SYRIA. Damascus governorate. Damascus. January 30, 2013. Free Syrian Army fighters take cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall after their comrade was shot by sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood.
First place, spot news stories at the 2014 World Press Photo Contest.
A Syria with Assad is a Syria where everybody can live in peace, free from persecution. A place where Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian, Yazedi, Druze, and others can coexist. Since the protests started, something seemed off about the rebels. My heart just told me to stick with Assad despite the fact that some hated me for this view. I was in Lebanon when the protests started happening in Syria back in 2011. In my visits to the country, I spent most of my time in the majority Sunni town of Tripoli. I remember the catchy protest song, “Yalla irhal ya Bashar” playing. I was also in love with a Sunni man and I loved him for his devotion to his religion even though he did not feel the same for me. Unfortunately, in Tripoli and in many other towns in the region (…and to be fair, even here in the West), sympathizing for Takfiri ideology and Wahhabism as a whole has become far too common these days.
When the Ghouta chemical attacks happened in 2013, many were quick to blame the Assad regime. I, myself, briefly questioned the attacks. The world watched in horror. However, the truth is the rebels were most likely responsible for these attacks and many other attacks. There is no evidence it was the Syrian Arab Army. Rather, the rebels were trying to frame Assad in order to gain Western support. Meanwhile, Assad has kept in constant contact with Western media and has welcomed UN weapon’s inspectors.
The bottom line is that it is not a revolution when the majority of the opposition are foreign fighters coming into the country and killing Syrians. More Syrians support Assad than Americans support President Obama, yet our Western media lies. What is happening in Syria is not about a fight for democracy or that Assad was an oppressive leader and the people were suffering. The truth is that Assad, a Western trained doctor who has continuously defended religious freedom in his country and fought for religious minorities, brought the country into the 21st century and out of a recession that they had been in after the Soviet Union collapsed. He also modernized everything in terms of technology, making the internet widely available to all. I strongly feel that any reports against Assad are purely propaganda by those who seek to turn Syria and every country in the Middle East into Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
By the way, Saudi Arabia,our ally country, is a place where women cannot drive and Alfa Romeo cars were banned for having a cross on them. There are no churches in the country and Bibles are not allowed into the country. Beheading is also a common style of execution in Saudi Arabia and in the past 6 months alone, over 80 people have been beheaded in the Kingdom. As in 1600′s Salem, witchcraft is even punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Not to mention, a Christian Lebanese man once received lashes for suspicion of converting a Muslim woman to Christianity. Its clear that Saudi laws are quite in line with Wahhabism, yet our politicians continue to bow down to Saudi royalty and Western media calls the Assad regime oppressive while saying that Syrians were suffering. In an article about Syria written for Ron Paul’s Institute for Peace and Prosperity, Neil Clark stated, “It’s a Middle Eastern country where Christian celebrations are official state holidays and civil servants are allowed to take Sunday morning off to go to church, even though Sunday is a working day. A place where women can smoke and wear make-up and are active in public life. A country implacably opposed to Islamic fundamentalism and Al-Qaeda, and whose security forces helped foil a terrorist attack on the US Embassy. No, not Israel, Syria.”
It is clear that the people who are against Assad are mainly displeased with him for the simple fact that he is an Alawite man running a majority Sunni country.
Certain measures Assad had taken angered the Wahhabi/Takfiris. Measures such as banning elementary school teachers from wearing the niqab. In turn, much of the opposition is simply racism directed at Assad. Its also important to add that Assad’s wife is a Sunni, so if he hated them so much as many of the rebels claim and was such a racist man, why did he marry a Sunni Muslim woman? Ultimately, the rebels would like to see him replaced with a leader who rules by sharia law. Again, they will not stop until every country is like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and religious minorities are eradicated. I would also like to add that all of these groups have the same goal at heart and there are no moderates. Maybe all of them are not openly and viciously killing like ISIS, however its the same mindset, whether ISIS, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda, or even the Muslim Brotherhood.
