Saturday, May 28, 2011

Damascene perversion

Syria’s Chanel-clad first lady, Asma al-Assad – rumoured to be hiding in London – is not the reformer she pretends to be


By Nabila Ramdani

The New Statesman

"When I last heard Asma al-Assad speaking in public, at a conference in Damascus six months ago, it was like being back in the early days of Tony Blair's Britain. In a clear Home Counties accent, the London-born first lady of Syria used slogans such as "active citizenship" to explain to Arab English-language students: "You must all have a stake in your country - a chance to make it what you want."

In Syria, the sight of the glamorous 36-year-old meeting her people in souks and squares perpetuated the comparison with media-savvy Blairism. Beneath the designer labels - Chanel sunglasses and Christian Louboutin heels - there was, the masses were told, a woman who could articulate the need for popular reform with a steely intelligence.

But now, the "Asma project" has been abandoned. The lethal force that her husband, Bashar al-Assad, has used against Syria's pro-democracy movement has rendered all the soundbites redundant, and there are rumours that Asma has fled to the UK with her three young children. Her parents, the consultant cardiologist Fawaz Akhras and his retired diplomat wife, Sahar Otri (both Sunni Muslims who left Syria in the 1950s), live in Acton, west London.....

Wherever she may be, Asma's "disappearance" says everything about the increasingly desperate situation in Syria. What are the chances that some of the thousands who have been killed, wounded or imprisoned during the current unrest were involved in Massar, the organisation that she founded in 2005 to involve young people in "active citizenship"?

Laughable as it now sounds, the first lady said then that young Syrians should be turning their attention towards "empowerment in civil society". Few of them might have benefited from the kind of privileged education that Asma enjoyed in England.....
What she forgot to mention was that young people who used the internet to express dissent in Syria were routinely locked up. While in Damascus recently, I heard of cases of student bloggers receiving prison sentences of up to five years for "security crimes" such as "spying". Crowds were expected to clap when the president's name was mentioned, even in the most mundane situations. Thousands of plain-clothes policemen from the Mukhabarat security service enforced co-operation.

Such methods have kept the Assad dynasty in power for 41 years, and there was no question that Asma did not know this. She would have been aware that her husband was last "elected" president in 2000, by 97 per cent of the population "agreeing" that he should succeed his father. Despite Asma's continual references to "religious harmony", it was her father-in-law who ordered the killing of up to 20,000 Sunnis in Hama in 1982.

There are sinister parallels between Hama and what has been happening in the city of Deraa, where Bashar's younger brother Maher, commander of the Syrian national army's 4th Armoured Division, has led the killing of civilian protesters. The feared paramilitary unit, manned mainly by Alawites, is responsible for so much bloodshed that the Assads refuse to allow in a UN humanitarian inspection mission.

It was into this sect, as insular as it is powerful, that Asma married. Though foreign journalists are officially banned from Syria, glossy western magazines have published profiles of her this year. A fawning interview appeared in the March edition of American Vogue (it has since been removed from the magazine's website), in which she was described as "a rose in the desert" whose household "is run on wildly democratic principles". For all its exaggerated deference, the article at least highlighted the crudely acquisitive nature of the Assads, who are said to have siphoned $40bn out of Syria.

Many first ladies are accused of being addicted to shopping, but Asma's obsession with jewellery, clothes and Louboutins (the French shoemaker, who owns an 11th-century castle in Aleppo, in the north, is a "personal friend") is real. She has enriched herself by marrying into the Assad dynasty, and seeks to cover its crimes with a polished veneer of respectability.

Feeble EU sanctions announced this month against 13 prominent figures, including the freezing of assets and a ban on foreign travel, have so far not been extended to Syria's president. He might still attempt to redeem his reputation by claiming that his calls for reform were overruled by hardliners inside his regime. That, however, would be about as convincing as Asma's promotion of "active citizenship"."

Al-Jazeera Video: Outrage in Syria over killing of teenage boy

UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring

• British military personnel run courses for snipers
• Human rights groups furious over Riyadh link

Jamie Doward and Philippa Stewart, Saturday 28 May 2011

"Britain is training Saudi Arabia's national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain – in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. The revelation has outraged human rights groups, which point out that the Foreign Office recognises that the kingdom's human rights record is "a major concern".

In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in "weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training". The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a brigadier....."

Syrian troops kill unarmed civilians trying to smuggle food to besieged Daraa


Hamza Al-Khateeb : 13 year old boy Tortured and Mutilated to death by Syrian regime


Al-Jazeera Video: Opening the Rafah crossing

Al-Jazeera Video: Listening Post - Al Jazeera and the Arab awakening


"Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's director general, talks to Listening Post about the network's coverage of the Arab revolutions. "

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrians defy protest ban

"Thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Syria have defied their government's brutal crackdown on demonstrations - taking to the streets across the country again on Friday.

At least seven protesters were killed as demonstrations were met by tear gas and gunfire, said rights groups.

Foreign media are banned from reporting inside Syria, but activists are still getting pictures out, posting clips online.

Al Jazeera's Soraya Lennie has more."

Brotherhood youth criticize Brotherhood website's coverage of protests

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"The Muslim Brotherhood’s website belittled the second Friday of Anger protest - staged yesterday in Tahrir Square - in a report that also criticized it for damaging the unity of the people and the army.

Several Brotherhood youth said they are disappointed at this response, saying it matches how the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak responded to protests.

The report, published Friday on the Brotherhood’s website, claimed there was “weak protester turnout”, that protesters split into two groups, and that their number did not exceed 5000. It said traffic flowed normally through Tahrir Square except at the entrance to Qasr al-Aini street where protesters installed a stage, and military police and the army were not present.

Youth from the group who participated in the protest said the website was not saying the truth.

Mohamed al-Qassas said people were chanting slogans against attempts to drive a wedge between the army and the people. He added that the website is not being neutral in its coverage. “I’m sad at the coverage. I don’t think that the group’s leaders would accept what is being published on the website.”

Hossam Yehia, a Brotherhood blogger, said the website reported false news, adding that there were large numbers of protesters in Tahrir. He said the website is speaking in the same tone as the Mubarak regime, which described the protesters during the 25 January revolution as “a handful of infiltrators”. He said the Brotherhood’s website is harming the group by such reporting."

