Budour Hassan: Palestine and the Syrian Revolution

Budour Hassan presentation to the teach-in “Syria in the Context of the Arab Uprisings”. November 17th, 2013.
MENA Solidarity Network – US
https://www.facebook.com/MENASolidarityUS

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To Leave or not to Leave, Seems to be the Question

My third article published for Arab World in Revolutions blog:

anonymous graffiti in Syria that says: “A country is not a hotel to be abandoned when the service gets bad – we will persevere.”

“The battle has reached to a bone-breaking stage; who will fall apart first?” Martyr Bassel Shehada.

The biggest talk now on the streets in Syria is that everyone is leaving, families, business people, and most importantly, activists. This problem has reached to a point where many in Syria are getting angry at their friends who left or considering leaving the revolution at this difficult stage, some even consider such a thought of leaving as betrayal to Syria.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, those who are leaving Syria are either well-connected or come from well-off families. Syrian economy is deteriorating, so if you can buy a ticket and spend money in some other country, it really means nowadays that you’re rich enough to do so,” said Somayya whose friends are leaving one after another, escaping regime detention campaigns.

“The regime is deliberately pushing the youth to leave, some activists’ names were on the wanted lists on the borders but now they’re not. The regime is leaking lists of thousands of wanted activists so they’ll get scared and think of escaping. It’s precisely because the regime wants us to leave that I believe we should stay. I think our mere staying in itself is resistance,” Sumayya affirms quietly: “to leave is to be defeated.”

Read the rest of it here.

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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Syrian Revolution Bookmarks #3

1- The Syrian Revolt Enters New Phase published on LENIN’S TOMB:

Finally, there is the question of the FSA’s human rights record.  Those who want to oppose the revolt say that the armed insurgents are a bunch of thugs or even – some will actually use this propaganda term – ‘terrorists’.  Well, the fact is that the armies have captured and tortured and killed people they believed to be regime supporters or informants. I believe they have blown up regime apparatuses and probably have killed civilians in the process.  My answer?  You can criticise this or that attack, you can say that the Islamists who bombed Damascus and issued a sectarian statement are not allies of revolution.  But you can’t keep saying this is a ‘civil war’ and then express shock when one side, the weaker side, the side that has been attacked and provoked, the side that is ranged against a repressive dictatorship, actually fights a war.

2- Assad Apologists: The Ostrich Syndrome published by Hicham Safieddine:

instead of invoking Fanon, apologists will go so far as to invoke Lenin’s quote about third-party politics, which is really a language trick no different than someone quoting Tony Blair’s own reference to a “third way” in order to undermine third-way politics in Syria. Lenin was at times more than willing to compromise when it came to dealing with imperialist forces (i.e., the Brest Liovsk treaty). In the instance of his critique of third-way politics, the communist leader was actually more concerned with class struggle and was contemptuous of those, like liberal socialists, who did not take a firm and uncompromising position in this struggle against the bourgeois class. In fact, a reference that would have better served Assad apologists is Lenin’s disagreement with Rosa Luxemburg over backing the third-world bourgeoisie. Lenin’s critique of third-way politics may thus ironically lend itself more to backing calls for no compromise with Assad, given that the Syrian uprising’s class composition is largely made up of the countryside peasantry and suburban working class. It is true that the peasantry have a very dubious representation in the intellectual history of Marxism. In the case of Syria, the dominant political expression of their uprising has not only taken on a reactionary form (read “religious” in Marxist terms). It is in fact, contrary to what many pro-uprising folks want us to believe for romantic or more sinister reasons, backed by imperialist and reactionary regional regimes. However, admitting this problematic political expression of the uprising necessitates a third way, not a stance that is apologetic for the Assad regime.

Kafarsousah Neighborhood, Damascus.

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UPDATED: Blogging Live From Midan Neighborhood in Damascus

A little background on Midan neighborhood: Midan neighborhood is one of the first neighborhoods that rebelled in the Syrian capital, it witnessed huge demonstrations calling for the downfall of Assad.  It’s a conservative area.

In the beginning of the revolution protesters used to head to Midan to take part in protesters.  The neighborhood is in the center of Damascus.

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I arrived Midan with a friend at 12:30 PM today 18-7-2012, there was a shooting very close to us but we managed to arrive safely. I cannot share my location with you in Midan, nor can I say who’s with me here. We are safe so far.

Clashes started early in the morning and it’s still on, we sometimes hear explosions every now and then, the residents of area here are telling us there are BMB tanks shelling the center of the area.