The West needs to understand that we are not just fighting one army, one group, or a couple of bad apples, but an extremely widespread ideology. People who believe minorities should have NO rights. When I would try to talk to some of these men, they would tell me things like Alawites and Christians are such a small group, so why do they even matter? There is just no sense of fairness for the rights of others. As previously stated, groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have the same racist ideology. Hence, why Morsi in Egypt was removed from power and is now facing the death penalty. They are not simply an Islamic version of Christian Democratic parties in Europe as politicians like Hillary Clinton seem to think. Hillary Clinton who failed as secretary of state and who supports sending Americans to die while fighting on the side of radicals and against the will of the Syrian people. She is not alone in her war mongering views. Bobby Jindal and John McCain also need reality checks.
We need to realize that Assad, Russia, and even Iran are doing a lot more to fight terrorism than the USA. The USA often makes the mistake of aligning themselves with radical groups and giving support to countries like Saudi Arabia which encourage Wahhabism. We need to be thanking the Assad regime, the Syrian Arab Army, Russia, and Iran. Furthermore, we should realize that regional countries are better prepared to understand this conflict and deal with it than the West.
I am sorry if I have offended anybody. This is not about Sunni, Shia, Alawite, or Christian. THIS IS ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS! I have to speak out and I will SUPPORT ASSAD until the day I die. God protects him because he LOVES all his people regardless of their religion. I pray for his success every night and that he stops these monsters who are killing entire families, selling women as sex slaves, while beheading and burning people alive. GOD BLESS BASHAR, GOD BLESS SYRIA!
At this very moment, genocide is occurring in Aleppo, Syria. We are being tortured, raped, slaughtered, and basically exterminated indiscriminately. There is no aid, medicine, food, or tools of survival. There are no hospitals, schools, homes, or any safe haven. There is no body or causality count anymore, there are too many to be accounted for. The White Helmets have officially announced that they are essentially powerless and paralyzed; they have stopped counting the dead, only stopping to wrap bodies in orange bags. Men and male children are forcefully being conscripted into the regime army or massacred in mass executions. There are official reports of women asking their husbands to kill them before being conscripted or executed in fear of mass rape and other atrocities they may face. Aleppo and Hama have suffered chemical attacks that have left seemingly unharmed children lining mosque floors dead. The about 100,000 people left in the city that haven’t died or been displaced are moving from one neighborhood to the other as regime and Russian forces close in. They are running only to fruitlessly go through the action, only to feel like they are trying: it’s of no use. The city is blockaded and there are ongoing airstrikes. There is no way out. There is no escape. This is essentially a cat and mouse game. There is no hope. We are literally asking God for divine help and miracles.
There are claims that “Aleppo is falling”; however, it has FALLEN. Russian and regime offenses have taken 96% of the city. Officials say that Russia and the Syrian regime have agreed to a peace deal and/or ceasefire, but live reports from Aleppo confirm it has yet to be implemented. The siege is ongoing. There is no going back from this. What has occurred these past two days is a genocide that was live-streamed to a world still in denial about our suffering. All we asked for was an end to emergency/martial law, yet we received six years of pure agony
Humanity has failed us. The international community has failed us. We are the worst human rights violation since World War 2. We are Obama’s and the UN’s Rwanda. Please save us. Call your representative. Donate to the White Helmets, Syria Relief, Save the Children, etc. Spread the word. Tell the truth. Do anything you possibly can.
UPDATE: As of Wednesday, December 14th 2016, the Turkish-Russian peace deal and ceasefire has FAILED. Syrians have been waiting since 5 AM for evacuation busses and NONE HAVE ARRIVED. Regime and Russian forces have started shelling the city AGAIN.
Please, don’t forget us! This is not getting better, this getting WORSE. They have won. The city has COLLAPSED yet they will not cease their offense. This is still ongoing. This is a nightmare that will never end. We Syrians are trapped in this city with war crimes still happening! Please continue spreading the word.
UPDATE #2: As of Thursday morning, December 15, 2016, the ceasefire has (for the most part) been held. Preparations for evacuation are just about complete. There will be a safe passage from Eastern to Western Aleppo that the International Committee of the Red Cross will oversee. Evacuations should begin soon. We are hoping that Western Aleppo will react kindly to the under 100,000 civilians coming in from Eastern Aleppo and that it will be, for the most part, successful.
