Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Syrian reflection in many Arab states

 March 15, 2014 12:11 AM
By Rami G. Khouri
Perplexity and despair seem to be the two sentiments that most often define people’s attitudes to the mayhem in Syria.
The fighting by an expanding range of Syrians, backed by a regional and global web of supporters, has reached barbaric proportions in some cases, with civilians largely paying the price.
Refugee and displaced persons flows continue to grow and now account for some 6 million people. While efforts to find a diplomatic breakthrough continue and most interventions by outside forces are focused on providing humanitarian aid to the millions of Syrians in need, a wider web of Arab, Middle Eastern and global actors pump in money and guns to keep the Syrian war going.
Nobody knows what to do and more and more voices are calling for external military intervention to protect civilians or even to topple Bashar Assad’s regime. The impact of the war on neighboring countries is reaching unsustainable levels, especially Jordan and Lebanon. To their credit, the neighbors have kept their borders open to fleeing Syrians, even though these host countries are finding it more and more difficult to absorb any more refugees due to the pressure on their own social infrastructure, such as housing, water, education, and medical care. The host countries have received financial assistance either directly or through the United Nations and other international organizations, but it is well below what is needed.
Perhaps one reason why Arab host countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq keep their borders open is that these countries have all experienced the pain of conflicts that sent many of their own citizens fleeing for shelter in neighboring lands. So we should keep in mind that what is happening in Syria, terrible as it is, should not be seen as an aberration in modern Arab history, but rather represents perhaps the culminating chaos of that history. Syria once referred to itself as “the throbbing heart of Arabism.” That might be an appropriate description in retrospect, because the country’s destruction and implosion today very much mirror those deviant tendencies that have defined the configuration and behavior of so many Arab countries.

Some time in the 1970s, the majority of Arab states left behind their nationalist development aspirations and instead settled into a pattern of conduct that has culminated in the ghastly situation in Syria. The single most debilitating reality of modern Arab history has been the tendency of Arab countries to be ruled by single families that rely on vast security networks to maintain their rule. Single family rule is bad enough; military-security-police states are equally bad. Put them together and you get the core weakness of the modern Arab state system that has seen country after country suffer the scourge of internal war, mass suffering and significant refugee flows.

This legacy of family-military rule has included a series of horror stories such as Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Assads in Syria, Ali Abdulla Saleh in Yemen, Omar Hassan Bashir in Sudan, Zine al-Abedin ben Ali in Tunisia, and the latest example, Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika in Algeria. The Arab monarchies have more legitimacy among their people, but their societies suffer from the same underlying weaknesses and destructive tendencies that proliferate among all Arab countries.

Syria encapsulates all of these ailments and distortions that have shattered the modern Arab world, including the following main ones: rampant corruption, mismanagement of socio-economic development policies, military-enforced autocracy, lack of democratic rights for citizens, non-credible and inefficient judicial systems, serious environmental degradation, a mediocre public education system, a weak social safety net, unchecked rural-urban migration, ungoverned zones of chaos within many countries, fraying borders that allow unchecked flows of people and guns, the rise of religious and political fanaticism, and the pervasive use of violence by all parties, including national governments, oppositions, and regional and foreign powers.
The tragedy is not just that we are witnessing every one of these serious weaknesses in Syria, but rather that these destructive forces that have brought Syria to its knees accurately capture similar conditions to some extent across every Arab country, without exception. We look at Syria today and gasp in horror and sadness, because Syria is a mirror in which we see ourselves. It reflects what many Arab countries have already experienced, and what some others will experience in the years ahead if conditions remain the same.
Sad and depressing as this may sound, it is important to keep in mind that this situation is a consequence of human decisions, not of acts of nature or God that are beyond our capacity to repair. Decisions by Arab men and women brought us to this low point, and better decisions by Arab men and women can get us out of this pit.

