The Umawi mosque in Aleppo has burnt. Its thousand-year-old minaret has fallen. The minaret of Dera‘a’s Omari mosque, built in the seventh Century by Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab, has been destroyed. And today the Khalid ibn al-Waleed mosque in Homs, built around the mausoleum of the famous Muslim general and companion of the Prophet, was shelled and burnt. These are ancient mosques of enormous significance to Muslims, and they are world heritage. They were. They survived the Mongols, but not Assad.
It’s clear the Western media does not understand the religious, cultural and historical importance of these sites. Assad’s cultural vandalism and civilisational provocations are worse than the Taliban’s assault on the Bamiyan Buddha. Am I wrong to think that an attack by rogue elements of the Syrian resistance on a major Shia shrine would raise a far greater noise?
Many Muslims too are strangely quiet. If the Israelis were to hit a mosque of such vast symbolic resonance, you can bet there’d be furious demonstrations from Casablanca to Jakarta, from London to Lahore.
What’s happening is no secret. The shabeeha write it on the walls: “Al-Assad or We’ll Burn the Country.” The world worries about Islamists, about hypothetical future persecutions, about the chess game between America and Russia, Israel and Iran. Meanwhile the country burns. The people and their history burn. And the flammable poison of sectarian hatred seeps out from Syria, to east and west.
People are asking me how they can help the victims of the genocidal repression in Syria. Those who engage in political debate can struggle against the orientalist, Islamophobic, or statist-ideological misinterpretations of the media which have obscured the reality of the revolution and convinced large swathes of public opinion that the Syrians should be left to face Assad’s war machine unarmed. Those who don’t do politics, or who are honestly confused about the rights and wrongs of the crisis, can donate money.
I have worked with three charities on Syria. I can vouch that all three are honest and efficient, run by intelligent people, and that they do immediate work on the ground in Syria helping displaced people and those holding out in their bombed towns and villages. Syria Relief is UK-based. The Karam Foundation and the Maram Foundation are US-based. I’m sure all three can receive donations from anywhere in the world. Please remember that the Syrian tragedy is unsurpassed in contemporary history, worse than the Iraqi crisis in 2006/2007. The daily death toll is equally high; the numbers of displaced – well over a quarter of the country’s population – are much higher.
Soriyat for Humanity Development is a great project which I saw at work on the ground. It was set up by novelist and revolutionary Samar Yazbek, and is based in Paris. To donate:RIB de la banque LA BANQUE POSTAL. ASSOCIATION SORYAT POUR LE DEVELOPPMENT HUMANITAIRE – NATIONAL 20041-00001-5773792S020-25 – INTERNATIONAL IBAN FR30-2004-1000-0157-7379-2S02-025. CODE BANCK PSSTFRPPPAR
Here’s a short film on the work of Camp Zeitouna, a project of the Karam and Maram Foundations.
In the Taxcast, the Tax Justice Network’s June 2013 podcast: ‘Coulds’ and ‘shoulds’ – but any real action? We analyse what the G8 summit did for tax justice, why some tax havens may get a competitive advantage and what happens now. And, while the world waits for reform, the Taxcast looks at how some countries are finding creative ways around the current global tax system. Produced by @Naomi_Fowler for the Tax Justice Network. Featuring John Christensen, Richard Murphy, Lee Sheppard, Zitto Zuberi Kabwe, Jim Henry
I participated on BBC World’s World Have Your Say to discuss the fall of Qusair and the spread of sectarian war as Hizbullah invades Syria in force. Sara Assaf, Kenan Rehmani and Elizabeth Tsurkov also contribute.
I’ve just returned from a brief trip to Syria, which I’ll be writing about. In the meantime, please follow this link to see some photographs, with comments.
The Atmeh camp is just inside Syria near the Turkish town of Reyhanli (Reyhaniyeh in Arabic). 22,000 people live in the camp, refugees from the regime’s shelling, aerial bombardment, gunfire, torture and rape. They come mainly from the Idlib, Hama and Aleppo regions. Many are rural people, but there are middle class urban residents too.
This album also contains pictures of a trip to liberated Kafranbel in southern Idlib province.