Welcome to the Violent World of Mr. Hopey Changey

by John Pilger
, May 28, 2011

"When Britain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser "destroyed … murdered … I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt." Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven "into the gutter from which they should never have emerged."

The language of colonialism may have been modified; the spirit and the hypocrisy are unchanged
. A new imperial phase is unfolding in direct response to the Arab uprising that began in January and has shocked Washington and Europe, causing an Eden-style panic. The loss of the Egyptian tyrant Mubarak was grievous, though not irretrievable; an American-backed counter-revolution is under way as the military regime in Cairo is seduced with new bribes and power shifting from the street to political groups that did not initiate the revolution [A clear reference to the Muslim Brothers.]. The western aim, as ever, is to stop authentic democracy and reclaim control.

Libya is the immediate opportunity.....

And as "Mr. Hopey Changey" (the name that Ted Rall, the great American cartoonist, gives Barack Obama), is fawned upon by the British elite and launches another insufferable presidential campaign, the Anglo-American reign of terror proceeds in Afghanistan and elsewhere, with the murder of people by unmanned drones – a US/Israel innovation, embraced by Obama. For the record, on a scorecard of imposed misery, from secret trials and prisons and the hounding of whistleblowers and the criminalizing of dissent to the incarceration and impoverishment of his own people, mostly black people, Obama is as bad as George W. Bush.

The Palestinians understand all this. As their young people courageously face the violence of Israel’s blood-racism, carrying the keys of their grandparents’ stolen homes, they are not even included in Mr. Hopey Changey’s list of peoples in the Middle East whose liberation is long overdue. What the oppressed need, he said on 19 May, is a dose of "America’s interests [that] are essential to them." He insults us all."

Yemen to cartoonist: 'We can squash you'

Exposing crimes of Yemen's president and the US military is a dangerous game, one cartoonist learns.

Nir Rosen

"As the Yemeni standoff continues, dictatorial president Ali Abdallah Saleh stubbornly clings to the seat of power.

If indeed the country descends into civil war it will be among the elites competing for power rather than the people against the government, though civil war is not inevitable. As in Egypt, the Yemeni regime is more complicated than just Saleh himself. It is a vast security apparatus linked to a small clique which controls the country's economy. They are equally implicated in Saleh's crimes, even if it often appears that Saleh is the state.

Few people know this better than Kamal Sharaf, a freelance cartoonist.

Sharaf's cartoons about Yemen and other Arab struggles in countries like Palestine were published in newspapers and on websites. He often mocked President Saleh and consequently received emails warning that he would regret it. "Don't step on people who are above you," said one email.

In August 2010, Kamal was at home breaking the Ramadan fast when "special forces surrounded the house like American marines," he recalls. "They had lasers on their guns. It smelled like America. Even their bodies were different from Yemeni soldiers."

One of the soldiers shouted: "Kamal come down or we will break the house." Kamal and his brothers went out.

A police officer told him there was a warrant for his arrest and he would find out what the charges were later.....

Cartoonist to al-Qaeda 'terrorist'?

He was eventually interrogated with the blindfold still on by what he guessed were seven people. The interrogation lasted until dawn. They asked about his charicatures of the president and about his relationship with another journalist called Abdelillah Shay'a who specialised in Islamist movements.

Kamal was accused of working for al-Qaeda's media wing along with Abdelillah, as well as with the Zeydi Shia rebels in the north called the Houthis.

The Houthi website, Ansar Allah, had copied some of Kamal's cartoons which criticised the Yemeni regime's policy and attacks by Saudi forces which killed Yemeni civilians. Becuase of that, Kamal was accused of running the website. While some interrogators were polite, others began to raise their voices and threaten him.

"We can squash you with our feet," they warned, telling him "you are less than a bug."....

Kamal was asked to sign a statement saying that he would never draw President Saleh again on the basis that mocking the president is mocking the nation....

During this time, his old friend and neighbour, Abdelillah, remained in prison....

"We didn't agree that you would talk on satellite channels about what happened to you," he was told.

Before his July arrest, Abdelillah had been threatened on Facebook. Messages warned that he and his children would be hurt because of the interviews he gave to Al Jazeera and other satellite channels about Islamist groups.

On BBC and Al Jazeera, Abdelillah complained that American missile strikes in southern Yemen had killed civilians.....

US interests behind the arrest?

In February, it was widely claimed that President Saleh had tried to order his release but that the American government had asked the Yemenis to prevent that. Abdelqudus was very concerned about his brother's mental and physical state....

Barman believed that it was Abdelillah's reporting and analysis which led to his arrest. He had also been communicating with American media about the massacre of Yemeni civilians in American airstrikes.

"Abdelillah was the first person to talk about it and he spoke about the killing of 45 civilians - including women and children. He produced the names and ages of children, he talked about a father and mother and five children who were murdered. He exposed the Yemeni and American government.""

Mubarak fined for cutting internet and phones

Former president and two other former officials fined by Egyptian court for cutting communications.


"An Egyptian court has fined ousted president Hosni Mubarak and former officials more than $90m for cutting off access to internet and mobile phone services during the country's massive protests in January.

A court source told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that Mubarak's fine is $34m, former interior minister Habib al-Adly will owe $53m, and former prime minister Ahmed Nazif has a fine of $7m.

The amounts relate to compensation for lost revenue as a result of the decision to cut off access for five days starting on January 28, said the source.

The fine is to be paid from personal assets, and the state has the right to increase the amount over the year if damages continue to rise.

This was the first court ruling against Mubarak since he was ousted on February 11.

Mubarak faces far more serious charges, including ordering the killing of protesters, a charge which could carry the death penalty."

A tale from the frontline of Palestinian protest

By Robert Fisk
Saturday, 28 May 2011

"I went to see Munib Masri in his Beirut hospital bed yesterday morning.

He is part of the Arab revolution, although he doesn't see it that way. He looked in pain – he was in pain – with a drip in his right arm, a fever, and the fearful wounds caused by an Israeli 5.56mm bullet that hit his arm. Yes, an Israeli bullet – because Munib was one of thousands of young and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese who stood in their thousands in front of the Israeli army's live fire two weeks ago on the very border of the land they call "Palestine".....