Saudi book fair bans 'blasphemous' Mahmoud Darwish works after protest

Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish in 2002: poems taught in schools throughout the Arab world. Photograph: Eamonn Mccabe for the Guardian
Removal of books by revered Palestinian poet from Riyadh publishing event is condemned by PEN as censorship
The removal of works by the esteemed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish from a major book fair in Saudi Arabia for reportedly containing "blasphemous passages" has drawn widespread condemnation, with English PEN calling the ban an attempt "to censor one of the Islamic world's most important modern poets".
The Riyadh international book fair, which closes tomorrow, has already come under fire for destroying the stall of the Arab Network for Research and Publishing, a press which focuses on books about Saudi Arabia and political Islam. "The site appeared like it was hit by a rocket," co-founder Nawaf Al Qudaimi – who tweeted a picture of the destruction – told theWall Street Journal.
According to the daily Makkah newspaper, the event's organiser the Ministry of Culture and Information said the books "violated the kingdom's laws".
Now a range of books by Darwish, the late Palestinian poet whose poems are taught in schools throughout the Arab world and who is seen as one of the most important poets in the Arabic language, have been pulled from the fair, one of his publishers confirmed to the Guardian. The removal was "amid allegations that they contain blasphemous passages",according to Gulf News, and followed complaints from the "religious police" about the contents of the books. The local paper said that "a verbal confrontation broke out between youths and a stall owner, leading large crowds to gather around" and that security officials then "took control of the situation, dispersed the crowds and referred all those who had gathered to the fair's security committee". Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran tweeted a link to a video "said to show conservatives protesting against Darwish's books in Riyadh book fair".
Publishers were unwilling to speak on the record about the books' ban from the fair, because "if you antagonise the authorities you will be banned from selling books in the country", one told the Guardian.
But the writers' group English PEN issued a stinging rebuttal to the move. "It is bizarre and disappointing that the government of Saudi Arabia has allowed a small group of people to censor one of the Islamic world's most important modern poets. The Riyadh international book fair is supposed to promote culture and commerce in Saudi Arabia, but this incident has had precisely the opposite effect," its said head of campaigns, Robert Sharp. He also pointed to the case of newspaper columnist Hamza Kashgari, who was imprisoned without trial in Saudi Arabia for two years after he posted a short series of tweets in which he imagined a dialogue with the Prophet Muhammad.
"Blasphemy laws stunt cultural development," said Sharp. "If the government truly wishes Islamic art and culture to flourish in the Kingdom, it must urgently repeal these outdated laws."
Darwish's award-winning translator Fady Joudah also opposed the move, adding: "Darwish's vision and treatment of religious texts, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, are of a celebratory character that dissolves all three into one, and links them to other myths. No one has done this before anywhere in the world, regarding these three religions at once."
Joudah said: "A genius of his work is that it suspends literary criticism in these matters and moves past it. In other words, it exposes also the theocracy in literary criticism. I am not sure Darwish's books were ever that readily available in Saudi Arabia in the first place."
Blogger Margot Lynx Qualey said: "Certainly withdrawing works by Mahmoud Darwish hits a level of outrage – or scoffing – beyond past moves by the PVPV [the kingdom's Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue] and the Ministry of Culture. Although the fair is purportedly a zone of free access to literature, there is an expectation of some level of censorship. There's also an expectation of some difficulties at the fair (men not being able to get books signed by women authors, men being told their hair is too long to enter, protests, books being contested and removed). But Mahmoud Darwish has a singular literary status: he was not just a poet of global renown, but a poet whose work – at least some of it – resonates with a tremendously wide range of people. Of course, as people note on Twitter, you can get most of Mahmoud Darwish's ouevre somewhere online."
Darwish, who died in 2008, is known for poems including the celebrated Identity Card, told in the voice of an Arab man giving his identity number:
"Write down at the top of the first page:
I do not hate people.
I steal from no one.
If I am hungry
I will eat the flesh of my usurper.
Beware beware of my hunger
And of my anger."

Friday, March 14, 2014

البرنامج - موسم 3 - الحلقه 6 كامله

Ja'fari law takes the Iraqi government's violation of women's rights to a new level

Marriage at age nine, legalising marital rape – this bill breaches UN conventions and is degrading for Iraqi men and women alike

