assad

The Syrian Regime’s Barrel Bombs Kill More Civilians Than ISIS And Al Qaeda Combined

I first saw this graph when Yasmeen (y2es) schooled someone, who responded to horrific images of the abandoned truck in Austria that contained the corpses of 70 refugees by trying to emphasize that “…thousands of refugees are trying to escape the war in Syria, women are trying to escape the rape and abuse of IS and men are running away out of fear of IS.”

Aside from the rampant regime apologia I’ve sadly gotten used to seeing, it’s so damn cruel to see so many people in my daily interactions, who actually understand that Assad is a monster, still harbor such a skewed perception of the regime’s brutality.

Yasmeen said it all, but I thought this graph was really telling so I wanted it on my blog, front and center.

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INTERVIEW: Ala'a Basatneh, the 22-year-old student who uses social media to help Syrian rebels from her bedroom in Chicago.

Ala’a Basatneh: I decided to help first when I saw the group of children that decided to write “We want to topple the regime” on their school walls. Seeing that they were tortured, I believe one was killed… to me that was not an OK thing to learn about happening in the country where I was born. I decided to reach out for activists, and this is exactly what I told them: “I’m willing to help you with everything and anything I can do for you guys to keep going.”

Could you walk me through a typical day in the life of Ala’a Basatneh? The kind of things you do on social media, and how you balance college with your work as an activist?

Basatneh: It’s really not balanced. I’m on my phone 24/7, on my laptop whenever I can. In my classes, at work, at home, all the time because of the time difference and because of how important it is to keep in contact with the activists on the ground. It’s not that it’s six hours online and then the rest of the time I’m not; it’s that I’m constantly online. When the movie was shot, I would get Skype calls at 4 in the morning from activists in Syria, asking me to translate banners that they would be carrying in their protests, so it can end up on international media, on CNN and BBC.

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Barrel Bombs, Not ISIS, Are the Greatest Threat to Syrians

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, commits horrendous videotaped executions, it might seem to pose the greatest threat to Syrian civilians. In fact, that ignoble distinction belongs to the barrel bombs being dropped by the military of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The Islamic State has distracted us from this deadly reality.

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Is Facebook Censoring the Syrian Opposition?

Last December, a woman from the Syrian community in Toronto reached out to me for help after a Syrian opposition Facebook page, for which she was an administrator, was expunged from the internet. She told me that Facebook had deleted the page, called Likes for Syria, in mid December, by which time it had garnered more than 80,000 “likes." Several Syrian Canadians had organized the page shortly after the revolution in Syria began, back in 2011, and used it as a tool for posting news stories about the crisis, spreading messages of hope, and creating awareness in the Western world—something that many feel is desperately needed.

“We feel like our freedom of speech has been totally taken away,” said Faris Alshawaf, another administrator for Likes for Syria. “We have a right to talk about what is happening.” Facebook had removed the page once before but quickly republished it after administrators made an appeal. Just days later, Facebook deleted the page a second time.  

Yet Likes for Syria is hardly alone. In the past six months, Facebook has deleted dozens of opposition pages—including one started by Syrian youth roughly a month before the revolution begun—because they allegedly violate the company's Community Standardspolicy and Terms of Use agreement. Two weeks ago, the Atlantic reported that Facebook opposition pages were disappearing. While I was doing more research about the issue, Facebook took down another page. This time, it erased the Syrian Coalition page, a move that shocked administrators and caused panic in the Syrian community, as it was seen as one of the most important and safe pages of the revolution. People from the Syrian community reached out to me again and sent me screenshot images of what had been reported to Facebook. It seemed clear that many of the images would have been very hard to take offense to and were not violent in nature.   

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Syrian Presidential Elections in Lebanon:

It was an extraordinary day. As more than 250,000 Syrian refugees or workers in Lebanon head to the Syrian embassy today to participate in the Presidential Elections. Most are Pro Assad and said they are there because many fled the war and hope for peace to return so they can head back to their country.

Presidential elections abroad was going to take place on May 28th only but due to the huge amount of participants it now also includes May 29th.