Anonymous Syria Hacks Website

There are several pages on Facebook that carry the name “Syria Anonymous” but none of them claimed hacking website yesterday. In any case, the guys are cool, their message could be written in much better way, especially the last two parts where they were addressing the Syrian “minorities” encouraging to join the revolution as if they’re not.

I am getting tired of the assumption that “minorities” are scared and that they’re supportive of Assad whereas every other day in Syria we hear the story of a martyr or a detainee coming from a minor conventional community, be it Durzi, Christian, Samuli or Alawite. Seriously people, stop trying to make our revolution look like a Sunni-Muslim revolution, cause it’s not.

But I liked that the independence flag on the screen is linked to one of my favorite revolutionary sites: Violation Documentation Center (VDC); your number one source on documented states of martyrs and detainees in Syria.

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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.

Al-Tal City, and Beyond

Below is the article I wrote for Arab World in Revolutions’ blog on Monde Arabe Arte TV.

Text on Banner says: Dear Revolutionary, your actions reflect revolutionary morals, let’s act responsible.

“He was a 17 year-old activist from Daraa. He had a little motorcycle which he used to go from town to town. He carried his USB memory sticks with videos to be uploaded. He was one of my main sources before he was killed by a regime sniper.”

That is what my friend, Abu Abdalla, told me on Skype while I was having a fine evening in Damascus. I stopped drinking my tea; then he told me that his friends are trapped in his hometown Tal, just northwest of Damascus.

On August 8th the Syrian National Council announced Al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, to be a disaster city. The regime army besieged the city and cut water, electricity and communication supplies, including the internet. They started shelling it on Thursday August 9th and continued for weeks, which left more than 160 people dead.

I asked Abu Abdulla if it is possible to set up a conference chat with his trapped friends inside Al-Tal, and so he did. I had the privilege to interview Qusai, Ashor, and “Renewed Hope” the following day.

“Our city has been destroyed,” types Ashor, a relief activist and owner of a grocery store which has just opened now to secure food distribution for the besieged people who remain in the city. “In July last year,” he continues, “we distributed dates and water on regime forces[1], we organized a “Dignity Strike” in collaboration with shop keepers[2], we launched anti-sectarianism campaigns[3], we worked hard and we did an excellent job.” Ashor gives proudly examples of revolutionaries in Al-Tal, but is helpless about what the situation is turning into.

Read the rest of the article here.

Would You Be My Palestine?

We can buy Almaza and get to your uncle’s place while he’s having his Argileh with his friends outdoors.

We can buy some of the Armenian nuts you like.

We can sit next to each other on the Sofa.

We can get nervous.

We can allow silence to be so loud.

This is it.

We can turn Valentine into a sacred sin.

Would you break the law with me?

We can wait till we finish our first bottle.

We can forget about your tomorrow and mine.

You can let me start right here and now.

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Oh I Would Love to Dump You, Syria

Why oh why, I don’t care about you, Syria.

I don’t. I sincerely don’t. About its men, women, gay or straight people. its submissive or its courageous people. Its prisoners of conscience or its enemies or its leaders. I don’t understand what is it exactly I feel about you. I mean I don’t really hate you, obviously I don’t like you, but why do I follow your news so much? why do I feel excited when my reader mentions your name? like hey, I know this place better than I know any other place on this planet. Like I have the feeling, that because I know a lot about you, I have this illusion that I care about you, or even that we are related. But see, we’re not related. See here at this very point that I just wrote, I wrote so many sentences then I deleted them. Not because I want my sentences to consist with each other and actually make sense to the readers, but rather, I don’t think I am writing what I truly feel. I really don’t know how I feel about this space called Syria.

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Bloggers Against "Crimes of Honor"

They have always been.

As far as I know, the first Syrian blogger who have posted her opposition to “honor killings” is Rima Msabbani, a blogger who’s dear to my heart and who rarely blogs. She and a fellow blogger, Shady Zaiat, were the first to put a widget on their blogs sidebar that denounces article 548 from the Syrian penal code which states that any male relative who kills a girl for the sake of “honor” would only be sentenced to six months. Opposers to article 548 believe that the reason why girls are being killed in cold blood is exactly because the murderers know they can get away with it in few months.