An Iraqi flag flying against blue sky
Not flying the flag for equality: Ja’fari law is 'in breach of Iraqi laws, international agreements and UN conventions'. Photograph: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
If you think the Iraqi government has reached its limit in violating women's rights, think again. On 25 February, the Iraqi council of ministers approved a new personal status law called Ja'fari law, named after the sixth Shi'ite imam Ja'afar al-Sadiq, who founded his own school of jurisprudence (Shi'ite). It was submitted to parliament for a vote. The draft was put forward by the justice minister Hassan al-Shimari, a member of the Shi'ite Islamist Fadhila (Virtue) party to deal with issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.
The current law, No 188, was issued in 1959 and is considered to be the most protective of women's rights in the Arab countries. It stipulates the following: the legal age of marriage for both men and women is 18; polygamy is prohibited and taking a second wife is extremely restricted; a Muslim male is allowed to marry a non-Muslim female without conditions or restrictions; and a woman can disobey her husband if he behaves tyrannically and harms her by failing to provide adequate housing or care should she fall ill.
Now, let us read a few articles of the new bill. Article 16 sets the legal age of marriage for females as nine and males as 15, although it could be even lower with the consent of a guardian, father or a grandfather. Article 104 permits unconditional polygamy. Article 101 says men have the right to "enjoy" sex with their wives any time they want, and wives cannot leave their marital home without their husband's permission. Article 126 says husbands are not required to pay financial support (nafaqah) when their wife is either a minor or a senior and hence unable to sexually satisfy them. Article 63 prevents Muslim males from permanently marrying non-Muslim females, which means a Shi'ite Muslim male is allowed to marry non-Muslim females temporarily in what is alledmut'a marriage. Mut'a is when a man who wants to have sex with a woman "marries" her in the presence of a religious figure, who acts as amut'a broker. The man will specify how long the marriage will last, ranging from a few hours to many years. A small mehr (dowry) will then be paid to the woman. Such marriages have no protection or guarantees for women and/or their offspring in Iraq. Only a man has the right to renew it when it expires – for another mehr – or to terminate it early. Temporary marriage and unregistered marriages in civil courts were prohibited before 2003 but are on the increase among widows and poor women since then.
The highlighted articles, not to mention others, are in breach of Iraqi laws, international agreements and UN conventions which Iraq ratified on human rights, in particular those relating to women and children. The draft law ignores article 2 of the UN's Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalising marital rape. The Cedaw committee, the body of international experts which reviews state compliance with the convention, urged in its 28 February review of Iraq that the government "immediately withdraw the draft law".
What is the justification for drafting this law? The UN's representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the legislation. He wrote on Twitter that the bill "risks constitutionally protected rights for women and international commitment".
"It is a divine Sharia, it is a must," said the Virtue MP Susan al Saad on Alhurra TV, justifying her enthusiasm to ratify the bill. But is it? The Association of Muslim scholars in Iraq does not agree. To convey its dismay at this draft law it has issued a statement arguing that the existing family law is "the outcome of consultation with specialists in Sharia law and civil law representing all Iraqi people … when the need to change or adjust arises, that will [be] carried on as it has been done in the past". Women's groups and activists have taken to the streets demanding the withdrawal of the draft law, and there is public outrage at the hypocrisy of the sectarian political parties using Islam as a blanket to cover up their corruption and endemic violations of women's rights.
The corrupt ruling alliance is desperate to pass this law in the next few weeks to boost its chances in next month's general elections. But the outcry at the bill has been so widespread inside Iraq and internationally, in addition to the general public belief that it is an election ploy rather than a religious reform, that it might lessen the possibility of it passing, for the time being at least.
However, it is absolutely clear that this law, if enacted – and no matter how it is marketed – would undoubtedly damage what Iraqi women have been struggling to get rid of for more than a century. It is a degrading step for both Iraqi men and women alike.

