Archive for June 5th, 2012

Syria’s Kurds see better lot if Assad goes-activists

Tue Sep 6, 2011

AMMAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Syria’s minority Kurds support the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad because it could usher in democracy but long-standing grievances have to be addressed in any post-Assad order, Kurdish activists said.

In a declaration issued on Monday at the conclusion of a conference in Stockholm to unify Kurdish efforts against Assad, the activists said they will strengthen backing for Kurdish protests against Assad, led by a younger generation of street leaders critical or elders in established Kurdish parties.

“The Kurdish people, as a part of Syria’s diverse mosaic, are a main component of the revolt against the regime and it is in their full interest for the regime to fall,” the statement said.

With Syria’s one million Kurds concentrated in the oil- producing northeast, the Kurdish issue would loom large if Assad, who is struggling to contain a five-month uprising against his rule, was removed, with regional implications for Turkey, which also has a large Kurdish minorities, and Iraq, where Kurds have a large degree of autonomy.

Syria’s overall population is around 20 million.

Pro-democracy protests have spread to Kurdish areas in Syria, but the authorities, mindful of a 2004 Kurdish uprising crushed by force, have not used the same level of deadly violence employed to crush protests elsewhere.

The two-day conference at the Swedish Parliament building, which drew 50 participants, was the first to bring a broad group of Kurdish activists since the uprising. Among the participants were Kurdish writer Massoud Akko, who fled Syria several years ago and now resides in Norway, and dissent Mohammad Sida, who lives in Sweden.

The statement said the removal of Assad and his ruling Baath Party could allow for a new political system that divulges power to the provinces and “free of racist and extremist ideology.. a nation where tolerance would prevail”.

“The Syrian revolution will not be complete without a just solution to the Kurdish cause,” the statement said, adding that any new constitution should recognize Kurdish as an official language and that Kurds have a right to seek compensation for “historic discrimination and persecution”.

A month into the uprising in April, Assad sought to placate Syria’s Kurds by issuing a decree to grant thousands of disenfranchised Kurds Syrian nationality and easing discrimination on the transfer of properties in Kurdish areas.

But activists and Kurdish politicians said little progress has been made on the ground, with only a fraction of the stateless Kurds becoming citizens and a multitude of other laws that still discriminate against Kurdish language and customs, as well as heavy secret police presence in Kurdish areas.

Source: Reuters.

Syrian forces raid cities, as ICRC granted access

Sep 5, 2011

Beirut – Syrian troops and security forces intensified Monday their assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs, while the government granted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit a detention center.

Hisham Hassam, the ICRC Public Relations Officer in the Near and Middle East, confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa from Geneva that the ICRC were granted access to visit a jail in Syria.

ICRC’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, who concluded a two-day visit to Damascus on Monday, said ICRC delegates started visiting on September 4 the Damascus Central Prison, in the suburb of Adra.

‘The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees,’ said Kellenberger.

‘This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria,’ he added.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi was also due to visit Damascus on Wednesday to discuss recent developments, at the request of Arab foreign ministers, the Al Arabiya Satellite channel reported.

Last month, the Arab League launched a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests since March.

The developments came as security forces intensified their assaults against pro-democracy protesters in the central cities of Hama, Homs and in the province of Idlib, killing at least nine people and arresting dozens.

‘Dozens of troops backed by at least 30 military vehicles and security forces raided Hama,’ a spokesman of one of the Local Coordination Committees who identified himself as Omar Idlibi told dpa.

He added that security forces carried out a similar operation in Homs.

Idlibi said some 100 people were rounded up in the Khan al Sabul, in the province of Idlib.

‘Security forces were seen dragging men from their houses, blindfolding them and pushing them into buses,’ Idlibi said.

Earlier, activists in Lebanon told dpa that ‘at least nine people were killed in Homs by firing by the Syrian security forces.’

They added that Syrian security forces were conducting arrests in the Al-Khalediya neighborhood of Homs, ‘when the troops started shooting randomly at a group of people near a mosque in the area.’

Activists based in northern Lebanon told dpa that sounds of heavy shelling could be heard in the Wadi Khaled, an area facing Tal Kalakh.

They told dpa that one of their members was killed by the Syrian security forces as he was trying to escape from Syria into Turkey.

The dead man was identified as Adelsalam Hassoun, 24. He was killed by Syrian army snipers just after he had crossed into Turkey from the village of Ain al-Baida on the Syrian side.

Activists based in the Syrian capital said soldiers have defected from the Syrian army at Mezzeh airport in Damascus. They gave no further details.

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees said the defected Syrian soldiers had escaped to Turkey.

Meanwhile former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam – who now lives in exile in Paris – demanded a military intervention in Syria, Al-Jazeera reported.

In his letter to ‘Syrian revolutionaries,’ Khaddam said the country needed an intervention like the one in Libya. ‘Military intervention is not the same as an occupation,’ he added.

In another development, the Syrian attorney general of the city of Hama – who announced his defection last week – arrived in Cyprus, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel reported, without providing further details.

Activists based in Lebanon confirmed to dpa that Bakhour was ‘safe and sound,’ but refused to say where he was.

Bakhour appeared in videos last week, saying he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama. The government responded that Bakhour had been kidnapped and was forced to issue the statement.

On August 15, the 22 members of the Arab League called for an ‘end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late.’

Syria rejected the statement at the time, saying it amounted to ‘a clear violation … of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.’

