How Peaceful Revolutionaries Turned into Relief Activists in Damascus

My second article for Arab Revolutions blog is now up!

A group of Syrians fleeing violence in their country, walk towards the Turkish border, near Reyhanli. (AP)

“With the start of a new academic year the regime has been emptying the schools from forced migrants. Where will those migrants who lost their homes go after regime shelled their cities and neighborhoods? You constantly feel helpless before these events.

There are families in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, living on 20USD a month, 20USD! Assad speaks of concessions, fine, these are Syrian citizens who are now homeless, isn’t this the state’s responsibility? The Syrian government has resigned all its responsibilities towards its citizens. Instead, the government is waging war against them.”

Ruba*, a relief NGO employee in Syria, explains how the urgency of the growing tragedy of forced migrants has forced many peaceful revolutionaries to work as relief activists:

“The regime is purposely creating a humanitarian crisis and forcing activists to deal with it.”

“We, the middle class, flourished during Assad’s era. We enjoyed new services, and we knew that our economic situation has gotten better, but only at the expense of the working class. The very people who are now leading the revolution are the ones who were neglected by the state. They lost their jobs and homes are scattered in gardens and schools depending on our aid: middle class aid. Our role in this revolution is completely different from theirs, we have privileges and a lot to lose; they don’t. We’re bunch of hypocrites.” Ruba leans her head back against the sofa and stares as water drops from the air-conditioning on her living room floor.

Read rest of the article here. Check the French translation of the article available here  and German translation here.

LCC: New FSA Battalions Sign the Code of Conduct

LCC initiates FSA Code of Conduct, which many great battalions signed in the past few days:

In light of recent events in Syria. FSA commanders got together and signed the new FSA code of conduct.

The document was initially published by the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs) and underlines the requirement to respect human rights and international humanitarian law including laws pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war.

Code of Conduct of the Free Syrian Army

Article I
In the Free Syrian Army, as an independent, defected soldier, or civilian volunteer, my first responsibilities are to:
Defend Syrian revolutionaries in the face of tyranny and ensure the continuation of the revolution to oust the regime. I will direct my weapons exclusively against Assad aggressors. I will serve my nation, Syria, and the freedom of the Syrian people. I am a fighter in the battle to defend my people.
I will use my weapons to overthrow the criminal regime that has been imposed upon us.

Article II
I pledge to my people and my revolution that I will refrain from any behavior or practice that would undermine the principles of our revolution: the principles of freedom, citizenship, and dignity. I will respect human rights in accordance with our legal principles, our tolerant religious principles, and the international laws governing human rights – the very human rights for which we struggle today and which we intend to implement in the future Syria.

Article III
Any person who takes up arms in the name of the regime, regardless of their rank, should be arrested and remain in the custody of the Free Syrian Army.
In the event that an individual is arrested, and it is determined that the individual was working for the regime, voluntarily or for payment, to supply information about revolutionary activists, that individual shall be considered a prisoner and treated in accordance with laws governing prisoners of war.

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SCM: Syrian Blogger Hussein Ghrer Referred to Court

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression’s statement today on friend and fellow blogger Hussein Ghrer:

Syrian blogger and activist Hussein Ghrer was transferred today Thursday, November 17, 2011 from the general security headquarters-branch 285-to the civil court in Damascus. He was brought before the public prosecuters in Damascus then transfered to the Zablatani branch.

However office hours ended before Ghrer’s questioning session began, as a result he was transferred to Central Prison in Adra. Now he is awaiting his trial scheduled on Saturday 19/11/2011.

Many human rights and free speech organizations have called on to free the detained Syrian blogger who was detained 24/10/2011 for unknown reasons.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression stresses the need to guarantee Hussein Ghrer a public and fair trial as stated in Syrian constitution and again urges immediate release of all detainees.