Munib, though an American, had been hit by the wrong sort of bullet. Not a Syrian bullet or an Egyptian bullet but an Israeli bullet, a bad kind to discuss, certainly the wrong kind to persuade an American diplomat to do anything about it. After all, when Benjamin Netanyahu gets 55 ovations in Congress – more than the average Baath party congress in Damascus – why should Munib's government care about him?.......

Munib's aunt Mai described how many of those who had gone on the march and by bus to the frontier felt a breeze coming across the border from what is now Israel. "They breathed it in, like it was a kind of freedom," she said. There you have it.

Munib may not believe he is part of the Arab Spring but he is part of the Arab awakening. Even though he has a home in the West Bank, he decided to walk with the dispossessed whose homes lie inside what is now Israel. "There was a lack of fear," his Uncle Munzer said. "These people wanted dignity. And with dignity comes success." Which is what the people of Tunisia cried. And of Egypt. And of Yemen, and of Bahrain, and of Syria. I suspect that Obama, despite his cringing to Netanyahu, understands this. It was what, in his rather craven way, he was trying to warn the Israelis about. The Arab awakening embraces the Palestinians too."

'One, one, one, the Syrian people are one'

Many Alawites are rejecting the supporting role that President Assad would have them play and joining protests against him

Mohja Kahf
(Dr Mohja Kahf is associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas and author of the novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, about a Syrian girl growing up in the United States. She tweets Syrian revolution news @profkahf.), Saturday 28 May 2011

"President Bashar al-Assad and many of the senior figures in his regime belong to Syria's minority Alawite sect, but that does not mean Assad or his regime represent the Alawites.

The government is playing a dangerous sectarian game, pointedly targeting Sunni areas and practices for attack while shackling traditionally Alawite villages against joining the protesters. Meanwhile, it is trying to ignite Alawite fears and manipulate Alawite communities to act on those fears.

Given this, any instance of Alawite silence is difficult to interpret; it may indicate a lack of support for the revolution, though, on the other hand, it may even signify defiance of the regime.
Yet Alawites have by no means been silent – many have been active in the opposition – and the pro-democracy movement as a whole rejects claims by Syria's state-run television that it consists of religious fundamentalists seeking to replace the regime's ostensible secularism with an Islamist state.

The protesters' chants consciously emphasise national unity, such as: "One, one, one, the Syrian people are one." Now is the time for Sunni Syrians opposing the regime to step up to even greater solidarity with the Alawites.....

And if anyone in the free Syria that is coming ever tries to target the Alawite community, I will bar them with my body and soul. That goes for Christians, Kurds, and any other ethnic or religious minority in Syria. "The test of courage comes when we are in the minority," Ralph Sockman says. "The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority."

I have not lived as part of a religious minority and an ethnic minority in the US for 39 years, slugging through the Federalist Papers on how to protect minority rights in a democracy, and learning the lessons of the civil rights movement the hard way as a Muslim American and an Arab American, to see any minority hurt in democratic Syria.

Civis Syrianus sum – I am a Syrian citizen."

Yemen: A perfect storm

President Ali Saleh's latest move may well turn out to be his last

Editorial, Friday 27 May 2011

"....For four months, faced with the defection of half his armed forces and masses thronging the streets demanding his resignation, Saleh has warned that he is the pole who holds up the tent. With him gone, he told anyone who would listen, all would collapse around him. As if to make this point a reality, shortly after the collapse of the fourth attempt at mediation by Gulf Arab neighbours last Sunday, his forces took on Yemen's most powerful clan, the Ahmars, who have been bankrolling the opposition and supporting hundreds of thousands of protesters camping out on the capital's streets.

Attempts to mediate a ceasefire were continuing last night, but Saleh's latest move may well turn out to be his last. He is attempting to do something that no other leader in Yemen has succeeded in doing. The other Ahmar brothers are Hamir, the deputy speaker of parliament, Hussein, another powerful tribal leader, and Hamid, a tycoon and founder of the opposition party, Islah. Saleh can sow chaos but he cannot win. And the longer he holds out, the less able he becomes to negotiate the terms of his departure. Between now and then, a full-scale humanitarian disaster could yet unfold. Like the country itself, Yemenis have run out of slack."

G8 summit: Gaddafi isolated as Russia joins demand for Libyan leader to go

Nations united over Libya as Cameron says pressure on Tripoli beginning to tell – but G8 rift remains over Syria

The Guardian


There is a lesson for all of those in the M.E. who count on Russia. The lesson is that the Russian position can be bought and sold depending on the price. So, don't sleep easy Rabbit, thinking that Moscow will continue to support you. The day will come when you too, just like Gaddafi, is dumped.

"Colonel Gaddafi has been left diplomatically deserted after Russia, his sole international interlocutor joined the rest of the G8 nations in declaring the Libyan leader had lost all legitimacy and had to go.

But continuing differences between Russia and the west prevented agreement on how to pressurise the Syrian regime to end its oppression; a planned reference to take the issue to the UN security council was removed from the G8 communique....."

Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza

Palestinians welcome easing of four-year blockade on Gaza Strip, in a move ushered in by Egypt's new leaders.

"Egypt has reopened its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, allowing people to cross freely for the first time in four years - a sharp departure from the policies of former president Hosni Mubarak.

The opening on Saturday morning provided long-awaited relief for Palestinians - a move ushered in by Egypt's new government in a bid to ease the suffering of Gaza residents.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, said there will still be restrictions in place, preventing men younger than 40 from leaving the coastal territory.

"It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave, as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the ages of 18 and 40 years will require an Egyptian visa," she said.

"Visas would have to come from Ramallah...." [Also, the crossing is open only for people and not for goods. So, while it is a welcome step, it is not a free crossing and the celebrations should wait until the crossing is restored to its former free status that existed before.]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Angry Arab: Promoting Syrian Propaganda (inadvertently?)