Syrian officials have come to realize that the number of “honor killings” in Syria is escalating, so last year the government sponsored and organized the First National Meeting on “honor crimes” out of which the organizers agreed on final recommendations approved by the religious clerics present:

“Tighten the penalty for adultery for men and women equally, to disseminate Fatwas prohibiting “crimes of honor”, and to prevent the murderers to take advantage of a “moral” excuse or of the mitigating punishment. Reported on Syria News.

وشهد العام الماضي انعقاد الملتقى الوطني الأول حول جرائم الشرف برعاية حكومية حيث دعت التوصيات الختامية التي وافق عليها رجال الدين الحاضرين دون تحفظ إلى “تشديد عقوبة الزنا للرجل والمرأة على قدم المساواة، وتعميم فتاوى تحرم ارتكاب جرائم الشرف، ومنع استفادة مرتكبيها من العذر المحلل أو السبب المخفف للعقاب”.

ووفق أرقام قدمها ممثل إدارة الأمن الجنائي في الملتقى فإن عدد الجرائم التي وقعت في سورية بدافع الشرف وصلت إلى 38 جريمة من أصل 533 جريمة قتل حصلت في العام 2007 .

ووصلت جرائم الشرف حتى الشهر الثامن من العام الماضي إلى 29 جريمة شرف, وسجلت محافظة إدلب أعلى نسبة من جرائم الشرف بواقع 22% ثم محافظة حلب بـ 15%.

“According to figures provided by the representative of the Criminal Security Department in the First National Meeting, the number of crimes of honor that took place in Syria reached to 38 out of 533 murder crimes occurred in 2007.

Whereas 29 honor killings were documented last year 2008 up to August.  Idlib province recorded the highest proportion of crimes of honor to 22%, then the province of Aleppo to 15%.

Another report published on Syria News said that Syria is ranked the fifth in the world with regards to the so-called “honor crimes”.

One influential website that has been documenting the cases of “honor crimes” in Syria for the past six years is Syria Women website. The owner of the website is Bassam Al Kadi and he has initiated a petition that calls for the abolishment of article 548 of Syrian penal code. 24 Syrian websites and human rights organizations so far have joined Al Kadi’s battle against the legalization of honor crimes in Syria.

But that’s not all, Bloggers throughout this region have similar disgust to “honor killings” as well as to legalizing it.

It started with the Jordanian blogger Kinzi, who have written an email to Jordan Times to express her “disgust” of how murderers are getting away with their murder:

I urge all my friends to write to the Jordan Times expressing their disgust at the way these murderers of innocent women are just allowed to go free (or have a short prison sentence) under ‘the fit of fury’ law and the allowing of the dropping of charges because the offender is part of the same family as the victim. The following opinion piece by Nermeen in today’s Jordan Times is excellent.

Several Bloggers, Jordanians, Syrians and a Canadian, followed Kinzi’s appeal and wrote on their opposition and thoughts on “honor crimes”.

Qwaider from Jordan, is working on creating a database for the victims of “honor crimes” occured around the world in honor of their memory:

What do all the honor murderers try to accomplish with murder? To wipe out the shame and the name of their victims from history. Right?

Here’s a good way we, as a society, help thwart that goal. Let’s all keep their memory alive!

Do you know the name of an honor murder victim? From anywhere in the world? Well, here’s your chance to avenge her tormented soul.

Isobel, a blogger from Canada, followed Kinzi’s call and urged other bloggers to do the same:

“[A] man and his two sons are charged with beating to death the daughter for leaving the house in make up and talking to a strange man…”. (International Herald Tribune) It wasn’t long ago (2007) that a similar tragedy happened here in Canada to 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez who was strangled to death for refusing to wear the hijab. Each time I ask myself, how can anyone kill their own daughter/sister over the family honour…which in itself is a frightening order of priority. Killing your own child does not soil the family rep but a young woman wearing makeup does?