Why I Didn’t Make it to Gaza for International Women’s Day

When I boarded the plane to Cairo, Egypt, to make sure everything was in place for the women’s delegation headed to Gaza, I had no reason to think I’d end up in a jail cell at the Cairo airport and then violently deported.
Medea upon her return home (Photo courtesy of Medea Benjamin)
The trip was in response to a call from women in Gaza to CODEPINK and other groups asking us to bring 100 women from around the world to Gaza for March 8, International Women’s Day. They wanted us to see, first-hand, how the seven-year Israeli blockade had made their situation intolerable. They talked about being unable to protect themselves and their families from frequent Israeli attacks and how the closing of the borders with both Israel and Egypt has made it impossible for them to travel abroad or even to other parts of Palestine. They wanted us to witness how the shortages of water, electricity, and fuel, coupled with severe restrictions on imports and exports, condemn most of the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza to a life of misery.
So we helped put together a 100-women delegation with representatives from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States. The delegates, who ranged in age from 18 to 84, included Nobel Peace Prize winners, doctors, writers and students. We were also bringing hundreds of solar lamps and boxes of medical supplies for the women.
The only ways to enter Gaza is by land--either via the border with Israel or Egypt. Israel restricts entry to non-governmental and official delegations, so our only option was to go through Egypt. CODEPINK had already organized eight delegations to Gaza via Egypt since 2008, so we thought we knew the ropes. We had organized these delegations during Mubarak’s reign and after the revolution, but not since the July 2013 coup that toppled the government of Mohamed Morsi.The cell Medea was held in in cairo (Photo: Medea Benjamin)
As in the past, we furnished the Foreign Ministry and the local Embassies with all the information they requested to get the delegates the necessary permits to cross the Sinai (which has become a dangerous place) and cross into Gaza.They said as long the situation was not too dangerous in the Sinai, they would help us get safely to the border. Otherwise, we would celebrate International Women’s Day together in Cairo.
I went early, on March 3, as part of the logistics team. When I arrived at the airport in Cairo, I was taken aside and put in a separate room. First I was told “no problem, no problem, just checking the papers, just 10 minutes.” After 5 hours I realized that there was, indeed, a problem, as I was taken to a jail cell at the airport. Never once was I told what the problem was. Thank goodness I had hidden my phone and was able to get the word out about my plight over Twitter. Friends and family started immediately contacting the US Embassy for help.
At 8am, 5 plain-clothed men with handcuffs came into the cell, looking very ominous. One said, “Come with us, we’re putting you on a plane and deporting you.” I was scared to go with them and I had just received a message that someone from the US Embassy was just ten minutes away. I politely asked if I could wait for an embassy official or if I could call the Foreign Ministry to straighten out what must be a miscommunication.
Instead, the men grabbed me, threw me on the ground, put their knees into my back, yanked my arms back so violently that I heard the pop of my arm coming out of my shoulder, and put two sets of handcuffs on me. I was screaming from the pain so they took my scarf, stuffed it in my mouth, and dragged me through the halls of the airport to a waiting Turkish Airline plane.
I was in such agony from a dislocated shoulder—you could see the bone just sticking up in the air—that the airline personnel refused to let me on and insisted that the Egyptians call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, the doctor immediately gave me a shot to ease the pain and insisted that I had to go to the hospital. By this time there were about 20 men on the tarmac, arguing about what to do with me while the Turkish plane with 175 people on board was prevented from taking off. After about an hour of fighting, the Egyptian security prevailed: I was not allowed go to the hospital but was forced to board the plane, with the two men who most abused me sitting on either side of me.
As soon as we were in the air, the stewardess asked if there was a doctor on the plane. Finally, a stroke of luck! Not only was there a doctor, but he was an orthopedic surgeon. He created a makeshift operating bed in the aisle of the plane and got the stewardesses to assist. “Usually I’d put you out before doing this, so I warn you this will be painful,” he said as he manipulated my arm back into its socket. Once we got to Turkey, I went to a hospital for further treatment before flying back home. My doctors here say it will take months of physical therapy before I can recover full use of my arm.
Along with the physical trauma, I am left with many unanswered questions:
* Why didn’t the US Embassy in Egypt ever help me during this 17-hour ordeal, especially when I made it clear I was in danger? When questioned by a journalist at a State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki falsely claimed that the Embassy had provided me with “appropriate consular assistance.” I have since lodged a complaint about the lack of assistance, and you can send a message to the State Department, too.
*If the Egyptian officials were so brutal to me-- a petite, 61-year-old American woman who has dedicated her life to peace--what are they doing to their own citizens and others languishing in their prisons? And why is Secretary Kerry considering a resumption of US military aid to this brutal regime? According to a recent Amnesty International report, the current human rights situation is characterized by repeated excessive use of force by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters; increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression, as well as academic freedoms; the arbitrary imprisonment of protest leaders, university students, journalists and others; and a failure to protect vulnerable groups, including minorities and women. Take a minute to send a message to the Egyptian embassy in the US and tell them to end the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful citizens.
*Did Israel put the pressure on Egypt to do a last-minute about-face to keep us out of Gaza? In the end, only 17 of our members made it into Cairo (but not to Gaza) and the rest were deported from the airport. The question of Israeli influence is one we’ll probably never have answered, but during the very time we were supposed to be there, rocket fire was exchanged between militants from Gaza and the Israeli army. This shows the vulnerability of the women of Gaza, caught between the Israeli siege, Egyptian blockade, and internal extremists. That’s why it was so important for us to go there, to show our solidarity with the civilian population. But that will have to wait until Egypt no longer deems peace activists to be a threat to their national security.
As long as the world ignores the ongoing siege of Gaza, almost 2 million people will continue to languish in the world’s largest open-air prison. If Secretary of State Kerry wants the US to be a meaningful peace broker and to reach an agreement that includes dignity and human rights for the Palestinians, he can no longer continue to support military aid to the perpetrators of the blockade: Israel and Egypt.

