Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria

April 13, 2014 § 7 Comments

The responses of most leftists to the Syrian uprising and subsequent war (it’s often forgotten that it started as an uprising — indeed a nonviolent and nonsectarian one) have been deeply disappointing. Disappointing to many Syrian activists, and to many of us on the Left who support the Syrian struggle for dignity and justice, which is now a struggle against both Assad’s killing machine and the jihadi counter-revolutionary forces.

The Left’s responses fall into three main categories:

  1. explicit support for the Assad regime
  2. monochrome opposition to Western intervention, end of discussion (with either implicit or explicit neutrality on the conflict itself)
  3. general silence caused by deep confusion

The first camp, while relatively small, represents a truly hideous, morally obscene and, I would argue, deeply reactionary position – siding with a mass murderer and war criminal who presides over a quasi-fascist police state.

The second camp, which encompasses a majority of peace activists and soi-disant anti-imperialists in the West, represents an (ironically) Eurocentric/US-centric stance (it’s all about the West, not the Syrian people) – a total abandonment of internationalism.

The third camp is at least understandable, given the complexity of the Syrian conflict. The book I co-edited on the subject is titled The Syria Dilemma for a reason. Yet this stance remains disconcerting: silence in the face of what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world” is a cop-out. Complexity is not a gag order.

There is a fourth camp, however: a small but growing group of progressives who embrace the goals of the Syrian revolution. There are several shades within this camp – it includes Marxists, pacifists, feminists, Third Worldists and leftists of various sorts. Some support the armed struggle in Syria, others do not, standing instead with the nonviolence activists in Syria. But what unites this camp is its solidarity with the Syrian struggle for dignity, justice and self-determination.

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Just because it isn’t happening here…

March 5, 2014 § 1 Comment

A young girl’s life gets turned upside-down in this tragic second a day video. Could this ever happen in the UK? This is what war does to children. Find out more at http://bit.ly/3yearson

The Battle Against ISIS

January 6, 2014 § 9 Comments

This is a little difficult to process for those infantile minds that think the Syrian revolution is “all al-Qa’ida”. The Free Army and the Islamic Front are engaging in battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria all across the north, while protestors across the country demonstrate against the al-Qa’ida franchise. Valerie Szybala writes a good summary:

The situation is changing rapidly in northern Syria as rebel fighters have launched widespread attacks against the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in dozens of locations in Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The situation began on the night of Thursday January 2nd, when ISIS tried to storm the town of Atareb in Aleppo. Friday saw widespread protests across Syria against ISIS, even in locations in the south such as Damascus and Deraa, which is unusual. Concurrently, violent clashes broke out across northeastern Syria as rebel forces attacked ISIS fighters.
In addition to the ISIS incursion into Atareb, citizens and rebel fighters have been increasingly upset over ISIS persecution in northern Syria. One of the most recent incidents includes the abduction, torture, and killing of the Ahrar al-Sham member Dr. Hussein al-Suleiman (aka Abu Rayyan), whose mutilated body was found on Wednesday, January 1. Many of the protests on Friday included slogans such as “We are all the shaheed Abu Rayyan,” which alluded to the anger over his death. In at least one village, ISIS opened fire on unarmed protestors. ISIS also recently attacked media activists in the village of Kafrnabel, the “voice of the uprising,” which has become a symbol of the Syrian revolution for its stream of witty slogans and caricatures. There have also been violent confrontations between Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS in Maskanah, Aleppo in recent weeks.
Additionally, many Syrians hold the suspicion that ISIS is actually working with the regime, claiming that the Syrian military does not attack ISIS-held positions. These rumors have been flying wildly around social media sites in recent days as anti-ISIS sentiment bubbled to the surface, along with political cartoons and hashtags.
Actions taken against ISIS include the arrest of its fighters and commanders, negotiations for ISIS to leave certain areas, and violent confrontations. In many areas fierce battles between ISIS and rebel groups are still ongoing, and ISIS has begun using car bombs against rebel fighters. Chaos has reportedly engulfed Jarablus, which is the town which ISIS possibly had the strongest control over, with everyone including the Kurds rebelling against ISIS fighters who have started acting erratically according to sources in the area.
The three major rebel coalitions involved in the attacks on ISIS, the: Islamic Front, Jaysh al-Mujahideen, and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, have all issued statements detailing their grievances with ISIS and making demands for ISIS to withdraw. These groups include Islamic factions, FSA-affiliated groups, and there are even indications that Jabhat al-Nusra is involved.
In response ISIS has reportedly pulled out of several towns that it controlled – including Atmeh and ad-Dana – without a fight, and is bringing in reinforcements from western provinces. This indicates that a large counteroffensive is imminent and the rebels of northern Syria may not have long to revel in their victories before ISIS hits back hard.
This fighting in Syria comes at the same time when ISIS has gone on the offensive across the region. In Iraq they have launched offensives to take urban centers. ISIS has also released a statement claiming responsbility for a deadly suicide bombing targeting Hezbollah in southern Beirut on January 2nd.
Although there have been clashes and disputes between ISIS and other rebel groups before in Syria, the scale of what is happening right now is unprecedented. This situation is still incredibly fluid and volatile. Further updates will be posted as the details become clearer.