قولوا لرابطة السفر الدولية للمثليين والمثليات أن إسرائيل الفصل العنصري ليست مكاناً للاستجمام

الثامن من أيلول/سبتمبر 2009

صادر عن:

أحرار الجنس مناهضين للفصل العنصري الإسرائيلي، تورنتو

أحرار الجنس من أجل تقويض الإرهاب الإسرائيلي

الشبكة اليهودية الدولية المناهضة للصهيونية

أحرار الجنس الناشطون في حملة المقاطعة، وسحب الاستثمارات، والعقوبات على إسرائيل

تخطط رابطة شركات السفر الدولية للمثليين والمثليات IGLTA  لعقد مؤتمر سياحي في تل أبيب، وذلك في السادس عشر من شهر تشرين الأول/ أكتوبر من العام الجاري، من أجل تعزيز السياحة الترفيهية الخاصة بالمثليين والمثليات والثنائيين والثنائيات والمتحولين والمتحولات جنسياً (م.م.م.م.). من المتوقع أن يتألف جمهور المؤتمر من وكلاء السفر المختصين بالترويج للسياحة المتعلقة بال م.م.م.م. وستقدم منظمة IGLTA من خلال هذا المؤتمر، وبالتعاون مع منظمة إسرائيلية للمثليين Aguda، الدعم المالي والرمزي لدولة تستمر في احتلال وقمع وتجريد ملايين الفلسطينيين من حقوقهم، إضافة إلى قتل وسجن الآلاف منهم.

لذا نتوجه، نحن مجموعات وأحرار جنس ناشطين بنداء إلى كافة الم.م.م.م والأصدقاء حول العالم لمشاركتنا احتجاجنا في مواجهة ترويج IGLTA للسياحة الترفيهية في إسرائيل الفصل العنصري، ونطالبها بإلغاء المؤتمر المزمع عقده في إسرائيل وبوقف أي شكل من أشكال الترويج السياحي لهذا البلد.

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Israelis Are Beginning to See the Power of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions)

From The Alternative Information Center:

In recent years, there has been a gradual growth in the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, calling to put economic pressure on Israel until it recognizes the rights of the occupied Palestinian people and puts an end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, starting on 27 December 2008, which lasted for nearly a month, has given this movement a powerful reason to redouble its efforts. Dozens of BDS campaigns have gained momentum and publicity; dozens of new ones were launched during or immediately after Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

These campaigns range from calls to boycott goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to calls to stop all economic contacts with Israel altogether. They include protests at sporting events, two countries cutting diplomatic ties with Israel (Bolivia and Venezuela), and many demonstrations around the world, attended by hundreds of thousands of protestors.

The growing protest against the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip have begun to change something in the Israeli political discourse, and the first indication of this can already be seen in the Israeli economic media.

Although the Israeli economic media doesn’t concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events have created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in the Israeli The Marker magazine for economic news:

1. On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.

2. In 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel’s most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to “destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel.” Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:

“[the minister] doesn’t even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.

Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.

Of course there is an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably—and this bad ambience seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that ‘there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.'”

3. On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services for it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein’s recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh’s article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.

4. In 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won’t learn about their activities, and that the situation is even worse in the UK.

These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel, and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel, or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law, and ending the occupation.

Media Coverage of the Sit-in against Violence towards LGTBs

I received this message from Helem‘s group on Facebook:

“First gay protest in Beirut” YouTube VIDEO

“Big media coverage of the Anti-violence sit-in” Helem News

IN ENGLISH

“Out in force” Now Lebanon

Peaceful Rally in Beirut for Gay Rights Monthly Review

IN FRENCH

“Rassemblement pacifique à Beyrouth pour le droit à l’homosexualité” L’Orient Le Jour

“Liban: Helem manifeste pour le droits des minorités homosexuelles” Libnan News

“Manifestation contre la violence dimanche” I Loubnan

IN ITALIAN

“Libano: Omosessuali Manifestano Contro Abusi Polizia” L’Unita – Italy
Links for the above articles were retreived from Raynbow Media Monitor – The Lebanese LGBT Article Link Bank
Updated frequently.

Photos published here are taken from the Lebanese newspaper, Al Akhbar.