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Belgium working to upgrade Palestinian diplomatic status

Sep 5, 2011

Ramallah – Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme said Monday his government is working to upgrade the diplomatic status of the Palestinian delegation in Brussels in the very near future.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Ramallah with his Palestinian counterpart, Salam Fayyad, he said Belgium will study the draft resolution the Palestinian Authority plans to soon submit to the United Nations seeking membership as a state in the world body.

The UN General Assembly is expected to debate the Palestinian request for membership on September 20.

Leterme, who later met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters, said his government hopes to see one European position on the Palestinian UN bid.

‘This will not solve all the problems,’ he said. ‘The road to peace should come through negotiations, which we hope to see launched between the Palestinians and Israelis as soon as possible.’

Fayyad said the Palestinians are determined to continue in their efforts to ask for UN recognition, which he said cannot be deterred by Israeli or other threats.

Earlier Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Leterme that the Palestinian UN bid would lead to a dead end in the peace process.

Netanyahu, who met with Leterme in Jerusalem in the afternoon, accused the Palestinians of avoiding negotiations and choosing instead to take their efforts directly to the UN.

He added he was prepared to travel to Ramallah to hold talks with Abbas, or have Abbas meet him in Jerusalem. They two could also parley in Brussels, Netanyahu said.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been dormant for nearly a year, after Israel refused a Palestinian demand to halt all construction at its settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

The Twin Evils of Syria: Al Baath and Al Shabbiha

By Nehad Ismail

The Terrorists and Thugs of Syria

Not a single serious analysis of the Syrian situation I read these days that does not have a reference to the two most dreaded words in Syria “Al Baath and Al Shabbiha”. In my view these are the twin evils of Damascus.

Al Baath means in Arabic the rebirth or the renaissance. This is the original meaning. The new meaning for Al Baath, thanks to Al Assad Clan of Syria is synonymous with the Terror. It is a terrorist political party of thugs and murderers.

In the 1950s the Baath Party in Syria and Iraq became popular because they offered slogans of unity, liberty, and the liberation of the Arab people from foreign domination. As it happened the Baath became violent and repressive and produced dictatorial and unstable leaders such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez al Assad the father of Bashar al Assad of Syria. Both men were ruthless in dealing with their opponents. The promise of liberating the Arab man from foreign domination was replaced by tyranny, torture and death. The Baath was a violent ideology that thrives on flogging empty slogans to the Arab street, but nothing more. It became a corrupt, single party state that does not tolerate any opposition or dissent. The Baathist Syrian regime has been a Police State since 1970. Just one example illustrates the sick mentality of the Baathist thinking. In 1970 Nureddin Al-Atassi a former Pre-Baath President was imprisoned by Hafez al-Assad. Nureddin spent 22 years in a small cell in al Mazza prison without any charge or trial. He had been denied medical treatment for cancer which killed him in December 1992. Saddam Hussein brought ruin and destruction to Iraq. Bashar and his younger brother Maher are now doing the same to Syria. Clause 8 of the Syrian Constitution states that the Baath is the sole ruling party of Syria. The opposition groups are demanding the immediate abrogation of this Clause from the Constitution. The regime is refusing to budge, so for the time being the Syrian people are stuck with the abhorrent al-Baath Party ruling over them with an iron fist.

Al Shabbiha:

Since the middle of March 2011 over 2200 unarmed civilians have been killed by the Syrian security forces and the Para-military groups working on behalf of the ruling al-Assad family. These Para-militaries are called “Shabbiha”.

The term Shabbiha means in Arabic “ghostlike” or “Phantoms” with evil intentions. In reality they are groups of sinister thugs who appear from nowhere like ghosts and proceed to kill and maim demonstrators. Al Shabbiha direct their violence against the protest movement aided and abetted by the Syrian security forces. The Shabbiha operate a criminal network throughout Syrian coastal regions and specialise in smuggling, blackmail, robbery and prostitution. Members are drawn from the Pro-Bashar al-Assad Alawite Sect which is regime’s loyalists. The senior leaders of the Shabbiha are said to be first cousins of Assad.

According to a recent study by the Henry Jackson Society (a London based Think Tank) the extent to which the militia are taking orders from Assad is unclear. It is also unclear whether they seek to capitalise on civil unrest and consolidate their criminal network through intimidation.

We have seen on Aljazeera and other networks footage of al Shabbiha in action against helpless protesters, old men and women. They are a bunch of criminal thugs and are not held accountable for their criminal activities because they are doing the dirty work on behalf of the Bashar al Assad’s clan.

What the West can do?

The Syrian people are not demanding direct military action against the regime. At the moment, they don’t want external intervention. This may change however, if the regime continues with its unprecedented brutality against its own people. In the immediate term the Syrian people demand a stronger unambiguous stance by the Western democracies to impose tougher sanctions against the regime such as the freezing of assets, the severing of diplomatic relations with Syria and a unanimous declaration by the US, the EU and the UN that the regime is illegitimate and must go. In the eyes of most Syrians, the regime has already lost its legitimacy. President Obama’s recent call for Bashar al Assad to step aside is welcome but insufficient unless backed by concrete action.

What we expect from a regime that rules with an amalgamation of torture, beating, assassinations, disappearances, indiscriminate shooting at civilians, the shelling of apartment blocks and the cutting off of water and electricity from the Syrian population?

A regime that wages a war against its own people does not deserve to survive.

Nehad Ismail is a London-based writer/broadcaster. He contributed this article to Ammon News English.

Source: Ammon News.