And on the Syrian blogsphere, Abu Fares posted an insightful post mostly on the social structure of Syrian society and problems surrounding it:

Not a single monotheist religion advocated banishing slavery! Just think of this notion for a minute. God spoke to us three times (at least) in this part of the world. Three times… and he never told us that slavery is ungodly. Before we call for political reform we’d better get indoors, within the dank walls of our own homes and rummage around for rot, pests and rodents in our basements, in the core of our foundations.

Last but not the least, another Syrian blogger, Kinan Jarjous, wrote a touching short story called “Why Did I Kill My Sister?” in which he has indeed “hit the nail on the head” as one commenter said:

What happened to my family honor now? The daughter dead, the son in jail? What happened to my image… am I a hero now? Or a guy from prison? When I get released… will I marry? Who will marry me? A monster who kills women?

I should have checked if the guy was her friend’s relative. I should have checked it was all about homework.

The term “crimes of honor” in the Arab-speaking world is usually associated with murdering girls who supposedly have given away their virginity. In this context, Honor then is associated with the tradition of virginity. However, girls in this region are not being killed for the sake of “honor” only when a father, brother or a male relative is suspicious of a girl’s sexual activities, but also when she runs away and marries someone from another sect or another religion, which to the murderers, they’re doing so to “clean” or “purify” the family’s “honor” from shame. So notice, whether she’s having sex prior to marriage or not, a girl is threatened to be killed only because she isn’t following the social norm.

While the latter case of honor murder is embedded with sectarianism, the motivation to kill here is not in my opinion due to sectarianism, but rather to to the “image” of the family within the social structure and system of traditions and habits. This point is explicit in Kinan’s story where the brother killed his sister after he went to the shop to buy a magazine and he was very worried what the owner would think of him.

And it’s also a question of power, which Kinan also rightly referred to in his story: the brother needs to look like he’s in control of his sister, he needs to look like a “man”. Manhood in this region is about power over women, the more powerful and control you are of women in your family the more of a man you are. And society does celebrate this notion.

I think sectarianism has little to do with “honor killings” because all sects and religions in this region have a history of killing their daughters when they decide to escape the social rules. So this is not about religion or sect as much as it is about the constructed social structure in which a male and female have certain sacred roles to fill. This social system is hierarchal: men socially, economically and legally are the “defenders”, “protectors” and “guardians” of women. Men have set the norm and women who choose to flee it are considered “whores”, and in some cases these women get killed.

“Honor killing” is not simply about girls having sex or not, but about a girl who made a decision to live by her own rules away from the community or society she lives in. It’s a question of authority and autonomy and those who refused to be submissive to authorial people are being killed or locked in their houses.

This conflict is not between men and women, but between authorial people and autonomous people.  What people call “sexism” is nothing but a social system, and gender authority.

Notes on Syrian Bloggers Campaign Against Homosexuality

I am going to cut the chase and get straight to the points I want to make here, there are many things I want to say in Arabic later on but I am going to say here what I am incapable linguistically to say in Arabic, unfortunately, I am westernized.

The campaign that some Syrian bloggers launched against homosexuality which has technically begun yesterday is the first campaign that has to do with Syrian social matters. To be more specific, this campaign is identity-based. Bloggers feel that because they’re Arabs and Syrian and of course, Muslims, they’re threatened by the existence of homosexuals. Not just because god said so in Quraan, but also because they feel that the reason why homosexuals are getting more vocal about their rights is because of the internet, western interference through tv and movies, and what have you.

I have to say here, that part of what they’re saying is true, but not quite so. But we’ll get into that later on in other post.

