Medical Student Samih Al-Bahra Arbitrary Detained at Risk of being Tortured & Killed

I never heard of his name before, Samih Al-Bahra. I guess that’s what it means to leave Damascus; you hear of new detainees, new faces, for the ones you already know are almost outside now – they too left Damascus.

سميح البحرة_n

Samih Al-Bahra, Medical student in his fifth year, detained in April 30th 2013.

I received a message on my Facebook couple of days ago from a close friend asking me to blog about the detention of Samih Al-Bahra who was detained on April 30th 2013. My friend was very worried, she knows of many friends who were detained then got severely tortured, some of them were tortured to death. Like my colleague at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, Ayham Ghazzoul, a medical student who was detained in campus, tortured in campus, then brought to Air Force Intelligence‘s cell injured, and was left there to die in four days without being hospitalized. Ayham died in the arms of his cell-mate, who told us the story once he was released. That’s how you know of a detainee’s story in Syria, and that’s how you know of martyr’s story. Closure, is not exactly what you get, but something close to it.

I don’t know Samih, but I know Assad regime that arbitrary detains people, whether they’re activists or not, torture them and many times to death, hold them incommunicado, for months, a year, two years (if we’re only talking about the revolution).

I don’t know Samih but I know that any detainee in Syria is a risk of torture and death.

I know that Ayham Ghazzoul was brutally murdered by the Syrian state in a governmental institution.

Ayham Azzam Rajeh, who was a student at Pharmacy college, died under torture in May 2nd 2013.

Ali Shidad Haj Omar, was a detainee in Tudmor prison, killed under torture in May.

Kamal Mahmoul Mokalled was killed under torture in 30 April 2013.

Bassel Mahmoud Rashid, from Nabek village, was a detainee and killed under torture in April 11th 2013. He was his parent’s only child. 21 years old.

The list goes on. I wish I can say it doesn’t. As someone who was detained, I know that we can save a detainee’s life once we mention their names on our stupid online accounts; twitter, blogs, Facebook. Can you imagine? You can save a human life by just a click and a few words? It’s media, it’s letting the regime know we can beat it together. It’s humanizing a detainee who’s becoming a number.

Write for Samih, write for every detainee. You might be saving their lives.

I’ll be updating this post as soon as I get further information about Samih.

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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.

Time and Revolutions

People who do not live in a country that is living a revolution may not know that time, is revolutionaries’ biggest enemy.

I have a 10-to-5 job, after that I go to do some other work till 9, sometimes till 11. I get home to check my email and Facebook to discover new massacres, new statements, and further escalations on many levels.

In Damascus, civil society activists are powerful, they weren’t perhaps in 2011, but in 2012, they’re getting more organized, focused, and one thing you hear commonly among them these days is: “we won’t do the same mistakes we did in 2011.”

But we get home and check the news, mostly our Facebook, because not all videos broadcasted by AJA or Al-Arabiya, not all demonstrations mentioned by AJA especially those carried out by “minorities.” Facebook has become the only non-censored news outlet for Syrians. Local Coordination Committee is run by seculars, hence we know for sure that if protesters from “minority” conventional communities took the streets or issued a statement, we won’t be hearing about it on AJA, but definitely on LCC.

Yesterday I got home at 11 PM, in my attempt to check my facebook, I discovered that a massacre occurred in Karm Al-Zeitoun leaving eight children martyred.

I am one of those people who are against including children in protests at times of revolutions, children should stay home, especially in cities like Homs and Idleb. But the children martyred last night in Karm El-Zeitoun were home, and that did not protect them, it rather killed them. Yesterday regime army bombed the neighborhood of Karm El- Zeitoun in the city of Homs and destroyed several buildings, two whole streets were evacuated, and 27 civilians killed, many were injured.

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Fadwa Suleiman’s Speech Represents Me

I have my reservations on the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun’s “apology” to the Kurds is shameful, and in a free democratic Syria the battle against nationalism and national Arab identity will continue, it will take a while, a long while, until we reach that separation between “belonging” and “identity.” What the hell is identity and why do we need it in the first place? Some say, that in order to lose “conventional self-identification,” or sectarianism, we need to be “Syrians.” But isn’t by becoming Syrians, we enhance a racist, national identification as being solely “Arabs”? Or else, why do we refer to “Syrian-Kurds” as such? Once we drop hyphenations, we become as one, and in order to be one, we need to lose those national preconceptions of ourselves, as Sunni Muslims or as Arabs.

