Her response, as dutiful & well-remunerated propagandist, will be that their desperate condition was a result of treatment by those “jihadist terrorists,” as if not just months but years of carpet bombing had never happened.

Article about David Nott:

No conversion therapy for Assadists

A woman I admired quite a lot in the antiwar movement unfriended me over Syria. Her wall is all Russia Today, Mint Press, Beeley & Bartlett rubbish, even Tulsi Gabbard crap: the stuff of Muslim-hating & war-mongering.

I’d kept her as a friend hoping she’d be persuaded though my style isn’t particularly ingratiating. I leave the fawning & silver-tongue to Assadists whose intention is to deceive.

Anyway it didn’t work & it likely never will. That’s life. It’s sad to lose those kinships. She isn’t the first over differences on war. But there are more important things in life. Like what you think about the bombing of other human beings.

One of the most pernicious methods of Assad propagandists like Vanessa Beeley & Eva Bartlett & all their followers, is that they work feverishly to discredit & marginalize the voices of Syrian opposition. According to them, all Syrians who oppose Assad & foreign military intervention are undercover “jihadists” or stooges of US-NATO.

That method can only work if the voices of Europeans & Americans are considered more authoritative than that of Arabs. It’s called racism.

Action Group for Palestinians of Syria

This website reports on Palestinian refugees in Syria. The activists do not support Assad’s dictatorship because they know the truth about his relationship to Israel & to Palestinians & don’t rely on conspiracy theories that are off the wall & anti-Semitic. They just issued a report on the number of Palestinians killed by torture in Assad’s gulag & the regime’s refusal (like Israel) to release the bodies to the families for respectful burial.

They also don’t support Syrian & Russian bombing because of the carnage it has wreaked on refugee camps & cities.

This is their website which is an invaluable resource:

The price millions of children pay for the sectarian nature of the antiwar movement

Homeless child in Yemen Dec 2016

A homeless child in Yemen sleeping in a discarded plastic bag:
March 2017 will mark the second anniversary of the bombing campaign in Yemen by the Saudi coalition, armed & supported by the US & UK.

Nothing speaks more powerfully to the imperative of rebuilding the international antiwar movement than what war has done to millions of children just in the past 20 years.

There are no humanitarian wars. There is no legitimate rationalization for bombing civilians. War planes, mercenaries, & special forces will never be the methods of freedom struggles. Syria has confused so many on that score. It’s time the movement be rebuilt on historic antiwar principles. That doesn’t mean pacifism; people have a right to defend themselves against violence & tyranny by any means necessary. “By any means necessary” does not include bombing entire cities with hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians. That’s not a freedom struggle; it’s barbarism.

Somewhere the antiwar movement has gotten lost. It appears the forces of regeneration will come not from the countries with armies & bombers in the field but from those activists around the world who know justice in their bones, understand antiwar principles & don’t accept cheap discounts on them.

Our deepest regrets that millions of children have payed such a price for the historic failure of the antiwar movement to unite. There is urgent need to correct that.