Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A statement in response to the recent attacks on Michael Weiss

The recent dishonest attacks on Michael Weiss are symptomatic of an ugly failure in political responses to the Syrian slaughter. We have seen a popular revolt by the Syrian people ignored, shunned, distorted, and denied. We have seen a widespread betrayal of professed principles by figures who on other causes speak loudly of solidarity, who lay claim to the inheritance of past struggles for liberty, and who present themselves as being at the forefront of today's struggles against injustice.

Michael Weiss has been a stalwart supporter of the Syrian cause through his vital journalism and analysis. Michael wrote of, spoke up for, and firmly stood by the Syrian people. He did this when others turned a blind eye, or even worse, betrayed Syrians suffering genocidal attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.

The personal attack on Michael cannot be understood if analysed as a single incident. Sadly, it is part of a series of attacks on supporters of the Syrian people, such as the recent attacks from both left and right on the Jo Cox Fund for its support of the White Helmets, the rescue volunteers of Syria Civil Defence.

This political failure seen across left and right reflects a failure of society to recognise and respond to human suffering. In the face of such cruelty we will treasure our friends all the more.

Syria Solidarity UK

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Daraya, The Democratic Experience

About Daraya Council

This profile of Daraya Council was published in the 17 May 2016 issue of the APPG Friends of Syria's newsletter, Syria Notes.

According to the Local Council of Daraya City, it was founded on 17 October 2012, a few weeks after a massacre by the Assad regime of 700 civilians, mostly women, children, and elderly people.

The council serves a population of 8,300 people. The council has 120 members inside Daraya, as well as representatives working outside of Daraya. Every six months, individuals are elected to positions of responsibility by a secret ballot of all members of the council. An individual can only run for the same position for two consecutive rounds. The head of the council is elected by the people through public elections.

Daraya is living through its fourth year of siege, the longest period that any Syrian area has survived under siege. The council must provide all essential services, such as water, electricity, and communications. The council’s aid office does its best to provide aid to the population. It runs a public kitchen that provides a daily cooked meal for people, but it is dependent on availability of resources. The aid office supervises cultivation of farming land, and divides crops between the people. All aid services are provided free to all. So far more than 1,000 tons of aid have been provided.

As well as aid within Daraya, members of Daraya Council help organise aid in 40 different cities inside and outside Syria for refugees and displaced people from Daraya.

The council’s medical office provides services to those injured in attacks on the city. The office runs the only field hospital in the city, which deals with all kinds of medical needs, from traumatic injuries, to child birth, to complicated medical operations. The field hospital operates with very few resources.

The council runs three primary schools in Daraya. There were plans to expand to cover secondary education, but these were suspended because of the recent increase in attacks by the regime. There are no other forms of education in the town, due the constant bombardment and the lack of staff.

Other services include street cleaning, providing clean water, and fortifying shelters to protect civilians from bombardment.

Daraya is defended by its own. The Syrian Army in Daraya is made up of local citizens, and there are no other military forces in the town, nor any form of extremists. The military office is under the civil authority of the council.

Daraya Council website:

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Today is the third anniversary of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack

Third anniversary of the Ghouta chemical massacre: Britain’s deadly narcissism

Britain’s deadly narcissism
By George Morris, Rethink Rebuild Society

It’s hard to know how to commemorate something that’s still happening. Three years ago, the Assad regime fired rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin at civilian neighbourhoods in Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus. Earlier this month, the Syrian army dropped chlorine on the civilians of Saraqeb. In between there has been repeated use of chemical weapons, which have become an appallingly normal feature of Assad’s brutal and criminal campaign.

The Ghouta massacre still stands out. It’s not just because of the scale of the killing, with around 1,500 casualties. It’s not just because of the fact that of all the ways to die in a war, by chemical poison must be one of the most brutal, the most painful, the most appalling. It’s because of what the international community did next.

It did nothing.

It said it would do something. Having made the case that it was morally and politically necessary to punish Assad’s crimes, Obama quickly u-turned and indicated that, in fact, nothing would be done.

One of the reasons for this retreat was a vote taken in the House of Commons on 29th August 2013. Parliament voted 285-272 against a government motion that called for punishing Assad if there was UN support.

What’s interesting about the debate, and the national discussion surrounding it, is how narrow-minded and insular so much of it was. There were valid criticisms of the government proposal, and of the sort of intervention being discussed in the United States at the same time. But instead of having that discussion, many people simply wanted to do some soul-searching about Iraq.

Iraq was mentioned over a hundred times in the debate. That’s not objectionable in itself. It would be much more worrying if parliamentarians hadn’t reflected upon the invasion of Iraq in their discussion of another British engagement in the Middle East. But the comparison was fundamentally false. The invasion of Iraq caused large-scale loss of human life, undermined international law and inflicted wounds that will take decades to heal. These very same results have been achieved—and worse—in Syria, not through action, but through inaction.

The then Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, opposed the government motion on Syria largely because of the political divisions within his own party. The Labour government’s decision to join the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 is an open wound in the party, and is overwhelmingly unpopular with its members. Effectively, the Labour leader was more concerned about the internal dynamics of his party than in the protection of human life.

Whenever politicians and commentators come to talk about foreign policy, they tend to do so as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

Now more than ever, as Brexit risks leaving us as Little England, weakened, isolated and anti-internationalist, we need to reflect on the self-indulgence and self-obsession that permeates and pollutes all of our national conversations about foreign policy. We need to move beyond attitudes of solipsism and isolationism. We need to think about more than Britain’s standing in the world, or factional politics within and between political parties. The price paid for this deadly narcissism can be measured in the dead of Syria.

Miliband announced after the vote that parliament had spoken for the British people. But it wasn’t a debate about the British people. It was a debate about the people of Syria, who, three years later, are still being massacred with poison gas.

George Morris volunteers for Rethink Rebuild Society, a Manchester-based Syrian advocacy and community organisation.

Photo: Corpses are buried in mass graves during the aftermath of chemical weapon attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria on 21 August, 2013. Rex Features/AP.

Video: “They are all liars…” A survivor of the Ghouta chemical weapons massacre speaks.

Interview source here.

Third anniversary of the Ghouta chemical massacre: Children attacked as they slept

Children attacked as they slept
By Dr Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria

Three years on after Ghouta chemical attack which resulted in a tragic human life loss of 1,400 innocent civilians. A third of them were children, gassed to death during the early hours of the day while they are asleep. And the world has done very little about it

They disarmed the perpetrator Assad of some of his chemical weapons capability, but he was free to continue using all types of conventional weapons against innocent civilians.

In fact Assad has never stopped using his chemical weapons in spite of  the red line and the disarming carried out by the international community; he has used forbidden chlorine gas against civilians many times since the 2013 Ghouta attack, causing suffocation and death to many children and innocent civilians, most recently in Aleppo.

Syrian people felt completely abandoned by the Western communities who failed to stop one of the most brutal and tyrannical dictators. He has continued to murder his own people, supported by INHUMANE world powers like Russia, China and Iran.

We as Syrian expatriates living in the UK appeal for the international community to stop this kind of atrocity, and to hold the perpetrators accountable for their war crimes against humanity.

Dr Fadel Moghrabi is a cardiothoracic surgeon, a Syrian expatriate in the UK.

Photo: A mother and father weep over their child’s body who was killed in the chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Rex Features/AP.