Just remember: surviving Eastern Aleppo citizens are being transported on busses that are overtly and excessively decorated with the face of their butcher. At least it’s a slight reprieve from the past couple of days. Please keep the residents of Aleppo in your thoughts and continue to spread the word.
UPDATE #3: First convoy of 1200 Aleppo evacuees have arrived at Idlib, of which 200 were immediately hospitalized and most in critical condition. A second convoy of about 1198 people has crossed the West Aleppo countryside and has just about arrived, as well. There may be a third evacuation convoy if all remains fairly unhindered.
Please keep in mind that remaining waiting Aleppo residents and even the evacuees are facing harsh winter conditions as homes have been destroyed and it gets brutally cold, especially during the night, in Syria. They are also facing extreme hunger. The Syrian regime is providing them with nothing more than transportation to Idlib. Continue to donate what you can and call your representatives.
This will be the last live update I can provide from Aleppo unless an emergency or crisis (more than the now usual) occurs or important updates must be made. Please keep spreading the word, supporting civilians in anyway you can, and remaining vigilant and informed on the crisis in Syria. International mainstream media failed us and many of you didn’t even know what was happening until you read this post. The Aleppo genocide was one of many crises over the past six years and will be one of many more. Keep Syria in your thoughts and prayers. Spread the word.
Less damage to ancient Palmyra than feared, Syrian antiquities chief says
Damage to the World Heritage site of Palmyra by Islamic State militants may be less than earlier believed, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Friday.
Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters that video from Palmyra after it was recaptured by the Syrian army has shown less damage than archaeologists feared when pictures emerged at the beginning of the year suggesting Islamic State had smashed more monuments.
Under heavy Russian air cover, the Syrian army and allied militias drove the jihadist group out of the UNESCO world heritage site on Thursday, two months after they had seized it in a surprise advance.
Fears of a new assault on Palmyra’s heritage were raised after pictures in January showed the group had destroyed parts of the Tetrapylon, one of the city’s most iconic monuments, and the facade of the second-century Roman Theatre. Read more.
SYRIA. Aleppo governorate. Tal Rifaat. 2012. Fighters with the Lions of Tawhid, a unit of the Free Syrian Army, prepares food for their comrades. The group disbanded in 2014 after the death of their leader and serious internal divisions.
could you refresh my memory on the syrian civil war and the belligerents?
There are four mainstream groups that are fighting in the civil war, and those are the Syrian Army which is controlled by Bashar (l.a); the Free Syrian Army, which consist of many subgroups, ranging from secular to religious groups; we then got DAESH (ISIS), which everyone knows about; then we have the Syrian Democratic Force, which is a late player in the Syrian war.
The main oppositions of the Syrian Army are the Rebel Groups and DAESH. The main opposition of the Free Syrian Army is the Syrian Army, DAESH and the SDF. The main oppositions of the SDF are the Free Syrian Army (The Jihadist faction) and DAESH.
The main goal of the Free Syrian Army is to depose Bashar due to his tyranny and control of the nation, however, these groups are so multifaceted that it’s complex to understand what their common goal is, however, these rebel groups have Secular or Sunni Islamist interests. Some of the subgroups, including some Jihadist groups are mainly supported by the Americans, Turkey and the gulf states.
Bashar’s goal is to well… suppress the opposition, and they are supported by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.
Then you have DAESH whose aim is to create a global Sunni theocracy based on Wahhabism, and they are opposed by literally everyone.
The tertiary group is the Syrian Democratic Forces, and they’re a multi-ethnic and multi-religious faction that strive to create a secular and democratic Syria, they are, however, dominated in manpower by the Kurds. SDF is not necessarily for Bashar’s army, since the SDF is composed of former FSA elements and therefore share the same sentiments as the FSA, rather, they have a dream of creating a Democratic and Federal nation, as opposed to the Jihadist subgroup of the FSA, such as Fatah Al-Sham, who aim to impose a Sunni Islamic theocracy, while the moderate groups are indifferent to whether it should be Islamic or Secular. SDF is currently aiming to take the de facto capital from DAESH, Al-Raqqa and are currently engaging them in Tabqa and has made considerate gains against them since the Battle at Kobane. SDF is supported by both America and Russia.