Is Dough Boy Close to Croaking? Syrian FM Walid Moallem to undergo bypass surgery

File photo of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
File photo of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
BEIRUT: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is scheduled to undergo bypass surgery after being admitted to a Beirut hospital, medical sources said Friday.
The sources told The Daily Star that Moallem is in stable condition at the American University of Beirut-Medical Center's intensive care unit [Who is guarding him? U.S. Marines??] where he was admitted late Thursday.
The source said Moallem, 73, was taken to hospital under tight security measures.
Moallem has been Syria's top diplomat since 2006 and led the Syrian government delegation at recent peace talks.
Two rounds of peace negotiations in January and February failed to result in an agreement on a transitional government or halt the war that has killed an estimated 146,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

مؤتمر ضد الإرهاب برعاية ‘فيلق بدر’!


مؤتمر ضد الإرهاب برعاية ‘فيلق بدر’!

رأي القدس

تتنافس الحكومات العربية حالياً في أمرين: الأول، إصدار قوانين إرهابية باسم ‘مكافحة الإرهاب’، والثاني، تأمين كل أسس الإستمرار لمنع أي حراك سلميّ والدفع بأي طرف سياسي معارض نحو اتخاذ سبل كفاح عنفية بحيث تستمر الدورة الجهنمية للاستبداد والتسلّط.
تقوم حكومة رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي بعقد مؤتمر ضد الإرهاب، فيما يستخدم جيشه أساليب النظام السوري الإرهابية في إنهاء الحراك السلمي والمدني باستهداف المدن وحصارها وإجبار أهاليها على النزوح لدفن شعارات العدالة والمساواة ووقف التمييز الطائفي الممارس ضدهم، وكلّ ذلك تحت زعم ‘محاربة الإرهاب’ و’القاعدة’ التي تغافلت سلطات المالكي، في عمليّة مشبوهة، عن هروب مئات من عناصرها من سجونه، كما فعل شقيقه النظام السوريّ سابقاً، لتكون شمّاعته لتجييش العراقيين على أسس طائفية ولتكون مرآته العنفيّة لتبرير ذبح شعبه.
يتناسى العالم، في ‘حماوة الدم’ المسفوك على الجغرافيا العربية، أن مصطلح الإرهاب تم ابتداعه في أوروبا اثناء الثورة الفرنسية وخلال حكم ‘اليعاقبة’، وهو ما يشير إلى أن الإرهاب، بمعناه الشموليّ الفظيع، هو إرهاب الدولة على طريقة ستالين وهتلر وماو تسي تونغ… على المستوى العالمي، وحافظ الأسد ومعمر القذافي ونوري المالكي، على المستوى العربي، إنه إرهاب الحكّام لمحكوميهم والذي لا يمكن لأي إرهاب آخر أن يتفوّق عليه.
المالكي الذي يكافح ‘الإرهاب’ هو نفسه الذي يشرف، من مناصبه التنفيذية والدفاعية والأمنية، على 12 ميليشيا طائفية مسلحة تعيث الفساد في العراقوسوريا (وتتحرّش إحداها بالسعودية التي يتهمها بالإرهاب)، ويتفاخر زعماء هذه الميليشيات على قنوات التلفزيون متحدثين عن بطولات قواتهم في المذبحة الدائرة على أراضي سوريا، وهو نفسه الذي يسمح بمرور الأسلحة الإيرانية إلى هناك، برّاً وجوّا، في خرق واضح لقرارات الأمم المتحدة، ثم لا يخجل عن الحديث عن ضرورة الحلّ السلميّ في سوريا وعن الوحدة بمواجهة الإرهاب.
أما تحفة المالكي في مكافحته للإرهاب العالمي فهي اختياره وزير نقل حكومته مهدي العامري، زعيم أحد أشرس هذه الميليشيات (فيلق بدر)، والتي هي نظير تنظيم ‘داعش’ الشهير في أفعالها، ووالد صاحب فضيحة إعادة الطائرة اللبنانية بركابها من بغداد الى بيروت عقوبة وجزاء لهم لعدم انتظاره 20 دقيقة.
يشتغل نظام الاستبداد في طبعته العربية بدأب وقسوة متناهية النظير على خلق تنظيمات معارضة عنفيّة لتبرّر عنفه وانتهاكاته الخطيرة لحقوق الإنسان، ويزدهر على التمييز الطائفيّ لمنع أي وحدة بين مكوّنات شعبه، لينشغل مواطنوه بقتال بعضهم بعضاً على أسس طائفيّة، بدل المطالبة بإنهاء الاستبداد والتسلط والفساد، فيما المستبدّ جالس على عرشه مفاخراً بمكافحته ‘الإرهاب’!
في تدشينه لكفاحه ضد الإرهاب هاجم نوري المالكي السعودية وقطر (مكرّراً في ذلك خطاب الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، شريكه في الكفاح ضد الإرهاب)، وذلك بعد أيّام من إعلان الرياض قرارات مثيرة للجدل غرضها هي أيضا (ويا لها من مفاجأة!) ‘مكافحة الإرهاب’، رافضاً الهديّة السياسية التي قدّمتها المملكة له على طبق من ذهب باستهدافها، في الدرجة الأولى، جماعة ‘الإخوان المسلمين’ واعتبارها منظمة إرهابية، كما لو كان يقول لها: هذه سلعتنا الرائجة فاتركوها، وهو ما ترك الرياض في وضع لا تحسد عليه سياسياً.
ولعلّ المقصود من هجوم المالكي على دول الخليج العربي هو تأطيره ‘الإرهاب’ المزعوم في اتجاه التنظيمات السنّية المسلّحة وحدها بدلاً من توزيع ‘المجد’ الإرهابي بالقسطاط على تنظيمات الطائفتين الكريمتين فتتسابق ‘داعش’ مع ‘فيلق بدر’ و’النصرة’ مع ‘عصائب أهل الحق’ و’الشباب’ مع ‘كتائب أبو الفضل العباس′… فيحاسب فاعل الجريمة أيّا كانت طائفته، بدل تلبيسها لطائفة واحدة كأنها مجرمة بالجينات، وهو الأمر الذي يفضح معادلة المالكي المبتذلة ويكشف هزال مؤتمره لمكافحة الإرهاب برعاية ‘فيلق بدر’.
العدالة الحقيقية لن تتمّ إلا بكشف الخطّ الطائفيّ الذي تتأسس عليه الدول العربية وتصطفي فيه أعداءها كما تحبّ وتشتهي، وفضح أن شبل الإرهاب ذاك هو من أسد دول الإرهاب والاستبداد والتسلّط، وأنهما وجهان لعملة واحدة.