What I find so interesting about this campaign is that and as I have said above it is an identity-based campaign. Syrian bloggers campaigned to free a fellow Syrian blogger. Tariq Biasi, they campaigned for occupied Palestine and occupied Gaza, they campaigned for occupied Golan Heights also. Campaigns about freedom of speech and Palestinian and Golan liberty does not reflect the “who I am” formula the campaign against homosexuality heavily carries within it. By saying “I am against homosexuals”, Syrian bloggers are saying this is who we are, we are Muslims, we are Syrians, and we are normal human beings. We want to save our society, we are locals and we wont let strangers to take the only thing we got; our identity.

As much as I “oppose” the simplistic, clichéd, typical argument this campaign offers, this very simplicity is exactly what the Syrian society is constructed of: ready-made thoughts, traditions and habits, so called “religious values” (which are not really religious but I am going to talk about that later in other post), these typical thoughts that some of us disagree with and in fact want to change are nothing but what Syrian society is made of. Hence opposing this campaign mean that I am opposing a whole society, and by doing so, my opposition per se, is meaningless. What I should do along with my opposition is talking as well, really talking and explaining and let the other understand where I come from, which I haven’t done in a long time and I was wrong not doing so.

Let me continue explaining why this campaign is the only authentic campaign Syrian bloggers that has ever launched: it’s because it is a non-virtual campaign. The virtual becomes a non-virtual for the first time in the Syrian blogsphere concerning an unspeakable taboo. As the matter of fact, it is the only non-virtual campaign the Syrian bloggers have ever launched.

Syrian bloggers calling for freedom of speech in Syria is like fucking for virginity. And Syrian bloggers calling for the liberation of Palestine and Golan heights is exclusively virtually authenticated; it means that it is only real in the virtual world, so I am not sure how real it is.

Syrian citizens cannot non-virtually be calling for any of these matters on the ground. Even for Palestine and Golan heights, Syrians are being censored and closely watched by Syrian intelligence. I know Syrians and Palestinians in Syria who are not allowed to leave the country because they were pro-Palestinian activists within Palestinian camps. And certainly, Golan Heights is a Syrian state matter and not the people’s. With regards to Golan Heights campaign, Syrian bloggers are self-conscious about their incapability to be activists on the ground for Golan and that’s one major reason why they had to campaign about it virtually.

In other words, in Syria things go this way: we blog what we cannot say in public in Syria.

But the campaign against homosexuality is not the same as the rest of the campaigns. Syrian society is homophobic, sectarian, racist and discriminate against women. And all these matters are considered taboo to be discussed in the Syrian blogsphere, different kind of taboo: we all pretend to be the “good blogger” who is against honor crimes, sectarianism, racism and we never talk about women issues in Syria, there are some exception of course but generally speaking, it seems that we want to look good so bad-or that we are in denial- that we cannot say what we are daily living to preserve being a “good blogger” or a “good Syrian”. In other words, silence about problems in Syria is how we deal with these problems in order to change, as Syrians.

So why this campaign is authentic and real and very important to change? for example, if Syrian bloggers campaigned IN SOLIDARITY with homosexuals it would be the same as the rest of the campaigns, too good to be true. I wouldn’t feel good about it precisely because it would be exclusively virtual and thus inauthentic.

The authenticity and the historical spatial reality of any idea or an opinion no matter how horrible it might be is our only key for change in Syria.

I consider this campaign a success for myself because I personally feel that I provoked the unspeakable and now it’s out so loud and it’s time that we have our long awaited little talk.

It also made me realized how wrong I was, I acted stupidly to bloggers who uttered some bad words against homosexuals, sexual liberty for women and erotica, topics that I blog heavily on this blog.


But things are going to change from now on, it took me Daddy Long Legs, Adnan and Lina and Treasure Island :) to understand that I need to smile and take a deep breath before I start talking.

It is very outrageous for some and for me to hear arguments that are against non-virgin women and homosexuals, but these very thoughts are real, and we need to feel good about having Syrian bloggers who depict the majority of the Syrian society, cause without them, we ourselves, won’t be real anymore, we will think that Syria is fine, everything is fine, and we won’t be able to touch a bit of what is not so fine about us.