Comment by Zarathustra
From today's Angry Arab blog: 

[The biggest problem i have with Aljazeera is not political and is not that it has become a pure voice for the Arab counter-revolution and for the dreadful Saudi-Qatari alliance.  The problem is that it has become an example of bad journalism.  I tuned in this morning to watch the news and I only got propaganda.  Pure propaganda.  They basically have become like trash talk radio in the US: they open the phone lines and--unlike US trash talk radio--they treat their anonymous callers like their own correspondents and ask them questions about political developments in Syria (the country of choice these days).  And if the callers offer opinions that diverge from the agenda of Aljazeera, they are immediately shut off.  Aljazeera the other day did not even cover the speech by Nasrallah, when it used to extensively provide live coverage of his speeches.  Maybe it over did it in the past, just as it now underdoes it.   Today, they barely covered the massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square, while allowing anonymous callers to report to them on Syria.  They had a Youtube footage of a "massive demonstration" in a Syrian town when I was able to count around ten people.  When it comes to Syrian developments, one has to struggle hard.  On the one hand, you get crude and weird propaganda on Syrian regime TV (where they spend hours on technical topics, like "food security" or "irrigation in the 21st century"), and on the other hand you have the sensational and unreliable Saudi and Qatari propaganda outlets.  One suffocates in these conditions.  It is fair to say that Aljazeera suffered its most serious blow to its credibility since it went on the air.]

I am one of Angry Arabs biggest fans, and have been reading his blog for years. The Syrian revolution/uprising has been dropping the fig leaf and exposing all regimes/ intellectuals/politicians on both the right, left and in between. Today's entry (above in green ) by Angry Arab upset me, it displayed that he is incapable of  upholding the banner of righteousnesses and principleness that  he demands from the NY Times or Saudi controlled arab media on himself. From DAY ONE Angry arab has been playing the "There is a conspiracy against Syria BUT ..." card. Well in reality what conspiracy is he talking about ? so far the west and US has shown little interest in toppling the regime (they are far more enthusiastic when it came to Iraq and Libya in interfering) Israel has come saying Assad is BETTER than the alternative for their security. Everyone knows and there is ample of evidence that the Salafis and Saudis are not behind the spontaneous uprising , even if Saudi had its agenda it will not act against the wishes of its masters US/Israel , so him harping on the Saudi is illogical because it makes the Saudis an independent acting entity who will is willing to go against the will of the US/Israel and he is the first to admit that Saudi is the US enforcer in the region. As for the Syrian opposition that is collaborating with Washington and goes to Israel to consult with Netenyahu, everyone knows they are an extreme minority that will NEVER BE WELCOME in syria. So his constant claim "of course there is a conspiracy against Syria " not only is void of truth is HELPS the regime that is constantly telling its dumbed down audience that Syria is being targeted by the US/Israel for being the beacon of resistance. 

Second his take on Jazeera is about 10 years to late !! with all due respect Jazeera is a privately held company owned by the prince of Qatar , it was never an independent non sponsored station and its whole purpose for 10 years has been the NORMALIZE the arab thinking process of accepting the existence of Israel (something that he is opposed to 100%) so for him to only discover the "evil" jazeera as a tool of the US to counter the Arab revolutions show he is a little. What he ignored is that in order for Jazeera to play that role it must get the trust of the Millions of Arabs and it had to do it , so they showed us the massacres of Israel in Palestine and Lebanon and had the likes of Chomsky/Finkelstein/Said/Bishara to talk about the conflict ...etc Jazeera was being groomed to cease the moment when it had too , and it is doing that now. 

Again his constant harp on Jazeera now is also playing in the regime favor who claims that it is responsible for the incitement of violence in Syria , he keeps making fun of anonymous calls from Syria as well , how disappointing  of him !! He knows that people are getting arrested and tortured and killed for speaking anything but the regime lines and people are risking their lives to actually speak. He also knows the regime has closed down the country and no one can be interviewed, so what is that Jazeera or BBC to do ? He then dares to say "And if the callers offer opinions that diverge from the agenda of Aljazeera, they are immediately shut offJazeera agenda has been taking the people's side and they are SICK and TIRED of cheap lame lies that the Syrian callers who are pro regime spit on a daily basis. NO one takes them seriously , they are the equivalent of spams in blogs and ad pop ups on your browser THERE IS NO ROOM FOR TRASH . He makes it sound like you are getting legitimate calls with logical perspectives that are worth hearing. I have yet to hear a single pro regime person who actually makes sense and is not lying. Compare his perspective to Azmi Bishara today who said "the people who are getting paid by the regime to speak its propaganda on the air waves"...

He also made fun of the sizes of the demonstrations in Syria !! keep in mind we all saw tanks and some of the most vicious attacks ever facing demonstrators , so yes Angry Arab when people are risking their lives to go out by either getting a bullet in the head or getting arrested and tortured to death SIZE DOES MATTER , the 10's of Syrians going out are the equivalent of 1000's of Egyptians  , no one not has faced the barbarity of the Syrian regime , no one has ever seen 13 year boys tortured to death in one of the most elaborate modern terror campaigns against a defenseless population. 

Then he talks about how Jazeera did not cover Hassan Nasrallah's speech , well I think that did A HUGE service to his excellency. Could you imagine the reaction of the Arab world when they see young men beaten to death in Hamma and boys tortured to death in Daraa and then his excellency telling the Syrians to "support the regime for the sake of the resistance" ? Any 5 year old Arab knows the absurdity of both "Syrian regime resistance" and for someone to have the Chutzpah to call on its support !! Jazeera did him a favor actually, he is already losing respect and credibility at an exponential rate so seeing him live would have done nothing but expedited the process and dropped another fig leaf faster.

In an earlier post he praised Nassralah's speech style and said it was "effective" and "sarcastic"... This is the same person that criticized obama for being all style and no substance praising Nasrallah who is turning into an all style no substance demagogue  in front of our eyes (granted he criticized the content of his speech but like every Nasrallah speech he must find something positive to say and this last time Angry arab was reduced to praising Style because there was nothing else to praise about it)

When looking at the events that are unfolding in Syria, we have to praise the steadfastness of the Syrian people and their courage, for they were able to drop the masks and fig leafs on all the parties involved , and sadly Angry Arab instead of joining the people and supporting them full heartedly he has given them minimal support with constant reference to conspiracies and foreign agendas that the regime is playing to death. While I understand the regime and why it is adopting that line, Angry Arab's position is perplexing. 

حديث الثورة .. 27 مايو .. د. عزمي بشاره -

حديث الثورة .. 27 مايو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 1

حديث الثورة .. 27 مايو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 2

حديث الثورة .. 27 مايو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 3

حديث الثورة .. 27 مايو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 4

Welcome to Gaza

Revolution and Change at the Rafah Border


"....'So, Egypt has changed, right?' asked one Mohammed with a knowing smile and a nod. Everyone seemed to agree, although they didn't pinpoint exactly how that change has affected Gaza so far. Palestinians in Gaza survive largely because of the 500 or so tunnels that connect the impoverished, besieged Strip to Egypt. Now, they feed on hope and cheap cigarettes, much of it also coming from Egypt.