Remains of BMB tank shell in Midan neighborhood.

There are several checkpoints in the area, but the area we’re in right now is relatively safe thus far, there are four people martyred today in Midan alone; 3 from Free Syrian Army and the fourth is a civilian- an old man we couldn’t find his ID with him, we’re in the process of getting his name.

Update: 3:02 PM: clashes now in Haa’la area in Midan.

Update: 3:15 PM: according to leaked information coming from a soldier in the regime sympathetic with the revolution, the regime is planning to fire (sorry I am not familiar with the right to use here) toxic gases against the residents in Midan neighborhood that resulted in shortness of breath and heartburn in the respiratory tract. Medical masks are distributed among the residents and activists here. (update 11:58: no toxic gas were used against the residents here. The problem is that the area is under siege and the people are scared and on alert, it’s easy for them to believe any rumor, and you believe it with them because you literally could die any moment by mortar shelling. It creates an extreme stress and you become emotional than objective with your context. Apologies for publishing news hastily, I shall be careful more tomorrow.)

The activists here are in high spirit, it’s hectic over here but we smoke and drink tea (I am drinking tea now) and we joke all the time.

Update from 3:30 PM till 8:00 PM: Regime tried to raid the neighborhood in this way: the army withdrew, but the tanks remained around the area in attempt to siege it and was shelling on the area, then the snipers gathered heavily in the area, along with aircrafts hovering around the area to locate the activists, doctors and free Syrian army.

It’s important to say here that the field hospital was located by the regime and tried to mortar shelling it but couldn’t hit it, the doctors moved to safe place now.

Update 11:17 PM clashes continues near regime checkpoints. Two people were injured, their injuries are not critical, they were hit by snipers. I learned that there is a safe refuge for women in this neighborhood, and the men here are telling me to head there before it gets too late. I am having dinner now with citizen journalists and photojournalists, we’re eating tomato and mortadella. Come join us.

Syrian Blogger Hussein Ghrer on Hunger Strike in Protest of his Fifth Month in Detention

We received information that Syrian blogger Hussein Greer began a hunger strike to protest his continued incarceration after spending more than five months in detention cells as of the date of this statement.

Ghrer was detained on 16-2-2012 in a raid on Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression’s office in Damascus by Air Force Intelligence – Mazzah branch. This is Ghrer’s second arrest; he was detained on 24-10-2011 and released on 1-12-2011 on bail and is still on trial.

 Air Force Intelligence had confiscated computers and arrested the entire staff of the Syrian Center along with their visitors. Eight employees were released and they are now under martial court on charges of “disseminating banned publications.” The other five staff members are still in detention: director of the Syrian Center for Media and freedom of Expression, Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghrer, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hani Zetani and Mansour Al-Omari.

We learned that Abdel Rahman Hmada, Hani Zitani and Mansour Al- Omari were transferred from Air Force Intelligence – Mazzah branch, to a detention center belonging to the 4th Brigade of the Syrian Army.  Our sources also mentioned that Mazen Darwish was transferred from his cell in AFI – Mazzeh Branch, but it is unknown if his transfer was to another branch or inside the same one.

Syrian blogger Hussein Ghrer, on the other hand, was transferred alone from AFI – Mazzah to AFI in in Tahrir Square in Damascus, where he began a hunger strike to protest his continued detention.

Ghrer is a prominent Syrian blogger known for his noticeable participation in Syrian blogsphere debates on public affairs. He took part in in solidarity campaigns with occupied Palestine and the occupied Golan as well.

33 year-old Ghrer is a Computer Science graduate. He is married with two children, Ward and Zain.

To our great concern, Ghrer suffers from hypertensive vascular disease and mitral valve prolapse. We fear a deterioration in his health condition in Syrian detention cells, known for their poor environmental, psychological and physical conditions. The detention centers’ environment and their lack of the necessary medical equipment may pose a direct threat to his life.

We, Syrian and Arab bloggers as well as bloggers in solidarity with Hussein and his case, demand the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague in detention, blogger and friend Hussein Ghrer especially since more than four months had passed without pressing charges against. His four-month long detention far exceeds the maximum legal limits for incarceration without court referral which is set to 60-days according to Syrian law.

We also call for the release of Ghrer’s colleagues at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and all detainees and prisoners being held at security branches and civil and military prisons, especially those whose detention has exceeded sixty days. We condemn all forms of torture exercised by the Shabiha and security agents against the detainees and prisoners in Syrian cells.