Tahrir Square

January 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

Terribly out of date (but it’s a snapshot of a moment so it doesn’t really matter), my 2011 essay on Egypt for Critical Muslim is now online. From today’s perspective March and April 2011 look like a golden age. Who would have predicted the wave of fascism currently overwashing the Sisi junta’s state?

Cairo felt different. Tahreer Square, of course, carried a new set of meanings. The traffic, the pollution, the Stalinist gloom of the Mugamma building – these had shrunk, and revolutionary grafitti, redignified national flags, and the endlessly various Egyptian people now dominated the eye. It didn’t feel the same either to walk over the Qasr el-Nil bridge, not after the glorious battle of January 28th. (I kept trying to work out where the police van was burnt.) And the streets were in fact cleaner, even that, in central Cairo at least. In ritual overcompensation for the years of filth, people had been observed during the revolution’s 18 days scrubbing the pavements with toothbrushes. A man in a café called Ali Jabr explained it to me: “The Egyptians used to hate their country just as they used to hate themselves. Anywhere you went in the world, the people thought the Egyptians were rubbish. And the Egyptians agreed. After the revolution we know we aren’t rubbish, so we pick our rubbish up from the streets.”

You know that something rare and powerful is occurring, something all-encompassing, not limited to a political or intellectual elite, when even a mobile nuts-and-seeds stall has ‘Social Justice’ stenciled on its side.

I visited in late March and early April. My plane to Cairo was a quarter full at best. The airport was almost empty.

The immigration guard peered long at me and asked if I was originally Iranian, prompting me to wonder if anything had changed at all. There were no pictures of Mubarak on the walls. That was a change.

Then the driver who took me into town. He addressed the revolution immediately. “Tell me congratulations!” he grinned. I did so. “We’ve finished with him!” he exulted. “We’re free!” Pictures of some of freedom’s martyrs swung from the rear-view mirror.

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Yarmouk Camp “with the Syrian People against the Regime.”

January 3, 2014 § 2 Comments

People in Yarmouk camp, Damascus, express their hatred for Assad, Khamenei, Nasrallah, and Mahmoud Abbas who is ignoring their plight.

“Where are the women they took at the checkpoints? Where are the young men?… Khamenei, come and slaughter us. We’re ready for death. We die of hunger, we die under shelling. At the start when a mortar fell everyone ran to hide like mice. Now the shells fall and the people walk in the street. Nobody bothers asking about it…. Not just in the camp – this is the situation in all the suburbs. We Palestinians are with the Syrian people, not with this regime.”

Defend the Freedom

January 1, 2014 § 1 Comment

Wound

December 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

The story of a civil activist, secretly working as a nurse in a field hospital. Eight and a half intense minutes of strength and weakness, hope and despair, and conflicted emotions that Syrian activists experience, as they fight against dictatorship.

The activist, who used to work in an Intensive Care Unit in one of the most important hospitals in the Syrian capital Damascus, left her job and devoted her time to save those injured in demonstrations against the regime. As soon as her phone rings, she quickly carries a bag stuffed with medical supplies and medicines, and rushes towards another crime scene, passing through regime barriers with unstoppable courage, where she gets detained.

Wound is the tale of a woman who is aware of the brutality of the regime, but simultaneously knows quite well that Syrians can not stop fighting until they get hold of their freedom, because to her “this regime has consumed Syrians’ every breath”. In the short film you can see her crying while stitching wounds amid the shelling and destruction. Still, she refuses to give up saying “for the sake of a friend of mine who was killed yesterday, I must go on. For the sake of a friend who got detained I can’t lose hope.”

Wound was produced by Bidayat corporation and directed by Maher Qadlo, who dedicated his work to his friend: the field nurse who risked her own life to save others, in the hope of turning the wounds of many, into a long-awaited freedom.

Inside Assad’s Torture Chambers

December 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

A short documentary on the Assad regime’s mass torture campaign.

Christmas in Saraqeb

December 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

Christmas in Saraqeb, Idlib provence, Syria. Happy Christmas everyone, and especially to Syrian Christians. May we all celebrate next year in freedom and peace.

Birthday in Hebron

November 9, 2013 § 1 Comment

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi
12.12.12

Mohammad Ziad Awwad Salayme

Mohammad Ziad Awwad Salayme

Stairs vanish before bloodstains come

Before the bullet
or the boot on the dead boy’s shin
he has long been taken
by ghosts passing in lockstep « Read the rest of this entry »

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