The SNC is dedicated to defending the Syrian people. Unless those Syrian people happen to live in the UAE, one of the campaign group’s sponsors.
Last week, the UAE cancelled residency permits for Syrians and refused to issue visas to anyone holding a Syrian passport.
The SNC’s weasel-worded statement accuses the world of stirring up a controversy and trying to divide the two brotherly peoples:
The cancelation of residency permits for several Syrian citizens residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)…have built up a controversy and misunderstanding that has overshadowed the UAE’s sustained policy of support to the Syrian people’s cause.
The SNC hopes that the UAE will treat the Syrian people (that it claims to support) with forgiveness. What! It also asks Syrians to abide by the law of the Gulf dictatorship.
Kicking out Syrians and refusing to let refugees across its borders shows exactly how much the UAE really cares about the ‘Syrian people’.
And as for the SNC – don’t bite the hand that feeds you, eh.
“Bashar has not got the message. I, for example, loved him when he took over. I thought he would be different to his father,” he said. He pointed to a part of his little finger. “If he had just given us this little bit of freedom, we would have remained quiet. But whenever he slaughters someone from our families he simply increases our desire to kill him.”
Two real must-reads from two very dear friends who care a lot about Syria. And I don’t say ‘must read’ lightly. You need these two pieces in your life.
First, Jillian York looks at how activists are feeding the mainstream media with the story (it’s something The Listening Post has looked at many times over the past year – if you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out their podcasts from the past two months especially).
What concerns me is that the media–whose job it is to report facts, objectively*–is not only pushing a certain narrative, but also ignoring certain truths: the non-civilian casualty toll, for example (this one in particular bothers me when I think about all of my friends that did or almost did their compulsory Syrian military service).
What bothers me most, however, is the sheer certainty with which both sides attempt to make their points. The New Yorker in the screenshot above, for example, is so sure that “one side is for life, the other for death.” I’m not so sure. I’m certain that the regime is killing civilians (if you’re going to argue with me on that, just go away), but I’m not sure that there aren’t bad actors amongst the legitimate opposition. I can’t be sure…especially not when the media isn’t doing their job.
Of course, one of the reasons that journalists have to rely on activist reports is that for much of the past year, reporters have been banned from entering Syria. One man who has reported from inside is Stephen Starr. This fine journalist has lived in Damascus since 2007 and – unlike many of his peers who were flown in from London and New York – knows the country intimately well and speaks Arabic. He left last week, and we are all a lot poorer for it.
How many other journalists picked up on the rich-poor gap that was surely one of the key factors behind the spread of this revolution:
In Damascus, at least, laptops flourished in Western-style cafes. The $4 coffee arrived in 2010, and then iPhones and Cinnabon bakeries. Syria’s rapid modernization spurred massive migration to urban centers, while in the countryside to the northeast, hundreds of thousands of farmers fled starvation from a devastating drought. They drove taxis at night and lived in Harasta, Qaboun, and Madamia, satellite towns of Damascus where rent was cheap — and that are now centers of protest.
Now that Starr is out of Syria, that others (who may not want to be named) have had to leave too, now that we can never again read a dispatch from Anthony Shadid, and now that the regime appears to be targetting journalists in Homs, the reports of activists will become louder and louder.
New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died today in Syria, at the age of 43.
As many of you know, he is one of my journalistic heros. A brave reporter, an objective writer, and a man with a passion for the Arab World. He grew up outside the region and only learned Arabic as an adult.
His reporting on Syria was unparalleled. It’s easy to say that after someone’s death, but what was special about Shadid was that many said it while he was alive.
Shadid died today in eastern Syria. It is thought he had an asthma attack.
And as if that is not bad enough news for Syria – another person fighting to give Syrians a voice, Razan Ghazzawi, has been arrested for a second time.
A day after an Arab League monitor quit Syria in disgust, another one is apparently threatening to resign. Yesterday, Anwar Malek left the mission in Syria, appearing on Al Jazeera English to call it a ‘farce’:
The Algerian (although some sources call him Tunisian) said:
“What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime is not just committing one war crime, but a series of crimes against its people. The snipers are everywhere, shooting at civilians. People are being kidnapped. Prisoners are being tortured and none were released.”