I don’t know what “Syrians” means, belonging to a geographical border? owning a “similar consciousness”? Don’t get me wrong, I do relate to the people of Syria the most, but that is also relative. I am sure someone supporting Hezbolla relates to a Syrian supporter of Assad, and someone like me, relates to all revolutionaries in the region. So what the hell?

I do not believe in a ‘national consciousness,’ I don’t believe in nationality, look how it is interpreted by those apologetic to Assad crimes, and those who’re fighting for their dignity and freedom, and they’re all “Syrians.”

So please, do not talk to me about being “Syrians.” I want to be something else, like Homsi or Dar’awi for example.

Colonization made us all a bunch of nationalists, and because of that we made Arab Jews our enemies. Fighting for a label than for a value. I want to be living hand in hand with all of you, and this cannot be done if we see ourselves as “majorities” and “minorities.” The foundation of this logic lies in nationalism. Look at Iranian regime’s idea of nationalism, it’s not sectarianism we’re taking about here, it’s precisely nationalism. Nationalism that colors a whole nation in one color, one self-identification based on “majority.” I am not an Arab, I am not a Sunni, but people see me like a Sunni and an Arab nonetheless. I don’t want to be a citizen when other citizens are prevented from getting their rights, I don’t want to be a Syrian when other Syrians cannot be one.

Syrian actress Fadwa Suleiman appeared this week at a demonstration in Homs. The regime is looking for her now, her life is in danger. She begun hunger strike 3 days ago.

I came here to talk about Fadwa Suleiman’s speech she made yesterday, and here I am rambling about postcolonial anxieties. Anyways, this woman is amazing, really, and not because she’s an Alawite, I am not sure if you don’t know this, but if you’re an Alawite, and you’re opposing the Syrian regime, you’re not only considered a “traitor,” but also you will be boycotted from those supporting the regime, and you’re most likely be killed, not because you’re opposing the regime, but precisely because you’re an Alawite and opposing the regime.

This is the first and only speech made by a Syrian woman publicly addressing her people, this is the first time that a Syrian actress addresses her people and starts a hunger strike, do you understand how courageous she is? Do you understand how much she is in danger right now?

She’s fighting for a value, she’s fighting for a whole different Syria, and I want to hear from Burhan Ghalioun is to say the same.

Listen to her speech here and read the English translation on Abu Kareem’s blog here. For a little background on Suleiman, here’s a good piece about her on BBC, I am sure you won’t find it on Angry Arab’s blog or MRZine.org and the likes.

كلنا ليلى في سوريا #KolenaLaila

فكرة “كلنا ليلى”

انطلقتْ فكرة “كلنا ليلى” عام 2006 بمبادرة مدوِّنة مصرية باسم “لستُ أدري” بالإضافة الى العديد من المدوّنين في العالم العربي. و تتلخص فكرتها في دعوة المدونين العرب إلى التعبير عن آرائهم ومشاهداتهم فيما يتعلق بوضع المرأة العربية بكل حرية وصراحة، خاصة في ظل التأثير المتصاعد للإعلام الجديد على مجتمعاتنا متمثلاً في المدونات. وقد رأينا ذلك الأثر في الأعوام الماضية حيث اهتمت صحف ووسائل إعلامية عدة بالمبادرة منها الجزيرة والبي بي سي وصحيفة المصري اليوم والدستور وغيرهم . هدفنا من هذه الحملة المساهمة في إثراء الحوار حول حياتنا الإجتماعية العربية وما يتخللها من نجاحات أو إخفاقات. ونؤكد أن الفكرة ليست للترويج لثقافة أو قيم بعينها، ولكنها دعوة لنقد ومراجعة سلوكياتنا اليومية برغبة حقيقية في التغيير. ندعوك للمشاركة معنا سواء كنت ممن يعتقدون أن مجتمعاتنا محافظة إلى حدٍّ كبير، وتُعطي الأفضلية للرجل وتقلل من شأن المرأة وحريتها، أو كنت ممن يؤمنون أن مجتمعاتنا منفتحة وأنها أعطت المرأة نصيبها من الحقوق بما يكفي.