Ali Farzat's Cartoon: Shedding Crocodile Tears Over Syria

دموع التماسيح على سوريا!

A War on Campus? Northeastern University Suspends Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter

Democracy Now!

"The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around the Palestinian cause. Northeastern has suspended the group until 2015, barring it from meeting on campus and stripping it of any university funding. The move comes just weeks after student activists distributed mock eviction notices across the campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. The notices were intended to resemble those used by Israel to notify Palestinians of pending demolitions or seizures of their homes. We speak to Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine." His new book includes a chapter tiled "The War on Campus."...."

Living in a Box, Eating Weeds: Syria's Children on the Edge

NBC News
DAMASCUS, Syria — They live in a wooden box at the side of a road: six children, their mother and father.
The children’s shoes are broken, their hands dirty, their faces smiling but reflecting the burden of a life lived on the edge, almost literally. They don’t have money. They don’t go to school, and they haven’t for two years. They eat food handouts to survive.
It’s not the way life used to be for the children of the Al Kilzi family. They had a house, not fancy, but theirs. Their father worked. And their older sister, 14-year-old Hayat, lived with them.
Then Syria’s war smashed their lives apart in the dangerous Yarmouk district of the capital, Damascus. They were driven from their home. Hayat was kidnapped by armed men, and their father had a stroke after he couldn’t raise the ransom to get her back. He now lies virtually paralyzed on the matted floor of the wooden box. Doctors have told his wife, Feyrouz, that he will never recover.
Three of his children stroke his hair and his arms as Feyrouz laments her lost life.

Image: Muhammed and Mo'tazPAUL NASSAR / NBC NEWS
Muhammed, 8, and Mo'taz, 6, are brothers. They fled the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk a year ago with their parents and four of their siblings.