The Syrian authorities have exploited the weakness in the performance of the delegation to not respond. There is no real response on the ground.
The military gear is still present even in the mosques. We asked that military equipment be withdrawn from the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq mosque in Deraa and until today they have not withdrawn.
Bashar, wasn’t fazed. In fact, he seems positively glowing. The Arab League mission is in disarray, they can’t even agree among themselves. Unannounced, he made his first public appearance since the start of the violence 10 months ago.
The interesting thing about his speech was not the content – for there was nothing new – but the fact that Bashar’s wife and kids appeared alongside him. There have been many rumours that British-born Asma Al-Assad may have fled to her home in London. Also, note the weird people in puffer jackets in the colours of the Syrian flag.
Before the party in Damascus had even ended, there was tragic news from Homs. Two groups of international journalists were taken up there, when there was a mortar and RPG attack on a pro-government crowd. Some of the journalists ran over to see what was happening, and celebrated French documentary maker Gilles Jacquier was killed. 8 Syrians also died in the attack.
Joseph Eid, a photographer with the AFP news agency, said the attack had come without warning. “We were expecting there to be violence, yes, but we never expected there to be an attack. They had warned us that the two districts attack each other in the evening, they said that after three o’clock in the afternoon it’s dangerous, we were there at three, and it started, it kicked off.”
The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has accused the Syrian government of not doing its job by protecting him properly. Which is interesting, considering that the Syrian government can’t even protect its own troops.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was more careful with his statement:
I condemn the incident in Homs today which caused the death of at least eight civilians including a French journalist, Gilles Jacquier. These deaths highlight once again the terrible price being paid by the people of Homs, as well as the courage of journalists who take great personal risks to bring to light what is happening to the people of Syria.
David Kenner, Associate Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, summed up the predictable responses with this tweet:
The who-committed-a-senseless-act-of-violence debate after every Syria attack is the Middle East’s version of a Rorschach test.
He was referring to the ink blot test: look at the pattern and tell us what you see. What you see reveals something about your inner character. And in the same way, how you interpret the latest massacre tells us who you support in this deadly race to the bottom.
The French ambassador is now accompanying Jacquier’s body from Homs back to Damascus. There’s no international official to accompany the bodies of the eight nameless civilians who were killed alongside him.
At least a dozen people are thought to have died in a bomb targeting a police bus in Medan, southern Damascus.
It comes exactly two weeks after explosions killed at least 44 people outside security buildings in the west of the city.
No-one yet knows who is to blame. We may never know. But within minutes, the twitterati had made their minds up. Pro-regimers slavishly towed the state TV line that ‘terrorists’ were to blame. Armchair revolutionaries knew it was the government’s fault.
Twitter is at its most ugly when people die and net activists dogmatically use the deaths to further their own argument. People have died. There is blood on the streets of Damascus. This isn’t the time for point scoring.
Whoever did it and wherever it was, civilian deaths are immoral, you don’t get to nitpick which ones are ok and which ones aren’t. #Syria
Syria is polarised. Someone lacked so much humanity that they felt it right to place a bomb on a bus, knowing the consequences. Surely this is a sign that Syria needs less aggression, division and polarisation – and more reconciliation.
It’s one thing when tweeps are inappropriate or tactless. It’s another when Riad Al-Assad is.
Col. Alasad of FSA must shut up. His threats of attacks, read against the backdrop of today’s events exposes his immaturity #Syria
When Christopher Hitchens died, there was renewed debate about the power his pen wielded. When he wrote in defence of Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, he crossed the line. He crossed over from the bubble that observers and commentators inhabit into the political arena. He had become a player.
Now, one of his friends, Nick Cohen, is doing the same with Syria. He wants war, and who cares what Syrians want.