'Ramzy Baroud,' called out an older officer loudly. 'Welcome home, son,' he said, as he handed me my passport and waved me in. No words could possibly have been sweeter at that moment.

After seventeen years of constant attempts to visit Gaza again, I am finally here.

I am in Gaza. I am home."

Guardian Video: Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The violent crackdown on anti-government protests causes thousands of Syrians to flee the country and find refuge in Lebanon

What do you say to these refugees Hassan Nasrallah? Go back and, "support the regime?" Face torture and death at the hands of the butcher?

A Sample of Fresh Videos From Inside Syria, Documenting Protests Against the Bloody Regime on Friday May 27, 2011.

شام - اللاذقية مظاهرات جمعة حماة الديار 27-5 ج4

شام - عامودا - مظاهرات جمعة حماة الديار 27-5 ج1

شام دمشق القابون مظاهرات جمعة حماة الديار 27 5 ج2

شام - حمص - الرستن - مظاهرة جمعة حماة الديار 27-5 ج2

شام - اللاذقية - مظاهرة كبيرة في الرمل - 27-5

شام اللاذقية الرمل الفلسطيني جمعة حماة الديار 27 5

شام - حوران - إبطع - مظاهرة جمعة حماة الديار 27-5

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

A Disgusting Lovefest

Obama, Netanyahu and the Congress


"....Thus, in due course, the masses in the Arab streets will turn their anger towards the U.S, the enabler of Israel; the source of so much suffering in their neighborhood. As many of these mass movements have employed non-violence as a strategy to achieve their goals, they will also demand that the U.S. change its policies and behavior towards them if it truly seeks friendly relations as it proclaims....

If the true popular will is expressed by the Arab masses then a serious Boycott-Divestment-Sanction (BDS) will be directed towards the U.S. causing financial havoc in Wall Street as well as economic dislocation in Main Street. All members of Congress who support Israel will be declared enemies of peace, led by those who applaud Israeli prime ministers and vote to prolong the suffering and humiliation of the Palestinian people. They will not be welcome to set foot in any Arab or Muslim capital, since, according to international law, those who aid and abet war criminals are themselves war criminals.

Only when such a worldwide comprehensive BDS movement against the U.S. is launched will the Congress ultimately change course...."

The role of the Islamic Republic in Bahrain

Iran's influence in Bahrain has nothing to do with sparking democratic uprising - but with the repression of revolution.


Hamid Dabashi

Hijacking revolution

The Arab Spring is the return of the Islamic Republic's repressed; the exposing of the universal euphoria more than thirty years ago in the magnificent Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979 - which the militant clergy hijacked and turned into a vindictive theocracy. So, yes the Islamic Republic does indeed have a direct influence in Bahrain - but not on the massive democratic uprising in the tiny archipelago, home of the US Fifth Fleet. It is this geo-strategic military asset which makes "the great advocate of democracy" turn a blind eye to the murderous regime in Bahrain, while the UK is in fact training the Saudi military how to crack down on the uprising. The influence of the Islamic Republic in Bahrain is on the ruling regime: teaching it, by example, how viciously to quell a democratic revolt....

The abuse of the Shia-Sunni divide also points yet again not just to the false sectarianism that seeks to discredit these democratic uprisings but also to the banal racialisation of these transnational, revolutionary movements that cross all such colonially manufactured hostilities. The fact remains that the Arab Spring cannot turn a blind eye to the brutalities of the Islamic Republic just because the US is its enemy. It is imperative that the criminal atrocities of the Islamic Republic be brought fully into the opening picture of the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring will not fully blossom unless and until the green pastures of Iran are included in it. Labour unions, women's rights movements and student organisations are identical in their demands and aspirations for their civil liberties in both Iran and the Arab world. Enduring thirty years of a corrupt theocracy has given Iranians much to teach their Arab counterparts; these magnificent revolutionary uprisings from one end of the Arab world to the other has already galvanised the Green Movement in Iran. As the tyrannous regimes in both Bahrain and the Islamic Republic earn from each other how to suppress democratic uprisings, these democratic uprisings must also learn from each other how to topple their corrupt leadership - for in whatever language you learn it: al-Sha'b yurid isqat al-Nizam!"

The counter-revolution club


By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"The rest of the region might be teetering, but members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman - are sleeping easy. Nothing will happen to them because the enlightened West - not Allah - is their supreme guardian. And for any extra muscle they might need to keep the order they desire, heavily bankrolled foreign mercenaries are just the ticket.....

Now the GCC has declared it would love the idea of Jordan joining the club - and the same applies to Morocco. As for Yemen - which has yearned to be a member since 1999 - forget it; it's not a monarchy, and "unstable" to boot, with al those unruly people protesting. The best the GCC can do is to allegedly "mediate" into what is in effect regime change - fully supported by the US and the EU....

The GCC's top moment of counter-revolutionary glory, so far, happened less than two days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates left Bahrain - when Saudi Arabia, with a minor contribution from the UAE, invaded Bahrain in support of their cousins, the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, and against the overwhelming majority of the peaceful, protesting Bahraini population. The GCC's secretary general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, happens to be an al-Khalifa-aligned Bahraini.....

Let us play in your courtyard

Neo-colonial NATO and monarchic/theocratic GCC is a match made in weapons contractor heaven. The GCC will be incorporated into the global US missile shield system. Soon, there'll be that juicy $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia - the largest in American history.....

Take Qatar. Qatar was the first country to recognize that dodgy bunch, the Libyan "rebels"; the first GCC member to supply NATO with French Mirage fighter jets and American C-17 Globemasters; it set up satellite Ahrar TV for the Transitional Council; showered them with MILAN missile launchers; and most of all immediately started to "supervise" oil exports from Cyrenaica.

The reward was inevitable; on April 14, Obama hosted the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, at the White House, and lavishly praised him for his "leadership" in promoting "democracy in the Middle East" - a reference to Qatar's role in Libya....