“Before we had freedom,” she tells me. "Now it is like living in an open prison." She weeps, recalling her lost daughter, showing me her passport-sized photograph. “I think of her all the time — if she’s hungry or thirsty or cold. My heart is broken.” Watching her cry amid the wreckage of her life, in a wooden box, her husband at her feet, was pitiful.
Her eldest son, Muhammed, is a serious-looking boy, and no wonder.
"I had a real home,” he tells me. “Now we live in this hut covered in plastic. It leaks when it rains." He glances at his father. "I love him so much," he says quietly. Every week he collects the medicine his father needs from the United Nations. His younger brother, keen to be heard, says, "God knows when this will end."
They are the children of a war that never ends. Their three years enduring it is a lifetime for any child.
Yarmouk has seen heavy fighting for two years and is now under the control of the Nusra Front, a branch of Al Qaeda.
Once I could get to its entrance. Now no one can, especially not the U.N. workers who distributed food for a few days last month.
This is now the reality of life for seven of Syria’s children, the children of Yarmouk; lives lived on the street or in the hands of kidnappers, childhoods brutalized, all innocence lost. And yet they rank among the lucky ones.
At least 10,000 Syrian children have been killed in the war. Tens of thousands more have been injured, many severely, with limbs lost, spinal injuries, whole body burns and all the many horrific legacies of war. It is little wonder that the U.N. says this is perhaps the most dangerous place on earth to be a child, with the highest casualty rates for children ever recorded in the region.
Millions of children, like those of the Al Kilzi family, need outside help to survive. They are the children of a war that never ends. Their three years enduring it is a lifetime for any child.
"We were in hell," Mohammed says firmly. "Now it's better than hell, but that's all."
We are talking in a simple flat that is a sanctuary for a family that has survived the arsenal modern man has made to kill with.
Mohammed-Kheir Alkhousi’s three boys used to sleep perfectly. Now every night they wake up and come into their parents’ bedroom for comfort. They have nightmares fueled by the horrors they have seen and heard.
"They are shaking, as they were then, asking me, 'Dad, are we going to die?'" says Mohammed. They lived in a suburb of Damascus that was hit in a chemical weapons attack seven months ago, an area that was rebel-held and the center of a brutal war for almost two years.
"They've seen terrible things: bombings, shooting, people screaming," says Mohammed. "Their lives were turned upside down.”
The children and their parents fled for their lives, and they’ve lived ever since in a borrowed flat. No sooner had they arrived at their new home and school than the two older boys survived a car bomb outside their playground. Eleven-year-old Abdul Majid says he will never forget it. It was so loud he first thought a plane had crashed in the street outside. He can still hear it in his dreams. His 9-year-old brother, Mohammed, says he will try to forget it.
A week ago, mortars flew by them, the scream of the rockets terrifying them before landing nearby. Their father breaks down explaining all they left behind, all they are still suffering and his fears for their future.
"I worked 20 years to buy a house for them. They left their toys and books, everything. I lost my job, but I have them. Thank God they are still alive," he says. I ask the three boys if they have a wish. They all say, without hesitating, to be back home.

Children Caught in Syria’s Brutal War Struggle to Find Comfort

In a multicolored room in an aid center, some of Syria’s war-scarred children have a few hours when they can be children again, lost in play, in drawing, in music. They are quiet, perhaps quieter than children should be, but they are contented.
One group is very quiet. They are the seven children of one family. And they are orphans. Their mother disappeared, and their father, too, is missing, presumed dead. They got out of the besieged suburb of Yarmouk a month ago.
Mohamed is 12 but looks much younger. It is soon clear why. "We lived on grass. We ate grass. And weeds," he tells me, his voice childlike yet strong. "We went out in the morning to collect firewood to boil the weeds. It tasted bitter. In the end our bellies were big." That's a sign of severe hunger.
His 7-year-old twin sisters, Esma and Doua, hardly speak above a whisper. They say they didn't have juice for a year, or milk, or candy. Nothing. Rajib is the oldest boy. He didn't eat meat for a year and dreamed of chicken and rice and ice cream.
Rajib shows me a shrapnel wound in his arm. "When we tried to get out of Yarmouk, snipers fired at us, and I was hit." When they eventually got out during a rare cease-fire, led away by their aunt who now cares for them, they ate food they hadn't tasted for more than a year. And then they vomited. It was too much for their swollen, malnourished stomachs. When they drank water with sugar, they got diarrhea.
In Syria, the angels have been murdered.
Most of all they just want to play. Rajib says, "I miss my father," but the others keep quiet. I felt they were children who had terrible experiences locked up inside them. They had clearly seen things no child should see, but they couldn't or wouldn't talk about them.
I'm not qualified to call them traumatized. But they have lived amid the most brutal kind of warfare, a siege aimed at shelling and starving a civilian population to the point of surrender. They have no parents, but they are alive. They have each other. And sometimes in Syria that is enough.
Around them, and encouraging them to do whatever they want, are volunteers not much older than the children. In any country, especially those torn apart by war, the volunteers of the Red Cross or Red Crescent are angels of mercy. In Syria, the angels have been murdered.
Thirty-four Red Crescent workers have been killed trying to help Syria’s children, its wounded, its besieged, the victims of its savage war. But hundreds of young people continue to sign up to help their people and their country. They do their best to help children on both sides, those in rebel areas and in government-held districts. Often they die at the front line.
This week Amnesty International estimated that 128 people have died of starvation in Yarmouk since Syria's army tightened the siege of the district last July. Access to food and medicine was cut. Amnesty says that more than 200 people have died of hunger-related illnesses.
The organization accuses the Syrian government of crimes against humanity. There is no question the army is blockading the area to force those inside to surrender or starve. So far there has been no surrender, only starvation.
It's not just the children of El Buzum school who are exiles, who fled their homes in terror. It's most of the teachers, too. So they understand each other and draw strength from each other.
Before the war, the school had 250 pupils. Now it's more than four times that. The 1,050 children are so crowded in their playground that when they run around, there's regularly a pile-up, as little bodies fall one on top of another. It's dangerous. But not as dangerous as the lives they've left behind.

