Revolution, Reform or Restoration? Nadia Marzouki on Tunisia Today

Tunisia has been very dear to my heart since I went there in the spring of 2013, just two years after its uprisings, an event that shook the world. Although I’ve not been back in the three years since that memorable visit, I’ve followed Tunisian events with great interest from afar. I was thus thrilled to have the opportunity to interview the Tunisian scholar Nadia Marzouki when she was in Denver last month.

Marzouki, a Research Fellow at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, is the author of L’Islam, une religion américaine? (Islam, An American Religion?) and co-editor of two books: Religious Conversions in the Mediterranean World (with Olivier Roy) and the forthcoming Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion (with Roy and Duncan McDonnell). (more…)

Syria’s Medical and Humanitarian Nightmare: Interview with Dr. Zaher Sahloul

Since their days as medical school classmates, Bashar al-Assad and Zaher Sahloul have followed rather different paths: one became a war criminal; the other, a humanitarian advocate.

Dr. Sahloul is the immediate past president of and a senior advisor to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a humanitarian and advocacy organization that provides medical relief to Syrians and Syrian refugees. Last year, SAMS served 2.5 million patients in five different countries. (The organization’s vital work is featured in the recent documentary film 50 Feet from Syriawhich is available on Netflix.)

Dr. Sahloul is also the founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria, a coalition of 14 US-based humanitarian organizations working in Syria. He is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a practicing physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has written about the medical and humanitarian crisis in Syria for Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post, among other outlets.

I conducted this interview with Dr. Sahloul for the Middle East Dialogues series produced by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies on April 26 — less than 48 hours before the Assad regime’s airstrike on the MSF-supported pediatric hospital in Aleppo that killed dozens of patients and doctors, including one of the city’s last remaining pediatricians.

Go here to volunteer with the Syrian American Medical Society (you do not need to be a doctor or medical professional) and here to donate to the organization.

In Syria, Rebuilding Bombed Hospitals Is an Act of Resistance

Re-posted from Truthout

Saturday, 14 May 2016

By Charles Davis, Truthout | Report

Buildings destroyed by fire in Damascus, Syria, April 24, 2016. Five years after the conflict began, Syrians are crowdsourcing money online to rebuild and fortify bombed hospitals. (Photo: Declan Walsh / The New York Times)

The horror of the conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, can be measured with statistics: over 400,000 people dead; half the population displaced; the life expectancy of a newborn child dropping from 76 years in 2011 to under 56 years in 2016. But the grotesque absurdity of this revolution turned civil war is perhaps best captured by the fact that today Syrians are forced to crowdsource money online to rebuild and fortify bombed hospitals.

“In our worst dreams — in our worst nightmares — we never thought we would have to fortify hospitals.”


A Farewell to Veterans for Peace

Re-posted from Andy Berman: Threads of My Time, the blog of longtime antiwar activist and Veterans for Peace member Andy Berman

A Farewell to Arms: Till We Meet Again

By Andy Berman

May 11, 2016



As a longstanding member of Veterans for Peace, I often contributed to internal online VFP discussion groups over the last few years.  With Syria the bloodiest war on the planet, and thus a topic that nominally should be high on VFP’s agenda, I often wrote about developments in Syria.

My contributions frequently clashed with the self-identified “anti-imperialists” in VFP who blame the Syria conflict entirely on the United States and either defend or ignore the criminal role of Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

While my prose was always exceedingly civil, I was relentlessly attacked by a handful of angry and disturbed VFP members using extremely vile personal diatribe against me. (more…)

Making Sense of Syria: Robin Yassin-Kassab and Samer Abboud in Dialogue

Robin Yassin-Kassab (seated) and Samer Abboud (at podium)

On March 29, the Gandhian Forum for Peace & Justice at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey hosted this event with Robin Yassin-Kassab (co-editor of PULSE and co-author, with Leila Al-Shami, of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War) and Samer Abboud (Associate Professor of Historical and Political Studies at Arcadia University and author of Syria). Watch the video here.

This was the kick-off event in the North American book tour for Burning Country.


Reporting—and Mis-reporting—ISIS

by Gilbert Achcar

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi religious minority flee Islamic State fighters by walking towards the Syrian

Most people prefer to keep referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State by the acronym of its previous name: ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (or, more accurately ‘al-Sham’—Greater Syria—approximately translated by some as ‘the Levant’, with the acronym hence turned into ISIL). On this thus-named ISIS, close to forty books and counting have been hitherto published in English, of which the three reviewed here are the best-selling in the UK.

Of these, Patrick Cockburn’s was one of the very first books written on ISIS. It came out in 2014 under the title The Jihadis Return. The one reviewed here is an updated edition with a new title. It recapitulates the views that the author developed in his coverage of events in Iraq and Syria for The Independent. It is written in a most readable journalistic style by an author who is well acquainted with this part of the world, having covered it for many years (especially Iraq). However, the book contains hardly any references to substantiate its numerous assertions other than Cockburn’s personal testimony, often quite anecdotal.


Who are the Syrian rebels: The Genesis of the armed struggle in Syria

KhiyanaPlenty has been written about the armed struggle in Syria, but on left-wing and alternative media sources much of it has been laden with conspiracy theories, or is merely recycled Assad regime propaganda. In this article, soon to be published as part of a collection about the Syrian Revolution, Mark Boothroyd explores the roots of the armed struggle, and what drove the rebellion to the situation it finds itself in today.

Khiyana: The Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution seeks to uproot the false information, reactionary “anti-imperialist” dogma, slurs and slanders which have characterised much of the analysis of the revolt in Syria. It will contain articles by Idrees Ahmed, Budour Hassan, Sam Charles Hamad, Leila Al-Shami, Javaad Alipoor, Louis Proyect, and Michael Karadjis.

Who are the Syrian Rebels: The Genesis of the Armed Struggle in Syria

With the ongoing offensive in Syria by the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers, there has been a renewed interest in Syria’s armed opposition. Despite the figure of 70,000 “moderate” armed rebels being mentioned in the media and in parliament, much of the coverage still talks about Al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite these being relatively minor forces in the armed conflict between the rebels and the regime.

Many commentators like Independent columnist Robert Fisk1, leading Stop The War Coalition (StWC) officer John Rees, and Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, have mocked or denied the existence of moderate opposition forces. Criticisms that the rebels are not moderates2, that they are a “rump”3 with no support, or that they are Al-Qaeda or Turkish fascists4 have all emerged. Parts of the left and anti-war movement are complicit in creating a narrative that the opposition are entirely Al-Qaeda or ISIS, obscuring the reality that the overwhelming majority of Syrian rebels remain nationalist, of a democratic, secular or Islamic orientation.