Or expect covert special ops in Egypt and Tunisia to ensure their next governments align themselves with the US and the EU. Or expect boots on the ground in Libya to "provide humanitarian aid to civilians" (oops, that was two months ago; even Obama now says it's all about regime change).

Still, all those Libyan "oil facilities" must be in the safe hands of US and EU multinationals (and not Russian, Indian and Chinese). Still, Gaddafi's inner circle must be "neutralized". And still Libya must be kept subdued, according to the age-old imperial tenets of divide and rule.

So when the goin' gets tough, who you're gonna call? Definitely Xe Services' "innovative solutions", brought to you by Sheikh Zayed. No wonder the GCC club is the talk of the (counter-revolutionary) town. "

Why we are holding Egypt's second 'Friday of rage'

Egyptians have earned the right to control our future. On Friday 27 May we will be out in Tahrir Square again to assert that right

Wael Khalil, Friday 27 May 2011

"In Egypt this week, plans for a large protest on Friday 27 May have attracted more controversy than any other call for a "millionia" (a million-man march) since the revolution. Partly this stems from the names used to describe the day this time: in accordance with the revolutionary tradition of giving names to the various Fridays since the "Friday of rage" on 28 January, it has already become known as "the second revolution", or "the second Friday of rage".

The call for a "second revolution" chimes with a growing restlessness and impatience at the pace of developments and the overall performance of the governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). This culminated in the #NoSCAF blogging day, when more than 200 bloggers criticised SCAF to show that no one is above scrutiny in the new Egypt. Simultaneously, activists – myself included – have called for consensus demands aimed at mobilising large sections of the people. Below are these demands....

Pressure from below has been the main instrument of democracy during this transitional period in Egypt's history. Occupying the square has been our tool to achieve the demands of the revolution since Mubarak stepped down on 11 February. The collapse of the Shafik government (the prime minister appointed by Mubarak, who outlasted him for a few weeks); the banning of the National Democratic party; even the criminal indictment of Mubarak and his gang: they were all achieved through the Midan (the square).

We will be out again in Tahrir Square on Friday 27 May in order to assert that the interim power respect our rights and demands. The Egyptian people have earned their right to control the future of this country."

Dubai's skyscrapers, stained by the blood of migrant workers

Dubai seems to be a place where the worst of western capitalism and Gulf Arab racism meet in a horrible vortex

Nesrine Malik, Friday 27 May 2011

"....A few hours later, I discovered that there had indeed been trouble. A man – an Indian worker – had jumped from Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and a symbol of Dubai's prowess....

There is something deeply sinister about Dubai luxury, even more so since the local economy went into spectacular decline with the sovereign debt default in 2009. Fawning staff (almost exclusively expatriate) encircle you from the moment you arrive. From handler to driver to receptionist to concierge, the over-the-top attention is underpinned not by a dedication to a superlative service, but by fear....

It seems to me a place where the worst of western capitalism and the worst of Gulf Arab racism meet in a horrible vortex. The most pervasive feeling is of a lack of compassion, where the commoditisation of everything and the disdain for certain nationalities thickens the skin to the tragic plight of fellow human beings.

Psychologically, these workers are isolated and alienated; practically, they are trapped by draconian sponsorship laws in the UAE, and in debt to agents back home. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is such little enforceable employment law in these markets....

....but Dubai's name is becoming stained by the blood of migrant workers."

Bahrain: Formula One Should Take Account of Rights Crisis

Arrests, Detentions Should Raise Questions for Racing Officials

Human Rights Watch
May 26, 2011

"......"Sadly, serious violations like arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and alleged torture by Bahraini authorities pre-date the imposition of martial law in mid-March," said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. "There is little reason to think that ending martial law on June 1 will make much difference in Bahrain's menacing human rights climate."

Human Rights Watch questioned whether a successful Formula One event could be held in an environment characterized by large-scale arbitrary arrests, prolonged incommunicado detentions, credible allegations of torture, and mass dismissals of workers, in violation of Bahraini as well as international law. According to recent news reports, those dismissals and arrests include about a quarter of the staff of the government-owned Bahrain International Circuit, the site of the annual Bahrain Grand Prix.

Human Rights Watch noted that Bahrain, rather than halting its abusive practices, has restricted news coverage of protests and the aftermath [Just like Syria!]. It has detained and beaten Bahraini journalists, including some working for international media, such as France 24. Earlier in May, the government expelled the Reuters correspondent Frederik Richter, the only international journalist based in Bahrain in recent years, who had been covering events there since 2008. Since April 20, the government has prevented Human Rights Watch from working in the country.
"International racing officials should ask Bahraini authorities about the fate and well-being of the Bahrain International Circuit staff," Porteous said. "And racing officials should seriously consider the appropriateness of holding a Formula One event this year in Bahrain in light of the scale of human rights violations there.""

Kindly remain seated

Not much in Netanyahu's speech to Congress came as a surprise, but many were shocked by the thunderous applause.

By Lamis Andoni


"....Support for such a demand to recognise Israel is only understandable if it is backed by overtly racist members of the US and the Congress. For such a pronouncement to be endorsed by at least the majority of the two houses is equivalent to declaring that the US should be recognised as a "white state".

But the fact that a sitting African American president has enthusiastically adopted such a racist demand has made legitimate for all to accept - unquestioning its meaning or implications.

It seems, however, that Arabs are treated in a totally different category, where values of equality need not apply.

Only in one of the illegal settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem could have Netanyahu enjoyed such a love fest as the one that unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, maybe the US Congress would feel more at home in one of those settlements, where they both share common American-Israeli values, such as a narrow and distorted world view that encourages intolerance."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

بلدنا بالمصري: مواطنون وثوار .. جمعة الغضب الثانية

From Hossam El-Hamalawy

The hypocrisy of Hassan Nassrallah

[The US shows the exact double standard in dealing with Israel. One  set of rules to the Palestinians one for the Israelis with clear favoritism to Israel. Nassrallah hearts dictators that "support him" also like Obama is a great speaker with impressive crowd pleasing skills , and like Obama he is a liar and a hypocrite.]