Kids Sing Patriotic Songs at Syrian School

I ask in a classroom how many of them ran away from their homes and neighborhoods. Nearly all raise their hands. They've all seen war at close quarters.
Out in the playground I talk to four children who have lost parents in the fighting. The oldest is Tarek Matamir, a shy but determined boy of 12, who begins to tell me about his father, who was killed.
Suddenly the girl beside him, who is 10, bursts into tears. His story has unlocked Rodaina's loss, and she weeps uncontrollably for her dead father. Nine-year-old Dana, beside her, also starts to cry. Big tears roll down their cheeks. They share a paper handkerchief, as they share a tragedy, but the tears won't stop.
We don't talk. And little Lilas, the last girl, keeps quiet and doesn't flinch. She, too, has lost her father. Finally she says she knows he's dead but no one told her how he died. I hug the two girls, whose bodies are heaving in spasms of grief. There is nothing more to ask and nothing more to say.
The four children walk away to their classrooms and their friends, trying to put the pieces of their lives back together.
Ali Shabaan shouldn’t be in the world right now. He was born amid war, three months premature. He clings to life with tiny arms and hands reaching up from his frail, pink body. His lungs are not completely developed, and the doctors can’t guarantee he will survive.
This hospital in Damascus is 50 percent over capacity. A new sick child arrives every three minutes.
Which is no surprise; he is not in an incubator but lying on a bed in a regular neonatal ward. He twists and grimaces alongside 10 other tiny babies in a hospital that is scarcely able to cope.

Image: Ali Shaaban is one day old.PAUL NASSAR / NBC NEWS
Ali Shaaban is one day old and weighs 1.75 pounds. He was born prematurely, 28 weeks into his mother's pregnancy. He was brought to the Children's Hospital in Damascus. Doctors are waiting for a free incubator to place Ali in. His lungs are not fully developed and he needs help breathing.

Two out of three of Syria’s hospitals have been either destroyed or damaged in the war. Those that are left are overwhelmed with patients. This one in Damascus is 50 percent over capacity. A new sick child arrives every three minutes.
As the countryside empties of people, the pressure on Damascus and its clinics is intense. There aren’t enough doctors here, or throughout Syria, to cope with the medical and health crisis the war has caused. As I stand inside the front entrance, I'm almost knocked over in the crush of people trying to get attention for their children.
And these are children desperate for help. Polio had been eradicated in Syria but has now returned. The Syrian American Medical Society estimates that since the start of the war 200,000 Syrians have died from illness because of a lack of drugs or treatment, tens of thousands of them children.
Add this to the estimated death toll from the war — more than 140,000 — and you have a disaster unseen in the Middle East in modern times.
The children stand in two straight lines for the over-5s. They look perfectly normal, but those who know them say they're far from it. "They all have psychological problems," says an official from Syria's Health Ministry. "Bed-wetting, aggression, lack of concentration, inability to sleep at night."
They have all been forced to leave their homes in Daraya, one of the deadliest areas of Damascus. It has been bombed and besieged by Syria's army for a year and a half, held by rebels who often took the little food there was for themselves.
The children are malnourished, their growth stunted by the lack of nutrients and vitamins. Which is why they are lining up, waiting for a food handout from the U.N. What they get is a small yogurt pot filled with a paste like peanut butter. It's a special mix of supplements and minerals to treat moderate to acute malnutrition.
The pot is enough for a week. But not enough to recover the growth they've lost in their thin limbs and small bodies.
They live now in abandoned buildings and factories in a neighboring suburb. But they haven't escaped the war next door. They can still see and hear the shelling of their old home, Daraya. Not long ago more than 20 barrel bombs filled with explosives and shrapnel landed on their old neighborhood.
It's no wonder the children still can't sleep at night.