Brace Belden before a battle in Syria in November. Courtesy of Brace Belden
By Seth Harp for The Rolling Stone. February 14, 2017 [x]
On the front lines of Syria with the young American radicals fighting ISIS
On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”
The rest of the militia piled into an assortment of minivans, garbage trucks and bulldozers, and rode south into territory ISIS had held for more than three years. Belden was manning a swivel-mounted machine gun, the parched landscape barely visible through the rising dust, when he spotted a car packed with explosives revving across the desert toward the Kurdish column. Before he could shoot, an American fighter jet lacerated the sky and an explosion erupted where the car had been, shaking the earth for miles around.
It was November 6th, 2016. The Kurdish militia known as the YPG – a Kurmanji acronym for People’s Protection Units – had commenced a major offensive to liberate the city that serves as the global headquarters for ISIS. The YPG was backed by U.S. air power and fighting alongside a coalition of Arab and Assyrian militias. Also within their ranks, though scantly reported, was a group of about 75 hardcore leftists, anarchists and communists from Europe and America, Belden among them, fighting to defend a socialist enclave roughly the size of Massachusetts.
Belden, who is 27, started tweeting photos of the front shortly after arriving in Syria in October. The first widely shared image showed him crouched in his YPG uniform, wearing thick Buddy Holly glasses, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a stray puppy in one hand and a sniper rifle in the other. “To misquote Celine,” the post read, “when you’re in, you’re in.” He has since amassed 19,000 followers under the handle PissPigGranddad, puzzling the Internet with a combination of leftist invective and scurrilous bro humor. Tweets like “Heading to the Quandil Mountains to lecture the PKK about entitlement reform” are followed by “The dude with the lamb bailed so now we’re fucked for dinner.”
Belden had no military experience before joining the YPG. He lived in San Francisco, where he arranged flowers for a living. Before that, he was a self-described lumpenproletariat, a lowlife punk and petty criminal with a heroin habit who started reading Marx and Lenin seriously in rehab. Once sober, he got involved in leftist causes, marching for tenants’ rights, blocking evictions, protesting police brutality. As he prepared for the Middle East, his girlfriend thought he was going to do humanitarian work. She was “not stoked,” Belden says, to learn that he planned to fight alongside the YPG.
The first phase of the Raqqa offensive was a mission to take Tal Saman, a satellite village of 10,000 people 17 miles north of Raqqa proper. “We pushed up to Tal Saman till we had it surrounded on a half circle,” Belden says, “then we just bombarded the shit out of it.” Refugees poured out of the village, seeking protection behind Kurdish lines. “Hundreds of civilians coming across for days in a row,” Belden says. At night, his unit stayed in whatever building they’d just taken, camped out on rooftops in the excruciating cold. “The first week we were out it was awful,” Belden says. The stepmother of a fellow volunteer from the U.S. had gotten Belden’s number. She kept texting to make sure they were eating enough.
The march on Raqqa slowed to a halt after two weeks, as the YPG consolidated its hold over a string of liberated villages. The YPG controls a region of 4 million people in northern Syria known as Rojava. Its tens of thousands of motivated fighters have been battling ISIS for five years. American as well as French warplanes have been covering their maneuvers with airstrikes for the past two, forcing ISIS off the roads and highways and open desert, and back into the urban strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Now, the Kurds are kicking the door down in both cities.
But the YPG is not your typical ethnic or sectarian faction. Its fighters are loyal to an imprisoned guerrilla leader who was once a communist but now espouses the same kind of secular, feminist, anarcho-libertarianism as Noam Chomsky or the activists of Occupy Wall Street. The Kurds are implementing these ideals in Rojava, and that has attracted a ragtag legion of leftist internationals, like Belden, who have come from nearly every continent to help the YPG beat ISIS and establish an anarchist collective amid the rubble of the war – a “stateless democracy” equally opposed to Islamic fundamentalism and capitalist modernity. They call it the Rojava Revolution, and they want you.