The following is a list of Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah’s comments on the various Arab uprisings. First one to spot the odd one out wins a plate of Syrian baklawa. (Source:
Tunis: “We must congratulate the Tunisian people on their historic revolution, their struggle, and their uprising.”
Egypt“In Tunis and Egypt, tyrants have gone away…We call on the people of Egypt and the people of Tunis to unite, because division could be a prelude to the resurrection of the ruling regimes…”
Libya: “A group of young men and women rose and they were faced with bullets; war was imposed on the popular revolution. What is taking place in Libya is war imposed by the regime on a people that was peacefully demanding change; this people was forced to defend itself and war broke out in the east and the west, with warplanes, rocket launchers, and artillery and brought back to our memory the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and all of Israel’s wars. Such serious crimes should be condemned and the revolutionary people of Libya should be helped so as to persevere.”
Yemen: “It is not possible to keep silent about killing and oppressing the demonstrators [in Yemen]. We praise the steadfastness of the Yemeni people and their commitment to their peaceful movement, although we know that Yemen is full of weapons.”
Bahrain: “Why is the movement [in Bahrain] condemned and the injured accused? Just because they are Shiites? If most of the opposition in Bahrain are Shiites, does this outlaw them and make them subject to fatwas? We’ve always been with the Palestinian people, but the sect of the Palestinian people was never an issue for us. Nobody asked about the confession and sect of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples; we have an obligation to stand by the downtrodden. Iran stood by the people of Palestine, Tunis, Egypt, and Libya; was this based on secular considerations? I find it very weird to hear some people calling on Egyptians to take to the streets, Libyans to kill Gaddafi, but when Bahrain is involved, their ink dries out, and their voices dampen.”
Syria: “First, we should be committed to Syria’s stability, security and safety. Second, we call upon the Syrian people to maintain their regime of resistance, as well as to give way to the Syrian leadership to implement the required reforms and to choose the course of dialogue. Third, we as Lebanese shouldn’t interfere in what is going on in Syria, but let the Syrians themselves to deal with the issue. Fourth, we should reject any sanctions led by US and the West asking Lebanon to abide by them against Syria, which is the most important goal of Feltman’s recent visit to Lebanon.”

25 children among the dead in Syrian uprising, some tortured, opposition group says

BEIRUT — More than 25 children, some of them tortured, are among the victims of the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on an uprising that has killed more than 1,000 people over the past two months, an opposition group said Wednesday.
The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize the protests against President Bashar Assad, identified the children and the circumstances of their death. Syria has blocked media access in the country, making it impossible to verify the reports independently.
Some of the children died “under severe torture,” the group’s statement said.
The children ranged in age from 5 and 17. Many appeared to have been killed in crossfire, such as Mahmood Alkadree, 12, who was struck by four bullets when he went out to buy bread for his family in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the statement said.
The body of 15-year-old Ahmad Radwan was found in the orchards of the coastal town of Banias, shot once in the stomach and once in the chest. Majd Ibrahim Alrfaee, a 7-year-old girl from the southern province of Daraa, died from a gunshot to the abdomen, the report said.
The statement said that 13-year-old Saleh Ahmad Alkhateeb was kidnapped by security forces on April 29 in Daraa, only to be found dead the next day “covered with the effects of severe torture.”

The Syrians who have become indifferent to injustice

The dismissive attitude of some Syrians perpetuates the country's state of denial over the oppression being suffered

Fadwa al-Hatem
(Fadwa al-Hatem is the pen-name of a Syrian citizen who currently lives in Britain.), Thursday 26 May 2011

"....On 12 May this is precisely what happened to 29-year-old Amjad Baiazy, a Syrian citizen resident in the United Kingdom who was on his way back to London after seeing his family for a week.

His arrest, his family were later told, was for "inciting revolution from abroad" – a ridiculous and vague charge that would probably see every university student in the western world behind bars if it were ever applied by a real court. Welcome to Syria, where the rules of common sense and judicial process don't apply....

Sometimes the story is that President Bashar al-Assad is good but those around him are inept; other times the story they give is that Syria is the victim of a nefarious Zionist plot. But never, ever, must we contemplate that ordinary Syrians are simply fed up with the lack of political freedoms, dignity or accountability that are now the norm in Assad's Syria. It is incomprehensible to them that Arabs can rejoin history, and the world, by becoming agents for their own change.

I find myself wondering how it is that an entire nation can be in such a state of denial, as if we are living that old film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and everybody is no longer the same person....

In another video I see the bodies of three men who have had their brains blown out after allegedly trying to smuggle food tins and biscuits into the besieged town of Deraa. The cameraman jokes to his friends while focusing on what he calls "the brains of the saboteur".

Dorothy Parvaz
, the al-Jazeera journalist who was held incommunicado in Syria for three days before being deported to Iran, recounted seeing the abuse and questioning of a prisoner by the prison guard. There was no sense or reason for the abuse, she recalled, it was just a motion to be gone through. Such normalcy amid horror only increases my revulsion – for this, in all its horrifying clarity, is the embodiment of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil". I have come to the realisation that parts of Syrian society have now suffered that most horrible of all moral ills: they are indifferent to injustice....

I will probably be accused of giving only a partial picture to what is happening in Syria, or perhaps a more enterprising member of Syria's network of informants within the UK will spread rumours to the effect that I am a member of the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (I am not), or that I am receiving funds from western intelligence services, or Saudi intelligence services, or perhaps that my pet poodle is gay (none of these are true and I do not have a pet poodle).

But that does not matter, for while many Syrians in the United Kingdom are presently fearful of voicing their criticism in the face of the insanity and evil that we are witnessing in our homeland, many more Syrians are no longer afraid. If I speak, other Syrians might also be encouraged to add their voice. Then maybe, perhaps maybe, we can all tear down this edifice of lies that we call a country and start building a home for all Syrians and not just some."

Revolutionary graffiti in Egypt - in pictures

In response to the recent popular uprising in Egypt, revolutionary art has sprung up on the streets of Cairo. Here is a selection of the most notable works to appear

Mohamed El Hebeishy, Thursday 26 May 2011

Guardian Video: Saudi woman driver faces jail again - 'This is against religion and logic'

Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi mother arrested for uploading a video of herself driving on YouTube, faces another 10 days in jail, Thursday 26 May 2011

Guardian Video: Yemen protests continue despite violence

President Ali Abdullah Saleh refuses to step down or leave the country as residents flee for their lives while fighting continues

Al-Jazeera Video: Amnesty slams Syria's 'shoot to kill policy'

"Amnesty International has said the Syrian government should be put to trial over its alleged "shoot to kill policy" towards anti-government demonstrators.