“كلنا ليلى” اليوم

فى عامنا هذا تهتم “كلنا ليلى” بالكشف عن قصص التحدي والتغيير والمحاولة عاشتها ليلى. نهتم أن نعرف رحلة نجاح المرأة في بلادنا، مازاد عليها وما غاب وما نطمح أن تكون عليه أحلامها ومساحتها من الواقع.. ومحاولتها لمستقبل أفضل.

كيفية المشاركة:

المشاركة متاحة ومفتوحة للجميع نساءً ورجالاً، وللجميع مطلق الحرية في إبداء الرأي بأي من وسائل التعبير المتاحة: مقال، فكرة، صورة، تصميم، قصة ، أو أي شكل آخر. ويمكنك كذلك أن تختار بين النشر في مدونتك الخاصة أو النشر في المدونة الرئيسية للحملة. ليست هناك أية قيود سواء على الموضوعات أو الأفكار المطروحة، أو اللغة المستخدمة (رغم تفضيلنا للغة العربية لتكون اللغة الرسمية للمبادرة)، كما يمكن للمشاركة أن تكون مكتوبة أو مسموعة أو مرئية. كل ذلك مرحبٌ به ما دام صاحبه مؤمناً به ومسئولاً بشكل شخصي عن الدفاع عن آرائه أمام وجهات النظر المضادة ومستعداً كذلك لتغييرها إن اقتنع بأوجه القصور فيه.

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Helem replies to Massad: We are not agents of the West

Ghassan Makarem founding member and current Executive Director of Helem replied to Joseph Massad’s interview conducted with him by Reset Doc website. Here’s an extract of the interview:

The real problem with Massad’s interview is the lies, fabrications, and insinuations of being agents of the West against the people in Helem. This is an opinion we have heard many times from Salafists and chauvinists. The contention that homosexuals are agents of the West, that they are “imposing Western values”, and that they belong to the upper classes was also used by Khomeini before rounding up homosexuals and executing them. It is the same justification given to call for the arrest of HIV positive persons in Egypt and elsewhere and to pass a viciously homophobic law in Uganda.

Read the whole article here.

After Two Years Behind Bars Syrian State Security Court Sentences A Syrian Blogger Three Years For "Spreading False News"

This is simply outrageous and heartbreakening. I cannot imagine what his parents feel right now. He was arrested when he was 29 and now he will be released when he’s 34. and for what? for not giving the Syrian intelligence the names of people who spoke against the Syrian government in the forum he administrates. Yes, that’s Kareem Arbaji, Kareem is being sentenced because he is defending his friends, he is being sentenced as a punishment, because he defied not the “persona” of the government, but the very “system” of intelligentsia in Syria, where people got accustomed, out of fear and due to torture, to turning each other in to the government. Kareem did nothing “wrong” and said nothing “wrong”, but he paid two years for his “non-Syrian” principles, and now he is paying three more. This is unforgivable, they send children to Europe when they get raped, how you like them now grownups? hypocrite.

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Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings

Excellent article on the killings of gays in Iraq written by Rasha Moumneh appeared yesterday on Foreign Policy:

Western attention has always focused primarily on sectarian attacks in Iraq. Yet al-Sadr’s militia and its counterparts in countless neighborhoods and towns have long had other targets in their cross hairs. These men claim to bear the banners of religion and morality, defending against any transgressors. They paint themselves as the caretakers of tradition, culture, and national authenticity — which often means keeping women, as well as men, in their rigidly enforced traditional roles. Ironically, they sell their violence as a means of security: Amid the total upheaval of Iraqi society over the last eight years, many people regard any relaxing of gender roles as a threat to public order, undermining patriarchal power. And since the coalition forces failed to provide security after the invasion, such cultural conservatives have moved in to fill the role. Many aimless, unemployed advocates of rigid traditionalism have taken up the task with their guns.

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