Actually, he does care. He asks a London-based Syrian journalist, who now works as a PR manager for a lobby group (shorthand: “pro-democracy activist”) and he asks a US-based campaigner, Ammar Abdulhamid. Both of them give him vivid accounts of life in Syria, but neither calls for war.
Well, if they won’t do it, Cohen will put the words into their mouths:
“The Syrian incarnation of the “Arab Street” we used to hear so much about now wants Nato planes in the skies.”
It’s a barefaced lie. And it follows a simple recipe. Find a Syrian in Britain plus a Syrian in America. Refer to them as the “Arab Street”. Make it look like they said things they didn’t actually say.
But that’s not enough for Cohen. He feels the need to put a bit of meat on his fairly weak defence. I give you the Syrian National Council:
“The ferocity of the regime’s violence has pushed the Syrian National Council, an umbrella group for much of the opposition, from calling for civil disobedience and passive resistance to begging for outside help.”
Except that they didn’t. Here’s the very first point they made in a statement three days ago:
Following talks lasting for more than a month involving the leadership of the NCB and the SNC, the parties agreed on the following:
1 – Rejection of any foreign military intervention that affects the sovereignty and independence of the country. The Arab intervention is not considered to be foreign.
Nick Cohen claims to care about human rights, but Amnesty’s Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict, who has been involved in the campaign against Syrian repression, isn’t so sure.
“Cohen serves an agenda which doesn’t have the human rights of Syrians at its heart – plus he is an ignorant Orientalist tool,” he told me.
At some point, the Syrian people – inside Syria – may indeed call for “Nato planes in the skies”. Until that moment comes, we in our comfortable homes in London and Washington, should refrain from pretending to speak on behalf of Syrians.
And the second article is truly essential reading. It’s by a Syrian called Yazan (not thatYazan) who argues that although support for the regime is crumbling, that doesn’t mean we should jump on the Syrian National Council bandwagon. It’s called What Syria Deserves, and it’s at KabobFest.
I, and members of my family, had high, high hopes for Burhan Ghalioun. Yet, his statements and actions over the last few months have utterly burnt him.
It is neither for him nor the SNC to decide what political alliances Syria makes. It is for the Syrian public to make that decision. His, and the SNC’s position, on negotiating for the liberation of the Golan, for example, are no different for the Asad regime’s position vis-a-vis the Zionist State.
When activists like Maysaloon and Ammar Abdulhamid and ‘opposition’ figures in the SNC speak about the desperate need ‘to make deals with the devil’ in order to topple the regime, it is sheer senselessness. They are damning the soul of the nation, the intifada, by repeating the cycle of foreign dependency and will ensure a façade of liberty.
Moreover, the groveling and praises of gratitude towards Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries for their ‘support’ of the intifada are vomit-inducing. These are countries that have worked to crush the courageous Bahrain protesters, have ignored the sentiments of the awe-inspiring Yemeni protesters, and have horrible track records in regards to how they treat their own population, among numerous other faults. If this is a true uprising about liberty and dignity, we cannot accept to deal with those that flaunt this and have worked as counter-revolutionary forces in this region during this volatile time of ours. They are not our allies.
When organizations like SNC and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights grossly exaggerate the deaths that are happening or fabricate certain incidents, which they have done, in order to garner more sympathy, it is no different from what the regime has done in its existence.
When human rights-activist organizations, like the Human Rights Watch and Avaaz, and media agencies, like Al Jazeera and the Guardian, regurgitate these distortions without scrutiny (from the Gay Girl in Damascus scandal to the over estimation of deserters), it empowers the regime and its supporters. Worse, it ignores the realvictims, the thousands imprisoned, tortured, or dead, who are nameless, and do not ever become convenient, easy-to-sell, symbols.
An arrest has already been made. Not sure how that fits in with the suicide bomb narrative.
And from what I can see on Syrian state TV, it looks like one of the cars that exploded has already been towed away. Destroying crucial evidence. As Karl Sharro points out, this has echoes of the aftermath of the Hariri bombing in Beirut in 2005, when evidence was swept up almost immediately.
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