The human rights group has pointed to citizen-captured video that apparently show security forces killing and beating civilians.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed across Syria since protests first erupted in mid-March, according to numerous human rights groups

Syria has banned international journalists from the country, making it almost impossible to independently verify the veracity of the videos.

Monica Villamizar reports."

Brotherhood divided over Friday's protests

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"In a new sign of internal rebellion, a group of Muslim Brotherhood youths have affirmed that they will participate in Friday’s protests despite the organization’s vehement opposition.

“We are taking to the streets because we believe that the revolution should be completed,” said Islam Lotfy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader told Al-Masry Al-Youm....

In response to these divergent calls, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a statement on its official website announcing that it would not participate in the protests on Friday. The group dismissed calls for a second revolution as “a revolution against the people” and an attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the people.

This is a very strange position,” said Mohamed al-Qassas, another 35-year-old Muslim Brotherhood youth leader and a member of the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition. “I did not expect the group to issue a statement that disapproves of the protests and accuses participants of treason.”....."

Military council: We will not protect the Friday protests

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced on Thursday that its forces would not be taking part in securing Friday’s protests, dubbed “The Second Revolution of Anger”.

Activists and political movements called for the Friday protest to demand a speedy trial for ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the involvement of civilians in the country’s political decision-making process during the transitional period.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups, however, announced they would be boycotting the protests, saying they were not in the interests of the people and were aimed at driving a wedge between the armed forces and the people.

In a statement on its page on global social networking site Facebook, the SCAF warned Egyptians of "the possibility that suspicious elements will try to carry out acts designed to drive a wedge between the Egyptian people and its armed forces."

Since March, several Tahrir Square protests have been marred by clashes. The revolutionaries blamed these clashes on elements of the counter-revolution, saying they were thugs loyal to the remnants of the defunct National Democratic Party, which ruled the country during the Mubarak era.

In the statement, the SCAF also noted that the armed forces would not to be present in the area of the protests in order to avoid the risk of any attempts to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the people. It said the role of the armed forces would be limited to securing major locations against security threats.

The Muslim Brotherhood announced on Wednesday that it would organize a number of demonstrations against the Friday protest in Alexandria. Meanwhile, a number of Salafi groups said they considered the people organizing the protest to be "infidels and atheists"."

Syria video points to ‘shoot to kill’ policy of security forces

26 May 2011


"Amnesty International has obtained video footage that points to a ”shoot to kill” policy being used by the Syrian security forces to quell reform protests.

The footage, smuggled out of Syria by contacts of Amnesty International, shows protesters shot and beaten by security forces, soldiers conducting a night raid on the ‘Omari mosque in Dera’a and a mass funeral in Izraa.

These extraordinary images were taken by Syrians who have risked their lives to document the callous attempts of the authorities to terrorize the pro-reform movement from going out onto the streets,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Faced with this and other compelling evidence of rampant abuses, President Bashar al-Assad must stop the Syrian security forces shooting unarmed protesters and ensure that perpetrators are held to account for their treatment of fellow Syrians.”

The video includes scenes of:

• The military raiding the ‘Omari mosque, which was being used as a field hospital.
• Soldiers armed men in plain clothes inside the mosque after their operation, filming bodies on the floor, celebrating and shouting “Take pictures, we killed them, they are traitors”.
• Badly injured, possibly dead, individuals being carried hurriedly away.
• People who appear to have sustained severe head injuries and in some cases to have died as a result.
• Two scenes of uniformed members of the security forces bludgeoning injured men lying on the road.
• Testimony from an ambulance worker who tells of how the army would not let anyone tend to the wounded.......

Amnesty International has the names of more then 720 people believed to have been killed by the Syrian security forces during the past two months of unrest sparked by protests throughout the region.

“These videos add to the damning collection of reasons why the UN Security Council must take decisive action and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court over its brutal crackdown against pro-reform protesters,” said Philip Luther."

Click Here for Arabic Version of Video

Young Turks and the Syrian spring

by Rime Allaf

Since the day Turkish leaders decided to turn their attention to the immediate neighborhood while Europe kept them waiting, Turkey's standing has gone from strength to strength in the Arab and Muslim worlds, even as it remains the only Israeli ally in the region and a member of NATO to boot. The more Turkey adopted regional causes, the more Washington and Tel Aviv worried.

It became clear that Turkey's new position would be problematic for the US even before the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Refusing to allow NATO allies the right to fly over its territory, Turkey made its opposition to the war very public, winning it accolades and gratitude from Arabs and Muslims alike, who suddenly were discovering a country and a people who had been practical aliens a few years before.

It was clear to everyone but the Syrian regime, apparently, that the Turkish government would never be able to simply look the other way and pretend it hadn't noticed while remaining silent as the repression mounted and the killings intensified. 

The high-level diplomatic hand that Turkey extended to Syria had no effect whatsoever on the level of repression. Consequently, the criticism emanating from various figures at the highest echelons of the Turkish government began to rise, and the diplomatic shuttling by senior intelligence and government officials to Damascus began to decrease in the face of stony silence from the Syrian regime and its complete disregard for the suggested urgent reform package that might have changed the course of the protests.

None of this should have been surprising or unexpected to the Syrian regime. Its reactions to various Turkish statements, however, were surprisingly amateurish and counterproductive. After Prime Minister Erdogan's warning against another Hama massacre, the Syrian ambassador to Ankara claimed that this was political maneuvering from the government and pre-electoral pandering. Was he insinuating that the Turkish government's closeness with the Syrian regime existed despite Turks' dislike of it? And if the Turkish people had their way, would their government not pursue close ties with Syria?

This was not the expected response from a neighbor with whom visa requirements have been dropped and borders removed, and who had been a political and economic supporter for much of the past decade. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had already pledged Turkey's support for the legitimate demands of the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.

The Syrian regime's brutal response to the protests has pushed its allies to a new brink. Turkey's position should have been better managed and treasured in light of the cordial relations between the two country's leaders, and the increasing ties between their business communities. As international pressure mounts on the Syrian regime, with sanctions imposed by both the US and the European Union, it remains to be seen whether and how damage control is possible after Turkey's general election on June 12, and after the cessation of all violence against peaceful protesters. For the time being, "young Turks" all over Syria are still the subject of Ankara's concerns.-